Hardwood Floor Staining
As with most projects around the house, there are many benefits of learning how to stain a hardwood floor, including the sense of accomplishment and pride that result from a job well done, as well as the financial saving, which can be substantial.
Planning and Equipment
Oil-based stains are preferable to water-based, as water-based stains dry very quickly, making them difficult to work with over large areas. Whenever possible, purchase low-VOC compounds - they give off less noxious fumes. If you purchase more than a single container of stain, mix them together to ensure uniformity of color. Other special equipment you'll need are disposable latex gloves, staining pads (or rags or sponges), additional rags for wiping up the excess stain, non-marking knee pads (or old pillows) to cushion your knees while kneeling, a respirator, hammer, screwdriver and pliers.
The floor must be free of all traces of previous finish and stain removed. Inspect it minutely for any imperfections and deal with them: remove any carpet tacks or staples and drive home any protruding nail heads. Fill holes with wood putty and sand them flush, and secure loose planks.
Once the surface has been prepared, dust mop thoroughly, then lightly damp mop it until all dust is gone - dust particles will ruin the finish. Do not let the mop get so wet that water soaks into the floor, though, as this will raise the grain, which will then need to be sanded down.
Staining the Floor
Ensure excellent ventilation, even if a low-VOC product is used, and use the respirator. Wearing latex gloves and your stain applicator, quickly but neatly wipe a generous amount of stain onto a section of flooring. Work a section of wood two to three feet wide from wall to wall, wiping with the grain of the wood. When you reach the wall, stop and let the stain sit on the floorboards for about five minutes before vigorously wiping off the excess. Continue to the next section of floor, making sure to overlap with the previously completed section. Keep in mind that wood stain is a suspension of particles in oil, and must be periodically stirred so the particles do not settle.
When done, allow the floor to dry completely - at least overnight, possibly longer. Most professionals recommend a final light sanding using a buffer with extremely fine grit paper or steel wool, or both, followed by multiple coats of polyurethane or other sealant. Do not use water-based polyurethane if steel wool was