water popped wood floor

What does Water Popping mean?

Water popping or grain-popping consists of introducing clean water to an unfinished wood surface to open or "pop" the smooth and closed wood grain. Wood, by its nature, is hygroscopic and absorbs water. The science behind water-popping is simple. Since wood is a hygroscopic material, it responds to the addition of moisture by opening the grain. The water-popping process causes the wood fiber to stand up, giving you more surface area to which the stain will be applied.

The water-popping process also makes sanding marks blend into the rest of the wood grain, helping to reduce swirl marks and other marks from the big machine.

A few benefits of water-popping a floor before staining it include:


  • Allows for a more even application of the stain
  • Helps the stain penetrate the wood
  • Helps to reduce sanding marks

Does water popping work on all wood floors?

Water popping is generally reserved for oak wood flooring when it is being stained, especially for darker hardwoods.

If you are going for a natural finish then water popping will serve no purpose, and it should definitely be avoided on most non-oak woods such as Ash, Maple, Pine and Mahogany as it could end up making the stain look more blotchy.

How is it done?

Water Popping can be carried out in a number of ways. Some opt for the T-bar method, where the water is poured and spread across the floor. Others choose to mist the floor with a sprayer. We use the good old fashioned method of applying the water to the floor with a cloth, to ensure careful and even coverage.

It essential that the water is applied evenly, otherwise the floor will appear blotchy where the water has been applied in larger or smaller concentrations, and will require re-sanding to correct it.


What are the benefits of water popping?

The main benefit, and purpose, of water popping is that it makes the hardwood floors porous so that they can be properly stained and finished.

During the sanding process of finishing wood floors, the grains of the wood close as sawdust gets trapped in some of the pores. It makes the wood denser and less porous preventing the stain from being absorbed as deeply into the wood.
This is where water-popping can help, by opening these pores back up and allowing for more successful staining.

It means that the overall appearance and end result of your wood flooring will be elevated without costing you a penny.


Some of the notable benefits of water popping are that:

  • It raises the fibres in the wood which gives you more surface area to apply the stain and allows it to go deep into the wood, enhancing the overall finish

  • It allows the stain to be applied more evenly across the floor

  • It helps blend sanding marks into the rest of wood grain which creates a more professional look and feel

  • It enables the stain to better penetrate the wood

  • It leaves you with a more intense colour which means you can go even deeper and darker with dark stains

We have spent years perfecting our techniques. And both water popping and staining, while not extremely difficult, have many failure points that could easily and very quickly ruin all the time, effort and money you’ve put into your hardwood floors.

If you have any questions about this procedure please get in touch today and we'll be happy to help. Our number is 087 6268100

RH Wood Floors

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