Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner

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Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner is Used to Ensure an Even Application of Stain

Pre-stain wood conditioner does not have to be applied to all types of wood prior to adding a coating of stain. For example, oak is a type of wood that does not require a pre-treatment. However, wood that is considered to be “soft” does require a coating of pre-stain wood conditioner because these types of woods are very porous. When stain is added to porous wood, stain can absorb unevenly.

Examples of soft woods that require pre-stain treatment include:

  • Pine
  • Fir
  • Maple
  • Birch

The purpose of using pre-stain wood conditioner is to prepare the wood for the stain and close the wood’s pores so that the stain will penetrate the wood evenly. The goal is to have the stain absorb into the wood in a uniform manner so that it does not appear splotchy when it dries. Applying pre-stain conditioner is one of the most effective methods of preventing issues with the stain’s appearance after it dries.

Preparing Wood for Pre-Stain Conditioner

First, the wood must be lightly sanded. After sanding, use a vacuum and a clean cloth to wipe the wood. Make sure there is not any left-over sawdust or other debris left over on the wood.

Applying the Conditioner

  1. You will need to visit your local hardware store to purchase a pre-mixed can of pre-stain wood conditioner. If you are unsure which brand and type to buy, make sure to talk with a knowledgeable sales person who works at the store. Let the sales person know the type of wood that will be conditioned and the type of stain that will be added on top of the conditioner.
  2. Using either a foam brush, a paint brush or a clean cloth, apply the conditioner to the wood. Make sure to cover the entire surface, and also make sure that you add the conditioner in the direction of the wood’s grain.
  3. After you have allowed the pre-stain conditioner to absorb into the wood for approximately 15 minutes, use a clean cloth to wipe off the conditioner that did not penetrate the wood.
  4. Different brands of conditioner have different instructions, but most will recommend that the stain be applied to the wood within a certain period of time after the conditioner was added. Sometimes, the time frame is as little as a few hours.

Conditioner Might Cause Stain to Appear Lighter

Be aware that by adding a layer or two of pre-stain conditioner to wood, the wood’s pores will be closed. This will cause the stain that is applied over the conditioner to not penetrate the wood as deeply as it would have without the conditioner. Therefore, the result will likely be a lighter color than you may have originally anticipated. If necessary, apply a second coat of stain to darken the effect. Keep in mind that if you do not apply the conditioner, the result will probably be splotchy and uneven – so the trouble of adding a second coat of stain is worthwhile.




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