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:, 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.

Bamboo won’t stain

Q: The bamboo wood I’m trying to stain won’t take stain at all! I have sanded and restrained many times where I run into issues with the lacquer. The latest is the lacquer has white film and one site said to use thinner. Well, this bubbled the lacquer so I resanded the area to start AGAIN and now it won’t take stain at all. I’ve tried wood cleaner. I’ve tried water popping. Nada. When I call local stores they say bamboo can’t be stained!

A: Thankfully I’ve never had to try to stain bamboo. I can certainly see that it may not take stain. It isn’t really wood. It is more like fibrous plant material which is hard and shiny. I have some small samples in my trailer. I may try an experiment with them to see if I can stain it. Why are you using lacquer?

It is entirely possible that the finish is already tinted when applied in factory with this product.

Q: I’ve been refinishing floors for 19 years and never once stained bamboo, have you and is there a special stain?

A: Thankfully I’ve not been asked to stain one. But you are the second person to inquire about bamboo recently. I have been meaning to do some test samples but I can already imagine the stain won’t readily penetrate. Manufacturers get their dark, carbonized version of bamboo I believe by steaming it. In other cases, while I don’t know for sure, I’d bet they use tinted finish.

If I got a request to stain one, I would definitely do some tests before committing to it. If you get to it before me, I’d appreciate your feed back.

Want a distressed, aged pine look

Q: We have just had 10 inch T&G pine installed in our new home. In the past we had stained pine floors in our cottage and stained with Minwax Golden Oak. The floors were not sanded and the result was great, an aged pine look. Our new floors were sanded after the floor was put down. We put the same stain down (golden oak) and it does not look good. The grain, etc., really shows through and is very dark brown, not really golden (it was brushed on). I verathaned it this morning and it made it look a little better. We just want an aged pine look. We have not yet done the downstairs. Do you have any suggestions?

A: I’m surprised you got anything to penetrate and stick to that first pine floor you mentioned. There is a condition called “mill glaze” or planer glaze wherein the new wood appears to have a slightly shiny appearance. This has to be removed to clean wood before staining or finishing. Pine is a difficult wood to stain. I had amazing success on nearly 4000 feet of pine I stained. I mixed the colour directly into Waterlox penetrating tung oil finish and mopped it on. No removing the excess is needed. Let it dry and apply another 3 coats. This might be the type of finish and look you are after. You could also beat the floor up some to make it appear old and distressed.

Related Q: Hello. My authentic oak wood floors are requiring spot/ area staining where floor traffic was constant and where vinyl sheet floor was previously installed. After I had lightly hand-sanded a section down to almost the bare wood, in preparation to spot stain, I concluded the entire floor might look good with this easy remedy to create a distressed look. I figured I could always stain over these sections if I didn’t like the effect. Good or bad idea?

A: It is really subjective. If you like the look then it’s a great idea. The first time I saw a couple looking at a sample of hand scraped flooring I told them I spent my entire career trying to make sure my jobs didn’t end up looking like that. So, you can experiment as you like. You can always have the entire floor sanded again at some point provided it is thick enough to handle it.

Stain brand recommendation

Q: Dear Sir or Madame, Thank You sincerely for any advise you can give at your earliest convenience. Currently we have old “blondish red” (narrow plank) hardwood floors. We would like to stain them a classic antique french grey or something similar. After sanding the floor how do you suggest that we proceed? Also is there a specific brand that is best? THANK YOU so very much again for your help!

A: After completely preparing the floor ie removing all previous finishes and sanding marks, scratches, vaccuum up all dust and wet, not soak the floor to open the grain and assist in a deeper and more even stain penetration. I generally use Dura Seal Quick Coat which dries fast and reliably but also contains polyurethane resin to serve as a sealer. However, given the colour you are after this may not work. Poloplaz has a new, fast drying stain available. I would check out their colour offerings and recommendations. When staining, apply generally in narrow rows, say 3 feet wide. Apply stain and let sit for a few minutes. Wipe off excess with a clean cloth before it dries.

Should we seal pine floors before staining?

Q: We’re installing pine wood floors. Should we use a sealer after it’s sanded, but before it’s stained? If so, what sealer do you recommend that will allow proper absorption of the stain?

A: I never use those sealers. With soft wood in particular you need to work at a steady rate and not leave drips or puddles sit long, as in more than 5 seconds. I apply stain a row at a time, say 3 feet wide on hands and knees with a rag. Apply the entire length of the row and then go back and remove the excess with another cloth.

Staining black walnut grey

Q: I have natural Lauzon black walnut floors that need refinishing. I would really like to achieve a greyed contemporary look (that is so current right now). Is staining black walnut grey possible? What colour would I use (due to the variations of gold, chocolate, blond, red in the wood)?

A: I don’t honestly know how you will achieve such a look with black walnut. Semi transparent stains still allow wood colours to show when using what I would call pastel colours. That is why sometimes when staining oak white we had to bleach the floor first. Colours like that were big in the ’80’s. They aren’t generally very durable.

Webmaster’s Note: I’d make a sample or try it in a hidden spot like a closet. A warmer grey might look cool despite the variations?

Staining Wood Floor a Bold Color

Q: I would like to stain my hardwood oak floors to a very non-traditional, bold color. For example: indigo, blue, or blood red. Minwax makes some water based stains in those colors, are those advisable for the floor? They can be seen here:

They will be coated with oil based polyurethane. Also, Benjamin Moore makes custom colored oil stains, would those be a better choice? Any other advice on working with such colors? Thank you!!

A: I definitely would not use the Min Wax stain. I believe they say on their web site those particular stains are not meant for wood floors. You are much safer with the Benjamin Moore colours and they dry fast. They can be a little tricky to work with too, especially the reds, probably because of the high pigment levels. Apply it in narrow rows with a cloth and then go back and give it a quick wipe with a clean rag to remove any excess.

Stained wood edges bare after finishing

Q: I just had red oak floors water popped and stained dark, then 3 coats of oil based poly applied. There are many areas where thin grains or raw wood edges are showing, the stain stripped off, 100+. My installer is going to fix it by coloring each with a permanent marker? Is this the correct fix?

A: If your floors are old 3/8 strip I can understand how, when buffing between coats a board edge may get ‘nipped’ and the stain removed. This is because the thin floors were nailed down with straight shanked nails, which don’t hold well, usually on a pine subfloor that isn’t flat and also moves.

What I can’t understand is why ‘many’ boards had this happen. And why they weren’t addressed before the final coat was applied. I’ve used a marker for an occasional tiny spot before a final coat. I would think if this touch up method is used throughout the floor area and without another coat of finish you will likely be able to clearly see those spots.

Dark wood floors show dirt more readily

Q: We have a dark bamboo floor. It shows too much dirt! It’s impossible to keep clean. Would an extra lacquer top coat help this?

A: Dark wood floors do tend to reveal house dust, etc., more than lighter colored floors. Applying another coat of finish won’t change that. If you do apply another coat don’t let it be lacquer. I would suggest an approved cleaner meant for use on top coated floors such as the following:

Webmaster’s note: I’m posting this in “Choosing a stain color” since it may be imperative to that choice. For those not forced to go dark to camouflage pet or water stains, the fact lighter stain colors can make it easier to maintain a “clean look” may be a deciding factor. This dark vs. light rule goes for any surface or flooring. Personally, I tend to throw caution to the wind and let taste be the main factor, and I just live with this slight (in my opinion, not a deal breaker) consequence; our hearth floor is tiled black (against the tiler’s recommendations, for this exact “it’ll show dirt more!” reason) and our wood floor is stained a dark reddish mahogany.

Wood floor looks tie-dyed

Q: We are currently refinishing our white oak floors. Four rooms are completed after sanding (with 36, 80 and 220 grits), staining, and sealing with water-based gloss polyurethane. Three rooms look great and one room looks tie-dyed. The floors are blotchy with light, dark, and milky spots. The stain dried for 48 hours before sealing and the room was cleaned with vacuum, broom and tack rags. This room looks so bad we only did one clear coat to date. Why do our wood floors look tie-dyed, and how can we fix it?

A: For one thing, your grit selection is all over the map. It is rare that I use anything rougher than 40 grit. However you should not skip more than one grit in the sanding selection. From 36 you skipped 40, 50, 60 right to 80 then missed all the other grits and jumped to 220. There likely isn’t any consistency in the sanding and that is reflected in the stain itself. This job is best left to those who have a lot of experience and do this for a living.

Related Q: We recently had our oak hardwood floor done by a professional company. Our floor has light and dark spots all over it and it looks terrible. It’s also rough to our feet, not smooth at all. They used only 2 coats of a water based finish. Is this normal and how can we fix it? We expected a hard, shining, smooth surface and it definitely didn’t turn out that way. Also, they left blobs of stain on the floor.

A: This doesn’t sound good. The light and dark areas of the stain, barring pet stains, is sanding and preparation error. The Darker spots were not as smooth as the lighter spots so absorbed the stain more. The only way to fix that is to start over. 2 Coats of water born finish? In my opinion it’s not enough. Water born coatings are lower in urethane resin than oil or solvent based coatings so will not provide as thick a film. I generally use Poloplaz Primero which contains about 48% polyurethane resin solids. A typical water born may contain 32% or less. I don’t like chewing on guys and there is no way to do a 100% perfect sand and stain job regardless of how careful a person is in their work. But light and dark blotches and rough floor? That is contractor error in my opinion.

Similar Q: We had brand new oak floors put in and hired someone to stain and poly them. We noticed that some areas the stain didn’t take too well (it’s not even). Does the entire floor have to resanded, stained and poly’d?

A: That really depends on the amount of area that doesn’t look right. If it is large areas across the floor then yes, it will have to be done over.

Our stain is too dark all around the perimeter

Q: Our stain is too dark all around the perimeter, but the middle is perfect…

A: When a mistake like that happens it is almost always the opposite, with lighter perimeters. It is caused by unequal preparation. The main area is smoother than the edges hence takes less of the stain than the edges. If there was no finish applied to a floor like this I would try to remove as much stain as possible with an orbital sander, polisher with 80 grit, then 100 grit as possible. Then after clean-up wet with warm water, let dry and stain again.

Similar Q: My floors were refinished. 2 Different sanders were used. Around the perimeter of the floor, where a smaller sander was used, the stain is darker and the floors do not look blended. Will this ever disappear?

A: To have the edges come out darker than the main floor area is unusual. More often than not, an error like this will leave the edges lighter, creating a halo around the room. The cause is from the edges being either smoother or rougher than the main field. No, it won’t ever go away on it’s own.

Another Similar Q: My son recently had his old hardwood floors re-done by a professional. The floors are White Oak, thin boards approx. 2 1/2″ wide. They were natural, never re-done since install in 1973. They have been sanded and stained a dark brown color with 3 coats of oil based Polyurethane applied. One of the bedrooms seems to have the stain applied incorrectly, as the perimeter is quite a bit darker than the center. The Pro said this is due to a rug being on the floor previously. With the floor being sanded down, I can’t understand this explanation as all. Wouldn’t the old yellowing/discoloration have been removed? Why is the wood floor stain darker there?

A: I have seen this “halo” effect. More often than not it is lighter around the perimeter but I have seen it darker too. The usual cause is the sanding done on the edges does not match in smoothness the rest of the floor and the stain will absorb accordingly. I always finish off by sanding the perimeter with 8 grit on an orbital or random orbit sander and screen the entire floor with a polisher with 100 grit which also gets very close to the walls. For darker colours I almost always wet the floor to pop the grain and when dry, then stain. I think there was likely a mistake in the preparation. Staining is not easy to do and it’s important to look over the floor carefully before staining.