Dark Stain on new unfinished White Oak

ArcticSlalomNovember 24, 2011

My wife and I are planning several remodel projects for a home we just bought.

we are planning to install about 2000 SF of unfinished white oak hardwood flooring (yep, a-LOT)! ...my wife is crazy like that! I'm thinking Lumber Liquidators, select white oak. Evidently, the white oak takes stain "real nice"!

my GC feels comfortable installing the floor, but doesn't have experience sanding, staining and putting down poly on traditional hardwood floors.

I've priced it out and it's about $4 sf to have this done.

I'm thinking I can do it myself:

Sand with 60, 100 and then 120 grit.

Stain with Minnwax Jacobean/Ebony 50/50 mix (pretty darn dark)

(3) coats of oil based poly.

Does anyone out there have experience with this? How hard is it, really??? Any special advice? How many micro-brews (6) packs should I plan for this project?

I'm planning to do (5) bedrooms, a hallway, a new kitchen and (2) family rooms.

FWIW, we are buying the house in two weeks and we will not be moving in untill June 2012.

any thoughts would be great!



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My husband and I installed our hardwood flooring and finished it all DIY, found it to be somewhat time consuming but not too difficult.

I would suggest using professional flooring products vs the ones at the big box stores, we found the professional products more forgiving to work with as first time hardwood flooring DIYers, and I think they offer better durability. Our Bona products were twice as expensive as the regular polys at the big box stores, but to me they were so worth the extra expense.

For sanding/buffing we rented a U-sand machine because they are specifically made for the DIYer. We didn't need to rent an edger with it and it was really simple to use, without too much dust.

U-sand website

For staining and poly we used the professional Bona floor products. The stain (Bona Drifast) are specifically made for hardwood floors and we found it to be very forgiving with any overlap and the color was richer than the regular Minwax stains at Lowes or Home Depot. We mixed a couple different stain colors for a custom color.

The poly we used was the Bona water based poly made to go on hardwood floors, and with their Bona Drifast oil stains. The waterbase poly is actually more durable than most of the oil base ones, Bona poly had virtually no odor during application and within 24 hours there was no fumes at all in the house. The Bona poly does have self leveler in it to help give you a more even level coat. We bought the T-bar application tool which made application pretty easy and quick. The Bona polys do have a two part system, with a catalyst (hardener) you have to add in, which means you only have 4 hours to apply it, but we were able to apply 700 sqft in about an hour and half. We also purchased a separate mixer, so we could mix smaller batches of it if we needed to without having to mix a whole gallon, this way we could use a gallon and a half for each application, buffing in between the two coats with the U-sand. The catalyst does make it more durable, and less coats needed, we only had to apply two coats after we stained.

We choose a more matter finish with just a little shine to help hide scratches and be more forgiving, we used Bona Traffic HD Extreme Matte Finish (it's a very durable commercial finish), but you can get satin or gloss finish if you wanted. The matte has a very natural wood look to it without a lot of shine and doesn't seem to have a "plastic" look. With two dogs who love to race around, the floors are wearing like iron.

Bona website

Depending on the supplier, it can be difficult to get professional grade products as some suppliers won't sell to any one but the professional installers/contractors. We got our products locally from a great company called Floor mechanics, who have an online store that ships nationally, they offer free shipping on orders over 75.00 and will sell to homeowners/DIYers.

Floor mechanics website

You can contact them with any questions you have about their products, they spent so much time helping us and advising us, I can't recommend them enough. They also have some helpful how to videos on their website.

Good luck with your floors!

    Bookmark   November 24, 2011 at 9:58PM
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@roobear, thanks for the insight! I'll look into this.

I've found a few other links on this website about unfinished white oak, but most of the people were trying to decide on a color (with a professional floor finisher) rather than trying to perform the work themselves.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2011 at 6:10PM
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Hi Craig--My HD and I installed and finished our own white oak floors. Just like roobear said, you can do it, but it is time-consuming (yes--lots of 6 packs AND pizzas). You will love the white oak and it will be well worth the time spent. If you install yourself rather than having the GC do it, make sure you give the wood about a month to sit in the house to condition before you install. We used a manual porta-nailer to nail to our subfloor (we liked this nailer best of the three we tried--with as much square footage as you are doing, you may want to get pneumatic).

After you install the boards, you can expect "over-unders" where the board height is just slightly off, resulting in an uneven floor that feels bumpy. You will need to start with a sander that is aggressive enough to flatten the floor, like a drum sander and edger(we didn't have U-sand machines available). You have to be so careful with this type of sander as it will leave chatter marks (learning curve with this one--my HD practiced outside on plywood). We used 60 and 80 grit with the drum. As much as we tried to avoid chatter marks, we still got them (but only faint). After the floor was leveled, we sanded out the chatter marks and smoothed the floor with a large rectangular random orbital sander w/ 80, 100 and 120 screen (hand sander for edges). This sander is easier to handle for DIY's and won't gouge your wood. If you do not remove sanding marks, they will show up more pronounced after you stain/finish.

We did not stain our floors, just put poly over since we like the ambered look. The number of coats of poly you use will depend on what you go with. Just from my experience, if the floor looks how you want it to after two coats, don't put a third coat on.

Good luck with your floors! I hope this helps a little!

    Bookmark   December 2, 2011 at 1:47PM
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My husband and I installed and finished approximately 1900 square feet of unfinished white oak in our new build. We used Waterlox for the finish instead of a poly product.

With the method we used, we mixed the stain in with the Waterlox for the first coat and basically "mopped" it on. No wipe off needed. For the next two coats of Waterlox, we just used the plain Waterlox, with no stain added. With this method, it is not necessary to sand between coats. We had it sanded to finish grit prior to starting the Waterlox process.

We did do multiple sample boards of the Waterlox and stain prior to starting the entire area. Added the Waterlox to the stain and not do the wipe off changed the color considerably. It definitely added an amber undertone to the stain.

Here is a picture of the finished product:

    Bookmark   December 3, 2011 at 5:09PM
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Westie, that is so pretty!! Would you mind revealling your wood source? I am having trouble finding wider planks.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 6:14AM
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We purchased the unfinished 5' character grade white oak from L & L Hardwoods in Chicago, IL. They normally don't sell directly to customers and want you to go through a dealer instead. We know the owner of the sawmill that supplies much of their lumber he refered us to them and they were willing to work with us as a result.

I also received a quote from Pennington Hardwoods and they were very nice to deal with, their quote was just slightly higher than our other source. Pennington's website is: www.Penningtonhardwoods.com They had wider widths, random widths and prefinished available. They were good about sending out samples of various finish options I was interested in.

I will warn you that we went with character grade to keep the costs down on the wider planks. However, we have numerous knot holes as a result. They don't bother me, but just about everyone who has come into the house has commented on them. As I am slowly putting more area rugs down, they are less noticible, but my five year old daughter did complain several times when she stubbed her toe in a knot divit while walking across the floor! They could have been filled, but the amount of epoxy that we would have needed to fill them in 2000 square feet was overwhelming.

Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Pennington Hardwoods

    Bookmark   December 5, 2011 at 10:21AM
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Minwax is mostly a pigment stain. Try some aniline die stains, or the mentioned iron reaction.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2011 at 7:43AM
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