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What’s the difference between a wood stain and a varnish?

Wood Stains and Finishes

Wood stains are absorbed by the wood and mimic the color of a particular species of wood. (This could be the same type of wood you’re using or a completely different species, depending on your preference.)

Varnish Stains and Finishes

Varnish is a clear, transparent coating that lays on top of the wood. Varnish is durable and hard and comes in a variety of sheens – from flat to glossy.

For the best results, follow the application instructions.


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Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and safety of this information. Neither Westlake nor any contributor can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

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