Some Tips for Staining and Dyeing Maple Floors

Tips for Staining or Dyeing a Maple Floor

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.

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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 stainingTips for Staining and Dyeing Maple Floors 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.

Tips for staining a maple floorBefore 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.

Ready to get started? Shop our full line of hardwood floor staining products!

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9 thoughts on “Some Tips for Staining and Dyeing Maple Floors

  1. Mike Glavin

    Ah staining maple. It is a challenge for even the most seasoned veteran floor contractor and many floor contractors do not recommend doing it . Staining Maple can be done and it can be done very well. One thing is for sure – good communication with your customer is a must. Everyone should be on the same page about the expectations and what to expect.

    The extra steps to stain maple take more time- considerable more time. When staining maple do not try and force dry times. Leave plenty of time between steps. Leave exaggerated time between steps.

    When we recommend using a traditional stain over the dye it is help lock in the color. Also this starts building the barrier coat over the dye that is needed. A traditional stain is something like Dura Seal’s quick dry stains or penetrating oil stain.

    Another good point made by the manufacture is to use Zinsser’s Seal Coat Shellac as a barrier coat over the dye.

    All should know that staining maple is not for the faint of heart, but I have seen one of the most beautiful hardwood floor projects I ever had the chance to stand on had a large stained maple component in it.

    1. christian coleman

      Hi there I would like to dye my maple floor light teak but I am a bit worried in might turn out patchy.

      1. Mike Glavin

        Hi Christian
        Answering your question —
        ” I would like to dye my maple floor light teak but I am a bit worried in might turn out patchy ”
        I want to be positive and not be raise your expectations . Staining maple a light teak color can be done and done well but you need to practice your finish and staining system and sand with great precision.
        Staining maple shows all sanding flaws quickly. Use a high powered light to investigate your sanding to make certain you do not have sanding marks .

        We strongly recommend popping the grain with water before you start staining.

        Our best success with staining maple on the job site has come with using a dye powder stain that mixes in water first and then using a similar color of an oil stain on top of the dye .
        Using a powder dye that mixes with water can be tricky but can be done. Plan on your mix going about 400 – 500 sq ft per gallon. Keep very exact notes of the amount of powder you used to develop your desired color on your sample . Work from one end of the room to the next going with the grain cut as exactly as you can on a board edge. The goal is not to overlap much to avoid lad marks. After applying the dye stain top coat it with a wiping stain that is a similar color.

        Then use a finish of your choice. If your finish is going to be a water base urethane , I strongly suggest an oil base sealer first then your water base top coats.

        Maple is known to stain blotchy or patchy. Please educate your customer showing samples of the system you will use on the floor. And although this is know- the system remarked above develops a very acceptable uniform color when staining maple on the job site. I can not be more direct in saying the success is all in your sanding and preparation .
        Great luck to you

  2. steve

    I am a licensed C15 hardwood Floor Guy who usually uses bona drifast stains. I have a client that wants me to stain their maple floors medium brown. I always water pop!!!! I am interested in using the water based Dye the coating over it with the Medium brown stain and then finishing off with Bona Wood Line. Would this work with the appropriate 4148 hour dry times? and where can i get the Dye?

    Thanks for the heads up


    1. Caran Baxter

      Water soluble aniline dye will work for maple. Dying the floor first then using a medium brown bona stain is a recommended application. Finishing up with Woodline from Bona

      is also fine. You’ll want to stay all solvent based after the water soluble aniline dye. We have two types of aniline dye here at CFS. Trans Tint and Lockwood. Trans Tint is a liquid concentrate and Lockwood is a powder mixed with water. You can see color charts of these online:

      It is recommended that all dye dry at least 24hrs before staining with oil base stains.

  3. Wally

    I am new home owner you hired a floor contractor to refinish my maple floor. I’m very unhappy with the
    Result because of the blotchy and eleven result. What can I do? How do I find someone who can do a good job.
    I live in Utah. Would appreciate your thoughts and recommendations.



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