Last week I found an old wood-framed mirror in my garage I had totally forgotten about. Score! I knew the perfect place for it, but its honey colored wood finish wouldn’t work with the décor of my current home. The solution? Sand and stain. I envisioned a dark walnut…and with a trip to the hardware store and a little elbow grease I added a handsome piece to a lonely wall in my den.

What I enjoy about staining projects is with little effort you can get big results, especially on old pieces and reclaimed wood. Imperfections, dings, and scratches in wood, when stained, will become accentuated and create a distressed look that rocks.

When choosing a stain, besides picking the color you love, do some research about the different stain options that are out there. One basic choice is if you want to use oil or water-based stain, both offering different benefits, like oil giving a more even finish and long durability, or water… faster drying time and soap and water clean up. There are also stain and sealers in one, which save you a step, but are more tedious to work with in order to avoid brush strokes. No matter which you choose, always follow manufacturer instructions.

Basic Staining Is Simple…


  1. Sand the old finish with fine-grit sandpaper.
  2. Wipe down the surfaces to remove all residue.
  3. Brush on or rub in the stain.
  4. Wipe off any excess. Know that the longer the stain sits, the richer the color will be.
  5. Follow dry times and repeat the last 2-steps to for deeper stain color.
  6. Use a sealer if applicable. (I didn’t seal my frame, but for a table or any surface that sees action, seal it).

If what you want stained is already painted or has a thick protective finish, you’ll need to remove it first…you can find those steps in one of my previous Fix-It Friday columns – Refinishing Flea Market Finds – here.


So whether you use water or oil, brush on or rub in, now you know how to save an old wood piece and make it stunning with stain!

Norma sig

Got A DIY Question? Ask-The-Expert!

If you have a DIY home repair, maintenance or improvement question for Norma, now is your chance to ask-the-expert and have her answer. Your burning question may just be the “star” of an upcoming Fix-It Friday column.

Add your question to the comments section below or email it to Women You Should Know.

Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally, the former host of Discovery Home Channel’s series “Toolbelt Diva” and a show on Sirius Satellite Radio by the same name. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.