When restoring your hardwood floor or installing a new one, photos of dark wood floors look very appealing. But it’s not necessary to stain the floor, and even if people decide to, the cost and nuances of staining give them second thoughts. As a result, many of us aren’t sure if we should stain our floors or leave them in their natural state.
You should stain your hardwood floor if you have a common wood like red or white oak. Staining will give these floors an exotic look. On the contrary, many kinds of wood like pine and maple are not meant to be stained. They have tight grains that make them very hard to stain evenly.
Staining is a decision that requires several considerations. Read on to learn all about staining, when to do it, when not to do it, and how you can refinish your floors without it.
Should I Stain My Hardwood Floors?
To stain or not to stain is a big question when it comes to deciding the look of your entire home. The stain will be with you for a long time, and since it’s expensive and time-consuming, you don’t want to mess it up and waste your resources.
We stain our hardwood floors to emulate the look and feel of exotic wood species. For example, if you have a beech or white oak floor, you can stain it with a black wood stain to make it look like ebony wood.
So the first thing to consider is the type of hardwood floor you have. If you have a typical floor, staining can drastically improve how it looks.
However, if you already have an exotic wood like maple or mahogany, there’s no need to waste money on staining. Your floor is already decent in its natural state and doesn’t require any cover.
Furthermore, these exotic woods usually have tight grains with tiny pores, which means the stain pigments cannot be absorbed well by them. In other words, it’s very difficult to stain these types of floors evenly.
When else should you stain? If your floor has been damaged by pot plants, pets, or water, you don’t have to replace the whole floor; staining will cover it up and give the wood a fresh look. Keep in mind that you should only stain the wood if the damages are superficial and not deep into the floor in the case of water damages. A darker color stain mutes the damages more effectively.
Apart from that, many of us don’t like the amber color or washed-out look left by some floor finishes. If you’ve got this unappealing wood finish, staining can change it to be more aesthetically pleasing.
What Color Should You Use?
Once you’ve decided to stain your hardwood floor, then comes the next big question: what color should you choose for staining? Since there are numerous color choices, it can be challenging to pick the best one for your home.
If you are buying new furniture, you have more freedom as you can later pick the furniture to match your floor. However, if you’re keeping what you have, you need to carefully select a color that goes well with the existing furniture.
A lighter color can make the area feel more open, while a dark stain has a dramatic effect. The key is to consider your room’s color scheme and decide what you want it to feel like.
Also, you probably won’t be able to picture different stain colors in your head. So it’s a good idea to look for some inspiration in interior design or home décor magazines. Pinterest is also an excellent source for these things.
When Staining Is Not Necessary
As we’ve said, staining is a time-consuming and costly procedure, and it’s not a necessary step in decorating your hardwood floor. Let’s discuss a few situations where you’re better off not staining.
- First of all, if you have an exotic wood finish, you don’t need to invest in staining. Why buy an expensive, beautiful wood only to hide it under stain?
- Second, if you’re DIY refinishing your floor, consider skipping the staining. Floor staining is a difficult job, and there are many ways it could go wrong. Even professional contractors make mistakes, and they have to sand and stain the floor all over again.
Staining wood floors also means more waiting time. You need to wait for the stain to dry before applying the hardwood coating. Depending on the climate, you will have to wait for at least two days.
Making your hardwood floor darker means the scratches and debris will be more emphasized. If you don’t have the time to clean and maintain your wood floor, keep them unstained.
The only “downside” of natural hardwood floors is that they’re very common. So if you’re looking for a unique style, it can be worth the time and money to stain your floors.
Natural Stain vs. No Stain Refinish
The major difference between a natural color stain and no-stain refinish is the color variance in the wood. Here, if you don’t mind the strong variations of, say oak, then there’s not much need to stain the floor.
Natural stain finish helps to even out the tone and give some uniformity to the wood. On the contrary, an unstained floor has the normal variations of the wood.
If you want to decide between a natural color stain and an unstained floor, have your flooring professional create a mock-up of both. They will make a 2’x 2′ sample of natural stain finish and another one of unstained finish.
Then, you can compare both of them to find out for yourself. Make sure there’s a coat of finish added to the samples so that you can feel the depth of the color you’ll be getting.
How Can I Refinish My Hardwood Floors Without Staining Them?
Refinishing becomes quicker and more comfortable if you skip the staining step. Usually, you would have to carefully apply the stain after preparing the floor (using the “water popping” technique). Then, once the entire floor is stained, you would wait for a day or two for the stain to dry. However, if you’re skipping stains, you can simply seal the floor after preparing it.
Finishing Hardwood Floors Without Stain
A lot of people aren’t sure about the purpose of staining. A hardwood stain is not meant to protect your floor from water and wear damages; its primary goal is to color the wood. If you only want to save the floor against water and wear, I recommend finishing it without stain.
To protect your floor, all you have to do is use a polyurethane sealer. It sits on top of the hardwood and provides excellent protection from water and scratches. Also, it requires minimum upkeep and comes in a variety of finishes from matte to glossy.
Staining can make a huge difference to the look and feel of your hardwood floor. It can take cheap wood and make it look exotic and rich.
However, considering the time and cost involved, you should think carefully before deciding to stain. Some questions to ask yourself are:
- Do you really need to stain?
- Can you somehow save the time and money by getting a natural wood finish that’s up to your liking?
- Is your wood species suitable for staining?
- Are you okay with having to wait for a few days?
Once you’ve decided to stain, you also need to be careful about picking a color that matches your existing furniture.