How to Stain Wood Floors without Damaging Them!

Color911 Stain Wood Amy Wax


Painting, staining, adding new colors, it’s about fixing up our homes and taking pride in our work! As we prepare for a summer full of barbecues, family get-togethers, it’s time to talk about making changes in your home in ways that make a difference! Theres a variety of home improvement projects on everyones list from staining decks to repurposing floors. There’s practically no room for error but plenty of opportunity for the beautification of our living spaces.


Things we must get right are those solid hardwood floors and decks that add value to our homes. They can make or break our interior design. Take notes as I break down the process of staining floors.


Sanding Your Wood

First, you are going to want to sand your floor. Pay special attention to nicks, scratches, and dips in your natural wood. Remember when you dropped that jar of pickles? This is your chance to revive the dented wood and replenish its natural shine.

Sanding the wood, you want to be careful not to damage the wood further. Smooth out your surface and remove all sawdust. A small, high-powered vacuum should do the trick. Leaving dust and splinters behind could be harmful to your surface, and the residue could live in your stain forever! Vacuum thoroughly, I often vacuum a second time after the air has settled to make sure the floor it as clean as possible.


Conditioning the Floor

Depending on what kind of wood you have, sometimes a wood conditioner is recommended. This is generally for a softer wood, more commonly used on doors or trim, depending on your have. Softer woods need a conditioner to help the wood take the stain more evenly. For harder woods, which would be typical oak floors, no conditioner is necessary. You can go right to the next step of staining the floor with a stain & sealer for the harder wood floors.


A unique effect is “water popping”. It’s a method used to trick the wood into accepting the stain in a unique way. This method of treating the floor with water opens up the grain to receive the stain more deeply. This is most commonly done when you are after a special effect, like adding a white stain to a darker wood. That will make the grain appear in the color of the stain you are adding. It’s a unique look, and I would suggest asking a professional to prepare the floors and apply the stain if this is a look you are after.


Adding water to your raw wood could damage the floor if it is not being done properly. I would be very careful with adding any water at all. Whenever I have stained a floor, I have gone from sanding the floor, cleaning to remove all debris, and then right to adding the stain and sealer.


Here comes the best part…


Sample, sample, sample!

Before adding the stain color to your floor, I strongly suggest sampling the stain onto your wood. If it is a new floor,look for a left over piece of wood that you can sample your stain product on. If it is a floor that is already in your home, try a less obvious location to test out a color. Behind a door, inside a closet, wherever you sample the color it can be sanded out before you start to apply your finished coat. Wood can vary in age, and moisture content, and the colors might look slightly different than what is on the sample at the paint store. Sample your color so you know exactly what color to expect once your floor is done!


Coloring the Floor

It’s time to add the stain. There are a variety of tools and brushes for applying stains to your floor. Do a little research to find which brushes work best for your particular surface. If you’re “old school,” a nice thick brush should do the trick. Softer brushes, however, tend to leave a thicker finish and can be problematic for the novice. To find out more about stains and what are the best tools to use, I suggest inquiring at your paint store when you go to purchase your stain.


Removing Excess Stain

It is important to remove excess stain. If it’s not done well and you are using too much stain, there will be areas on your surface that appear darker than others. If the surface is uneven, liquid will collect in pockets along the surface, and you will run into am uneven color problem. The stain can be evened out with the brush you used to apply the stain. Apply the stain and walk away giving it some time to dry. Be sure to check in on its progress every few hours to see if there are any uneven areas that need to be tended to.

If you find that your stain has dried unevenly, have no fear. It is possible to remove excess stain that has already dried. Use a good sponge or cloth dipped in mineral spirits to rub the floor. Use enough pressure to loosen only the excess stain. Then use clean, dry, lint-free rags to wipe up the excess.


Protect Your Color

Once the surface dries, you will have to decide if you would prefer a rustic look or a more finished appearance. One coat of your product will be lighter, adding an additional coat will add more depth of color to your floor. Protect your stain by applying a finish. There are many oils and water-based sealers to choose from. Polyurethanes provide a wet look, while resisting abrasions, stains, and damage within heavy traffic areas. Water-based sealers from latex to acrylic are, however, less expensive and serve the same purpose.


I’ve given you lots of information on staining your wood floors! I hope you are inspired to take the next step! It is helpful to know more about the process even if you plan to have a professional do the staining for you! Beautifully stained floors make a big difference in every home. Have you stained your floors recently? Let me know what stain color you chose and how it came out, I’d love to hear from you!




About the Author: Amy Wax

Amy Wax, creator of Color 911®, is an artist and experienced color consultant, recognized for her expertise in the world of color and design. Fifteen years ago, Amy created Your Color Source Studios, Inc. a company specializing in the architectural application of color. Amy has received numerous awards for her color expertise.

Learn More About Amy

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