How to stain wood: a beginners guide

Whether your shed needs a dash of colour, your decking or fencing has faded, your tabletop is worn after years of use, or you’re looking to upcycle a piece of furniture, a wood stain will breathe new life into them all.

What a wood stain can do.

A wood stain not only gives the timber a beautiful colour but it also:

  • Protects it against weathering
  • Preserves its natural look
  • Increases the lifespan of the wood

Once it’s soaked in completely, it brings out the natural grain in the wood. And as long as old finishes are stripped and the wood cleaned, it’ll absorb into any type of wood and give it a beautiful finish.

Wood staining is so simple anyone can do it.

Even a novice.

Which is why we’ve put together a simple three-step guide from preparation to finishing.

How to stain wood in three easy steps.

If you’re armed (with a brush and wood stain) and ready to stain wood, just follow our three simple steps:

Step 1: Prepare for greatness

If the wood is new, you need to sand it first to create a smooth finish to help the wood stain absorb evenly. For older wood, remove any previous coatings using varnish or paint remover. And for wax and oil coatings, a mineral spirit will wipe them away effortlessly.

If you're dealing with softwoods like pine, we have a secret weapon: a pre-stain conditioner. It's the key to achieving an even and flawless stain application.

And finally, before you do anything else, ensure the wood is clear of sawdust, dirt and grime.

Step 2: Unleash the stain

With step one out of the way, you’re ready for step two – applying the wood stain.

To apply wood stain, you need to use either a:

  • Foam brush
  • Regular bristle brush
  • Lint-free cloth

As the stain works its magic, give it time to settle, and gently wipe away any excess with a cloth.

Want a darker, more dramatic result?

Here's a pro tip: leave the stain to soak in for longer before removing the excess. To achieve an even richer, darker colour, you can apply multiple coats, building up a stunning depth of colour.


Step 3: The grand finale

With the wood stain absorbed and dried, it's time to add the finishing touch. A finish protects the wood from weathering and enhances the colour, and there are several options for this, including:

  • Waxes
  • Oils
  • Varnishes

With a protective finish, you can relax, knowing it'll be years before you have to stain the wood again.

Unsure what you need to get started?

Then Trade Coatings can help.

By visiting our shop page, you’ll find a selection of the best:


With over 42 years of experience, we’ve got everything you need to start your wood stain project.

Talk to Trade Coatings

Call us now on 01604 781880 or view our range of products specially made for the trade – after all, it’s in the name.

Trade Coatings - the best products at the best prices.

Got a technical query? No problem.
Give us a call on 01604 781880 or send us a message and we’ll be happy to help.