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Wood Floor Staining: Techniques, Tips, and Benefits Explained

Posted on May 29, 2023

Wood Floor Sealing & Varnishing Articles

The Complete Guide to Wood Floor Staining: Techniques and Benefits

Wooden floors, with their charm, sophistication, and durability, have long been a favourite among homeowners. Whether it’s oak, pine, maple, or another variety, wood flooring offers a sense of permanence that few other materials can. But, like any part of your home, these floors require maintenance to retain their beauty. One such maintenance task is staining. Staining your wood floor can drastically change its appearance and protect it for years to come. This comprehensive guide will provide you with the knowledge you need to stain your wood floor successfully.

Understanding wood floor staining

Staining is the process of applying a pigmented finish to your wood floor to change its colour and enhance its natural grain and texture. Staining not only modifies the appearance of your floors, but it also provides an extra layer of protection against wear and tear. It penetrates the wood, offering a level of protection that’s deeper than that of topical finishes like varnish or polyurethane alone.

Why should you consider staining your wood floor?

Wood floor staining offers several advantages:
  1. Aesthetic Appeal: Stains can dramatically change the appearance of your floor, making it lighter or darker to match your home’s interior design.
  2. Highlighting Wood Grain: The right stain can enhance the natural grain and unique features of your wood floor, giving it a more rustic or refined appearance, depending on the desired effect.
  3. Protection: Stains penetrate deep into the wood, providing a level of protection against moisture, scratches, and wear.
  4. Restoration: If your old wood floor has lost its lustre, staining it can restore its original beauty and extend its lifespan.
Restoring a Wood Floor

The process of wood floor staining

Staining a wood floor involves several steps, from preparation to the final finishing coat. Each step is crucial to achieving the desired result.
  1. Preparation: The first step in staining a wood floor is preparation. This includes cleaning the floor thoroughly to remove any dirt, dust, and debris and sanding it to remove the old finish and create a smooth surface for the stain.
  2. Choosing the Right Stain: There are several types of stains available, from oil-based and water-based stains to gel stains. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and the choice depends on your specific needs and preferences.
  3. Applying the Stain: The stain is applied using a brush or a rag, working in sections and following the wood grain. After a few minutes (check the manufacturer’s instructions), the excess stain is wiped off with a clean rag.
  4. Allowing the Stain to Dry: The stained floor must be left to dry completely before any further steps are taken. The drying time can vary depending on the type of stain and environmental conditions.
  5. Applying a Finish: After the stain has dried, a finish is applied to protect the stain and provide a sheen. This can be varnish, polyurethane, or another type of wood floor finish.

Tips and Tricks for Successful Wood Floor Staining

Staining a wood floor requires careful attention to detail and patience. Here are some tips to help ensure success:
  • Test the Stain: Before applying the stain to the entire floor, test it on a small, inconspicuous area to ensure you’re happy with the colour and appearance.
  • Work in the direction of the wood grain. This will help the stain penetrate more effectively and result in a more attractive finish.
  • Avoid Staining in Direct Sunlight: Direct sunlight can cause the stain to dry too quickly, making it difficult to wipe off the excess and achieve a consistent colour.
  • Wear protective gear. Staining involves working with chemicals and can create fumes. Wear gloves, safety glasses, and a mask to protect your skin, eyes, and lungs.
  • Apply Thin Coats: It’s better to apply multiple thin coats of stain rather than one thick coat. This allows for better control over the colour intensity and helps prevent blotching or unevenness.
  • Maintain a Clean Environment: Keep the work area clean and free of dust and debris. Any particles that settle on the wet stain can affect the final finish.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions: Different stains have specific instructions for application, drying times, and recommended finishes. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the best results.
  • Take breaks. Staining a wood floor can be a time-consuming process. Take regular breaks to avoid fatigue and ensure that you’re applying the stain consistently and evenly.

Choosing the Right Stain for Your Wood Floor

When selecting a stain for your wood floor, consider factors such as the wood species, desired colour, and level of protection required. Here are some popular types of stains:
  1. Oil-Based Stains: These stains are known for their rich, deep colours and excellent durability. They penetrate well into the wood and provide a traditional, classic look. However, they can take longer to dry and may emit more fumes during application.
  2. Water-Based Stains: Water-based stains are a popular choice due to their quick drying time, low odour, and ease of cleanup. They offer a wide range of colours and are more environmentally friendly than oil-based stains. However, they may not penetrate as deeply as oil-based stains.
  3. Gel Stains: Gel stains have a thicker consistency, allowing for better control during application. They are ideal for vertical surfaces and can help achieve a more even colour on difficult-to-stain wood species. Gel stains also tend to produce less blotching and are easier to work with for beginners.
  4. Dye Stains: Dye stains provide intense, vibrant colours and allow the natural grain of the wood to show through. They penetrate deeply into the wood, offering excellent colour uniformity. Dye stains are often used in combination with other types of stains to achieve specific effects.


Staining your wood floor is a rewarding endeavour that can transform the look of your space and protect your investment. By following the steps outlined in this comprehensive guide, you can successfully stain your wood floor and achieve the desired colour and finish. Remember to choose the right stain for your needs, take your time during application, and prioritise proper preparation and protection. With care and attention to detail, you’ll enjoy the beauty and durability of your stained wood floor for years to come.

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