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

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Reviewed by
Eral Kadrija

Tony Adams

Applying stain isn’t difficult. but you need the right tools to do it. So, can you apply stain with a roller?

Yes, you can apply stain with a roller. Using rollers is the easiest way to spread it into the surface. Just take it, dip it into a can of stain, and roll over the surface.

However, getting an even coat is difficult, you need the right technique and the right type of roller. It’s best to start from one edge of the wall rather than working across it. 

The most important thing is surface prep; the wooden surface should be clean and dirt-free. You also need enough water to clean up the spills as they happen.

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?

Types of Rollers To Use:

It’s recommended to use a 9-inch napped paint roller to apply the 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.

Using the right roller is important. The natural fibers will mat if you use one with an alkyd-based coat. However, a roller with synthetic fibers won’t mat, and cleaning after you are done is easier.

Here’s how to choose it:

  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. 

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

Solid Stain

You can apply the solid stain using a roller, rag, or sprayer. However, using a roller isn’t the best because it’s slow. After applying it, you must wipe off the excess or the finish will turn sticky. 

But, if you use a roller you will take too long and the finish will turn sticky before completing the project. Since solid stain is thicker than transparent stain, you are more likely to leave brush marks behind too.

So, the best way to apply it is to use a rag or cloth. The rag won’t leave residue behind and will apply thin layers. You won’t leave brush marks if you use a rag. A sprayer can also work, but you must thin the coating first.

Related Read: Latex Paint With a Roller?

Types of Surfaces:


You can roll stain on wood as long as the surface is even. 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.

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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