The purpose of staining and finishing wood is to enhance its aesthetic qualities while protecting it from the wide variety of elements which might cause damage to the wood. These include general wear and tear, UV damage, and moisture. Depending on how much wear and tear the surface is exposed to and what type of products are used, the surface will have to be periodically recoated to keep it from degrading physically or losing its aesthetic appeal.
Stain vs. Finish
There are two fundamental types of products for wood; those whose primary function is to alter the appearance of the wood are called stains, and those whose primary function is to seal or protect the wood are called clear wood finishes or topcoats. Most products available today however, are a combination of the two.
Proper application of stains and topcoats can be a tricky business and often involves a large amount of time spent stripping and sanding the wood to remove any old products used on the wood. The reason proper surface prep is so important is because not all wood products are compatible with one another. Applying two incompatible products on top of one another can be disastrous, even if the first coat was put down years before the second.
This leads to our next topic, product selection. There is a huge variety of stains and sealers on the market today and choosing the right product set of products for a project can be an overwhelming process. It is good to start with the desired outcome and work backwards from there to determine what aesthetic and protective qualities will be needed. Later in this article, we will discuss the different types of products in detail.
Finally, there is the application. As mentioned earlier, good prep work is absolutely critical to a good looking, long lasting finish. Good application also means following the instructions for the products selected and applying enough coats to ensure the desired aesthetic and protective properties are achieved.