Staining oak stairs dark

Q: We moved into our new house about a year ago, and we are now ready to stain the oak stairs. We thought they were “conditioned” only, but now found out that they are “sealed”. I don’t think a top coat such as a polyurethane has been applied. What would be the best procedure to prep the stairs for staining? We want a dark brownish/black colour.

Also, Should I condition the wood after sanding? Or is it doing the same as a damp cloth to open the pores?

A: Whatever coating was applied will need to be totally removed to bare wood. Conditioners are to help primarily the DIY person especially with certain woods like pine that tend to go blotchy when stained. They will cause the stain to be less dark. On oak, if you are using a dark colour the easiest way to achieve the true colour is to water pop first. When the wood is dry, apply stain with a cloth and wipe off excess in 5 minutes or so.

Similar Q: Just found this site today, hoping to get some tips/suggestions for a DIYer.

I am refinishing my red oak stairs. The previous owners did not stain the floors, just a clear coat which I assume is oil base polyurethane. I sanded off the old finish down to bare wood using 60, 80, and 100 grit sandpaper. The stair came out really good.

I stained it using ****** Golden Oak oil based stain. We thought the color did not come out dark enough, so I did another coat of stain the following day. We love the color now. Is 2 coats of stain a bad idea?

I’m letting the stair (only did 1) dry for a few days and I want to put the polyurethane on it. I want to use a water based poly. We do not want anything that yellows.

My question is, do I need to put any type sealer down before I do the polyurethane? What water based poly do you recommend?

A: ****** stains aren’t the best. Certainly not the best for floors and steps. You could get the same colour from Dura Seal Quick Coat which also contains urethane resin. Likewise for the stains from PoloPlaz. At any rate, you have started with ****** so you can keep going. If you wet (not soak) the wood and let it thoroughly dry before staining, the colour will be a bit darker and you may avoid having to stain twice. Given that you are going to use a water based coating I would be letting it dry several days for sure. If it isn’t dry the solvents will cause the water based coating to fail. Here again, Dura Seal and PoloPlaz stains dry for coating in several hours. It’s probably best to stick with a single component product. Check out the finish offerings from the above companies. You will likely have to locate a distributor.

Follow-up Q: Good morning. Thank you so much for the help! I’m a little nervous about screwing up with the poly. So my oil based stain will be drying for a week. I don’t have to put any type of sealer on the stain first? I’m reading a lot of conflicting stuff. I think after it’s dry, all I need next is the water based poly, correct?

A: As long as the stain is dry you don’t need a sealer. When you think it is ready to go, rub the stain with a clean white cloth and see if there is any stain transfer. There shouldn’t be if it is dry.