Wood Floor Staining Explained

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We get asked a lot what the difference is between staining and finishing.

The purpose of a stain is to change the colour of a floor. The finish, on the other hand, is a product meant to protect your hardwood surface from any source of damage and is applied on top of the stain. This means that the only way to change your floor’s colour is to sand the existing finish completed and to apply a stain colour.

There are many stains to choose from – wood stain is made of a colourant suspended or dissolved in an agent or solvent. There are two main ways to change your floor’s colour – with dye or pigment. Dyes come in four types – chemical, nitro stan, water dye, spirit dye. They are translucent and do not obscure the grain.

Staining is sometimes not suitable in all cases and we at RH Wood Floors always do samples of stains on a the floor for a client to get a feel of what the stain will look like on their entire floor. In a lot of cases a client will prefer the look and natural colour of the floor once it sanded back. In that case a clear varnish/finish is only needed.

Not Every Type of Wood Is Suitable for Staining

Every tree is unique. Each of them reacts differently to stains and the results vary greatly.  Species like maple, pine, ash, cherry and birch have a tighter grain which makes any stain applied on them look blotchy. To combat this effect, you can use a ‘stain controller’. This product can fill the pores of the wood and allow to stain to be absorbed more evenly and consistently.

What Does Floor Staining Involve?

To properly stain a wood floor you really need an expert like RH Wood Floors.  It is almost an art by itself because getting the right colour is not an easy task to accomplish.  Clients will want a specific colour. Something that is popular right now or will fit their interior. This means in a lot of cases, custom stains need to be mixed and applied as samples on the clients floor.

Many factors can affect how the floor will look after the stain is applied. For example, the type of wood is a factor. Some species like birch and maple are close-pored and do not absorb the stain well. It can become quite a mess if an unskilled person attempts to work with them. Another factor is the finish. Oils and oil based finishes turn yellow as the time passes.  A popular choice is to use water based lacquers which are more transparent and won’t affect the stain.

The quality of the sanding and buffing will also have an impact. Stained floors tend to highlight any imperfections in the grain, especially when exposed to sunlight. If the sanding is not at a professional level you may want to avoid staining completely or any flaws will be exposed.

At the moment, the trend is to go for brown, ebony, or white washed floors. It isn’t that hard to stain a floor dark. However, grey and white washed floors are a completely different matter. Being lighter, they are also much more affected by the original wood’s colour.

The important thing to remember is that a stain cannot be applied to a floor without removing the already existing finish. After the sanding is completed the surface has to be cleaned and the floor conditioned with a wet mop to raise the grain. This will allow the stain to better soak into the wood.

After the floor has been sanded and cleaned, the stain is then applied. The stain can dry incredibly fast so after five to ten minutes any excess product has to be removed to avoid uneven spreading. The amount of time  the stain to set on the floor will determine just how dark the floor is going to be. In some cases, buffing may be required on the floor after the stain has fully dried up before applying the finish.

It may seem like an easy task to DIY this but as explained there are many factors to consider and mechanically it can be a little tricky if not experienced. Give RH Wood Floors a call if you are considering staining your floors. With over 20 years experience and 1000’s of floors sanded in Dublin we will make sure to match the perfect colour for your floor and guarantee 100% satisfaction.

RH Wood Floors