Should I paint or stain? Is there a Difference?

paint versus stain

Should I paint or stain? Is there a Difference?

Paint and stain can be similar and do similar things but aren’t the same. Confused? As experienced painting contractors just outside of DC, we’re happy to explain the differences – and similarities – between paint and stain.
How are they similar?
Both paint and stain have the same job: to protect the surface material. While doing that, paint and stain can both enhance or disguise the look of the surface material.
Stains and paints are made of pigments and serve as a medium for those pigments. Modern paints and stains are highly durable and, if properly applied, can do a good job protecting a surface. Both come in oil and acrylic, and both have distinct advantages and disadvantages.
So, in many ways, paint and stain are very similar. Yet, they’re also different! Read on to learn more because the distinction is important.
What’s the difference?
Simply stated, paint remains atop of a surface, while stain typically soaks into the surface material. (There are solid stains that look more like paint with an opaque result but are actually stain. In this post, we’re really speaking about the more transparent stains.)
If you look at paint and stain side by side, you’ll see an immediate difference in how they look in the can. When applied, stains will show the material underneath, and paint will not. Paint obscures or hides the surface since it has way more color pigment particles than stain. Stain, on the other hand, has more liquid and less pigment.
What you should know about each one:
Stain is good to use if you want the wood grain to remain visible.
Here are a few things to know about stain:
      • The wood grain will remain visible underneath.
      • There’s no need to prime.
      • It has limited options of color choices.
      • If applied correctly, you typically only need one coat.
      • It is more resistant to peeling and chipping than many paints.
      • It only comes in matte but can be varnished for a glossier look.
      • Stain can be reapplied without needing to first be stripped.
      • Stain can enhance the look of the wood nicely. (Check out our blog post about deck staining here.)
Here are a few things to know about paint:
      • Paint has far more color choices than stain.
      • Some paints are more expensive than stain.
      • Best quality paints have more pigment loading and offer a more saturated look.
      • Paint comes in matte, satin, and gloss finishes.
So which one should you use?
Several factors will determine which one you should use.
      • What results are you trying to achieve?
      • Is the surface already painted or stained?
      • Is it a wood surface, and do you want to enhance the natural look of the wood?
      • Do you want a solid look to cover the appearance of the surface material?
Whether you choose to paint or stain really depends on what you want as a final result. Paints offer far more choices, but stain can be better for a wood surface if you want the wood grain to show. If you’re still uncertain, a qualified painting contractor, like Home Works Painting, can help you decide. Contact our office to schedule an appointment or use our online scheduler.
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