Stain new home trim ourselves or hire someone?

newhome09April 3, 2009

We are general contracting a new home and have gotten to the painting stage. In order to save some money we have decided to paint the house with some help from family. We were planning on staining the trim ourselves too, but we want a medium-dark oak trim and have had a hard time finding a color that turns out the same at home as it is on the store sample. On top of that we can't seem to get it to look consistant from one peice of trim to another even though we are doing the EXACT same thing each time. Has anybody else had experiences staining their own trim? Would you recommend hiring somebody to do it?


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I had the same experience - couldn't get the stain to look the same on all pieces. I checked into having someone do it, but it was way too expensive.

What I finally did was go with white trim. I used a medium-gloss pure white and it turned out really good. We found that the white actually went went anything. Maybe not quite what we originally wanted, but it turned out well after all. At least all the pieces come out identical!

Good Luck.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2009 at 6:19PM
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The link below shows what I've done in the past when staining wood, but I've never done a huge project like house trim.

If you have other jobs to do on the house, I'd pay someone else to do the stain but make sure they have experience. I've had luck finding an excellent painter thru referrals from my paint store.
Compared to painting, staining is very time consuming. Plus, after staining you'll still need to apply sealer.

Here is a link that might be useful: Staining

    Bookmark   April 3, 2009 at 6:51PM
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What kind of wood are you staining? Poplar, pine, oak?
It's best to use de-wax shellac before staining, it fills in the wood and gives an even stain job. It dries in about an hour and you can stain. I've had good luck with minwax oil stains.
How dark do you want it? Try Minwax 'Provincial' 'English Chestnut' and 'golden Pecan' I mix my own colors, using these three stains. If it's too dark I add more golden Pecan, If I want it darker, I add Provential, If I want a more reddish hue I add more English chestnut.
Do samples and write on the back of the samples what mix you are using. After you stain everything, 24 to 48 hours later you can begin to varnish. Before you varnish, you have to lightly sand all the stained wood, then use a tack cloth to get it clean, then varnish.
Again, I like minwax polyurethane. On furniture I always use gloss varnish, and then take it down with 0000 steel wool and fine sandpaper to the desired finish I want, however, that would be too much work for a houseful of molding, so you can use semi-gloss polyurethane instead.

This is a sample of stained door moldings, the wood is QS white oak.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2009 at 7:28PM
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One of my nightmare memories of my teen years was the summer I graduated from high school. My parents had built a new home - my father is a bricklayer so he built everything himself. I spent half that summer sanding, staining and brushing poly on what seemed like a million pieces of trim. It's amazing how many lengths of trim it takes for baseboards, door and window trim! And this wasn't that big of a house!! We did all the finishing/sanding/poly before it was installed on sawhorses in the LR of the unfinished house. What a job that was.

Anyways, oak generally takes stain pretty uniformly, so I'm surprised you're having problems. Poplar can be very difficult to stain, so hope that's not what you're using.

I would take several of the stained boards back to the lumbar yard you purchased them and show them how they're not taking stain the same way. I bet they're not the same grade of wood. They should replace them. Make sure all your trim wood is of the same grade - you may have some good quality pieces and some poor quality pieces intermingled.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2009 at 7:37AM
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I'd hire someone to do it in a heartbeat! Year's ago we finished off the upstairs of a home. I didn't realize how much trim there was until the truck unloaded it and I had it all laid out in front of me. It takes a lot of space and then there's the issue of keeping a dust free environment while the stain and finish set up. Then finding the time to do that much staining, sanding and topcoat is difficult in one setting without interruptions. With interruptions come brush cleaning & putting away materials, etc. I've done a fair share of refinishing & even taught a class on it years ago. It could be done but it would be a huge commitment. The guy who did the woodwork in our home had an extremely smooth, consistent finish that I couldn't replicate on that many pieces of trim. He could set it up to do in an assembly line fashion with greater efficiency. Good luck with whatever you decide.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2009 at 8:36AM
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When we did the master suite in our other house we had what seemed like acres of oak to stain. I can't tell you how much wood I ruined using Minwax, both the liquid and gel stains, because nothing matched. The tongue-and-groove beadboard would not match the flat door/window casings and baseboards (which were made from simple flat stock lumber for cost reasons) or the oak door, none of which would match the decorative moldings. I used pre-stain conditioners. I tried a shellac undercoat. I used a dang stopwatch to make sure I had the stain on the exact same time on every piece. I nearly lost my [expletive deleted] mind and came very close to having a nervous breakdown and painting the whole blasted thing even though that was the polar opposite of what I wanted and I know I would have ended up hating it. I remember screaming hysterically and throwing a can of stain across the basement at one point - thankfully it was mostly closed and hit a sheet of plywood that was sitting on a cardboard sheet to keep it off the concrete, so it didn't make too bad a mess. We had just been screwed over by the carpenter who was supposed to install all that woodwork and botched it, so we had to repurchase a great deal of the wood, therefore hiring someone simply wasn't even to be contemplated. In fact, we had to hire an acquaintance with virtually no experience in trim carpentry and have me babysit him constantly because he would work cheaply enough to get the job finished.

Then I discovered Zar brand stain. It's thick, almost like pudding, and looks opaque in the can but becomes properly translucent on the wood. We used Aged Varnish which looked disturbingly bright orange in the can. LOL You hold a brush in one hand and a rag in the other - brush it on generously with one hand, wipe it off with the other, and you get into the rhythm very quickly. No waiting time. No drips. No lap marks. No fooling around. I was able to work for a couple of hours and quit because I got tired, and then pick up where I left off several hours or a day later with no difference in appearance, as long as I stopped at a rational point like a corner. It dried in moments after being wiped off. We used cheap 2" China-bristle brushes (the ones with the white bristles, which we bought in bags of 10 for about $8 from the hardware store) and foam brushes and chucked them - after letting them dry out completely - at the end of each staining session in order to avoid the time-consuming hassle of brush cleaning with an oil stain. Only needed one coat of stain and most importantly everything matched! (For some reason, some areas always photographed lighter than others, but IRL there was no difference at all from one area to the next.) Since the grain didn't raise, we did not need to sand before the topcoat went on - we used two coats of Sherwin Williams' Satin Fastdry Oil Varnish because I did not want the "coated" look/feel of polyurethane, and the varnish held up very nicely to moisture in the bathroom including my splashing around the tub. This is the best picture I have that shows the beadboard, decorative molding AND trim together:

    Bookmark   April 4, 2009 at 3:48PM
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I stained all the trim and doors when we built our house. The house is 2,400 square feet. Used Benjamin Moore Poly Stain satin finish. It is a one step process. I lightly sanded and then used a tac cloth and put the stain finish on using foam brushes. All the wood is popular, it turned out very nice. It took a week to do working about 12 to 14 hours daily. Hated every minute of it. I may have put two coats on just not sure. I know I followed the directions on the cans. I did this 9 years ago and it still looks good today.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2009 at 7:40AM
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I am still in the process of staining all the trim and doors in house built 2 years ago. If you can find someone good and can afford it, definitely have someone else do it. You don't say what type of wood you are using - is it oak or are you just trying to get a 'medium-dark oak" color on pine or poplar? Dewaxed shellac/wood conditioner is necessary. Even on oak (make sure you have all white oak or all red oak), there will be some variation in how the wood takes the stain. Just this AM I was staining some oak shoe for kitchen, 11ft piece came out yellowish with Minwax Golden Oak penetrating stain, the 8ft piece came out more red, and the 4ft piece was close to the color of the 11ft piece. So I will go over the 2 pieces with quick wipe-on wipe-off of Cherrywood gel to try to match. I had to do the same thing with trim pieces for my island and over fridge.

Then there's the finish. My upstairs baseboards, door casings and jambs are linseed oil and beeswax, my downstairs baseboards, all the window sills/stools, jambs and casings are 3 coats of oil-based wipe-on satin poly, as is the one bathroom door I've done (5 coats on all 6 sides). The beeswax attracts dust but I thought it would be easier to touch up when/if it got scuffed since there is no stain. But not waterproof, so only in upstairs bedrooms/hallway, not baths or any other place with tile floors. I still have the rest of the doors and all the window sashes to do, as well as baseboards and window/door casings in LR and foyer (this summer) and unfinished bathrooms (when we finish them). It took me a week just to do one door, with waiting b/t coats and then flipping the door to do the other side. Trim doesn't take as long but I'd rather have bought the trim and finished it room-by-room rather than have it sitting around. But I let the builder talk me into ordering it (precut and tacked in place - what a pain to take off, some pieces were cut too short, etc.) with the house.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 4:46PM
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