How to Stain a Wooden Bench

Staining a wooden bench is an easy way to protect the wood and let the natural wood grain of the bench show through. To ensure a smooth, even finish that lasts, you need to take several steps before applying the stain.

Tools and Materials Needed

  • Bench
  • Stain and stir stick
  • Paint roller and paint tray
  • Soft, lint-free cotton rags
  • Several paintbrushes
  • Latex gloves
  • Sandpaper in coarse to fine grades (100- to 120-grit is best)
  • Power sander (not needed but suggested for larger benches)
  • Chemical sandpaper or paint stripper
  • Plastic sheeting or tarp
  • Sponge and bucket of water
  • Brass wire brush
  • Wood conditioner
  • Polyurethane sealer

Step 1--Prep Your Bench

Put your tarp or sheeting down to protect the surface where you're staining. Even if you have a new, unfinished wood bench, you'll need to clean and prepare it for staining. Begin by wiping the bench down with a damp sponge or soft cloth to remove any dirt or dust.

Step 2--Remove Existing Finish

If the bench is painted, you'll need to remove all the paint by sanding or using a chemical stripper. If using chemicals strippers, follow the manufacturer's directions. If sanding, sand with the grain of the wood, not across the grain, to prevent scratching the wood. Once all the paint, varnish or other finish has been removed, sand the bench down with a fine-grade sandpaper until the wood is smooth to the touch. Wipe down with a damp sponge to remove all the sawdust. Allow bench to dry.

Step 3--Apply Stain

Using your stir stick, make sure the stain and your wood conditioner are thoroughly mixed before applying. If your wood has never been stained before, applying a wood conditioner before applying the stain will ensure a smooth, even finish. Follow directions to apply the conditioner before applying stain. Using a sponge, rag, roller or paintbrush, apply your stain in a smooth, even motion across the entire surface of the wood. If working on a large piece, work in small sections. Allow the stain to set for 5 to 15 minutes and then wipe off the excess with soft, dry cotton rags. The longer the stain sets, the darker the stain. Wipe the stain on, and then immediately wipe it off to get an idea of how absorbent the wood is. Go back and apply a second coat of stain if the stain isn't dark enough the first time. Allow the bench to dry in between coats. Once the final coat of stain has dried (in 6 to 10 hours), apply a sealer to protect the stain finish.

Step 4--Apply Sealer

Depending on where you plan to use the bench, there are several kinds of sealer you can apply to your stain to protect the finish. You can oil the wood with a tung oil sealer, polish with a paste wax (used on cars or furniture), or apply varnish or a polyurethane sealer. Polyurethane sealers are the easiest to apply and will last the longest. Use a brush and rag if possible to avoid getting air bubbles in the polyurethane. If you see bubbles showing up, brush or wipe them out. Allow to dry.