How To Stain Hardwood Floors

By Cezar

Staining hardwood floors is one of the most popular do-it-yourself (DIY) home projects out there. Many people enjoy saving money by doing it themselves, and many of them even enjoy the process—or, at least, the challenge of the process.

One of the best parts about DIY stained floors is that you get to enjoy your handiwork every time you walk through the room that you’ve worked on. If you’re wondering how to stain a hardwood floor yourself, then read on, brave DIYer. All the instructions you need await below.

Alternatively, if you take a look at what’s required and think you may prefer hiring professionals to do it for you, then we’ll provide contact information in the Summary section at the end of this piece.

Equipment You’ll Need to Stain Hardwood Floors

First, you’ll need the right equipment to prep, seal, and stain a hardwood floor. Most of what you’ll need can be rented from your local hardware shop.

  • Hardwood floor stain
  • Random orbital buffer (optional for those who choose to do everything by hand)
  • Sander (or sanding blocks and sandpaper if you go all manual)
  • Edger or palm sander for finesse work (or sanding blocks and sandpaper for those who want to go all manual)
  • Carpet stain applicators (if you use the buffer to apply stain) or hand applicator (if you go all manual)
  • Wood filler or wood putty (if you have floor holes that can’t be sanded out)
  • Protective gear (goggle, ear protection, possibly face mask if you choose)

Be sure you know what you’re getting into before deciding to do it all manually. While that will save some cost and may have a certain amount of romantic charm about it, it’s a great deal more work than using the machines. All that wear and tear on your rotator cuff, hands, and knees can also be too much for some people’s bodies to take.

Prepare the Room for Sanding

Before getting to work, you’ll need to prepare the room. Some of the obvious necessary work includes getting all the furniture and carpets off the floor. Some less obvious stuff you need to do to stain a hardwood floor includes:

  • Sealing air vents to prevent dust from getting in
  • Covering doors with plastic sheeting
  • Removing baseboard, moldings, and any other items attached to the floor.

Your hardwood floor is now prepped. You’re ready to begin sanding.

Sand the Floor

This process will be different depending on whether you choose to do it all manually or using the machine tools. We’re going to assume you’re using the machinery, as that’s by far the most common approach. Follow this process:

  • Realize that you’ll be sanding the floor three times with successively lighter-grit abrasive each time.
  • Put on all your protective gear.
  • Start by applying 60-grit sandpaper to the sander. Sand the floor in rows and overlap each run by approximately one-half the width of your sander. Do not stop the sander while it’s in contact with the floor (this applies to all three runs).
  • When the 60-run is complete, switch to 80-grain. Repeat process.
  • With the 80-grain run done, go to 100- or 120-grit sandpaper.
  • In all areas that were too small for the sander to reach, use your detail sander or palm sander.
  • Any floor holes should be filled with wood filler or wood putty.
  • Carefully vacuum and clean all the dust that your work will have created. This is careful work that needs to be done in fine detail. Use mineral-spirit dampened tack cloths or rags to get up all the residue.

Now you’re ready to stain a hardwood floor.

Apply Stain to Your Hardwood Floor

At long last, you’ve reached the point where you can actually stain the hardwood floor. Choose the hardwood floor stain that’s right for you, and then:

  • The first thing you want to do is to decide how you’re going to approach the work on your hardwood floor. You don’t want to stain yourself into a corner and have to walk back over your handiwork. A good common approach is to begin at a far corner and work your way back to the door you’ll exit out of.
  • Apply an even distribution of stain to the floor in two-foot sections at a time, using lambswool applicator or a suitable substitute. Near the baseboards, you may want to use a paintbrush to avoid staining the baseboards.
  • Let the stain dry. Assess the color. If you want it darker, do another coat just as you did the first.

And that is how to stain hardwood, but you’re not quite done yet. You’ll now need to add protection.

Protect the Floor

After you stain a hardwood floor, you need to protect all your hard work from damage. To do that, you’ll have to apply a polyurethane sealer to your hardwood floor.

  • Apply an even, thin coat over the entire surface of the floor using a high-density foam roller.
  • Use a brush for the tight areas, if you wish.
  • Wipe up excess sealer and let the hardwood floor dry.
  • Some brands of sealer require sanding between coats. Check your chosen brand to see if this is the case. If your brand does require sanding, then do so now with 320-grit abrasive.
  • Vacuum and clean up all dust and residue.
  • Apply the second and final coat of sealer.
  • Wait at least 24 hours before walking over the newly stained hardwood floor. Wait 72 before returning your furniture to the room. The long wait will be worth it as it guarantees a nice finish.

And, with that, your hardwood floor is done. Now you can show your friends how to stain hardwood.


Now that you’ve learned how to stain hardwood floors, you’ve got a beautiful new addition to your home to enjoy for years to come. If the high cost and length of work sounds a bit overwhelming, then you may want to look into getting professionals to do it for you. Follow this link to find flooring experts that can take the stress out of the project for you.