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I am having someone stain brand new pine steps. He prepped and sanded but the stain absorbed unevenly and almost not at all in certain places. It's Duraseal quick coat (GREY color).

The guy staining said that another coat would not make it absorb any better. Thus, he has not applied what I would consider to be a final coat.

Can we apply a grey gel stain to this coat to make it darker or absorb better. Labour was costly -- Is there a cheaper alternative?

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Pine is a wood that is notorious for not absorbing stain evenly. To begin with the lighter and darker portions of the grain have very different absorbencies (the existing dark parts of the grain are not very absorbent while the lighter parts are much more absorbent). In addition pine is one of a handful of woods that are unfortunately very prone to an effect called blotching.

Blotching is when wood absorbs stain more in some areas than in others leading to darker spots randomly distributed across the wood. It is so random that sometimes it occurs heavily on one part of a single board and not elsewhere on the same board, leading to extremely uneven results in some cases.

It's for the above reasons that it is now often advised to colour pine not with regular stains but with "gel stain". The word stain in the name is a misnomer as actually these products are not stain in the conventional meaning of the word but instead are coloured varnishes. As they coat the wood instead of soaking into the surface as with true stains they avoid the issues of pine's uneven absorbency, but they do tend to mask the grain of the wood to one degree or another depending on the colour.

Can we apply a grey gel stain to this coat to make it darker or absorb better.

Yes you can apply gel stain now on top of whatever stain was used previously. Without pictures we can't know what you were going for exactly and quite how the wood looks now but I think there's a good chance it will help get you closer to the results you were hoping for.


Because you're going for grey and a grey gel stain will obscure the grain of the pine to some extent you may have gotten an effect similar to what you wanted using thinned grey paint:

Grey wash 'stain'

Source: HomeMade Modern

After the paint had dried it would then have been protected with a few coats of floor-grade varnish (a waterbased type) for durability.

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  • You didnt find a dup for this? Surely there are several good ones by now about blotching – Matt Nov 20 '16 at 3:07
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    @Matt First thing I looked for! No direct dup because of the way the Question was asked, but also because it's grey in this case the possible fixes include something that wasn't covered in the near-duplicates. – Graphus Nov 20 '16 at 19:02

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