Can You Stain Plywood?

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Plywood is one of the most common materials found in houses, particularly houses built after World War II. At its essence, plywood is a heavily processed laminate made out of wood chips and glue. Smooth and hardwood plywood are made with a veneer that disguises the crossbands of woodchip underneath. While hardwood plywood can be as expensive as regular hardwood and has a beautiful wood grain that you probably wouldn't want to cover up with stain, smooth plywood's veneer is expressly designed to allow for staining and varnishing. Plywood is different from regular wood, however, and so is the staining process.


Can You Stain Plywood
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How to Stain Smooth Plywood

  1. The first step is to sand down the surface of the plywood. This can be done with an orbital sander that has a mid-grit sandpaper fitting. You can also sand with a hand sanding block if the area you have to cover isn't too large.
  2. Once the sanding is complete, wipe down the veneer, clearing all dust particles that may have gathered, and remove any splinters that may have been created along the edges of the wood.
  3. Next, coat the plywood completely in a layer of solvent-based primer, painting in long strokes with a paintbrush. Be sure to paint the primer on evenly across the surface of the plywood. Allow the primer to dry. This will help your stain color remain even throughout.
  4. Once the primer is fully dry, you can apply the first coat of stain, painting it with the same long strokes you did with the primer. Generally, manufacturer's instructions recommend leaving the first coat to dry overnight.
  5. The next morning, take a look at the state of the stain. If you're hoping to go for a deeper stain, you can apply the stain again in the same manner as the first coat.
  6. Once you've achieved the ideal depth of stain and allowed it to dry, wipe the surface of the plywood with a cloth. This will clean it off before you apply the final coat of sealant.
  7. Apply a sealant coat, such as polyurethane, and allow it to dry for at least eight hours before using the plywood or putting anything on its surface.


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Keep a rag handy to mop up any excess stain as soon as possible. As you paint the plywood, the stain may gather in corners or at the edges of the surface in clumps. Wiping any clumps away immediately will help the wood to achieve a uniform stain throughout.



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