Let’s say you have a client who wants to install maple floors. The client also doesn’t want their living room to look like a gymnasium floor. That means that you have to change color somehow.
The two options available are staining maple using a dye (water soluble or solvent soluble, or alcohol-soluble) or using a conventional resin-based wiping stain.
Step #1: Sand the floor
For both applications the best way to start is by sanding the maple floor flawlessly. You need to be extra careful with the sanding because any imperfections will be highlighted once you start staining and finishing the maple floor. You must make sure you follow proper sanding procedures and never skip a grit in your sanding sequence. Read more about choosing the right grit sequence for your project.
There’s some debate whether or not to screen maple. Whether or not you decide to screen, it’s important that you don’t close the grain of the wood. On that note, many contractors choose to stay below 100 grit sandpaper for their final sanding pass. If you decide to screen your maple floor or use grits finer than 100 you will need to pop the grain.
Step #2: Clean up
Once the sanding is done then you need to thoroughly clean the wood. Because of maple’s light color, any dust or foreign debris left on the floor will show up instantly when you apply stain or dye. It’s advisable to vacuum at least two times to make sure everything has been picked up.
Step #3: Pop the grain
Now it’s time to water pop the wood. Water popping maple will help raise the grain and make the wood is more receptive to the stain or dye. This is an important step and shouldn’t be passed over.
Since maple is so dense, you need to open up the grain as much as possible. Note that water popping the wood will cause the stain or dye to be darker than what you might realize.
Step #4: Applying your stain or dye
Once this is done then you can move onto applying the stain or dye. If you choose a traditional resin-based stain, you should apply it in a thin coat. We highly recommend a stain conditioner to control the evenness of the application. Before applying the stain to the client’s floor, you might want to try the whole process on a test panel so you can find the best application process — whether it’s a rag, t-bar, or some other applicator.
At City Floor Supply we believe that when you need to color maple, you should use a dye. Admittedly, when you use a dye, the application becomes a bit trickier, but you’ll often get better results. Click here for great deals on hardwood floor stains and dyes.
Before applying the dye, make sure you have detailed records of how you have mixed the dye. Since you want a uniform color, you must be able to replicate the color you have mixed for your samples. Many people find that applying dye is a two-person job.
One person applies the dye while the other person wipes up the excess. Take note that any areas of overlap will result in a patch of darker color. It is often suggested that using blue tape can help prevent those lap lines. Because of the accelerated dry time of the dyes, you will have to work in a fairly quick manner.
If you’re interested in DIY stains, check out our video about making a homemade gray-aged stain for white oak floors.
When using dye or stains, you also must be aware of what finish system you will be using. We recommend you use a water dye system. Remember that water will move the color, so what you put on top of the dye color is very important. We recommend you use a traditional resin stain over your dye to lock in the color and this will also create good protection from fading.
After the resin stain coat has dried seal your maple floor with one coat of dewaxed shellac sealer, OMU sealer, or acid cure sealer. However, you should not use a water sealer. You can now finish the floor with any finish you are comfortable using.
Before you completely write off dyes in favor for stains, remember that dyes will allow you to create nearly any color imaginable. Dyes also highlight the natural wood grain — there’s no “muddied” look like there is when using traditional stains. Learning to use dyes could also be beneficial to your business. If you offer the ability to dye floors and your competitor doesn’t, then you will have a leg up on them.
Keep these tips in mind when staining or dyeing maple, and you’ll be on your way to a beautiful floor
Staining maple is not an easy proposition. However, with enough delicate and meticulous care, it can be done and done well. Additionally, it is highly advisable to practice, practice, and practice some more on test panels before beginning work on a client’s floor. When you learn how to dye or stain maple, you have the opportunity to create a truly unique floor for your client.
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