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  • Writer's pictureTara Salas

How I used gel stain to transform my bed frame

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

We've had this hand-me-down furniture for over 15 years and while it's a solid, well-made bed frame, it has just never been my style. After much looking for a different bed and coming up with an over all style for the room, I decided to keep the bed and transform it using gel stain! This allowed the beauty of the craftsmanship to still shine through but changing the color of the wood to fit my aesthetic.

A few things to note about gel stain. It's stinky and the smell tends to linger for about 24 hours. It's a non-penetrating stain so unlike a traditional stain it doesn't sink down into the wood but sits on top similar to a paint. It's takes a few coats depending on the saturation you're looking for and a top coat.

Gel stain can be applied with a cloth or a brush. I used a cheap chip brush here on the bed and gave the whole thing a light first coat. Go in the direction of the wood grain. I didn't wipe off excess like I would with a stain but if it's dripping, that's too much and should be wiped off. In general, you can use gel stain to make wood darker but not lighter. I've used gel stain in furniture as well as over my oak stair railing. In my experience this has held up amazing.

Gel Stain (link eligible for commission) - comes in lots of colors, I used Kona for this project.

If you're using gel stain over a previously finished piece of wood or furniture you don't need to sand it. The surface needs to be clean, dry and even. I give it a good scrub with this all purpose cleaner/degreaser and let it dry for a day.

Cleaner used (link eligible for commission)

I had a little trouble getting the gel to dry after the first coat and realized I didn't mix the can well enough before I started. Give that can a good mix and you won't have this problem. The second coat I did with a cloth using even less stain and trying to focus on any areas that were uneven.

I waited another 24 hours for the second coat of gel stain to dry and applied this wipe on polyurethane in satin. I did not do any sanding between coats and because the bed frame was previously finished the surface was already smooth. It's never the wrong to sand between coats, especially if you can feel any unevenness on the surface.

Wipe On Poly (link eligible for commission)

I added the bedding after the top coat was dry (which took another 24 hours) and it feels like a whole new bed! The longest part of this project was waiting between dry times. This was an inexpensive (and beginner friendly!) way to take a bed frame that didn't fit my style to a beautiful piece I now love.

The bedding and decor adding so much warmth and interest to the room now too.

Sources for decor linked here (link eligible for commission)

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