Can Plywood Be Stained? (Yes, If…)

playwood stain

Working with plywood is one of the most common practice in the home improvement process. This is because it will affect the look of your home.

Using wood stain on plywood will give it a classic look, but it is important to keep some safety tips in mind before staining the plywood:

  • Make sure the surface is completely dry before applying the stain.
  • Apply the clear coat in a consistent pattern. This will help the stain remain on the plywood longer.

Use solvent-based Primer

wood primer

Once you’ve primed the surface, you’ll need to apply a solvent-based primer. This will help keep the stain uniform in color.

You can also choose between grade A and grade D plywood. Grade A plywood is smooth and has no blemishes or large knots.

This type of plywood is better for staining, as it is more resistant to stains and will give you a more even finish. While all types of plywood can be stained, grade A and grade B plywood will provide the best results.

You can apply stain to the exterior of plywood using a staining tool. This is an ideal choice for exterior applications.

But it may also not be the best option for a home-owner who’s not sure of what kind of stain to choose. Because of the moisture content in the wood, it may be necessary to use a higher-density overlay, which protects the face veneer and the face.

Before applying stain to your plywood, it is essential to prepare it properly. If you’re using a water-based stain, then the primer should be solvent-based. It helps the stain to penetrate the surface evenly.

Clean Excess Primer Putty

It’s also important to wipe off excess putty after the primer is applied. After the primer is applied, you should apply the first coat of the stain. If you want the stain to cover all bumps, you should apply a gel-based stain.

When staining plywood, the whole surface must be ready to receive the stain. Preconditioning the surface will allow you to use any wood stain.

Stain Plywood along the grain

Afterward, the stain should be applied evenly along the grain of the wood. It is also vital to apply the sealant on the plywood. It will ensure that the finished product will not crack or peel.

When applying the polyurethane, make sure to wait at least eight hours for it to dry.

If you want to stain plywood, you should use a clear-coat primer. Otherwise, you can apply a coat of varnish or stain.  

Understand the wood type

There are basically two types of wood: hardwood and softwood. A soft and smooth wooden surface will take the stain evenly and will have an uneven finish. The latter is more difficult to work with. In contrast, birch is more resistant to the pigments than pine.


All in all, it’s important to sand your plywood before applying stain. If you’re using a lower-grade softwood plywood, you should sand it using a 150-grit sandpaper.

For higher-grade softwood plywood, sanding is required in multiple steps. You can’t use a sandpaper with a coarser grit. You should use the 240-grit sandpaper instead of the higher-grit paper. If you’re sanding your wood, you might get blotching.

More so, if you’re doing it on a regular plywood surface, you need to make sure that the paint is darker than the existing one.

If you’re using regular plywood, you should a 320-gritgrit aluminum oxide sandpaper to sand it. Then, you can apply the stain by sanding it with a 120-grit sandpaper.