How To Stain Wood Floors Without The Blotchy Effect

The next type of stain that is best used on non porous wood is the dye stain. If you have a maple, birch, or beech floor for example you will find the pigment stain tends to make the wood blotchy. Dye stains are very similar to fabric dyes (and yes you can use Rit Dye stains to dye wood) in that they both contain particles that are so small that they enter the wood surface itself. But this doesn’t make them easy to use on floors. It is much too easy to create overlap marks with a dye stain. Dye stains come in water soluble powders (which makes for a very grain risen floor) and NGR type stains already mixed. The NGR (non grain rising) wood stains contain alcohol or lacquer thinner solvents and are really dangerous to use on large floors. But it can be done.

One very important warning about dye stains, is that they are not very colorfast. Imagine laying a nice red sweater out on the floor for a few years exposed to direct sunlight. Well this is the same sort of dye used in woodwork. The NGR dye stains are even a bit less colorfast than the water soluble one, but both will fade remarkably in 5-10 years, when exposed to light. They will show rug marks like crazy in just a few years also. This together with the application difficulties makes them an unpopular floor stain. So keep dye stained floors protected from direct sunlight. The best way to do this is to use UV resistant polyurethane and at least 4 coats of this. This finish itself will tend to give the wood a yellow cast so be sure to do a sample using this finish on it before you commit yourself to a final color of the finished floor. Another important factor with water based dye stains is that water based finished applied to them will make the dye run. If you wish to use water based dye stain, use an oil-based poly, lacquer or shellac finish on top of it. But if you want to use water based finish for the topcoats, you must use a NGR or oil based dye stain to color the wood. Always test for compatibility, I cannot say this often enough.

In fact I always show my customers the stain applied directly to the sanded floor surface. I will do as many stain samples right out in the bright light as they wish to see. I’ll sand them out later. But this gives the customer a chance to see the color in the evening and early morning lights. The early morning light may not be so flattering to some stain colors as you may think, so let your customer decide. Be sure to apply at least one thick coat of satin or gloss finish, on these sample patches, as this too will change the color a bit.

You can use a rag to sponge on a lot of this dye stain, and because it dries slowly you should have plenty of time to wipe, but this would be a good place for an assistant. Some wood workers sponge the wood with distilled water before they use the dye, but be aware of using too much water on a wood floor. I will talk about sponging before staining later in this article. Applying more coats of stain will intensify a dye stain’s color, so don’t be too disappointed with the first coat of stain. But the key here is to mix a stronger color or even a different color for the next coat of dye. The color you see when a dye stain is wet is it’s true color. When these stains dry they seem to fade, but the true color will come back when you apply the floor finish. Wait at least 12 – 20 hours before you apply more stain coats or begin top coating. Provide lots of air circulation. This job is best done in the winter heating season. Warm dry air is best.