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Gel Staining- An Alternative to Painting

Posted Mar 14, 2023

Have you ever had all the wood doors, casings, and baseboards of your home painted white and now you are stuck looking at an ugly orange railing that doesn’t fit in with anything in your house? Or maybe you want to refinish your railing and are thinking about painting it black or retoning it. Why not gel stain it?

Gel stain is a great alternative to painting railings and front doors. It is an oil-based product that tends to lay down smoother than paint with a richer looking finish. You can often still see a little bit of grain coming through and it doesn’t look as thick and flat as paint. There are a couple of different manufacturers of gel stain, but we use General Finishes gel stain. Gel Stain also comes in a variety of colors, the most common colors for us are Java and Black.

Our process of gel staining starts with covering and protecting your surrounding surfaces from what we are staining. We like to minimize dust and make sure we are not staining anything we are not supposed to be staining. After covering everything that is in the area that could possibly be an accident, we begin deglossing. We remove any grease or dirt that will prevent the gel stain from bonding to the surface. Railings can be especially dirty because they are grabbed frequently.

After the surface has been cleaned, we go over it with 220 grit sandpaper. Our goal at this point is to abrade the surface lightly to give the gel stain something to grab on to. Gel stain is a film forming stain and it bonds to the surface of what is underneath it. This way we don’t have to sand for hours to completely remove the previous topcoat before we apply the gel stain.

Next, we apply the gel stain to the prepped surface. I prefer to use a Purdy XL 2 ½” brush for gel staining and clear coats. The softness of the bristles helps hide brush strokes and limits streakiness. After the gel stain has been applied we wait for it to dry. Depending on the color, weather, and a couple other factors, your gel stain likely will take 1-3 days to dry. Darker colors tend to take longer to cure due to the increased amount of pigment in the stain.

Once the gel stain is dry, we apply our topcoat. If you are using a water-based topcoat, you will have to wait longer between your gel stain coat and topcoat. Oil and water don’t mix! We like to use an oil-based topcoat so that we can do small touch ups with the gel stain if needed. Above are some pictures of a project we have done recently. Please let us know if this interests you or if you would like a quote! We wish you a lovely week and hope to see you back here soon! Happy Staining!

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