What Are The Best Ways To Stain Reclaimed Wood?

reclaimed barnwood gray boards

Reclaimed wood is a popular trend with many households today. With a special aged patina glow, the material is quite unique for building. Reusing vintage wood is an environment friendly step as well as the best way to have a rustic yet beautiful style for your furniture, outdoor building, or barn. To maintain the natural look of the wood, certain steps should be taken before and after staining.


Sanding must be done before staining. When sanding reclaimed wood, it is important to use sandpaper with a heavier grit than most (80- to 100-). The sanding should only be done lightly to remove splinters. If you want to keep the natural look, too much sanding can hinder your goal and cause you to lose the desired effect.

Splinters, Dryness, and Holes

Although these common issues with reclaimed wood are not as serious as others, they can cause problems. Some simple precautions can ensure a smoother process for handling reclaimed wood.

  • Splinters: Wood splinters are not as dangerous as some hazards, but, wearing sturdy work gloves will prevent you from having them embedded in your skin.
  • Dryness: Wood becomes dryer with age. Handle any reclaimed wood with care. Take your time if you are installing reclaimed wood flooring.
  • Holes: Knotholes and other types of holes is a given in any type of reclaimed wood. Before staining, fill the holes with golf tees or toothpicks if you want a uniform appearance in the staining because these objects will absorb the stain.

Kiln Drying

If bugs are discovered in your reclaimed wood, as they have been known to show up, kiln drying is a commonly used solution to this irritating problem. Other methods of heating have been done successfully as well although kiln drying seems to be the most effective.

One wood expert advised people to wrap any furniture that had been made from reclaimed wood in plastic and place the furniture in the sun for several hours. The heat forces the bugs from the wood while the plastic suffocates them.

While this process might be necessary once the wood has been in your home, a better way is for the wood to go through the kiln process before it is brought inside the home. Kiln operators control this process and carefully monitor the heat levels. This ensures that the wood is not damaged, or someone is not injured in the process.

To Stain or Not to Stain

Many wood experts are adamantly against staining reclaimed wood. They vow that any, and all, types of stain will rob the wood of its natural look. Many experts recommend certain types of wax to maintain the natural beauty and the vintage look of the wood. However, there have been people who have successfully stained reclaimed wood and maintained the natural look.

Some wood lovers have posted blogs and other internet media telling of their experiences with staining reclaimed wood. One lady posted to her website that she used a water-based stain that was dark in color that created a beautiful dark finish. Oddly, the finished product was not so dark that she could not see the wood patterns and holes which do add to the character of the wood.

Does Staining Protect the Wood?

According to some wood experts, staining in and of itself will not protect reclaimed wood. As with any other type of wood, reclaimed wood should be sealed after staining takes place. Some hardware stores sell products that contain both the stain and seal in one mix. However, if you have any doubts, purchase the stain and seal separately.

For reclaimed wood, it is not advisable to use a generic stain or seal. Brands such as Valspar or Cabot come highly recommended by wood workers. These products are said to stain and seal without causing the wood to lose the natural look. Of course, the color you use will depend upon the type of reclaimed wood and your personal preference.

Which Comes First: Stain or Seal?

According to one expert, it depends on the type of sealer you are using. If the sealer is a wipe-on oil finish, it would be wise to do some sealing first. A thin coat at the base should be applied to keep the wood from sealing completely, or, the stain will stick to the wood. Always have a piece of wood that you can test before attempting the project on all your wood. Stain must dry for at least 24 hours before using the wood in any other way.

Different Styles

  • Clear Lacquer, Epoxy-Filled Knots and Cracks: Using a two-part apoxy and black pigment will emphasize the knots which is great to keep in mind if that is the look you want.
  • Dark Even Color, Epoxy-Filled Knots and Cracks: This style will give you a smoother color yet maintain the rustic style that many people wish to have.
  • Dark Weathered Alder: This style gives a dark and weathered appearance.
  • Country Pickled Alder: This style is for those who want a pleasant, light country look.
  • Charred Wood Finish: For a charred or burnt wood style, this finish is what you need.

Weathered Texture

A wire cup wheel or wire wheel on a drill is one way to achieve the weathered texture look. Working the wire wheel back and forth with the grain will begin to produce the look you want, but you must be certain that you wear goggles and mask. A great deal of dust is produced during the process. After texturing, use fine grit sanding to remove fuzz. Add a gel stain choosing the color of your choice. Once the stain is dry, use a sanding block along with 220 grit sandpaper. You should only need a couple of passes. Clean and remove the dust then use a top seal.

After-Staining Maintenance

Once reclaimed wood has been stained, cleaning it with a gentle soap and soft rag is recommended. Knots and cracks are usually present with reclaimed wood. A soft-bristled paintbrush will keep a wood table clear of any crumbs that may get into the knots and cracks. Use a coaster for drinks, and avoid placing hot plates on a wooden table or any other type of wooden surface.

Reclaimed Wood Floors

The advantage of reclaimed wood floors is that it is difficult to tell if the floors are truly dirty due to the flaws and color variations. When cleaning reclaimed wood floors, a Swiffer is a great cleaning tool. If there is a hot, sticky spot, a damp cloth will work. Many people claim that maintenance for these floors is an easy job. Some wood experts recommend Murphy’s Oil Soap, or a similar product, for cleaning reclaimed wood floors or furniture.

Reclaimed Barn Wood

Many people use reclaimed barn wood for various projects. Barns symbolize the hard work completed by the farmers of this nation. Unfortunately, not all barns can be left standing; however, when they come down, the wood can serve other great purposes.

Some Amish places of business specialize in cleaning, staining, and selling reclaimed barn wood. Although various holes and markings can be seen, the reclaimed barn wood that is sold by the Amish people has been cleaned and dried properly, and the nails have been removed. The Amish use the same standard to process reclaimed wood as they do with other types of wood and other projects.

If you would love to purchase reclaimed barn wood and want the convenience of having the cleaning, drying, and staining done for you, purchasing from Amish suppliers is an option.

Reclaimed Wood Paneling

Like reclaimed wood floors, little maintenance is required with reclaimed wood paneling. Once reclaimed wood paneling has been stained, it typically does not have to be stained again. If some type of chemical exposure occurs, the wood will have to be sanded and re-finished. Certain types of stain might have to be used if the wood becomes rough and dry.

Not for Everyone

Reclaimed wood has lots of imperfections, nail holes, knots, and other flaws, but they give the wood character. However, not everyone loves the imperfections in the wood, so it is important to decide if using this type of wood is right for you.

Since using reclaimed wood for building and remodeling projects, people love knowing that the use of this wood is also considered environment friendly. The rustic look is becoming more and more widespread. Using the correct methods and products for staining reclaimed wood gives your projects unlimited possibilities.