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How to Choose the Perfect Gray Wood Stain to Get the Look You Want

With the rise of more relaxed home design, gray wood stain accents have become a popular look. This trend is not just prevalent in farmhouse design but also in coastal, contemporary, and modern design styles. 

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Because gray stain is now a common color choice, manufacturers have responded by producing beautiful gray stain variations.

We will help you understand the unique qualities of stain and give you a review of the most popular gray stain colors on the market.

Also, we will show you how others have used gray stains to decorate their home and enhance their personal style.

Types of Gray Wood Stain

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Stain, unlike paint, enhances the natural wood grain. This gives your furniture or home design a more rustic look than if you use paint which covers the wood grain. 

When considering what type of wood stain options to use, there are two main categories of stain: oil-based stains and water-based stains.

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Each of these have distinct qualities that make them work better than the other for certain projects. Make sure to evaluate your project to decide which choice will work best for you.


Oil-based stain

This kind of stain soaks into the wood to provide a deep and lasting finish. This stain works well on outdoor furniture as it provides a seal and will protect it from outdoor elements.

Yet, this stain does take longer to dry and produces toxic fumes. Therefore, it is best to complete your project in an area with good ventilation away from living spaces so that you can allow your project adequate time to dry.

Also, oil-based stains require mineral spirits for cleaning your tools and hands when you are finished.


Water-based stain

Water-based stain has some advantages over oil-based stain in that it is quicker to dry and easy to clean with just soap and water.

However, this kind of stain does not create the lasting finish of oil-based stain. Still, if the object or surface you are finishing will stay inside, this stain offers ease of use, low fumes, and a lasting finish.

Gray Wood Stain Colors

Gray Wood Stain ColorsView in gallery

Gray stain to create a weathered look has become popular with many different home design styles.

Thus, many manufacturers have multiple gray wood stain options from which to choose. Minwax and Varathane are two of the most popular brands of stain.

These will work well to get you started if the options seem overwhelming. You can buy these stains from classic DIY stores like Home Depot and Lowes or order them from sellers like Amazon.

Classic Gray

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Classic Gray (MW 271) is a medium-toned gray from Minwax. This is a true gray wood stain with cool undertones. This is a modern and on-trend color that works well if you are looking for a look that is subtle but still gray wood stain.

Weathered Oak

Weathered OakView in gallery

Weathered Oak (MW 270) is another color from Minwax. It is even more subtle than Classic Gray. It creates just a look that has slight weathering with just an undertone of grayed wood.

Sunbleached

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Sunbleached is a light gray wood stain color from Varathane. This pale gray stain creates the same look that you would get if you left a piece of wood lying out in the sun for months. It is as close to a true gray stain as it has neither warm or cool undertones.

Carbon Gray

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Carbon Gray is a darker-toned gray color from Varathane. This stain color works well if you want to create a look with more definite gray and contrast rather than just a hint of gray.

Weathered Gray

Weathered GrayView in gallery

Weathered Gray stain is a medium-toned color from Varathane that has slightly blue undertones.

Other Weathering Wood Resources

Stain works well for weathering wood, but there are alternative products if stain won’t work for your particular project.

Here are some resources to help you understand where you can purchase gray wood stains and other alternatives for all your DIY projects.

The method you choose will depend on the type of wood you want to use for your project and the look you want to achieve.

Driftwood Weathering Wood Finish

Driftwood Weathering Wood FinishView in gallery

Here is an option if you want a more natural stain that works with the tannins in the wood to create a lasting finish.

With Driftwood, you combine their mixture with water and brush on wood and wait for it to react to the wood to create a silver finish.

This finish will last forever and keep aging over time. We have featured a side-by-side comparison of all their color choices.

Gray Gel Stain

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Gel stain creates a beautiful finish that has deep color as it is thicker than traditional stain. This dark gel stain was created for butcher block wood.

This produces a high-end look for high-use areas. It should be applied along the wood grain with just one coat rather than two coats like other stains.

This is available from Home Depot, Lowes, and other DIY stores.

Varathane Weathered Wood Accelerator

Varathane Weathered Wood AcceleratorView in gallery

Rather than choosing a specific grayish stain for wood, this product accelerates the aging of the wood in a natural way.

Therefore, this accelerator will create a different look on various types of wood species as it reacts with different wood tannins. Find this product at Life and Home.

Weathering Wood With Gray Paint

Stonington Gray (HC - 170)View in gallery

If you don’t have access to stain or just want to use your favorite gray paint color, you can create an aging solution by mixing water and paint.

This can give you a more uniform look than some of the other aging solutions. Just mix one part paint to one part water and brush on and wipe off the excess paint.

One of the most popular gray paint color options for this is Stonington Gray (HC – 170) from Benjamin Moore.

Gray Wood Stain in Home Design

We have rounded up some of the latest projects where designers have used gray wood stains and other weathering techniques to enhance the look of the home.

Take a look and find inspiration from these striking and unique projects.


Gray Paneling

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We love the use of gray wood stains that WBT Enterprises used on this paneling in this dining room in Denver.

The designers used gray stain rather than paint to enhance the look of the wood grain and to give the room a rustic look.

The wood grain shows but it has a sophistication worthy of this elegant room. If you like this look of dark gray stained wood, try Aged Barrel (MW 283) from Minwax.


Weathered Gray Wood Floors

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If you want to use gray stain on your floors, you may want a more subtle color. These gray floors from this room designed using Armstrong-Pryzm features light wood-tone floors with a gray undertone.

This gives the floors a neutral look that does not read too warm with the room’s contemporary vibe.

If you like this look try using Classic Gray from Varathane or Weathered Oak from Minwax. These are both a grayish stain with a blend of brown tones.


Stained Kitchen Cabinets

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The dark gray wood stain on these cabinets enhances the subtle grain of the wood. This gives the cabinets a luminescent quality that works well with the contemporary style of the kitchen.

In addition, the pairing of the dark wood stain with the gray blends the two and still gives the kitchen needed contrast.

Try Charcoal Gray (MW 285) from Minwax if you want to create this look. This is a subtle blue gray wood stain.


Transitional Bathroom Vanity

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We have all seen rustic gray wood stains, but are not as familiar with gray stains used in classic style. Meredith Owen Interiors has used a soft gray stain for the vanity in this transitional bathroom.

She uses the marble subway tile to echo the tones of gray and brushed gold hardware that elevate the style and provide shine to the design.

Try staining your vanity Classic Gray (MW 271) from Minwax, if you like this color.


Gray Stain as Contrast

Steve Morris DesignsView in gallery

Sometimes, there can be too much of a good thing. Rather than use all one color stain, Steve Morris Designs chose to vary the look in this wine cellar by using two stain color options.

This contrast gives the wine cellar a more distinct style than just using one stain color.

Choose a medium-toned gray stain like Stone Gray from Varathane if you like this look.


Gray Wood Stain on Exterior Siding

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We know that gray wood stains have a rustic style, but they also work in contemporary settings.

For example, in this home from Zero Energy Design, they feature a combination of bright-colored exterior materials with a soft weathered gray siding.

If the designer had not used weathered siding, the warm tones of the wood would not balance the other vibrant colors. Sunbleached from Varathane, is a good choice for this look.


Weathered Walls

Nathaniel EbertView in gallery
Nathaniel Ebert

A beach cottage is the perfect place to use lighter gray stains for your walls. After all, beach style should be relaxed with a casual unfussy elegance.

We love how Nathaniel Ebert has a layer of different woods to create a blended look. The gray stained wood walls give another layer of color and textures to this classic space.

If you are interested in a light gray like this, try Oyster Gray (MW 1075) from Minwax.

How Do You Apply Stain To Wood?

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Applying stains is easy and quick. First, make sure that you have sanded the object where you want to apply stain.

Sanding will even out the wood so that it will accept stain in a more uniform manner. Next, apply the first coat of stain.

Allow it to penetrate for a few minutes and wipe off the excess stain. If you are happy with the color, you can apply a top coat.

If you want it to be darker, apply a second coat and then apply a sealer.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What is the difference between gray and grey?

Gray stain and grey stain refer to the same thing. Gray is the standard word used in American English and grey is the standard word used in British English.

What does grey stain look like on wood?

Gray stains give wood a weathered look that is lighter or darker depending on the stain color. Different types of woods take gray stains in different ways. For example, pine wood is soft with a dense grain pattern. It may look splotchy if it is not sanded well before staining. Know the type of wood you are staining as well as the color you want to achieve. Read to understand how to prepare your particular wood to get the result you want.

Is there a light grey wood stain?

Yes, there are many light gray wood stains that you can buy. These include Silver Ash (MW 1073) and Weathered Fence (MW 1087) from Minwax and Sunbleached from Varathane, just to name a few.

Gray Wood Stain: Conclusion

The use of gray stains in DIY projects and home design is a popular trend that is not going anywhere soon.

This look is not just popular in rustic home decor, but it creates a sleek and subtle look that works well with more modern and traditional styles too.

Unlike some trends, this one has staying power because of the simplicity of the look and ease of execution.

Of course, one of the biggest problems you will face is deciding which of the many gray stain colors to choose for your project. That is one of the best problems to have.