Stepping up to stain

Homeowners are discovering protection, color and ease of use.

Earlier this year, the home improvement web site Angi listed the most popular projects around planned around the house by homeowners. Number one: painting or wallpaper (34 percent) followed by updated décor (33 percent).

Westlake paint
Westlake Ace Hardware takes its coatings seriously.

The close cousin of paint, and a product that fits into each of the leading categories described above—stain—is seeing increased popularity as homeowners, who tested out their DIY skills during the pandemic, are advancing to more sophisticated brush-and-coating-related projects. And more sophisticated doesn’t necessarily mean more difficult.

“The stain category has done really well for us,” said Leigh Shaner, of Westlake Ace Hardware, the 150-plus-location hardware chain based in Lenexa, Kan. “And here, you have endless possibilities.”

Cabinets, shelves are always popular projects. Beyond the norm, Shaner says his team at Westlake has seen a trend among customers to embrace projects that re-invent old furniture.

The type of stain products that have gained traction including those with the finish built-into the formula, he said. “You can buy it with a satin finish or a high-gloss finish, and it goes on so easy,” Shaner said.

Another type that helps DIYers is the gel stains. The thick pudding-like consistency of this type of stain works will with the spindly legs of chairs and other surfaces – “just put it on a cloth and wipe it in,” he said.

Here are some of the products and brands in the stain category that bring something to the table, or cabinet, or deck (click on each product image for more): 

NOVA USA Wood Products

NOVA USA has enhanced the color retention of its ExoShield Wood Stains by 30% as well as the formulations of its Walnut and Mahogany ExoShield colors based on the input of the company’s many business partners and customers.

These changes included reducing the red pigments in the Walnut stain to produce a richer medium-brown with some red undertones and the creation of a more natural-looking, subtler Mahogany color designed to increase the warmth of exterior hardwood and softwood decking, siding, and furniture applications.

Old Masters Gel Stain

This highly pigmented, oil-based stain is designed to achieve intense colors on interior and exterior wood, fiberglass, primed metal, and composition surfaces. Its thick formula allows easy application and superior color control, necessary to achieve a rich and uniform color on most surfaces in a single application.

The product is especially recommended for woods such as pine, birch, maple, poplar, and cherry. Great for vertical surfaces, Gel Stain comes in 24 factory-mixed colors and can also be intermixed or tinted to achieve custom colors.

Minwax Wood Finish Water-Based Solid Color Stain

Promoted with the message: “more color. Less grain,” this solid color stain provides a penetrating water-based coverage that is ideal for small projects, unfinished furniture, cabinets, doors and trim. The product is five-times thicker than previous versions for easier application. The stain tints to more than 240 colors from gentle yellow to dark walnut.

Flood CWF-UF Clear Wood Finish

For decks, fences and siding, the Flood CWF-UV Clear Wood Finish, from coatings giant PPG, provides a natural finish that protects wood from sun and water damage. A key ingredient is Penetrol, an additive that delivers protection below the surface. The acrylic/oil resin promises the double benefit of durability and richness, the company says. Another feature: easy soap and water clean-up.