help with floor stain color (semi-x-post)

weedyacresAugust 20, 2013

I posted in flooring asking for stain color help (I'd like a medium, non-orange-y brown) and hollysprings warned me against staining old heart pine at all, as it doesn't take stain well. The original floors were stained reddish:

I don't want them to turn out splotchy like this:

Eclectic Kitchen by Dallas General Contractors Key Residential

But I'm afraid just sealing it natural will be too orange-y like this:

Eclectic Kitchen by Salem Photographers Tess Fine

Something like this would be fine:

Eclectic Living Room by Amsterdam Media and Bloggers Kaylovesvintage

What has been your experience with staining old pine floors? Likely color outcomes of staining vs. sealing?

I will have some walnut inlaid portions, and walnut needs no stain to look good.

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Oil based polyurethane is notorious for turning floors that dingy pumpkin color - avoid that.

Try 1/2 zinsser sealcoat (which is their unwaxed clear shellac) after sanding smooth. See what youve got first before getting all concerned about a problem that might not exist. IT will give you a preview of what a final clear finish will look like. And, the 1/2 coat (diluted with denatured alcohol per instructions) is whats recommended for sealing pine to prevent stain from blotching. So you want to do that anyway. However, you may just like what you see and decide to skip the stain. In that case continue with more clear shellac and/or waterbased poly floor finish (does not yellow like the oil based). Shellac is universal sealant meaning almost anything can go over it.

The problem with stain on floors is that too much can go wrong with it - and then what?

Also - as with any wood tone a lot depends on what colors are relating to it - wall color, fabrics, etc. Yes it will have a reddish-goldish tone but should be quite beautiful without the dingy old poly over it. A lot of fashionable colors - greens, grays, blue-greens, creams - will relate well to reddish wood.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 12:25AM
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Aren't those orange colors in the pictures, especially the first one, produced by amber or orange shellac and wasn't that the most common way of finishing old floors - shellac and wax? That is, it's authentic, especially to the early 20th century.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 1:38AM
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My plan is to use Bona Traffic water-based poly. They've got a sealer that goes under the poly if you're not staining.

I think I'll do a bit of testing on a piece this evening with some non-Bona stain and sealer, and see how it turns out.

dirt cred: My dislike of the orange outweighs my desire for pure authenticity on this one.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 1:13PM
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Yeah testing is good - I happen to be going thru much the same process at the moment - think I'll use a closet for my test area.

What wall color are you going to have in there? You should test stains in relation to the new wall colors. One more thought about color relationships - fir shellacked in amber, garnet, mahogany, etc. was used a lot for woodwork and floors during early 1900s, a time of very deep, rich, saturated wall colors. I think the reason why fir/vintage pine gets a bad rap is that in more recent times people try to pair it with whites and wimpy light colors that cant hold its own against the strong red/gold tones of the wood. I just put up a test patch of a deep mossy green on the wall next to my fir trim and yowza--there is this synergistic effect between the deep green and te wood that I can't explain. Simply stunning.

My philosophy has always been try to redefine the problem as a non-problem, where ever possible - and in this case its easiest to let the wood be what it is!

But color is intensely personal thing - so do what you gotta do (if it was something like oak, maple, chestnut, etc. I'd probably put up more of a fight against staining it .)

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 3:33PM
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Well, I bought some random sanding sealer, "light walnut" color stain, and polyurethane. Here's a photo of sealer on the left, stain on the right and bare, sanded wood in the middle.

And here's the whole thing with a coat of poly over top of it.

I think I'm leaning toward just doing the sealer & poly, with no stain, and letting the character show through. There are lots of speckles in the wood, and pin-stripe grain that is visible looking at the board long-ways but not short ways as in the above photos. Interesting phenomenon....

This post was edited by weedyacres on Thu, Aug 22, 13 at 14:13

    Bookmark   August 21, 2013 at 11:12PM
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Of your finished samples, I like the sealer & poly section. Have you thought about a clear stain (is that any different than a sealer???)?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2013 at 7:39AM
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