• November 27, 2006

Our Stained Woodwork Faded

Trying to figure out why the stain color faded after the wood had been sealed with varnish

Restoration Diary,

In every project there is always that “Oh, crap!” moment. Our “Crappity, crap, crap” moment is almost unbelievable. The stain color has faded, wait for it…AFTER the wood has been sealed with varnish. Several coats of varnish. It gets even better…A FEW WEEKS after the wood had been stained and sealed. “Oh, crap!” indeed.

We are just scratching our heads (it’s better then beating our heads against the wall) wondering how this happened? It wasn’t a slow, gradual fade. One day the stain color was dark and rich, the next day it wasn’t. We went to bed to dark woodwork and a project that was almost completed. The next morning we awoke to woodwork that looks faded out and a project that refuses to end. What cruel joke is this?

The only thing we can think of is that the wood has absorbed the stain…? Because the wood was dry? Because the wood was originally painted? Because we didn’t condition the wood prior to staining? Because someone in this house has really bad karma? All of the above?

Now, what to do about it?

1) Tried putting a little stain over the varnish, knowing that wouldn’t work, but hoping against hope it would. It didn’t.

2) Know that the “right thing” to do is to sand off the layers of varnish from all the woodwork and restain. I think about the amount of time and mess this would cause, after the amount of mess and work it took to even get to this point, and decide stabbing myself in the eye with a fork seems more appealing.

3) We are going to try to tint the varnish with a little stain color and have Pablo spray it on the woodwork.

Comments { 11 }
  1. DeeJay

    Wow, I’ve never seen that happen before. That’s too bad and too weird too. Too many too’s.

  2. Willy

    Wow. I recall you have a particular staining “recipe” you’ve developed for the bare fir and stick with. Remind us readers what that formula is…

    I’m also wondering if that area is exposed to sunlight during the day. Various and sundry stain products do or don’t have UV resitance formulated into the mix.

    Happy Holidays,
    Willy & Sara

  3. heather

    Hi! No, the area really isn’t exposed to much sunlight. We still aren’t sure of what happened?

    here is a link to the page with our stain formula:

  4. jeremy

    Maybe the remaining wood bleach did the work???

  5. heather

    We actually didn’t bleach the upstairs woodwork. We used bleach downstairs to get an even finish before applying the stain becuase the wood downstairs had originally been stained a very dark brown/black color. The upstairs had been originally painted, so we skipped the bleaching step.

    Go figure, huh? It is so strange that this happened. If anyone has other thoughts please post them here. We’d really LOVE to figure out why/how this happened.

  6. Heidi

    Maybe there was possibly still stripper and/or paint residue on the wood when you stained it… That could be your culprit.

  7. Doyle

    I used to work in the hair business and I remember bleach was one thing that after you used it, needed to be deactivated. If you put the bleach on the hair, and didn’t deactivate it with a deactivating agent, it will continue to bleach. There is a product called bleach stop that might work.

    • Heather

      Thanks! We didn’t actually bleach the wood upstairs which is where this room is. We did bleach the wood downstairs but none of that faded. Go figure! It is such a strange occursnce that the wood faded. We still don’t know what happened….?

  8. Neely

    Did you use steam to remove the paint. Sorry I have not read all of your story. It could have been the steam. Using steam to remove paint seems harmless but can actually drive the actual oils from the wood by oxidation. The natural tanins are also damaged in the use of steam paint removal. This could have worked against you plus the fact that part of what you call bleached could be some moisture under the varnish left in the wood, by not allowing proper drying time.

    • Heather

      The wood was not steamed or bleached. Just chemical paint stripper.

  9. Andrea

    What type of stain did you use? minwax gel will somewhat sit on top of your stripped wood
    And then continue to sink in a bit.. I always wait a few days between the staining process
    And the poly. Depending on the time it takes you to move across an area throughout the staining process, it cld be that if it wasn’t a gel type stain& you used an old school type that just sinks in?? That you used wood conditioner first to get a smooth coat& avoid certain areas/ knots catching too much stain?? If this is the case it may be that you wiped the stain around and off a lot in areas& then it looked darker to the eye because it wasn’t entirely dry ? I.e. wet looks darker than dried. I have done several rooms with different types of woodwork( oak is easiest to strip IMO& experience ) and currently I am working on an entire 1885 Victorian which is 5000+sq. Ft depending on whether you want to count the 3rd floor it’s more like 6000 lol all done in gorgeous cherry. This color is really rich and hard to replicate after its been stripped. I use stripeaze or Klean strip and I do not use the product which is supposed to clean the residue from the wood afterward. I find that this product bleaches out the wood& is awful. I use more stripeaze to wipe off the residues with either a rough paper towel or steel wool. Timing is really important it takes a bit of experience to learn when the paint is really ready to be scraped off and to avoid scrapes etc. Often the quality result is better when much of the original finish is left behind and blending of the correct colors of new stain are patched in and blended with the old. Thus, resulting in a restoration of the old job. Also.. When tiny stubborn spots of paint will just not come out of a corner or damage to the wood, whacks etc have driven the paint into the wood& you can’t sand it out , it’s best to get an exact matching THIN paint and use it BEFORE you stain, not after… If you have a light skilled enough hand and are fast enough, your stain job flies right over the paint touch ups( which should also be left for a day or so to dry) and it all blends to perfect. Armorall stain is great, it delivers tons of coverage in a small can. Also there are different types of poly..some dry clear some dry yellow tint. This can aid in the overall look of how you want your wood to turn out. It looks like the wood was still damp somewhat and dried after during your process from the stripper phase, and then complicated by the stain not having thoroughly dried and sunk in before the poly phase. You could use a minwax stain which is stain seal poly all in one I believe it’s called wood finish.. There is a great one called early American which is good on the woodwork seen in most craftsmen style homes.
    For Cherry there is cherrywood, which is somewhat orange and not quite the cherry seen in most quality homes of yesteryear, but has the potential to be pretty good if a bit of red mahogany is mixed in. Mixing maple and oak together can yield the look Of antique golden oak. It’s a crap shoot sometimes for the do it yourselfer.. Good luck with this!
    I’m pulling for ya! :)

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