New Trends in Staining and Finishing

Depending on the area to be worked on, staining and finishing can be an easy DIY project or a complicated job requiring the expertise of a professional. In this article, we'll look at some hot trends in color, how stain and finish are applied, as well as which jobs require a professional touch. We'll also give you some tips on finding the best staining and finishing professionals in your area.

Regardless of the style or design of your home, staining and finishing will be necessary in at least a few rooms. Very few homes are designed without any natural wood, and natural wood that's left unfinished is vulnerable to unwanted stains. It's also very rough to the touch.

Staining a wood surface involves the application of a tint or dye. This is done to achieve a particular look, or to mimic a certain type of wood. In some cases, wood is already the desired color, and only finishing (applying coats of clear sealant) is necessary.

Trendy Decorating Ideas

Whether you're refinishing existing woodwork, installing brand new trim or laying a solid hardwood floor, stain is a great way to customize and personalize your home. Just like a coat of paint, the right shade of stain can make a room come alive.

Stained trim around windows or doors, or other interior features such as stair railings, can all be attractive visual elements. Most homeowners enjoy the appearance of matching trim, since it provides a harmonious look throughout the house. If you think you want to stain the trim in one room differently, use loosely applied fabric, samples of laminate, or some other method to duplicate the color scheme you're planning. Live with this look for a while, in order to determine if you really want to live with in on a more permanent basis.

The stain you choose will almost always be dependent on, or at least influenced by, the dècor of your home and the building style. An ultra-modern home, for example, is often beautifully accented with either very dark stains, such as ebony, or extremely light ones. Many times, a light wood such as bamboo is used and simply coated with sealant, retaining the light color.

In more traditional homes, a warm oak stain is a timeless favorite that's still popular today. Deep, rich wood tones such as mahogany are just as traditional, but a bit more formal. Let your taste, your dècor, and your home itself be your guide when choosing the best stain.

A very hot trend right now is staining old furniture. While this is more of a craft than a home-improvement project, it's very popular right now and offers yet another way to incorporate staining and finishing into the overall dècor of your home. It's often amazing how beautiful an old, ugly painted chair can become once old layers of color are stripped off and the natural wood is allowed to shine through.

Staining a hardwood floor is definitely the biggest and most involved staining and finishing project. In terms of popular trends, the same ideas apply to floors which apply to trim and finish work. Take your decorating theme, your home's architectural style and era into account. A deep ebony floor looks breathtaking in a modern home with sleek lines, but it looks out of place in a traditional home with a rustic theme.

Staining and Finishing Basics

Applying stain and finish is actually a very simple process. One coat of stain is applied in most cases, followed by several coats of clear finish, until the desired level of shine is achieved. The wooden surface must be sanded smooth before applying the stain, and a second sanding is often needed after the stain is dry. Finish, usually either shellac or varnish, is available in three levels of shine: gloss, semi-gloss and satin. Gloss offers the most shine but makes dirt and scratches more readily, while satin has very little shine but camouflages imperfections.

While the steps of staining and finishing are simple, don't' be fooled into thinking that it's an easy job. Many factors must be taken into consideration, and mistakes are terrible eyesores. A single drip can ruin the look of a time-consuming project. Environmental factors like humidity must be taken into account, and even determining the proper amount of stain or finish to load onto a brush takes some practice.

All these small but important elements make most large-scale staining and finishing jobs professional projects. Unless you have experience on the specific type of project you're considering, leave it to the professionals. They have access to equipment which is prohibitively expensive for a home handyman, but which makes the process of staining and finishing faster. They also have the benefit of having worked on many different projects in the past, which gives them perspective on different types of wood, stain and finish, as well as other necessary products. Knowing how these products interact with each other can mean the difference between a drippy mess which must be redone and a beautifully finished piece of wood.

Other Products

In some cases, depending on the project itself and the type of wood involved, products may be used before staining the prime the wood. These products are generally known as primers, although they are sometimes also called sealers. Primers and sealers are technically different products, but many products combine them together. Ask a professional to avoid confusion if you're not sure which product is right for you.

Primer essential prepares the wood for staining. This may involve swelling the wood fibers so they don't' stand up and require extra sanding once stain is applied. It can also be used to tone down a particularly wild grain pattern if your design calls for something more uniform in appearance.

Sealers work by penetrating the wood, giving an extra layer of smoothness for applying stain. These are most commonly used on woods which are extremely porous, such pine.

When staining and finishing outdoor surfaces, a wood preservative is often used. This product may contain a waterproofing agent, or you might apply a separate waterproofing product. Many preservatives and waterproofing products also contain ingredients to prevent or slow the growth of fungus and mildew. If your outdoor structure was built from lumber which was pressure-treated, check with the lumber mill to see how long you should wait before applying any type of stain, sealant or preservative; times vary for different treatment processes.

Safety First

If you are tackling staining and finishing as a DIY project, it's essential to remember the potential dangers of lead-based paints. These paints are not legal to sell anymore, but they were used extensively in the past. Many older homes still feature lead-based paint. If your staining and finishing project involves stripping off old layers of paint, visit your local health department or home center for a lead-testing kit.

Lead is now known to be extremely toxic when absorbed by the body in even relatively small quantities. Lead poisoning can easily occur during the stripping of a piece of furniture. Children are at increased risk, since childhood lead poisoning is hard to detect and may lead to irreversible neurological and cognitive damage.

Stripping lead-based paint is not something to attempt on your own. Hire professionals who have been trained in the safe removal and disposal of lead paint.

Hiring the Right Professional

Once you've decided to hire a professional for your staining and finishing job, you may feel a bit intimidated by the large amount of contractors and handymen in your area. Looking through the phone book, you're likely to find page after page of potential hires. Thankfully, there's an easier way.

Websites which connect professionals with homeowners like yourself have made the process of hiring a contractor or handyman extremely easy. These sites allow you to look through the profiles of professionals in your local area. You can check for licensing, insurance, and experience level. On most sites, you can also read customer reviews, written by former clients. These reviews can be very valuable, since they give you an inside peek at how a particular individual operates when on a job.

Remember to seek out a professional with experience in the precise type of staining and finishing you need. Somebody who has been staining decks or porches for years may have never stained interior wood trim and finish work. Ask about specific experience for the best results. Finishing a hardwood floor is perhaps the most intricate of all finishing jobs, so ensure that your contractor or handyman has stained and finished flooring in the past.

Another important factor is the use of “green” products. During recent years, the popularity of environmentally conscious products has increased dramatically. Products are available for staining and finishing which are much gentler on the environment than those available just a few short years ago.

However, contractors who have not worked with these products in the past may not realize that they act a bit differently during application and drying than more traditional products. If you're trying to reduce your impact on the environment and want to use green products, be sure to ask if your contractor has worked with them in the past. Usually it just takes a few uses to become familiar with these products, but an inexperienced user can easily make mistakes that may lead to time-consuming delays.

Posted by: Diane
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