If you are new to painting or staining, it is easy to become confused about which is which, and the differences between the two. There are a few major differences that separate these two forms of finishing and some distinctions in the purpose they offer.
The most important and obvious difference between paint and stain is the difference is the color spectrum the products offer. Paint, as you probably know, comes in many colors and hues, while most finishes are some shade of brown, depending on the type of wood they are made for.
If you are painting wood and you want to highlight the natural color and structure, such as the knots and grooves in the wood, a stain is your best bet. If you want to cover up the wood or paint it a different color, paint is the best option to do so.
Due to the effect of staining products, people tend to use them outdoors, usually on a patio or a deck. Staining products, due to their composition, are better at handling foot traffic, while paint does not hold up as well when many people walk on top of it.
Another difference between paint and staining is the purpose behind each product. Wood stains aim to protect the surface of furniture while at the same time highlighting the natural appearance of the wood, while paint is more of a designer way to change the color of a surface for aesthetic appeal.
If you are more interested in the unique, natural look of your wood, then the clear choice is a nice wood finish. On the other hand, if you are painting other materials or you want to switch up the color with something new, paint is the best option.
Your location and where you plan to use paint or a stain is also a factor in which finish you should use. As you may have read above, stain finishes are common on outdoor decks, which receive a lot of foot traffic, while paint is much more common indoors and on walls.
Certain paint brands advertise their products as resistant to cold weather and all the elements that come along with winter, while you might find it more difficult to find stains that will stand the test of tough, snowy winters.
Of course, your geographical location and the climates you experience are some of the main deciding factors in making your decision, and you can protect your deck or other outdoor areas from nature in many ways. In other words, while surface stains tend to last a shorter amount of time than paint, this is not always the case and you can take steps to extend the life of your stain.
If you have an older deck or surface that you are considering painting or finishing, you may want to cover up the years of wear and tear, which is usually very visible. In this case, your best option is a paint finish, as this will cover up any blemishes or imperfections that a stain finish would only magnify.