the Perfect Wood Stain & Sealer for Your Needs
Are you looking for the best stain or sealer
for your deck or log home? Don't simply pick up the first can
of cabin varnish you find on a store shelf. There are a few important things to
consider before you choose a treatment for a wood surface. We're going to make
it easy for you – starting with whether you should select a stain or a sealer
to begin with.
Stain vs. Wood Sealer: What's the Difference?
Although they are both protective wood
coatings, stain and sealer are not the same thing.
A sealer guards wood against water, fungus and
insects, yet it typically lacks few if any pigments which alter the appearance
of the wood. A sealer is preferable when you wish to preserve the wood's
natural grain and color, and are unconcerned about the wood becoming damaged by
exposure to direct sunlight.
A stain provides the same protections as
sealer, yet it also additionally provides protection against the ultraviolet
rays in sunlight which gradually dry out wood and cause it to crack and split.
Stain does this because it contains pigment, which sealer lacks. Stains range
from translucent to opaque; the darker the stain, the greater the protection it
typically provides against sunlight.
In the simplest terms possible, sealer and
stain both protect wood and prolong its lifespan. Stain simply provides
additional protection against sunlight at the expense of changing the wood's
color and concealing its grain. With that in mind, stain hardly worsens wood's
appearance. The tint it creates can enhance wood's natural luster, as well as
conceal existing discoloration.
Pick the Right Wood Stain
Before selecting a wood stain (which is not to
be confused with wood varnish), consider the qualities of the wood that you would like to
preserve. If you would like to highlight its natural color, then a water-based
stain may be your best option. If you would rather darken the wood, an
oil-based stain is the right place to start. If you would most like to smooth
out a wood with a coarser grain, then you will probably be most satisfied with
a gel stain.
Your wood's location is paramount to picking
the best stain. If it is indoors or otherwise not exposed to direct sunlight,
then a stain which lacks very much pigmentation will provide adequate protection
against humidity and mold. But if the wood is exposed to the elements, a darker
stain is likely necessary to prevent gradual warping and splintering.
Before committing to a stain, make certain it
will look attractive under whichever source of light your wood will be exposed
to. Incandescent light, fluorescent light and sunlight all refract differently
off of the same stain. In short, rather than relying on the stain's label, it
is essential to take home a sample so you can observe its appearance on
Pick the Right Wood Sealer
If you are staining wood that does not require
additional protection against sunlight, then a sealer will do nicely.
Several types of sealers are available,
including latex, acrylic, butyl and polyurethane. Each has its own relative
advantages and disadvantages. Regardless of which one you select, you should
first consider how much water the wood surface will be exposed to. Although all
sealers protect against water infiltration, some offer greater protection than
others. For example, a sealer that is adequate to protect patio furniture may
prove insufficient for a deck or gazebo.
The type of wood you are sealing also
determines which product is best. Common woods like maple, pine and cedar
easily absorb most types of sealer. But because they grow in humid climates, exotic woods are dense and accordingly resistant to absorbing
sealers which don't aggressively penetrate their substrate.
Sealer's relative lack of pigmentation means
that its impact on wood may be imperceptible. If your priority is to keep
wood's natural appearance completely intact, then a perfectly clear sealer is
advisable. That said, sealer can tint wood, even if the difference is less
pronounced than a stain's. Just like you should with a stain, it is wise to
test a sealer out so you can observe how it will alter a wood surface's
If you have sensed that there is a great deal
of science behind picking the perfect wood stain and wood sealer, then you are
correct. If you would like any technical advice before committing to a product,
the friendly and knowledgeable team at Lovitt's Coatings is happy to provide it
free of charge. We welcome you to contact us today!