Staining Your Hardwood Floors and Choosing the Right Stain

By Cezar

Revitalizing and infusing warmth into your home can be achieved by applying a fresh coat of stain to your floors. However, it’s important to recognize that undertaking this task is not always the optimal choice, as it can sometimes lead to undesirable consequences.

In the following sections, we will guide you through the process of determining whether staining your floors is the right decision for you. If you do decide to proceed with staining, we will assist you in selecting the most suitable brand for your needs.

Should I Stain My Floors?

Assuming you are the owner of your home, you have the freedom to make various changes to your floors. However, whether or not you should proceed with staining is a different matter altogether.

Let’s begin by addressing why someone would consider staining their floors in the first place. The primary motivation behind this decision is usually aesthetic, as worn and lackluster hardwood floors can significantly diminish the overall energy and appeal of a room. Applying a fresh coat of stain can breathe new life into your hardwood floors.

If your hardwood floors are the appropriate type and are only experiencing minor wear and damage, applying a new coat of stain can make a remarkable improvement. However, it’s important to note that simple staining is best suited for superficial damage and wear. In cases of significant damage, a comprehensive hardwood floor refinishing process may be required.

The advantage of hardwood refinishing lies in its ability to address more severe wear and damage. However, it is crucial to consider that refinishing can be expensive, time-consuming, disruptive, and challenging to execute.

Types of Wood Floors

Wood floors come in various types, but determining whether your floors are suitable for staining can be narrowed down into two broad categories:

  1. Tight-grained, small-pored woods, often found in exotic varieties like maple, mahogany, or pine, do not respond well to staining and are typically better left untouched. The composition of their grains makes achieving an even stain application very challenging.
  2. More common woods such as beech, white oak, or red oak are highly compatible with staining and can significantly benefit from the process. These woods readily accept stain and can achieve an attractive appearance as a result.

Determining the exact type of wood used for your floors might be a bit tricky if you didn’t build the house yourself. However, there are numerous resources available online that can assist you in identifying your hardwood floors. Alternatively, you could consult a professional to help you categorize the type of wood used in your flooring.

What Level of Damage is Present?

Once you have confirmed that your floors are suitable for staining, the next step is to assess the extent of damage present. A simple coat of stain can effectively address:

  1. Fading and general wear caused by the passage of time.
  2. Unappealing coloration left behind by previous coats of finish. For instance, if you recently purchased a used house and the previous owners applied an unfortunate finish to the floors, or if you yourself made a mistake in the finishing process, a poor finish can leave the hardwood floor looking lackluster.
  3. Damage inflicted by pets, water, plant pots, or other sources.

However, if the damage is more severe than what can be addressed by simple staining, a comprehensive refinishing process might be necessary. Hardwood refinishing offers the advantage of rectifying extensive damage and wear. However, it’s important to consider that hardwood refinishing is a more involved process. It requires more time, resources, and expertise compared to simple staining.

Types of Stains

Now that we’re ready to dive into the world of stains, let’s explore the different types available. When it comes to staining hardwood floors, you have two primary options: oil-based stains and water-based stains. Each type has its own unique characteristics, so let’s take a closer look.

Oil-Based Stains

Oil-based stains are a popular choice for hardwood floors due to their durability and deep penetration. They are known for their rich, warm tones that can beautifully enhance the natural colors of the wood. With oil-based stains, you have more control over the depth of color since they tend to darken with additional coats. However, keep in mind that oil-based stains have a longer drying time and can emit strong fumes, so proper ventilation is crucial during the staining process.

Oil-Based Stains

Water-Based Stains

Water-based stains have gained popularity in recent years due to their eco-friendly nature and quick drying time. They offer a wide range of color options and can provide a more contemporary look to your hardwood floors. Unlike oil-based stains, water-based stains tend to dry lighter and may require more coats to achieve the desired color intensity. They also have a milder odor, making them a great choice if you’re sensitive to strong smells or have limited ventilation in your space.

Water-Based Stains

Applying the Stain

Now that you’ve chosen the perfect stain color, it’s time to apply it to your hardwood floors. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to help you achieve professional-looking results.

Step 1: Prep the Area

Start by clearing the room of any furniture, rugs, or obstacles. You want a clean, open space to work with. Ensure proper ventilation by opening windows or using fans to circulate the air.

Step 2: Apply the Stain

Using a brush, roller, or applicator pad, apply the stain evenly in the direction of the wood grain. Work in manageable sections, ensuring you cover the entire floor. Avoid applying too much stain at once, as it can lead to uneven drying and an inconsistent color.

Step 3: Wipe off Excess

After applying the stain, take a clean cloth or rag and lightly wipe off any excess stain. This step helps achieve an even tone and prevents the stain from becoming sticky or tacky.

Step 4: Allow Drying Time

Allow the stain to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This typically ranges from a few hours to overnight. Remember to keep the room well-ventilated during the drying process.

Step 5: Apply Additional Coats (Optional)

If you desire a deeper or richer color, you can apply additional coats of stain. Follow the same application and drying process for each coat. Remember to assess the color after each coat to ensure you achieve the desired shade.

After your stain has dried completely, it’s crucial to seal and protect your newly transformed hardwood floors. A topcoat sealer acts as a protective layer, preventing scratches, moisture damage, and fading. There are different types of sealers available, such as polyurethane, wax, or oil-based finishes. Consult with a flooring professional or the stain manufacturer to determine the best sealer for your specific stain and desired level of durability.


Assuming your hardwood floors are compatible with staining, applying a fresh coat of stain can breathe new life and add color to your home. However, several factors need to be considered before proceeding, and there may be instances where staining is not the optimal choice. Qualified professionals are available to help you navigate through these considerations, including the critical task of selecting the right stain.