The Wonders and Woes of Water-based Stain

The Wonders and Woes of Water-based Stain

Water-based stains offer better indoor-air quality and a different aesthetic, but applying them requires an experienced professional

There is a critical question you should put to your hardwood flooring contractor if you are planning to finish your floor with a water-based stain: Does he know how to apply it?

The question is easily overlooked. Most of us would assume this knowledge is a given.

But applying water-based stain requires a different technique than what is used with traditional oil-based products. And so can applying a water-based polyurethane over the water-based stain.

If you try to use these stains like traditional products, you most likely will not be happy with the final appearance of your floor. And you will face the costs of refinishing in order to fix it.

Improper technique leaves swirl marks

Traditional oil-based stains are rubbed or buffed onto the floor. Try to do this with a water-based stain and you will have swirl marks like the ones pictured. Water-based stains have to be applied with a special brushing technique, and practice is the only way to get it right.

Right: Oak with oil-based stain; Center: water-based stain; Left: water-based dye

Done correctly, water-based stains, in addition to being less toxic, provide an aesthetic many people find more pleasing. One example, pictured, is how water-based stains appear on Oak. Oak often is available at a cost-effective price, but many people do not like the dated look of the grain once it is accentuated with an oil-based stain. A water-based stain mutes the grain and offers a more contemporary appearance.

But once a stain is applied, a polyurethane is typically applied over it. Low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) water-based polyurethanes also are part of the Natural Interiors® Floor Finishing Program.

Improper polyurethane application

Polyurethane is traditionally poured and spread over the floor’s surface. But if you try

Correct application of water-based polyurethane over water-based stain

this over a water-based stain, you could undo all the hard work you did in applying the water-based stain correctly. Yes, depending on the brand of stain you use, your first coat of polyurethane might also have to be brushed onto the floor.

How do you know if your contractor is qualified to do your job?

He should be able to show you samples of his company’s water-based work. And of course, references upon request.


1 Comment
  • ASH Green
    Posted at 00:47h, 09 November Reply

    Insanely comprehensive 🙂

    Thank you so much,
    Now I have something to read during the holidays. This will take a while but well worth it like always
    You can read another one here besttoolsbrand

Post A Comment