Why did the floors look nothing like the sample photos on the poly and natural stain cans?

Q: After sanding our floors, they were a nice, light golden color. After applying gloss poly, they looked much, much darker and reddish! We decided to go oil based, natural stain in the other rooms and the same thing happened! Why did the floors look nothing like the sample photos on the poly and natural stain cans?

A: Every floor is different. Especially with very old floors. Not only do they get darker with age, but they may have years of grime and various finishes, cleaners and chemicals that have seeped deeper into the surface.

Color match existing floors to new prefinished floors

Q: My home is 11 years old. I have wood floors in the kitchen and hall. I want to use prefinished wood floors in the living room and dining room after removing the carpeting. Can I transition or match the existing floors that are not prefinished to new prefinished floors, or do I have to have the existing wood floors replaced with prefinished wood?

A: If you are asking if you can match the colour the answer should be yes. A good colour mixer should be able to come *close* to a colour match. Your pre-finished floors have bevels, even if only micro bevels. You site finished floor is square edge (a superior idea in my view) so that would be the most noticeable difference.

Bleaching from carpet tape so severe even darker stain won’t hide it

Q: We pulled out grungy carpet and now have tape marks that are a lighter color than the rest of the floor even after sanding. We had been told by multiple people that if we went with a darker stain you wouldn’t see the difference however the carpet tape marks are still lighter than the rest of floor. Do you have any suggestions on how to fix this?

A: This sounds like one of those rare occasions when the bleaching is so severe even a darker stain won’t hide it. If you haven’t applied any finish you might be able to carefully wipe on and feather in more stain and don’t wipe it off. Just let it sit and dry.

Matching new (heart pine) hardwoods to 95 year old hardwoods

Q: I had termite damage in one room of my 95 year old home. The room required new flooring. The other rooms have a dark, consistent appearance. The new flooring was stained, but its appearance is noticeably lighter and the grain is heavier.

My flooring contractor said the new flooring is heart pine, but compared to the original heart pine floors, it will lack the red or darker tones. Should a stain get the appearance close (tone and color)? Or am I out of luck trying to match new hardwoods to 95 year old hardwoods?

A: In 95 years the new pine will be a much closer match to the original. 🙂

I did a job recently for a contractor who had me stain new pine an orange color. In his mind, this colour is to make the pine look old. As far as I’m concerned, they look like new pine stained orange. I don’t know of a way to duplicate natural aging.

Opaque, jet black, high gloss finish?

Q: I am looking for an opaque, jet black, high gloss finish for a freshly sanded oak floor. Any ideas on what products to use?

A: Perhaps Min Wax has something like that in their polyshades line. I don’t know that I would be using it on my floor though. Another idea may be to mix the blackest stain with Waterlox and apply that.

Porch and porch ceiling can’t be stained?

Q: I installed a Mahogany T&G porch floor and Cypress T&G porch ceiling for a client about a month ago as part of a larger project. We specifically state in our contract that we don’t stain, but do provide our clients a list of companies who do.

The client took several weeks to contact the first such company who immediately told them that the it didn’t matter what he did to the floor, that it wouldn’t last because it had been exposed to the elements. They were also told that the porch ceiling couldn’t be stained because gravity would be working against them.

Are both of these statements true and, if so, what are our options (i.e. do we have to redo one and/or the other)? Also, do you have a recommendation for oil vs. urethane stain?

A: It sounds to me the fellow has been sniffing fumes too long. Any wood that is stained and a finish applied needs to be within normal limits for that species regarding moisture content. Oak, for example is typically 7-9%. Is this porch exposed to the elements or is it enclosed and heated? You may need to use an exterior varnish. If that is the case, Swing Paints will actually tint it for you in their exterior varnish. www.circa1850.com

It is my understanding that Dura Seal Quick Coat is a urethane stain, as are those made by Poloplaz. I have used both and they share the same colour line. They are fine but you have to work at a decent rate and can’t stop to lounge by the pool while applying it.

Dots all over floor in DIY stain job

Q: I’m in the process of staining my floor and there are a whole bunch of little, tiny colored dots all over the place. Can stain have air bubbles? How can I fix this so that my floor looks normal?

A: I’m not sure what the dots are or why they are there. If you were sweating at the time, sweat drops could open the grain and make the stain go darker in those spots. Also, you are suppose to apply the stain, let it soak for several minutes and then wipe off the excess. Did you do that?

Follow-up Q: I didn’t do that. Can I fix it or do I have to start over?

A: If I made a mess of staining I’d probably screen the crap out of the floor to remove as much of the stain as possible and then stain again. Of course, you need the equipment to do this and you may not even know what I mean by “screening”. You could try wiping the floor down with mineral spirits to remove the excess stain. Did I mention this is not really DIY work?

Areas where stain is blotchy and unevenly colored

Q: We are having our oak floors refinished in a darker stain to add contrast to the other woods in the house. Last evening, the professional finished sanding and added the stain. He is coming back today to do the poly sealant; however, my husband and I noticed areas like in front of the refrigerator that are blotchy and unevenly colored. How can this be fixed? What should I tell the professional today who told me last night it was just the “different wood”? I don’t want to seal it and have it remain uneven.

A: This is difficult to answer without knowing why it looks blotchy and what stain he used and what technique he used when preparing the floor. He will probably have to remove and restain the area to one degree or another which still won’t guarantee a perfect match between that spot and the rest of the floor. It might be that after the finish is applied the area won’t really look all that noticeable in relation to the rest of the floor.

Stained and now have footprints throughout the room

Q: We sanded our old maple floors, starting with coarse grit, going all the way to 180 grit. After vacuuming the floors and cleaning with mineral spirits, we let the floors dry. Wearing clean sneakers (the bottoms were clean), we stained the floors a chestnut color.

Now we have 1 coat of stain and footprints throughout the room. Can we sand this stain down and clean and apply a second coat, or will the footprints show up again?

A: I would use perhaps an orbital sander with 80 grit and/or a polisher and remove as much of the stain possible. 180 grit is too fine. I’m surprised you got much of any stain penetration at all. Generally finish with 100 grit.

Water popping (wetting the floor) will open the grain and allow deeper more consistent colour. Wet and let dry, then stain. It sounds to me that your clean shoes were wet on the bottom. Did you clean them by wiping with a wet cloth? If so, you accidentally popped the grain and got the darker stain colour in the outline of your shoes.

Also see our recommendation to hire a pro.

Can you stain Brazilian cherry floors any color?

Q: We have Brazilian cherry floors throughout that may need to be refinished. A couple questions:

1) Does refinishing mean re-staining?

2) Can you stain Brazilian cherry floors any color (such as a chocolate brown)?

3) Our floors scratch so easily and show a white mark. Since the floors may need to be refinished, what can be done to prevent this?

A: Refinishing means to sand and and apply a finish of choice. Re-sanding and staining means to apply a stain to alter the colour of the wood. Jatoba can be stained. The finishes used in the factory are very hard. When they get scratched they leave what looks like a white scratch. This is how aluminum oxide finishes look when they fracture on dark floors. I have heard that Jatoba can contain an extractive which reacts with oil based finishes and the mineral spirit solvent and can leave white blotches. Since this varies from one batch to another it may be wise to use a water born polyurethane.

Very strong odor from stained floors even after three weeks

Q: I’m moving into an apartment within the next 2 weeks. When I first saw the apartment the first thing I noticed was a very strong odor from the newly stained floors. I don’t know exactly what it was, but my friend said it was definitely from the stain. After 3 weeks the smell is still there. How do I get rid of this smell, besides just fanning it out the window?

A: Stains and finishes dry when the solvent in them (mineral spirits) evaporate. But they have to go somewhere. If the area has been closed up with no ventilation the gasses will stay in the area, cling to walls, etc. Open some windows. Try to get some cross ventilation happening. Use a box fan in a window if need be. You should be able to get the area cleared out quickly.

I had a customer complain to me once that after 2 weeks he was still getting an odour from the floor finish. I went to investigate. There was an odour but it actually was from the new carpet he had installed on the stairway.

Restained in stages, resulting in various shades?

Q: Several years ago I refinished our oak floors and restained in stages, resulting in various shades of walnut. I used both water borne polyurethane and oil-based clear coat in other areas.

Would a commercial upright random orbital sander used with the intent of removing the surface finish suffice as a restaining base? I did use filler on all floors.

I would appreciate and advice or comments. The intent, of course, is to have a continuously consistent surface. Also, are there any particular final finishes that you recommend?

A: To re-stain you would need to remove all the existing finish, so I think you should just take the entire floor back to bare wood. Make sure all the floor areas are prepared in the same way, using the same techniques and abrasive grits in all areas. It should be noted that most (but not all) water borne urethanes tend not to amber like solvent (oil based) finishes do. So, to use different finish types in different areas will cause a different colour over time.

I love Poloplaz Primero. It rolls beautifully and is quite tough when cured. It is solvent based but doesn’t amber as much as some similar products. If you want a finish that stays clear, doesn’t smell and dries fast then Poloplaz 202 is a really good option. While it is a 2 component finish, the hardener is actually pre-added to the gallon jug. This means little to no finish waste. Other high end water borne coatings have a separate cross linker (often iso-cyanate) and has a very limited pot life of hours to a day or so.

Stain brands besides Duraseal?

Q: I just had red oak floors installed. We did the Duraseal stain tests and I personally do not like any of their colors. Is there another stain brand? Or does doing a double coat of stain make it richer?

A: Dura Seal actually now includes the entire Min Wax stain line and comes in a fast dry version. You can make any colour darker and richer by using a technique called water popping. The floor surface is wiped down with a wet cloth (don’t miss any spots) and when dry the stain is applied. Water popping opens the surface grain allowing better stain penetration.

There are a lot of stain manufacturers. Circa, Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, Bona fast dry, etc.

Also see our recommendation to hire a pro.

Parts of newly stained floor are sticky and tacky

Q: I recently stained my wood floors, some parts of the floor are sticky and don’t feel dry…

A: When you applied the stain, did you stain a section, let it soak for a few minutes and then wipe off the excess with a clean cloth? If you didn’t this could explain why it is slow to dry. You might be able to remove some stain sitting on the surface of the floor by wiping it down with mineral spirits. Make sure to properly dispose of all stain and solvent soaked rags. I would open the windows and ventilate the area well.

Related Q: We had floating engineered hardwood floor placed in a rental house about 1 year ago. The previous renters unfortunately damaged the house as well as scratched up the hardwood flooring pretty bad. The contractor we hired to do all the repairs poured hardwood stain on small areas of the floor and rubbed in the stain on all the areas to stain in the scratches. 3 Days later the floor is very sticky. We tried mopping, but it hasn’t helped a lot. Is there anything we can do to wipe off the excess stain without ruining the existing finish on the floors? Thanks!

A: I would dampen a cloth with mineral spirits and wipe off as much of the excess stain as possible. Don’t leave that cloth sitting around after. Soak it and put it in a none flammable container.

Similar Q: We put minwax floor stain on the floor last night at 6 p.m., and today at 1 p.m. it is still very sticky. I now have 3 fans trying to dry it as well as a humidifier. Any suggestions? The can said it should have dried in 6 hours.

A: What the instructions say on any can is only a general guide, and is meant to reflect ideal conditions. High humidity conditions, low temperatures, poor ventilation, or too heavy stain application, or failing to wipe off the excess stain, will all slow drying considerably. It could take up to 48 hours for Min Wax stains to dry. Keep doing as you are and open some windows. Don’t apply any finish until you can rub a white cloth on the stain without getting any transfer.

Can you use paint thinner to pre-condition a new pine floor?

Q: Can you use paint thinner to pre-condition a new pine floor instead of the min-wax pre-conditioner? A paint guy told us to just use paint thinner. It’s cheaper — $300 cheaper, but I’m not so sure of his guidance. Thanks!

A: These so called ‘conditioners’ are for the DIY crowd who don’t know what they are doing. I’ve never and would never use them. The difficulty with pine staining is of course, how soft the wood is. It is very easy to get a blotchy look and lap marks. First, you are better off using a Dura Seal stain, Quick Coat. This is their commercial stain line and can be purchased from wood floor retailers. You need to apply the stain row by row, with the grain. Limit the width of the rows to 2 feet or so if you feel more comfortable because you do have to work promptly. Apply with a rag, on hands and knees. Soak the cloth. Don’t let it sit in one spot. Keep it moving. Overlap when you have to soak it again. Then go back and wipe off the excess before proceeding to the next row.

Follow-up: Thanks for your insight. This is incredibly helpful.

Scandinavian whitewashed look

Q: Hello Wood Flooring Guy!

We are remodeling a small country cabin, going for a Scandinavian Farmhouse aesthetic. We will be installing wide plank pine floors throughout. I am absolutely in love with the look of Scandi whitewashed wood floors (like this: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-0nLGeL_m-SU/UxWBdu-dTWI/AAAAAAAAP34/zk-7rh9BquA/s1600/pm1.jpg), but can’t find any good instructions on how to make that happen. We did a test run in our home office, using thinned water-based white paint and water-based poly as a sealant. The floors came out beautiful. BUT, one year later, they are chipped, scratched and look terrible. The whitewash and poly have completely chipped off in places, showing pine-colored wood, which is REALLY OBVIOUS on a white floor. Ugh. So, that didn’t work. I would love to find a way to use Waterlox and a white stain or whitewash, but I suspect I’d end up with yellow floors. Is there a way to enjoy the benefits of a low maintenance, tough floor for our little farmhouse while also achieving the Scandinavian whitewashed look? And is there a way to make Waterlox work for us in this situation?

Thanks in advance! Your website is a great source of information.

A: White stained floors were the thing back in the 1980’s. You are absolutely correct regarding what will happen if you use waterlox. In fact, you have to use a non yellowing water borne finish or your white floors will turn yellow like a banana. This colour in general tends not to stand up very well. Poloplaz has a stain line called stain and seal which you can coat over in about 5 hours. While I don’t have any of their colour swatches they say their colours match those of Min Wax and Dura Seal. I know Dura Seal has a country white. If it is to your liking you could use a product such as this, meant for wood floors. Then you would want to apply at least 3 coats of professional quality water based polyurethane. Make sure to choose the right product. Some water borne finishes are meant to amber to mimic the look of oil based finishes. The hardest of these finishes uses a cross linker, generally iso cyanate. You don’t want to get involved with that chemical. Use a high quality water borne from Poloplaz, Basic Coatings, Bona Kemi, Dura Seal or any number of other manufacturers. These are generally sold only by wood floor retailers. Don’t use a DIY finish bought from a big box store and expect to get much durability out of it.

If your finish was chipping off it sounds like you did not get a real good bond between what you used for stain and the finish itself. Everything you do in working with white stain is very delicate. After applying the first coat, if it is at all rough you will have to gently abrade it. An abrasive pad is safest. Also, most water borne coatings will adhere to the previous coating without any buffing if applied within a designated number of hours.

Have you ever applied stain using a buffer?

Q: Have you ever applied stain using a buffer? If so, have you ever applied it on a water-popped floor? Thank you!

A: I’m well aware of the concept you mention. However, I can’t even imagine how it could work on a water popped floor. The buffing and commotion would close the popped grain. I don’t thing there is a better way to apply stain than on hands and knees with a rag and buff off with a carpet pad if you have them. I tried a part of a room once buffing on stain. I didn’t like it. It was golden brown. Stick with what works. You have ultimate control on your hands and knees with a rag.

Stain wasn’t dry when finish was applied

Q: I sanded and edged, then applied Minwax penetrating stain. At 24 hours of drying I noticed the oil was sitting on the wood. I wiped the excess oil off the floor and at 48 hours attempted to poly with minwax ultimate floor finish. I experienced a separation in a few areas where the water based poly separated due to oil residue. When I went to check the floors today, they were bubbled / easily flaked. I began to sand them and decided to let dry more. I can not go back and sand these down and start over; do you have any recommendations? I am willing to try anything.

A: You are going to have to do what you say you can’t do. This will have to be done from scratch. You are applying water borne finish over a solvent based stain which has not fully dried. This is the problem when DIY people think this job is so easy anyone can do it. I don’t know how you applied the stain. I don’t know if you applied a section and then wiped off the excess before proceeding.

Start over and use Dura Seal Quick Coat for example which is a fast dry solvent based stain that contains polyurethane resin. You will be safe to use your DIY, none professional finish with over night drying.

Sometimes I get as frustrated as those who ask questions and have a problem. I basically had to apprentice under guidance with lots of practice to get my work to where it is now. And after more than 40 years, and most of my floor restoration jobs requiring stain, I still feel intimidated by the job. So how can you or others like you who have never done this work think you can just rent a machine, know nothing about the products you work with or how to operate anything, know nothing about the best process expect to have a successful outcome? You will have to start over I’m afraid to tell you. I still don’t really like the water borne finishes, not even the really good ones that professionals use. I always use the stain mentioned above and Poloplaz Primero Professional Polyurethane. Great products that work together and dry well.

Related Q: I refinished my hardwood floors and I had used a minwax stain first. Followed all DIY rules, waited 24hrs then did a finish coat. The finish coat seems like it isn’t adhering to the floor in a bunch of different areas. I don’t know if this means my stain wasn’t dry!? Help!

A: Did you use a water born finish? Min Wax stains are rather high solvent and can take longer to dry. If it isn’t totally dry and you apply a water born coating, then voila, peeling. You would have been better to find a distributor who sells Dura Seal Quick Coat. They are the contractor division of Min Wax. Same colours in a fast dry stain.

Excess stain wasn’t wiped off

Q: I paid a handyman to stain pine floors I had just put in. Came back 4 hours after he was done and the floors still look VERY wet. After asking him several questions, I find out that he “painted” the floor with stain, never stopping to wipe off excess. Do I have to re-sand? If so, how long do I wait? For reasons not to discuss here, the project needs to be done in the next 48 hours.

A: How does the floor look? Like paint? You might be able to ‘get lucky’ because it is soft wood. Are you using a water borne coating? If the stain isn’t 100% dry, all the solvents having left the stain, your finish will likely peel off. You could try coating a board behind a door or in a closet to see how it reacts before proceeding.

Follow-up Q: Thank you very much for replying. I’m in serious need of help here. The stain applied is Minwax oil based from home depot. Right now it’s just stain, nothing on top of that. He put down way too much and never wiped off excess. Can I use a solvent to remove excess off the top of the wood? It looks like it will never dry.

A: Try mineral spirits. Don’t leave the rag laying around after and be careful of fumes. It might help, or it might make the floor blotchy. Apparently the guy not only didn’t know what he was doing, but he didn’t know how to read either.

If you finish with a solvent or oil based finish you won’t have to worry about a bit of solvent since there won’t be any compatibility issues there.

Follow-up Q: Mineral spirits works great. Thank you. It’s taking me about 10 minutes per sq ft. At 400 sq ft, that’s 66+ hours. At least it’s progressing, but that’s a bunch of elbow grease. First sq ft took almost 20 min of scrubbing. So then I started soaking several sq ft at once and keeping them wet with mineral spirits. That loosens it up a little, and now I’m down to 10 min. Anything else you can think of to speed it up a little more? I really appreciate your time and help. Thanks again.

A: Perhaps 000 steel wool. Good thing you didn’t apply any finish. It likely would have peeled off.