Drywall installation is an important part of building a new home, and installing it right is important because flaws are easily seen in drywall. Painting drywall is just as important, or even more important, because painting can make drywall flaws more prominent or hide them, depending on the paint's sheen. With the wrong sheen, drywall flaws will be seen by everyone in the home all the time. There are certain materials and finishes that are suitable for applying to drywall, and there are some that are not.
Stain is used as a finish for wood and wood alone. It is a special type of paint that does not dry into a hard shell, rather it delivers pigment to the pores of the wood. If you try and stain drywall, the stain will simply soak into the paper of the drywall. It will not color or cover up the drywall paper. Staining is only for materials made of wood.
Drywall is made of two major components: paper and gypsum. Gypsum is a cementlike material that is soft and crumbly when wet. When dry, it is a solid material that is fairly easy to break and cut. This makes it ideal for a wall covering because it is simple to install and cut to fit any installation. The paper covering is the main reason you can't stain drywall. The paper is not made to receive stain, and applying it really does nothing to color or finish the surface.
Finishing and Priming Drywall
Finishing drywall requires two steps. The first step is priming the surface of the drywall with a special drywall primer. This primer is designed to go over the paper surface and form a smooth exterior that the final finish paint will stick to. If primer is not installed, the paint will not stick to the drywall and peeling may occur. Applying stain to the drywall will also hinder the performance of primer, because the primer is designed to stick to the drywall, not to a coating of stain.
Applying Finish Coats
After primer is applied, a coat of finish paint is mandatory on all drywall installations. This finish coat can be an eggshell sheen, glossy, matte or satin finish. The type of paint is up to you, but the glossier your finish is, the more visible drywall installation flaws will appear. Stains do not apply well over primers or finish coats, so avoid them. A stain may discolor a traditional drywall finish coat or cause peeling that will damage the finish.