AbstractWater-based finishes are slowly replacing solvent-based finishes in the wood industry. Wood grain raising is an important issue associated with the use of water-based stains. In this paper, water-based and solvent-based stains were applied on yellow birch veneers and hardwood samples that had been previously sanded. Grain raising phenomena were studied by profilometry and microscopy. This study demonstrated that the appearance of wood surfaces treated with water-based and solvent-based stains is affected by a number of factors, including grain raising, surface preparation quality, and substrate type. Main observations are: 1) the sanding method has an important role in the grain raising generation and finish quality; 2) profilometry experiments revealed that developed interfacial area parameter can provide valuable information, as it captures both grain roughness and small-scale roughness due to raised fiber fragments; 3) differences between sawn lumber and peeled veneer appeared minor, although the lumber exhibited less significant differences between water-based and solvent-based finishing systems; and 4) wood fragments on the wood surface would be difficult to eliminate.