Hardwood floors | Staining explainedred oak hardwood floor national floors

Not all hardwood floors can be stained.  Red oak and White oak floors tend to accept stain better than most other species.  The Stain examples shown "Below" are on Red Oak, but most don't know that red oak has multiple tones.  The picture on the right shows the variation in tones.  We usually find between 6-8 varying tones from light to dark shades along with different grain patterns.  The pictures below represent a single shade of what the actual stain could look like on your hardwood floors. What does all this mean? For red oak, it means that the stain choice will vary depending on the original tone of the hardwood.  The fact is, which ever color you choose, the stain will appear lighter on a light piece of oak then a darker piece of oak and vice verse. In "No Way" should you expect a pastel or even shade of stain when having your floors stained. Wood is an imperfect material and these differences can and will be amplified when staining your hardwood floors. This is why we always demo the color of choice prior to staining the entire floor.  This way you can make a color selection with confidence.

3 phases to Refinishing | Staining hardwood floors

a. The correct sanding sequence, usage of proper grits when creating a new surface

b. The correct application of stain.  The process can vary depending on the color of stain and wood species.  Other steps and preparations may be required.

c. The correct final coating of polyurethane applied to hardwood floors.

Staining hardwood floors explainedStaining peaks valleys2

The "Appearance" and final outcome of staining a hardwood floor is purely determined by the sanding sequence performed by the contractor and the choice of stain color.  The sanding sequence determines the depth of the peaks and valleys.  Under a microscope, you would be able to see the jagged edge of the wood grain.  The rougher the feel, the deeper the valleys are in the wood grain.  The finer the feel of hardwood, the shallower the valleys are in the hardwood floor.  The deeper the valley, the more the wood will accept the stain.  You see, when staining a wood floor or project, the stain will "Fill" the valleys, not the peaks.  So if you purchased a dark color stain and it appears lighter than the example the manufacturer shows, it is probably due to incorrect understanding of how to stain hardwood floors.  In our industry, the sanding sequence must be correct so we only have to apply one coat of stain to get the desired look. 

We have seen and heard many sellers of wood stains and DIY contractors say it's okay to add a second coat of stain.  That is not true if you want an even application of stain for professional results.  If you apply more than one coat of stain, it's usually because you are not satisfied with the initial outcome and want a darker stained appearance.  The misconception is, the stain purchased is too light, but it's not the stains fault, it's usually due to improper sanding sequence.  What professional wood workers find is that there is a high probability of a blotchy appearance once the second coat of stain is applied and wiped.  Some people have low expectations or lack the eye to catch the blotchy issue in the floor.  The only way to fix this blotchy mistake is to start over by sanding the floor.              

Hardwood floors that can be stained

  • Red Oak accept stain

  • White Oak accept stain

  • Maple is a tight grain floor and will appear blotchy if stained

  • Walnut is too dark and should not be stained

    Brazilian cherry is natural dark in color and should not be stained.

Hardwood Stain Colors

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