can somebody please help,i am hoping to stain or varnish an mdf fire surround to make it darker,do i use stain or varnish? plus which brands are solvent based and not water based???.the current colour is medium oak and i want to make it dark oak.
Hi. It rather depends on how dark you want it. Varnish on its own will make it darker, however you can use a colored varnish to make it darker still.
To be honest, the only way is to try it and see. Put a couple of coats of clear varnish on the back of the fire surround where you wont see it later and decide if that's dark enough for you. If not try a coloured varnish until you get the effect you want. If you use varnishes from the same manufacturer you can even mix them to get the right effect â€“ provided they are all either solvent or water based.
As I've said before, use a solvent based varnish on MDF. It'll say on the tin if it is water or solvent based. Generally solvent based has a high VOC (Ie it smells like proper paint) and it is clear(ish). Water based has a low VOC (doesn't smell) and looks milky until it dries. You can't tell from the brand name, most manufacturers make both.
One tip if I may. Coloured varnish is the way to go, but it will get progressively darker with each coat, and you really need three coats. If you reach the darkness you want before your third coat switch to clear varnish. Sorry if this seems a bit bleedin' obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people try to get to the final colour in one coat, and then find the end result is pitch black after the third!
On MDF you need to de-nib (very lightly sand) between coats and get ALL the dust off with a tack-rag (good painters shops will sell then, as will some DIY sheds).
DIY how to tutorial projects and guides - Did you know we have a DIY Projects section? Well, if no, then we certainly do! Within this area of our site have literally hundreds of how-to guides and tutorials that cover a huge range of home improvement tasks. Each page also comes with pictures and a video to make completing those jobs even easier!