Bob Vila Radio: The Pros and Cons of Gel Stain

Does your wood project need a finishing touch? Find out why you many DIYers are choosing to use innovative gel stain over traditional options.

By Bob Vila | Updated Apr 19, 2018 5:11 PM

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With traditional wood stain, you have a choice to make: do you choose a light finish that lets the wood grain shine through, or do you choose a darker stain, knowing that it would conceal at least some of the wood’s natural beauty?

Gel Stain Pros and Cons



Listen to BOB VILA ON GEL STAIN PROS AND CONS or read below:

Gel stain enables you to do both. Though it’s broadly similar to the pigment-based stains you may be more familiar with, the gel variety reliably yields concentrated-yet-transparent color. Plus, because of an added thickening agent, it’s much, much easier to apply than the regular, runny stuff.

Also note that since gel stain sits on the surface of the wood (instead of sinking into the pores), it’s a great choice for finishing birch, cherry, maple and pine—woods that usually don’t absorb traditional stain evenly. And because it tends not to drip, gel stain really comes in clutch when you’re staining a surface that cannot be laid horizontally, such as an installed cabinet.

Another huge benefit: You don’t necessarily need to strip and sand wood before applying gel stain to it. Basically, that means you can get the job done more quickly, and with less effort, than would otherwise be possible.

There’s a caveat, though. Gel stain sometimes pools in cracks, dips, and corners. So in order to avoid a splotchy finish, you must take care to wipe away any excess as your work. Generally speaking, if you’re staining a workpiece with many facets, angles, and grooves, you’re probably better off with a traditional stain.

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