How to Change Wood Finishes


Changing a wood finish always involves some sanding and the application of the new finish. There are two fairly simple methods of moving from a light stain or light colored wood to darker stains and colors. It is a bit more difficult to move from dark to lighter colors as the original dark stain will need to be removed. One way to change a light colored finish is through applying tinted polyurethane coats. The tinting will build up and darken the finish. The other method is through a product that combines stain and finish like Polyshades. This type of product is wiped on more like a stain than a finish. But when it dries, it has a nice shine incorporated in the product.

Things You'll Need

  • Sandpaper 60-220 grit
  • Tack cloth
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Stir stick
  • Brush or roller
  • Stain/finisher
  • 000 steel wool

Using Polyurethane Tints

  • Sand the wood to remove or abrade the current finish on the wood. Use the finest-grit sandpaper possible since you do not want to sand through to the stain. Always sand with the grain of the wood.

  • Wipe the wood with a tack cloth. Vacuum larger pieces and vacuum the area or room where you will apply the tint to remove as much dirt particles in the air as possible. With smaller pieces you may want to tent the piece inside plastic walls to prevent dust from being stirred up while the polyurethane is drying.

  • Stir the polyurethane tint well. The tint is suspended in the clear polyurethane so it needs to be evenly distributed through the can for even tint coverage on your wood piece.

  • Paint the polyurethane on your wood piece using a quality paint brush. Paint with the grain of the wood in long, even strokes. Avoid creating bubbles in the finish. Allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next coat. A coat may take more than 24 hours to dry in more humid conditions.

  • Lightly sand between coats with 220-grit sandpaper. You are just trying to reduce the shine of the first coat so that the second coat will adhere well. This takes a light touch.

Using Polyurethane/Staining Products

  • Prepare your wood by lightly sanding off the original finish. Clean the wood with a tack cloth or vacuum cleaner.

  • Apply a thin even coat with a quality paint brush. Maintain a wet edge and paint with the grain of the wood. Allow the coat to dry for six hours.

  • Sand the finish with 000 steel wool just enough to remove the shine. Clean off all residues with a tack cloth or vacuum cleaner.

  • Apply a second coat with a quality paint brush.

Tips & Warnings

  • Follow the directions on the product for further finishing directions. Some products are paint on and rub or wipe off, while others require the finish to remain undisturbed. Choose the product that works best for your application.

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