Floor Stains Types of Hardwood Floor Stains Stain Colors for Hardwood Floors

Floor Stains Types of Hardwood Floor Stains Stain Colors for Hardwood Floors

Floor Stains

Stains are made of either pigments, dyes, or a combination of both. They change the color of the wood and also may seal it. Colors range

from neutral to light browns, dark browns and pastels. Stains may be oil-based, water-based, or anilines.


Oil-based stains are the most widely used today. Contractors use them because they take a relatively long time to dry, which helps prevent lap marks.

Fast-dry oil-based stains contain some solvent other than mineral spirits, such as alcohol. Such solvents have a faster evaporation time and thus dry

more quickly.

Some oil-based stains on the market are referred to as penetrating stains. In the wood flooring market, this means a high-viscosity (thicker) formula

stain that also seals the floor. Such stains tend to give floors the appearance of more depth.


To apply oil-based stains, use a recommended applicator (typically 100 percent cotton rags, lambswool applicators, or natural-bristle brushes). Apply the stain and allow it to penetrate for the recommended amount of time. Remove the excess by hand wiping with rags. Some manufacturers recommend burnishing the floor with fine steel wool, a white pad, 100 percent cotton rags or towels. This can help in the drying process and

may reduce bleed back. ‘TYPical dry time is eight to 24 hours, depending onJob site conditions, and possibly longer for darker pigmented and pastel stains.


Waterborne stains also dry through evaporation of a solvent — in this case, water. These stains are fast-drying. Because they are fast-drying, you may be able to coat over water-based stains in a few hours, depending on job-site conditions and the finish to be used.


Waterborne stains should be wiped on and off with clean cotton rags, working with the grain. Apply small areas at a time, taking care to wipe the stain off thoroughly and quickly. Areas with too much stain may show lap marks. Lapping may occur due to rapid dry time, and the stains may raise the grain. Typical dry time for water-based stains is 1 to 3 hours, depending on job site conditions.


These colors are made from aniline oils or coal tar derivatives. Aniline dyes are made in different grades to be soluble in water, alcohol or oil-based solvents, and are called water colors, spirit colors and oil colors, respectively. They provide intense color but tend to fade quickly, and are difficult to apply because of their extremely fast dry times.


• Make sure the floor is clean before applying any stain.

• A stain is only as good as the sanding job underneath it — stain will emphasize irregularities such as edger marks, chatter marks, picture framing, scraping marks and abrasion patterns. It will also highlight problems from skipping too many sandpaper grits.

• Popping the grain by lightly moistening the wood and letting it dry (confirm dryness with a moisture meter) before the stain is applied allows the stain to penetrate more, making the stain appear more intense.

Floor Stains Types of Hardwood Floor Stains Stain Colors for Hardwood Floors

• A finer grit of sandpaper used before staining will leave the wood surface smoother, making the stain color appear lighter than if a coarser sandpaper grit is used.

• Stains must by completely dry before a coat of sealer or finish is applied.

• Stains take differently with different species of wood — make samples to ensure the desired color and, if possible, make samples on the actual job site.

• Highly pigmented stains, e.g. white, pastel, mahogany or ebony, can take substantially longer to dry than other stains.

• Some wood species such as maple and pine are difficult to stain because they do not accept stain uniformly.

• Some stain colors are not compatible with waterbased finishes.


Bleaching will not turn a wood floor white. Rather, it reduces variations in color without obscuring the -grain pattern. The process damages the fiber of the wood and changes the existing color of the wood red oak will lighten to a pink cast, while white oak will take on a greenish cast. Many water-based finishes are not compatible with a previously bleached wood floor.

Use only bleach specifically formulated for wood flooring. Because bleaching raises the grain of the wood, sanding with fine paper or buffing may be necessary to restore a smooth surface. Use a system of compatible bleach, stain and finish. Before using different products, check with the manufacturers for compatibility, and do a test area in an inconspicuous place. Always use nonambering products, and be aware that most wood fillers cannot be bleached.

The bleach must dry completely and the wood must return to its original moisture content before a white stain or other finish is applied.

Common Wood Floor Stains from Minwax ® Floor Stains

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