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The Difference Between Wood Stain and Varnish

Learn about the difference between wood stain and varnish.

Learn about the difference between wood stain and varnish.

Wood stain and varnish are both excellent for revitalizing your wooden fence, but many people believe that they are the same thing. While both help to bring out the natural color and beauty of a wood fence while increasing its lifespan, they are different products that have different purposes. Continue reading to learn the difference between wood stain and varnish being using one on your fence!

Wood Stain

Wood stain is a type of paint that allows you to change the appearance of a wood fence. It is often used on fences as a way to update the look and to add a layer of protection to strengthen the fence. There are a few types of wood stains to choose from, including water or solvent-based or oil-based. Water or solvent-based stains are a mixture of water or solvent with pigment that is absorbed by the wood. The water or solvent evaporates after application, leaving behind the pigment. This pigment can either bring out the natural color of the wood or change the look, depending on your preference. This type of stain comes in a variety of colors, is easy to clean up, and dries in 15-30 minutes. 

Oil-based stains penetrate the wood deeper than water or solvent-based stains and are more durable, so they don’t need a film-forming top coat. The top-coat can add an extra layer of protection to the wood. Oil-based stains can be recoated every six months to renew the finish without damaging the wood and offers a more traditional finish by bringing out the rustic beauty of a wooden fence.


On the other hand, varnish is a top-coat that is usually applied to a fence after a stain. It helps to protect the wood and adds a beautiful sheen to the wood. Wood varnish is made with a mixture of oils and resin, and it applied once the stain has dried. It has a thick consistency, so it should be applied with a brush. There are many great qualities of varnish, including a quick dry time of 4-6 hours, it makes the wood appear restored, and it creates a moisture-resistant shield on the fence that helps to lengthen its lifespan. 

Residential Fences for Your Home from Hercules Fence DC

Hercules Fence DC has been providing homeowners with quality fences for over 50 years. We are well equipped to meet your needs, whether they are residential or commercial. We have extensive experience working with families and pet owners to keep the most important members of their home safe, so call us today about installing a new pet fence for your family. Contact us by giving us a call at 301-441-1600 or visiting us online. To see examples of our work, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Flickr.


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