Scandinavian whitewashed look

Q: 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 nonyellowing water borne finish or your white floors will turn yellow like a banana. This color 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 color swatches they say their colors 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.

Similar Q: We are doing red oak with a light natural/pickled look in our small cottage. If I stain with Minwax pickling white, can I use a waterbased sealant like Nordic Seal on top? How to I get a lighter (not yellow) finish with a low-luster (not shiny) finish?

A: A white stain requires a non-yellowing coating otherwise you soon end up with banana yellow. I don’t know anything about the finish you mentioned. Make sure the minwax stain, likely a solvent based, is completely dry before applying a water borne coating. You might check out the color lines of Dura Seal Quick Coat to see if you can find a close match to what you want or the Poloplaz Primero stain line. These are low VOC stains with rapid dry times. The sheen is determined by what it is: gloss, satin, semi, etc.

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