5 Tips for Restaining Woodwork

Wood accents add a beautiful touch to furniture and walls and can turn any piece from ordinary to extraordinary. To keep woodwork looking fresh and crisp, all it takes is a little restaining. These projects are relatively simple and a great way to refresh the current wood color or update the space with an entirely new shade. For best success, follow these five tips:

1. Prep the area.

The most important part of a restaining project is the prep work. Before you begin, sand the area to create an even surface and get rid of any old, damaged stain. Use a light grit sandpaper and move in the direction of the wood grain. Wipe the area clean to get rid of dust and dirt that you don’t want trapped under the stain. Before applying stain, use a pre-stain conditioner and let it dry for a few minutes. The conditioner adds a protective layer to the surface and makes it easier to apply stain evenly without leaving behind blotches.

2. Use the right kind of stain.

Stain comes in two varieties: oil-based and water-based. Oil stains have longer drying times and are good for larger projects like doors, paneling, or floors because they give you more time to work. Oil-based stains are the most common option, but they give off fumes so working in a well-ventilated area is key. Water-based stains dry faster and are good for smaller projects that can be completed within 24 hours. If you are working in a dry climate, like Fort Collins or other parts of Northern Colorado, the stain may dry even faster, so you’ll want to plan accordingly. Before you start staining, be sure to stir the stain to evenly distribute the color pigments, but be sure to never shake the stain. Before you start a full project, test the stain on a scrap of wood to make sure the color is what you had in mind and that it applies properly to the wood.

3. Apply correctly.

Stain can be applied with either a brush or a rag depending on your preference. The longer the stain is on the wood, the darker the color will be. If you want a lighter shade, wipe it off immediately after applying it; for a deeper hue, let the stain sit on the wood for up to 10 minutes before wiping it off. To keep color consistent, pay attention to how long the stain is left on and use the same time for every part of the project. Many people think that the key to a dark shade is two layers of stain on top of each other before wiping it off, but the best method is to let the stain set before wiping it off and then repeating the entire process again until you reach the ideal shade.

4. Use quality materials.

If you use a brush to apply stain, make sure it is a high-quality brush. Better brushes help create an even finish and are less likely to leave loose bristles in the stain. Invest in high-quality brushes and then clean them right away to use them again in the future. There are a number of chain and local stores throughout the Fort Collins area that sell high-quality brushes for easy stain application.

5. Use a top coat.

To protect the wood and keep the stain its desired color, apply a thin, water-based, polycrylic top coat. Stain doesn’t protect the wood, it only adds the color. A top coat will make it easier to clean the wood and protect it from everyday wear. Some products combine stain and finish in one application to make for a quicker and easier process, but even just adding a separate top coat doesn’t add much time to the project.


Restaining can transform your woodwork into something new and fresh. Follow these tips for a successful project that will make your room shine like the top of the Rocky Mountains.


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