How Many Coats of Stain? (5-Step Guide)

Last Updated On September 17, 2021

Are you wondering how many coats of stain you'll need on your next staining or wood finishing project?

You've come to the right place!

In this ProPaintCorner.com guide, you'll learn:

  • Why you need to know about stain coverage
  • What supplies you'll need to make sure you get the best stain finish
  • How to properly apply stains using different methods

And much more!

How Many Coats of Stain?

Staining wood is relatively simple, and you can do a great job by noting some quick tips on how to do it right.

So, before you do stain your project, I recommend you read through this quick guide on how many coats of stain you'll need for your next DIY project.

What Do You Need To Know About Applying Coats of Stain?

Every project is different, and determining how many coats of stain you'll need involves several different factors:

  • The porosity of the wood you're staining (how absorbent it is)
  • Whether or not the surface you're staining his "high-traffic" (if it is, it's best to go with several coats to protect the wood)
  • The type of stain you're using
  • You're desired look when the stain is dried (do you want wood texture to peek through or do you want more of a "full-coverage" effect?)

The good news is, staining doesn't have to be hard! Use this quick step-by-step guide that will help your stain project turn out better.

Besides, you wouldn't want to miss a crucial step in the process.

Supplies You’ll Need For Staining 

The specific supplies you'll need will vary from project to project. We've compiled a master list of things to have, so check it out:

Sandpaper 

You'll need anything from 80-grit to 220-grit sandpaper for staining projects. You might even want to wet sand with higher grit sandpapers like 1000-grit for perfect results, especially when sanding over polyurethane(sealer) and lacquer finishes.

Rag/Clean Cloth 

On some wood furniture projects, the best way to apply stain is by using a rag. 

For example, a wood banister would be hard to get the stain into all the nooks and crannies. By using a rag you simply just need to wipe the stain on as if you were cleaning it.

Stain of Choice 

There are many different types of wood stains and refinishing products that 

Foam Brush or Paint Applicator of Choice

You can apply stain with virtually any type of paint applicator.

Intricate wood projects like banisters can be applied with a cloth, while large exterior surfaces like fences and siding can be applied with a paint sprayer

You could also use a foam brush or bristle brush on smaller projects like coffee tables.

Paint Masker

Using a paint masker helps to cover up undesired surfaces. Simply attach some painter's tape and masking film/paper to the paint masker, and roll out both simultaneously onto the surface you need to cover up.

The Surface You'll Be Staining/Tools to Remove Hardware

You'll obviously want the object that will be stained and possibly tools that will help remove hardware(e.g., screwdrivers, razor blades).

Solvents/Mineral Spirits

Solvents will help clean up any mess that's left over after the job is complete.

Read More >> How Do You Stain A Deck Like A Pro?

How To Decide How Many Coats of Stain (5-Step Guide)

Now that you have all of the necessary supplies, let's dive into the step-by-step process for determining how many coats of stain you'll need to lay down!

(Psst! You can click any of the links below to jump straight to that step.)

  1. Consider the type of wood being stained
  2. Consider the type of stain being used
  3. Apply the first coat of stain and evaluate the results
  4. Apply the second coat of stain and evaluate the results
  5. Apply additional coats or sand off the excess stains

Step 1 – Consider the type of wood being stained

Different woods will require a different kind of treatment. 

For example, if you're staining an exterior, then you'll want to go with a deck stain or some other type of exterior pine stain.

Step 2 – Consider the type of stain being used

You must consider the type of stain used. Specifically, you need to read the label on the specific stain for the best results.

Do a quick internet search to make sure the type of stain you are using is compatible with the type of wood. For example, gel stains are a great option for softwoods like pine for added durability.

Step 3 – Apply the first coat of stain and evaluate the results

The best way to know how the stain is going to work out is by applying it to the surface of the wood.

Even small amounts of stain can be applied just to see a 'sample' of the full resulting color.

Evaluating the results after the stain color will is easy. The first question you should ask yourself is: 'am I satisfied with the results?' Because your opinion matters the most to you-- after all, it's your project.

Make sure you go with the wood grain for the best results when staining. Going along the direction of the grain will help even apply the stain across the surface without uneven distribution.

Step 4 – Apply the second coat of stain and evaluate results

Sometimes, the first coat of stain/varnish just primes the wood for its real finished product. 

Because some species of wood have large pores, so part of the first coat seeps down into too far wood grain leaving dry spots.

That's when you'll need to apply a second coat to the project. You may even need a third coat if the stain continues to absorb into the surface of the wood.

Step 5 – Apply additional coats or sand off the excess 

If you don't feel that your wood staining work has completely penetrated the surface of the wood, there is always the option of additional coats. Just paint the damn thing until it's good.

We must consider that some woods have more openings than others, making stain fall into its holes until it reaches the top. It's the same principle for epoxies(search an epoxy wood table for a good example).

Staining wood can actually increase its lifespan. This is because the stain prevents splintering, rot, and rain from destroying the wood's surface.

Other Valuable Resources on Staining

Our resource has so many good tips on which paints and paint products to use. Feel free to browse our site in the paint section for high-quality stains, and we have also done a lot of research for 

Read More >> How To Apply Stain To Any Surface Like A Pro!

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

Got A Paint Question? Ask Your Pro Painter!

Learn More Expert Paint Tips

Painting shouldn’t be this hard. Check out some of these other helpful guides to help you nail the perfect paint job!

How To Remove Wood Stain?

Want to know how to remove the wood stain from projects like hardwood floors and

Read More »
How To Stain Cabinets?

Are you working on staining cabinets in your home? You’ve come to the right place!  In this

Read More »
How To Stain Concrete Floors?

Were you wondering how to stain concrete floors? Stay right here. In this ProPaintCorner.com article, we

Read More »

Want to know how to stain wood furniture? You’ve come to the right place! In this Propaintcorner.com

Read More »

Got Paint Questions? Search For In-Depth Answers Below!

Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

About Pro Paint Corner

You’ve got painting questions. We’ve got the best painting answers from a network of seasoned painting pros.

Recently Published Guides