Stains vs. Sealers

Written by Lee Wyatt (last updated March 11, 2022)

When you near the end of a woodworking project you will need to make a decision about what to do with the wood. Usually this means that you will need to decide on whether or not you want to stain it, seal it, or do both. Some people will say that you only need to stain, while others will argue for sealing it only. Well, in order to make a truly informed decision in the on-going debate between stains vs. sealers, you need to really understand the differences.

Stains

  • General purpose. Everything has a purpose of some sort, and stains are no different. Generally speaking, the purpose of stains is to change the appearance of wood in some way. Usually, stains make the wood appear darker than it normally is and helps to bring out the appearance of the grain more. Stains will either be water based or oil based, both of which have their benefits.
  • Water. There are several benefits to using water-based wood stains. First off, these types of stains are usually less odorous than oil-based stains. Secondly, if you happen to have an accident, you usually only need to use soap and water to get it all cleaned of. While these types of stains need to be put on using a synthetic type of brush, they dry a whole lot quicker than oil-based stains. This usually means that you can complete even those large staining jobs in a single day.
  • Oil. Oil-based stains have a longer drying time, which isn't all that bad since it means you are less likely to have discolored patches that come from overlapping areas of the stain. In addition, this type of stain doesn't raise the grain. (That's good, because if the grain raises your project usually requires additional sanding.) Furthermore, oil-based stain, while it doesn't come in as many colors as the water-based ones, can be applied with a natural-bristled brush.

Sealers

  • General purpose. The general purpose of sealers is to, well, seal off the wood from absorbing any new materials that could discolor it. In essence, sealers protect the wood against elements that could potentially stain, discolor, or otherwise damage the wood.
  • Variety. There is usually a wide variety in the sealers that you can use on your wood items. Typically these sealers are broken down into two main categories based off of the primary purpose of the wood item that you are using it on. For example, is the wood you are sealing going to be inside your home or is it going to be outside? In addition, there are also variants of these main sealants designed for specific wood types.

Crossover

Lately there has been a bit more crossover between stains and sealers. What this means is that some companies are starting to create a stain that also serves as a sealer. However, before you choose this kind of product, make sure that you carefully read the instructions and learn what the purpose is behind it. For example, you don't want to purchase a stain sealant that is designed to work only indoors and use it on something that will be outside.

Author Bio

Lee Wyatt

Contributor of numerous Tips.Net articles, Lee Wyatt is quickly becoming a regular "Jack of all trades." He is currently an independent contractor specializing in writing and editing. Contact him today for all of your writing and editing needs! Click here to contact. ...

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