Staining wood can be a great way to improve the style and appeal of your furniture piece. It’s quick, easy, and affordable – but will it last?
After staining wood, do you have to seal it? A lot of people think that staining wood is enough to protect it. That’s actually not true. It doesn’t matter how many coats of stain you apply; you have to seal it in order for it to last a long time or to protect your wood from sunlight, moisture, and bacteria.
In this article, let’s learn all about why you need to seal wood even after staining and how to do so effectively.
Why Sealing Wood Is Needed
Regardless of whether your wood is stained or not, a sealer is always a much-welcomed top coat. This is because wood is very susceptible to the elements such as UV rays, moisture, and fungi.
Sunlight can cause wood to become discolored over time, making it look dry and faded. Some wood stains can somewhat protect your wood against UV rays, but if you want the colors of your wood to stay vibrant after a few years, a UV-protective sealer is highly recommended.
Wood is porous, and it can absorb moisture – both water that it comes into contact with and moisture in the air. This means that whether you have outdoor or indoor wooden furniture, using a waterproof sealer is still recommended.
When wood absorbs moisture, a few things can happen. First, the wood will expand slightly when it absorbs moisture, and when the water evaporates, the wood will shrink down, but not down to its original shape and size.
This will result in cracking and warping, which is quite unsightly for a piece of wooden furniture.
The other thing that can happen when your wood absorbs moisture is that it will become a prime environment for fungi and bacteria to grow. This can cause rotting or dry rotting, which will make the piece become brittle and, in some cases, quite dangerous.
While a wood stain can greatly improve the appearance of a piece of wood, it will not be able to enhance the wood’s strength or protect it against the elements. This is why adding a waterproof, UV-protective sealer is still needed even after staining.
1. Benefits Of Sealing Wood
As we’ve mentioned, sealing wood prevents moisture from penetrating the surface and preventing sunlight from erasing the color. As a result, there are a number of benefits that you can enjoy just from sealing the wood.
2. Protects Outdoor Wood
Water and sunlight can really do a number of damages to outdoor wood. That’s why sealing the wood with a waterproof and UV-resistant sealant is highly recommended to protect it against rain, snow, and sunlight.
3. Preserves Color Over Time
When wooden furniture is exposed to sunlight and other elements, it can fade or change colors. The colors in your wood may also fade or change as a result of excessive moisture or a change in temperature. Sealing your wood will protect against this type of fading and discoloration.
4. Add Vibrancy To Stains
Sealers help bring out the true colors of stains applied to wood by adding vibrancy and brightness to their tones. The wood stains will look richer because there is a depth to them, thanks to the protective sealant layer.
5. Adds Barrier To Physical Damage
Sealers create an invisible barrier over surfaces that can minimize physical damage, such as scratching or burning. If you have a wooden dining table, for example, the table surface is quite prone to scratches because of everyday use.
Since most sealers will dry hard to form a protective coating, physical wear and tear won’t really affect the wood underneath.
The Best Clear Coat to Use Over Stained Wood
Sealers are available in many different forms and are made for all kinds of projects. Some will soak into the wood to protect it from within. Others leave a glossy finish on top of the wood surface. Some sealers are designed for outdoor use, while others work best indoors.
If you are wondering about what type of sealant to use on your wood, let’s take a look at some options below.
Polyurethane is a super tough plastic resin that can form a protective coating to waterproof wood, concrete, and metal.
Polyurethane features a unique formulation that bonds tightly to the substrate when it dries. This allows it to resist moisture, and the hard-drying, durable surface can also resist scratches and chemicals as well.
Polyurethane is easy to apply, and it dries quickly. It can be applied with a brush or with a spray application, which is suitable for beginners.
Not only does it offer superior protection compared to other sealants, but it also enhances the natural color of your wood, allowing its true beauty to shine through.
If you apply a clear coat of polyurethane to a surface, the poly will dry with a glossy finish that offers excellent protection against damage from water and wear.
Some types of polyurethane are oil-based, and some are water-based. Oil-based polyurethane can yellow over time, while their water-based counterparts won’t face this issue.
Polycrylic is a water-based clear finish that works great on indoor projects, especially over a water-based stain.
One of the most significant advantages of using polycrylic over other sealers is its easy application. You can apply it using either a paintbrush, lint-free cloth, or even a spray gun. The product performs best when applied in thin coats.
Another great advantage of using this product is the fact that it dries very fast. This means you can apply several coats within a short time, saving you valuable time and energy. However, if you are not used to applying sealant, this can also be a disadvantage.
Polycrylic comes in various colors such as gloss, satin, semi-gloss, and matte. This makes it easy for you to select your preferred finish for your woodwork project. Compared to other types of sealant, it won’t yellow over time.
You may also appreciate the fact that polycrylic does not have any odor, toxic fumes, or harmful chemicals. It is an eco-friendly product that will ensure your woodwork projects remain safe for you and your loved ones even after application.
Lacquer is a popular sealant made up of shellac particles dispersed in alcohol or synthetic substances. It can be used on various wooden surfaces as well as metal.
Depending on the type of project that you’re working on, you can use lacquer in various ways, including brushing on or spraying on. The spray application is more beginner-friendly and can help you cover a large area in a short time.
In most cases, lacquer is relatively inexpensive and easy to apply. It forms a durable finish for indoor projects and dries almost instantly. Lacquer also allows you to build up multiple coats in a short period of time.
One disadvantage of lacquer is that it cannot withstand sunlight very well, so it’s only suitable for indoor projects. Lacquer can also emit a lot of VOCs (toxic fumes), so you must work in a well-ventilated area and use protective equipment when working with this sealant.
How To Seal Wood After Staining
Sealing wood is pretty straightforward, but what are some of the things you should pay attention to when sealing wood after staining it?
Let’s take a look at some of the steps you will need to take to seal a wooden piece after staining.
1. Let the wood stain dry completely before sealing.
We understand that you want to get the job done quickly, but there’s no way around it – you need to wait for one or two days for the stains to dry completely before sealing.
If you try to apply a clear sealant before the stain has time to dry, you can smudge the stain underneath, creating undesirable streaks in your final product.
If you try to spray on a sealant while the stain is still drying, you may not face this issue. However, the sealant will definitely take much longer to dry because the wet stain isn’t allowed to dry properly.
Depending on the stain you use, it will take a different amount of time to dry completely. This can vary from a few hours (usually overnight) or after three days to dry completely. If the stain feels dry to the touch, you can apply a clear coat over it.
2. Wipe the surface clean before sealing and in between coats.
Since the sealant will form a clear finish over your wood, any dirt or animal hair trapped on the surface of the wood can stay there and look unpleasant forever.
That’s why after the stain is dry and before you seal the wood, make sure to use a clean microfiber cloth to wipe down the surface to remove any dirt on the surface before applying the sealant.
3. Apply at least two coats of sealants.
Depending on the sealer you choose, you can use a spray application or a brush application to apply it over the surface of the wood.
If you are using a brush application, make sure to use a dry and clean brush to apply the sealer along the direction of the grain, and smooth out brush marks in the process. Make sure to use thin and even layers; otherwise, the protective coat can look foggy.
If you are using a fast-drying sealer, it’s best to work with a spray application to prevent uneven textures and brush marks.
You will need to wait for the first coat to dry completely before applying the next coat of sealer. Two coats are usually required to provide enough protection for your wood.
After the sealant is done, you can now use your wooden piece, knowing that the beautifully stained colors will be protected.
Up Next: Stain Vs Varnish