Problems With Stain-Grade Pine

totallyconfusedApril 10, 2009

I'm not sure if I've posted this to the correct forum, but here goes.

Our house is supposed to have stained trim (pine) throughout the first floor and upstairs hallway. The painters had stained and hung some baseboard in our selected finish (Minwax English Chestnut) and everything looked fine. When they stained some of the door casings, however, the results were not nearly as good. Two of the casings were a little blotchy, but nothing I couldn't live with. (I understand that stained wood will have some color variations and if I wanted something with a completely consistant finish I should opt for paint). The third casing, however, was unlike anything I have ever seen. The stain had gone on splotchy in sort of circular areas, so that it looked like leopard skin.

The painters say there is nothing they can do to correct the problem. The man who owns the painting company says his last two stain jobs have had similar problems and in atleast one case, the owners opted to just live with the stain as it was.

The builder has said he will replace the worst section of the casing. He has the guy from his millwork supplier coming out to take a look at it and see if he as any suggestions. And he is going to put in a call to Minwax on Monday. (He tells me they are closed until then for the holiday).

Has anyone encountered similar problems and were you able to correct them? I hate to make the builder change out a lot of trim because it won't take the stain properly. We still have about 10 doors, all the windows, all the crown and most of the baseboards left to stain. I also hate the thought of having to switch to painted trim, as it doesn't fit my vision of this house at all.

Any thoughts or suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Totally Confused

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Ron Natalie

We have stained pine and there are a few blotchy areas. We suggested that Minwax makes a prestain conditioner for pine, but they never used it. 90% of the time it appears unnecessary.

Here is a link that might be useful: MINWAX INFO

    Bookmark   April 10, 2009 at 9:53AM
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I have been doing all my clear pine - really recommend the prestain conditioner (or mix your own). I can tell the difference. Now, look at the blotches - some of it may not actually be in how the wood took the stain, but instead grain or knots/blemishes in the wood. Pine will have waves or circles in the grain, or light "specks" that get highlighted when you put the finish on, as well as (hopefully not) black knots. I don't mind a few small areas on casings, can live with larger waves and circles on baseboards, stools, jambs. If oyu have any really strange looking areas on your casings you should replace the wood - I like to have fairly consistent graining all around the area. Unfortunately, my modular came with trim precut and tacked in place, they didn't pay particular attention to matching the grain pattern on baseboards on long walls where they had to scarf. In fact, didn't pay attention to scarfing over studs. But I can hide a lot with furniture! You can't do that with casings (unless you hang drapes down the sides of windows, but what do you do with doors?).

    Bookmark   April 10, 2009 at 10:13AM
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I find it curious to try to blame the millwork company for the staining job. The millwork should conform to the normal grading standards for clear trim, because that's what you paid for. That means no splits, knots or sapwood. They can't be held responsible for the workmanship of the finishing or the performance of the finishing products themselves.
This is pine trim, not hardwood.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2009 at 6:06PM
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I don't know what stain-grade pine is but I know that it takes a real pro to make pine take stain evenly.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2009 at 8:46PM
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We have clear pine stained thought out our house. All trim and doors. Our painters did not have any trouble with the stain splotching. They used a sanding sealer first, then applied the stain.

Here is a link that might be useful: Minwax Sanding Sealer

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 8:47AM
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The painter said he had tried the wood conditioner on a previous job and it hadn't made a significant difference. Would sanding sealer be likely to make a difference? I guess it wouldn't hurt to suggest it, as the best solution the builder could offer was to finish the staining and then replace the worst of it. I shudder to think how much more they might have done since Friday, though.

Totally Confused

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 10:49AM
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He is wrong; the conditioner makes a big difference.

The starting condition of the wood makes a difference, too. Anything adhesive, waxy, or oily needs to be cleaned really well. All surfaces need to be sanded and tacked really well, too. Then conditioned. Finally, they cannot let the stain dry on the wood before trying to wipe it down. Better to do several coats wiping properly than to try to let it "really soak in" once. That will cause uneveness.

I don't think it is that difficult in terms of skills, it just takes workmanship and patience.

If the work that's been done hasn't poly'd yet, they can try to sand it lightly and try to correct a bit. If it has been poly'd, that can create a mess if not really sanded down thoroughly.

Poly will help to even out the appearance of the tones, but it is not a save-all.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 11:37AM
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"The painter said he had tried the wood conditioner on a previous job and it hadn't made a significant difference."
i question the experience of someonw who says this. prestain must always be used with pine. it also must be used correctly. i has a narrow window of time to be effective or it must be reapplied.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 12:46PM
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I use a thin coat of shellac and gel stains on pine. For deep colors I will use the Olympic brand stains (their Merlot and Java colors are very dark red and brown, respectively)

    Bookmark   April 12, 2009 at 9:07PM
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