Can You Apply Wood Stain With A Roller? (& Tips)

Wood stain enhances the appearance of wood by altering its color and highlighting its natural grain.

You can apply wood stain with a roller as it spreads it evenly and easily over the surface. Simply dip the paint roller into the wood stain and roll it over the surface.

Spraying vs. Brush Roller (For Stain)

Brush and rollers are two tools that are used for painting. So, when it comes to stains, should you use a roller or a brush?

Applying stain is not the same as applying paint; there are some differences in methods and tools used. The best way to apply stain is to spray or roll it. These two tools apply it deep into the wood for better protection from water. But, which one is better?

You have to be more careful while spraying the stain. You can easily overspray or spray the wrong surface by using it. But, if used correctly (and at low pressure), sprayers can spray tough spots like corners or cabinets by getting right up close.

Spraying stain is faster than rolling it, approximately 2 times faster. However, you may need to thin it before spraying it. To thin stain, you can use mineral spirits. 

On the other hand, you can use a roller to apply stain on a flat surface, and you don’t have to thin it. However, you can leave brush marks behind if you are not experienced enough and you can’t apply it on corners and hard-to-reach surfaces.

So, for hard-to-reach surfaces, use a sprayer and for medium-sized surfaces, use a roller.

Related Read: Should You Sand Coats of Stain?

What Type of Roller To Use To Apply Wood Stain?

Use a 9-inch napped roller to apply wood stain as it is a quick and easy tool to use. It’s cheap and applies stain the same way as a lambswool but with twice the efficiency.

Don’t use a roller with natural fibers as they will mat. Instead, use a roller with synthetic fibers as they won’t mat and are easier to clean.

To choose the right type of roller for wood stain, do the following.

  1. For smooth surfaces, such as hardwood floors, go for a 3/16 to 1-4-inch roller. It gives you an even finish and doesn’t leave any textured marks behind.
  2. For uneven surfaces with more texture, use a 3/8-inch roller for rough spots. 

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Related Read: Should You Use a Roller or Brush For Varnish Paint?

Can You Apply Solid Stain With A Roller?

You can apply solid stain with a roller, rag, or sprayer. But, the roller is the slowest application tool.

After applying solid stain, you must wipe off the excess or the finish will turn sticky. Since the roller is the slowest application tool for solid stain, the finish will turn sticky (or tacky) before you complete the project.

Solid stain is thicker than transparent stain, so you will leave brush marks behind, too.

So, the best way to apply solid stain is to use a rag or cloth. The rag or cloth won’t leave residue behind or brush marks, and will apply thin coats. You can use a sprayer too, but you must thin the coating first.

Related Read: Latex Paint With a Roller?

What Types of Surfaces Can You Apply Stain With a Roller?

Types of surfaces you can apply stain with a roller are as follows. 


You can roll stain on wood as long as the surface is even. But, if the wood surface has bumps or imperfections, using a roller isn’t the best option. 

If the wood surface has imperfections, you have to sand the surface first. If you use a roller over an uneven surface, it will leave brush marks and un-paint patches behind. 

So, the best tool to apply a finish on the wood is a rag. The rag will apply the finish evenly without leaving brush marks.


The best way to apply stain on a deck is by using a roller. However, you need to sand the deck surface first to remove any imperfections or dust.

Hardwood Floors

You can use a roller to stain hardwood floors, but it takes a lot of time. So, using it isn’t the best option, but it’s doable. Using a sprayer is better and faster.

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Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about.

Eral Kadrija

Eral Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIY Geeks.

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