Staining Hardwood Floors
Staining hardwood floors is not as simple as just applying it. Some hardwood species receive stains differently, while some with closed grain patterns, with Maple as an example, can be extremely troublesome to achieve desired results. This job should really be left up to a professional unless you have in depth experience with other types of wood work, or don’t mind a few errors that can be covered with area rugs.
See the water popping video - provides a deeper richer stain application.
Older Floors. Changing Colors. Easy and Harder Ones
Quite similar to completely refinishing any hardwood floor, the procedure calls for removal of existing finish and the color that has penetrated into the surface of the wood itself. The amount of removal will be dependant on how deep the stain has penetrated or what the original color was. Color changes from a natural finish will be easiest because no staining was done. On the flip side, a change from very dark to very light color will entail more sanding of bare wood. For beveled type floors hand scraping will be necessary, increasing the time and cost involved.
Most seasoned professionals will want you to sign off on the stain color when the job is starting. Shown is an example of the process which involves using all the same sanding sequences when preparing for the actual stain sample application. Sequences include all types of grit and machines that will be used on the job. In this example the sanding began with 36 grit and finished with 80. The last sequence shown, finishes with a 100 grit screen. Failure to follow this procedure is likely to create a different stain color as stain "takes" differently when different sanding patterns or final grits are used. The worst part is the floor may have to be re-sanded and stained again.
Preparation Is Vital!
When considering any color change it is imperative not only existing finishes be removed but cleaners that have been used over the years. You may not know what has been used, but failure to remove is likely to cause non uniform results. This also pertains to bare wood floors. You may think nothing has been used, but take your chances and...it will not be a pleasant experience. This is why I strongly suggest someone with years of practical experience that has seen many of the tell tale warning signs that can adversely affect the final outcome.
Rich Deeper Stain Colors
For years both floor professionals and furniture manufactures have relied on a process called water popping. The process opens up the pores or grain of the hardwood allowing for a deeper penetration of stain. The result is a deeper and richer color, or more enhanced.
View My One Minute Quickie Video
Depending on the actual veneer or wear layer of an engineered floor, color changes may not be possible with traditional methods because there isn't enough actual hardwood that can be sanded to bare wood.
How Long Does It Take?
I am using an example of a 400 square foot, square room with furniture moved and ready to go. An experience professional will require two days for a water based finish, while oil based will require three days. Other more uncommon applications can take longer as will inclement weather conditions that can affect drying times of stains and finishes.
Unique Prefinished Custom Colors
From Our Readers:
Lighten Up Dark Stain?
Question: We have ten year old hardwood floors that was stained very dark. I think they call it Saddle. Can they be brought back to new with a color that's not too dark? It also has these big bevels in them. How do they sand those?
Reply: You'll have to have someone come in and remove all of the darker color. That will require a drum sander starting with a heavy sand paper grit. For the bevels and depending on how deep they are they will have to be scraped completely by hand.
Get Rid Of White Floor
Question: How hard is it to change a white colored floor? This old white floor is driving me nuts and is in shambles.
Reply: I'm assuming you want to bring the older white floor to its natural color? Well, one thing is certain, changing from white to natural is easier than going from a dark color to a light color. Depending on what types of cleaners were used over the years, the floor will need to be completely sanded to bare wood. Once that step is completed any choice of finish can be used.
Question: We had our floors finished a few months ago. After moving some furniture around I noticed there's a color difference under the old radiator and it feels very rough. It's not as smooth and seamless as the rest of the floor. What's the reason behind this?
Reply: I can only think of two reasons. Radiators emit heat and could be sucking moisture from the wood floor in that small area making it rough. The color difference is confusing, but I'll venture another guess that perhaps the finishers didn't have the right tool to sand under that area. Could be the original color was not completely sanded down to bare wood.
Question: A flooring contractor that came highly recommended in the Chicago area used a custom pigment stain on our new white oak floor and it looks horrible. He says he's had no problem with this procedure before. Any idea what may have happened?
Reply: Past success may have something to do with what product was used. Let's say he's used a DuraSeal or Glitza base product and results were great. By using a product he was unfamiliar with could account for the problems. All finish manufacturers have different formulas with different chemicals used in their makeup.
Puddles In New Finish
Question: Well, somebody said to hire a professional for this job but I decided to do it myself. I'm pretty happy with the results but have a problem where there are drip marks and small puddles of dried finish from the final coat. How can I fix this before the wife sees it? Help keep me off the couch for the week. Thanks in advance.
Reply: If it's an isolated area, tape the area off with finish friendly tape. Some experts swear by the orange or purple 3M tape because it will not pull the finish from the floor. It's also important to make sure both have cured long enough before attempting any repair.
The best way to remove is with the use of a hand scraper. Place very little pressure on it while keeping the scraping motions consistent on a parallel plane. A light sanding, while tapering back the area with 220 grit paper should remove the outlines. Apply finish sparingly at the same time using the same applicator as you did the rest of the floor. Tape should be removed immediately to allow the new finished edge to blend in with the old.
Question: Is it possible to buff on a stain to a floor? My husbands knees are really bad and he says it would be easier to rent a machine for the work. We live in NJ and the cost of a pro is too expensive.
Reply: I would not consider this a do it yourself project because different products have different drying times. In essence what happens is you may have lap marks across the floor where different applications have dried at different periods. An unofficial consensus on the other hand shows Minwax as being friendlier to use, by having a longer open time.
Light and Dark Blotches
Question: We had a red oak floor professionally finished here in the Atlanta area last week while we were gone. When we returned there were color differences all over the floor. What could have caused this and can it be fixed?
Reply: Without being there to actually look at the problem I'm thinking it had something to do with the sanding schedule. In other words, the floor sanding machine could have been started with a very course grit paper; say 36 and the finishers skipped a grit on the next step by going up to 80. What happens is the 80 grit doesn't smooth the effects the 36 caused, allowing the new color to go deeper in the floor in those areas. By adding a grit in between the 36 and 80 would likely eliminate the problems.
The only solution is removing the stain by sanding and starting over.
Maple Floor Blotches
Question: I've attached a pic of our new maple floor that was done two days ago. The floor guys haven't been back because they suggested letting the stain take, or whatever that means. I guess enough time for it to soak in. We're trying to match some cabinets with the pinkish color. The color is fantastic but I don't like the splotches. Our cabinets don't have this problem. Any idea what's causing this?
Reply: Maple is a funky critter when it comes to staining. The makeup of Maple is not consistent in so far as the overall hardness. In other words, some areas resist or accept stain more than others. Trying to achieve a perfect match is extremely difficult with site stained flooring.