Stain vs Paint. Which One to Choose?

When it comes to upgrading a home or giving a wood surface a new life, solid stain vs paint is often compared to identify which option is the best for the project. Although stain and paint have some similarities, each also has unique qualities that set them apart.

Choosing wood stain vs paint doesn’t have to be complicated. If you know their pros and cons, you’ll be equipped to make an informed decision that will benefit your home, and of course, your pocket. Let’s look at the comparison of paint vs stain to determine which will yield the best result.

Stain vs Paint – Similarities and Differences

If your home needs some serious updating or repairs that involve painting the deck, covering drywall, or re-painting the walls and ceiling, you’ll need more information about paint and stain. While stain provides a rustic and natural finish to wood by penetrating it, paint coats the top of the surface, hiding its blemishes and natural grain. Although they differ in many aspects, it’s also essential to note the factors that make them similar in some ways.

The Similarities

Modern paints and stains have improved dramatically over the years, offering practical methods for coloring and protecting surfaces. In some ways, they’re the same in terms of their composition and types.


Stain and paint are composed of a vehicle for pigments and pigments. Thanks to the liquid vehicle’s chemical composition, stains and paints are now made durable and robust, protecting any surface well, whether it’s wood or other materials.


Both are also available in oil and acrylic varieties. This way, you can pick the right type of paint or stain that matches your needs. Keep in mind that both types have benefits and drawbacks, so make sure you do your research to make the right choice.

The Differences

When comparing concrete stain vs paint, it’s not easy to tell which one is better than the other. But knowing the differences between the two will help you decide which type of finish to buy.

Color options

In general, paint offers more color and texture options than stain, making them a versatile choice for a home improvement project. There are also various sheens available, such as flat, glossy, satin, semi-gloss, eggshell, and matte, allowing you to get the ideal style you want in any color.

Although a lot of manufacturers have developed more color options for stains beyond the common wood tones, some vivid and bright shades are still unavailable. Stains typically have one sheen or texture designed to absorb exterior or interior wood surfaces.

Function and appearance

Paints are formulated to add a top layer of film, creating a completely new surface. On the other hand, stains are meant to penetrate the surface, allowing the texture to remain visible.

Exterior stains are classified as solid, semi-solid, and semi-transparent. Semi-solid and semi-transparent stains have much less pigment than paint. If you use the best deck stain that’s semi-transparent, you can expect to see the wood’s natural texture and grain while also changing its color.

Solid stains can hide the entire wood grain, though the texture will still be visible. So, if you’re restoring a piece of old furniture and comparing stain vs paint cabinets, a solid wood stain can disguise its imperfections while retaining its rustic appearance.

If you’re looking for information on deck paint vs stain, painted decks provide customization you cannot get with stain. You can choose from any color you want that matches your home and personal style. But you’ll also love the unique, traditional style of a stained deck by enhancing the wood’s natural look.


It’s hard to compare black stain vs black paint and not discuss their durability. Thankfully, both are durable and formulated to last long, although each also presents unique issues, especially for interior decorating.

For instance, stains that don’t come with sealants may change over time. Sunlight exposure and unprotected stained furnishings are more likely to develop unwanted discoloration or fading. Paints can also flake or chip when scraped or bumped and are prone to peeling or chipping.

However, many users and homeowners may find paint to be longer-lasting than stain. Oil-based paints provide high-grade protection from moisture to avoid peeling, and latex paints can also deliver excellent defense against UV light, which could lead to fading.


Whether you’re staining your deck or painting baseboards, the task requires preparing the surface to ensure that the paint or stain lasts long. You have to sweep and scrub it or repair or replaced damaged boards. But unlike paint, a stain is generally easier to apply.

Stain can be applied on wood using a roller or brush directly in a single coat. Its runny consistency prevents lumps or globs from pooling. But when you paint, the surface should be treated with a wood preservative and coated with a primer before application to get the best result. Typically, you will need at least two coats of paint to ensure it lasts long.

Stain vs Paint – Which Should you Use for Your Project

At this point, you’ve probably realized that although they have a couple of things in common, paint and stain differ in various ways. If you still can’t decide which one to use, let’s take a look at the advantages of using paint and stain for decorating your home.

Pros of using stain

  • Easy to apply, as it usually requires one coat only
  • Enhances wood surfaces, preserving their unique style and texture
  • Resistant to peeling, cracking, or chipping
  • Provides a complimentary warm, pastoral, and natural finish of wood surfaces, such as sidings, decks, shingles, etc.,
  • Tend to cost less than paint

Pros of using paint

  • Available in a range of finishes, colors, and textures
  • Ideal to any surface, including concrete, wood, metal, ceramic, etc.
  • Versatile, as it can be applied to any part of your home
  • Thicker than stain
  • Hides any flaw or blemishes of surfaces well


In the end, deciding whether to opt for paint or use stain comes down to your personal preference, budget, and unique style. You also have to consider if the surface you’re covering is suitable for the type of finish you want to use. Once you consider these factors, you can get started with your home improvement project and enjoy a more appealing living space.

About The Author

MyUnfinishedHome Staff

We are a team of enthusiasts thriving to provide you with helpful advice on buying everything you may ever need to finish your home and make it a lovely place.

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