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Varnish, wood oil and wood stain

Looking for the best products to make your wood stand out, or to give it the best possible care? Then you'll find what you need in our broad wood care range. 

How do I know if I need varnish, wood oil or wood stain?

Not sure which type of product to pick? Here are the main differences, briefly explained:

  • Varnish forms a hard, protective layer on the wood, protecting it from scratches and moisture, but preventing the wood from breathing. Most varnishes are not suitable to use outdoors. 
  • Stains penetrate the wood and protect it from the inside while leaving the structure visible. They can be either opaque or transparent. Colourless stains exist as well, but they're not recommended as the protection actually comes from the pigments added. 
  • Oil nourishes the wood, protects it from the inside without forming a film, and preserves the natural look and feel of the wood. 


If you want to dive deeper into all these differences, continue reading at the bottom of this page. 

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Find the right product for wood indoors or outdoors

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Choice overload: opaque or transparent stain, or something else?

To make sure you make the best choice for your wooden furniture, we clarify the differences between opaque stain, transparent stain and lacquer. We also explain which treatment is best for your furniture!

Opaque stains

What is an opaque stain?

With opaque stains, you can protect your wooden (garden) furniture and windows and give them a new colour at the same time. This way, you can longer enjoy your wooden furniture and give it a fresh new look as well! Stain soaks into the wood, protecting it even better against moisture damage. An opaque stain ensures that the wood can still breathe. Thus, rain does not penetrate the wood, but the water vapour in the wood can evaporate. If you apply opaque stain to a wood structure, you will still see the grain of the wood through the paint, but only little colour differences. After treating your woodwork with opaque stain, the dark spots in your wood structure will look as light or dark as the rest of the surface.

Usually, stain is used for outdoor wood structures, but you certainly have stains for your indoor furniture as well. We would rather recommend a water-based lacquer for indoor wooden doors or kitchen cabinets, but you could also treat them with a water-based opaque stain. If you want to treat your garden furniture or terrace, it is best to choose a solvent-based stain.

In what colours is opaque stain available?

We sell opaque stains in almost any colour. Feel free to contact our experts if you are unsure whether your desired colour is available.

What are the differences between opaque stain and lacquer?

Stain and lacquer both put a protective layer on the wood, but in a complete way. Stain partially penetrates the wood, giving it extra care and protection from the inside. In addition, stain also has a moisture-regulating effect and allows the wood to breathe.

Lacquer does not really penetrate the wood and seals the wood surface. Since lacquer does not let moisture through, we do not recommend lacquering garden furniture. You will achieve a prettier and more durable result with an opaque stain.

When choosing between staining or lacquering, you should keep in mind that there exist two types of wood: dimensionally stable wood and non-dimensionally stable wood. Dimensionally stable wood is fixed in a structure, such as a house. Think of windows and doors. Non-dimensional wood is separate from a construction, such as garden poles, benches and tables. The two different types of wood should therefore be treated in different ways. It is best to use lacquer for dimensionally stable wood and stain for non-dimensionally stable wood.

Transparent stains

What is a transparent stain?

Transparent stains put a coloured filter on your surface. As with opaque stain, the grain and structure of the wood remain visible. Even colour differences that could be seen in the wood beforehand, are still visible, which is not the case with opaque stain. With transparent stain, there is a sort of coloured layer on top of the wood structure, as you can see in the photo below.

In addition, like opaque stain, transparent stain is always permeable to water vapour. In some cases, this vapour permeability is necessary, for instance when there is still moisture in the wood. Before applying a new coat of paint, the moisture in the wood must first be evaporated. If you paint your wood with lacquer paint, the evaporation is no longer possible.

After treating your furniture with transparent or opaque stain, we recommend applying two to three more coats of scratch-resistant varnish. This way, your furniture is better protected. You only need to apply this to indoor furniture, as varnish is not necessary for garden furniture.

What is the difference between oil and transparent stain?

Actually, there are hardly any differences between oil and transparent stain. This is because both penetrate the wood, protecting it from the inside. Both oil and transparent stain preserve the wood's natural characteristics, such as its colour or structure. You can enhance the colour with a tinted oil or transparent stain.

To protect your wood optimally, we recommend applying at least two coats of oil or transparent stain. You can come to us for oil for both interior and exterior wood.

What is the difference between varnish and transparent stain?

Whereas there is very little difference with oil, the difference between transparent stain and varnish is much greater. You can compare the difference a little with an opaque stain versus a varnish.

Transparent stain penetrates the wood and protects it from humidity, insects, mould and UV rays and allows the wood to breathe, making it better to use for exterior woodwork.

Varnish forms a transparent and hard layer on the wood. It mainly protects a substrate or an existing paint layer from stains, wear, scratches and moisture. Because varnish completely seals the wood, we do not recommend using it outdoors, unless if you use a special varnish such as yacht varnish.

Do you still have questions about what exactly to use for your wood? Or are you still in doubt about which paint, varnish or stain to use? Feel free to contact our experts.

Need more inspiration? 💡

Take a look at our paint project pages, where you'll find ideas, colour inspiration, how-to guides and much more.