Does Douglas Fir Stain Well? + Best Stains for Douglas Fir

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The world of woods is diverse, especially when it comes to staining. Take Douglas fir, for example—a favorite among us woodworkers, celebrated for its distinctive hue and pronounced grain patterns. Yet, the question remains: is Douglas fir a good candidate for staining?

Drawing from my extensive experience and expertise in woodworking, I’m ready to unpack the distinctive characteristics of Douglas fir. In this guide, you’ll learn the most effective techniques and stains to ensure you achieve stunning and enduring outcomes. 

Is Douglas Fir a Good Wood to Stain?

Staining Douglas Fir may take more time than staining other woods because it tends to absorb the stain unevenly. This is because the uneven porosity of the wood causes it to absorb the stain unevenly, which leads to a patchy and inconsistent color distribution on the surface.

Adding to the difficulty is the distinct pattern of the vertical grain, which makes it difficult to apply the stain uniformly across the surface.

To get a good result when staining Douglas Fir, you should know that the process involves more than just applying the stain. Adequate preparation is crucial to guarantee that the stain permeates uniformly and deeply into the wood fibers.

douglas fir wood

What is the Best Stain Type for Douglas Fir?

Although there are several options for staining Douglas Fir, the gel type of stain is generally considered best for this wood. This thicker product adheres better to the surface of the wood and penetrates more deeply than other types of stains.

Due to the dense and porous nature of Douglas Fir, gel stain is particularly effective in ensuring even color distribution across the wood surface. Also, gel stain is less likely to drip or splatter during the application, reducing chances of uneven color distribution and frequent touch-ups.

Therefore, gel stain is widely recommended when working with Douglas Fir as it produces consistent and desirable results.

Best Stain Products for Douglas Fir

Proper selection of stain type is essential for effectively staining Douglas Fir wood. It is crucial to note that not all types of wood stains are appropriate for this particular wood, necessitating careful consideration.

Here are the best stain products you can use for Douglas Fir wood.

Minwax PolyShades Wood Stain Polyurethane Finish

Steps to Apply Stain on Douglas Fir

Step #1: Clean and Sand Your Wood

Due to its softwood nature, Douglas fir does not require extensive sanding to prepare its surface. This simplifies the process of readying the wood for use or finishing since a smoother surface can be achieved with less sanding.

However, achieving a smooth and even surface is integral to staining Douglas fir wood, and sanding is a vital part of this process. Sanding aims to create a surface that can accept the stain uniformly.

Any roughness, bumps, or inconsistencies are eliminated through sanding, leading to a polished and visually appealing finish. Additionally, using equal pressure when sanding helps to create a smooth and polished finish.

Remember that when the wood is sanded, its pores open up and become receptive to stains. Thus, avoid using sandpaper with a high grit level since it can cause the wood’s pores to close up, making it challenging to absorb the stain.

Although certain woods like Douglas fir [1] may require less sanding, skipping or minimizing the sanding step is not recommended for those seeking a high-quality stain finish.

sand grit and wood

Step #2: Clear the Dust

After completing the sanding process, wipe the entire wood surface with a clean cloth or rag for staining, to remove any sawdust. Failing to remove the sawdust before applying the stain can lead to the development of bubbles on the surface of the wood.

Therefore, it is crucial to thoroughly remove all sawdust from the wood before applying the stain. This step ensures that the stain adheres uniformly to the wood’s surface, resulting in a flawless and consistent finish.

Step #3: Condition the Wood

One disadvantage of Douglas fir is its irregular texture, which makes it challenging to apply wood stains evenly. One way to overcome this problem is to use a wood conditioner before applying the stain.

The wood conditioner helps to prepare the wood’s surface by filling in any irregular areas and ensuring that the wood is ready to receive the stain. 

Apply the wood conditioner uniformly or evenly over the entire surface and allow it to sit for fifteen minutes. Next, use a clean cloth to eliminate excess conditioner before applying a second coat. Let the second layer dry for up to thirty minutes before staining.

wood conditioner

From my professional standpoint, I cannot stress enough the importance of using a wood conditioner and stain sourced from the same manufacturer. 

This approach is pivotal in sidestepping any potential compatibility issues that might arise between the two products. Trust me, this little step can make a world of difference in achieving a flawless finish.

Since different manufacturers use distinct formulas, using products from different brands could lead to difficulties during application and produce undesirable results. With this step, the wood conditioner will allow the wood stain to apply uniformly throughout the wood’s surface.

This will also result in a uniform and attractive finish that showcases the wood’s natural beauty while minimizing any flaws or inconsistencies that may have existed previously.

Step #4: Apply Your Chosen Wood Stain

This step requires care and attention to detail to ensure that the stain is applied evenly and smoothly across the surface of the wood. When applying the stain, to work in the wood grain’s direction, as this will help to create a more natural and aesthetically pleasing finish.

To prevent any problems caused by excess or unwanted wood stains, wipe away any extra product using a clean cloth after application. Also, the pressure applied when utilizing the brush can impact the final color of the wood.

staining wood

Higher pressure will result in a darker shade, so be mindful of the amount of pressure you are using while working with the stain.

One application of gel stain is enough to achieve the desired result in your woodworking project. But, if you decide to use a wood stain other than gel stain, applying a minimum of two layers is strongly suggested to obtain the best possible outcome.

Step #5: Allow the Wood to Dry Completely

Allow the wood to dry completely before applying another coat of wood stain. Wait for at least twenty-four hours after each coat of stain to ensure that the wood has ample time to dry.

Rushing the process of applying a new coat of wood stain ahead of the previous one to fully dry can lead to an uneven, bubbled, or peeled finish. Make sure you apply thin layers of stain to improve the efficiency of the process and lessen drying time.

Will Douglas Fir Stain Like Pine?

Compared to Douglas fir, staining pine can be a challenging task. The density of pine wood is irregular or uneven, making it more difficult for wood stains to penetrate the surface evenly.

Douglas Fir wood

In contrast, Douglas fir wood has a more uniform density, making it simpler for wood stains to penetrate and create a uniform finish. Although it is possible to stain pine wood successfully, it requires a bit more effort, patience, and attention to detail than other types of wood.

Because of the difficulties that arise when staining pine wood, many individuals choose to paint it instead. Moreover, the challenges of staining pine wood may include blotching, uneven absorption, and grain raising.


Does Douglas fir darken over time?

Douglas fir has a tendency to darken as time passes, especially if left unprotected. Within just a three-month timeframe of being exposed to the elements, you’ll begin to notice signs of deterioration. 

And by the six-month mark, the wood will have transformed, adopting a grayish hue. Being mindful of this natural progression is key to maintaining the integrity and appearance of Douglas fir.


Douglas fir indeed takes stain quite well, but to truly bring out its natural allure, I highly recommend opting for gel stains. These types of stains have a remarkable ability to penetrate the wood, enriching and amplifying its inherent beauty. 

Moreover, you better know the importance of proper wood preparation—this includes thorough sanding and cleaning. Ensuring these steps are meticulously carried out is absolutely crucial for a successful and satisfying staining process.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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