How To Stain Hardwood Floors (5-Step Guide)

Last Updated On September 17, 2021

Are you wondering how to stain hardwood floors? Here's a quick 5-step do it yourself guide that covers it all.

In this ProPaintCorner.com guide, we cover:

  • How to stain hardwood floors
  • Materials needed for staining hardwood floors
  • Other do's and don'ts when learning how to stain hardwood floors

And much more!

How To Stain Hardwood Floors

Scroll down for a quick overview that will help equip you with everything you need throughout the whole hardwood floor refinishing DIY project.

We hope you enjoy our little crash course on how to stain hardwood floors.

What Do You Need To Know About How To Stain Hardwood Floors? 

Staining hardwood floors is easy, and you can successfully stain a hardwood floor by using the simple steps below.

But before you dive into this DIY project, just know that refinishing hardwood floors is a little more advanced than staining a deck or a fence.

You'll need to be sure that:

  • You have adequate time to both stain and let the stain dry without interference
  • You have all the tools you'll need to get the job done
  • You're ready to put in some elbow grease to get the current finish off and get down to bare wood

Nobody is happy over a botched paint job, especially when it’s something like wood floors that typically have large surface areas and require a lot of paint. So be sure you're prepared to take on this project and give your wood flooring the time and attention it needs.

Staining wood can actually increase its lifespan. This is because the stain prevents splintering, rot, and rain from destroying the wood's surface.

What Supplies Will You Need For Staining A Hardwood Floor ?

Here’s a pro list of all supplies needed for staining hardwood floors:

Your Stain Color/Varnish of Choice

Do a quick internet search to find out which stain product is right for the specific type of wood.

We recommend buying stains and paints off of Amazon because they typically have the cheapest prices. You could go with a natural color or something more bold.

Paint Masker

You'll want a paint masker that connects the plastic sheeting directly to the tape when it rolls out. It makes paint prep so much easier.

Orbital Sander/Drum Sander

An electric sander will make it much easier to prep the surface of the wood before staining.

Tack Cloth

Use some tack cloth to clean the dust off of the surface if you wish.

Vacuum

Vacuuming is a good way to clean the surface of hardwood floors before staining.

Putty 

You may want to cover up large holes in the wood floor by using putty. You should be able to find a putty that is the same color as the wood you are staining.

Pry Bar 

A pry bar will help you remove baseboards (if necessary).

Dust Mask 

Use a dust mask or respirator to protect your lungs from harmful dust and paint fumes.

Mineral Spirits

You'll want some mineral spirits to help clean paint brushes, paint sprayers, and unwanted stain spots when using oil-based stains.

Razor Blade

You'll want a painter's blade to cut the tape when masking.

Read More >> What Are The Best Semi-Transparent Stains?

How To Stain Hardwood Floors (5-Step Guide)

Now that you have all of the necessary supplies, let's dive into the step-by-step process for refinishing your hardwood floors and restoring them to their former glory!

(Psst! You can click any of the links below to jump straight to that step.)

  1. Clean the surface
  2. Sand and mask
  3. Apply the first coat and inspect the results
  4. Lightly sand if necessary
  5. Apply a second coat if necessary

Step 1 – Clean the Surface

Cleaning the surface is the first step to a successful stain job. Staining a dirty surface is a bad idea because it will lock dust and grime into the surface.

You'll want to use a hose-sucking vacuum like a shop vac with the skinny attachment to suck all the dust from in between the cracks of the wood. Depending on the project, it might even be a good idea to use an air compressor attachment to blow air into the cracks of the wood to free the dust.

After the wood floor is free from dust and dirt, we recommend using a citrus-based cleaner and a microfiber towel/mop to leave the surface completely clean and ready to accept the stain.

Tack cloth is another good tool for completely removing dust particles before staining/painting.

Step 2 – Sand and Mask

Sanding the surface of the wood depends on whether or not the wood floor is real wood or not.

For example, there is no need to sand laminate wood floors because sometimes the surface isn't even made of wood. You'll need to determine what type of wood(or not wood) the floor is to successfully refinish it. 

Laminate floors probably won't take some types of stains, so do a quick internet search to figure out which products are compatible with the specific wood floor. 

If you aren't sure what kind of wood floor you're working with, you could take a picture and send it/show it to a professional at your local home improvement store. 

You'll also want to mask surfaces like the baseboards, door trim, and any other surface that isn't being stained for an accurate finish. Here at Propaintcorner.com, we like to use a 3M paint masker to easily protect surfaces from being exposed to the stain.

There are a few different ways you could sand your wood floor, including the following:

Sanding with a drum sander

Sanding with a drum sander is the fastest way to resurface large areas. You may want to consider buying/renting a drum sander from either Amazon or your local home improvement store if you're sanding a surface area that would be excruciating to complete manually with a sanding pole.

Manual sanding

Sure, you could sand smaller areas of the floor manually by using 120-grit sandpaper on a sanding pole attachment. Go to your local paint store, or shop on Amazon for all things paint prep.

You could even use sanding sponges to rough up the surface beforehand, but it will require you to be on your hands and knees and a bit of extra elbow grease.

Step 3 – Apply the First Coat and Inspect The Results 

Now it’s time to apply the first coat of stain using the most convenient method available to you.

There are plenty of different ways to apply paint. Here are the most common:

Wiping stain on with a rag or lambswool applicator

For example, you could try something as simple as using a rag to wipe the stain onto the floor if you don't have access to a paint roller or paint sprayer.

A lambswool applicator is another great tool for applying stains. Search lambswool applicators on Amazon for the lowest price when making the purchase.

Rolling the paint with a roller

Using a roller is a great way to stain floors because it keeps the painter on their feet and gives them some distance between the stain and their bodies.

Screw on an extension pole to the end of the paint roller for the best results. Try a 3/4-inch thick roller for the best results.

Spraying stain with a paint sprayer

We highly recommend trying a quality HVLP paint sprayer on your next staining project because they don't cost a lot of money, and they make applying stains and other paints virtually effortless.

Be sure to clean your paint sprayer according to its instruction manual to ensure many more successful paint/stain jobs in the future.

Read More >> What Are The Best Indoor Paint Sprayers?

Applying stain with a paintbrush

You can always apply wood finish the old-fashioned way by using a brush. Natural-bristle brushes work great for oil-based stains, and synthetic-bristled brushes work great with anything water-based.

Regardless of what you use to stain the floors, the idea is to paint with the wood grain for the smoothest application.

Step 4 – Lightly Sand Between Coats if Necessary

 You may or may not want to lightly sand the wood floors before applying a second coat. 

Something like 220-grit sandpaper is an acceptable grade for roughing up the surface before the next coat of stain.

Just make sure you clean the newly sanded dust off of the surface before applying the second coat of stain.

Step 5 – Apply a Second Coat if Necessary

Is a second coat necessary? Not always. If the first coat looks good after the recommended drying time, it's okay to be content.

Unfortunately, though, some hardwood flooring won't take the first coat of stain evenly on the first coat, and that's when you'll need to apply a second coat to the entire floor to make sure the stain doesn't come out spotty.

Applying a second coat of stain will surely help give the wood floor a fuller look, and don't worry--the second coat will likely use a fraction of the amount of stain used on the first coat. 

So, go ahead and apply a second coat to the previously stained floor finish once the first coat has dried sufficiently.

Inspect the results

How does it look? Are there are dry spots? You can always wipe stain into the grooves of dry spots with a rag to avoid needing a complete third coat on the rest of the floor.

Clean up

Homeowners always appreciate a good clean up job. 

And if you stained it yourself, you can use a razor blade your fingernails to peel the masking tape for a clean finish.

Read More >> How Do You Remove Stain From Wood (Where It Shouldn't Be)?

Other Valuable Resources on How To Stain A Wood Floor 

Try a polyurethane topcoat finish or clear lacquer for rock hard protection after using the finish.

If you aren't a fan of polyurethane finish over the top of stained wood, you could always use carnauba wax to give the floors a more temporary type of protection. You can apply wax to a wood floor with an electric buffer like you would wax a car. Try it!

How much stain should I buy?

Measure how many square feet your wood floor is, and buy the corresponding amount of stain based on the specific product. You'll need to read on the stain label how many square feet each container will cover.

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

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Got Paint Questions? Search For In-Depth Answers Below!

Ryan Nichols

Ryan Nichols

I first painted professionally in my late teens. I have painted everything from long military base walls to spraying cedar wood siding on cabins in the mountains of Utah. I am also an automotive technician with plenty of auto body and paint experience. In my spare time, I even enjoy artistic oil painting.

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