Stain Stigmas

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Jan 14, 2022

Wood floor stain adds color and aesthetics to elevate the overall look of a floor. Stains are required when changing the color of the wood species.

The most important part of staining is ensuring that it looks consistent across the entire finished floor. Note that color tones may vary from board to board or within an individual board due to the natural characteristics of wood. However, if the stain appears blotchy and uneven from one area of a finished floor to another, the customer may not be happy.

Wood Grain

Various wood species can accept stains differently. Wood species like maple, black cherry, and pine have grains that do not evenly accept stains. Maple has a tight grain that does not allow pigment from stains to fully penetrate the wood. Read more about staining maple wood floors. The swirling grain in black cherry tends to not accept stain well either. Pine has uneven and dense grain. Due to the natural characteristics of these wood types, there is no solution for an even stain.

Woods like red oak, white oak, and hickory accept stains the best because they have a more open grain that allows the pigment to be soaked up through their large pores. Choose wood with an open grain for the best stain results.


Sanding a wood floor is a necessary step when preparing to stain it. Poor and inconsistent sanding throughout the area is another cause of a blotchy stain job. Sanding imperfections will leave differentiations, which will affect how the stain is absorbed into the wood. Stain pigment will seep into the more sanded parts of a wood floor, especially if there are scratches or markings. Those areas of the floor will appear to be darker compared to other areas.

To solve this problem, a resand of the entire wood floor may be necessary. Follow proper sanding guidelines to ensure the floor is evenly sanded and will accept stain uniformly.

Water Popping

Water popping is recommended for all wood species to “pop” the smooth and closed wood grain. As the wood absorbs the water, the wood cells expand and remain more open as the water evaporates. It can help stain penetrate the flooring deeper and more consistently. Inconsistently water popping on a wood surface can make stain appear unevenly because the wood grain is more open in some parts of the wood compared to other parts. When water popping, be sure to cover the entire floor. Avoid puddles and do not leave areas too dry. If the stain appears to be blotchy after the water popping method, a complete resand is needed.

Finish Application

Floor sealers or finish applied stain that is not fully dry may cause the color to bleed. Wet stains can move around and accumulate in different areas of the wood floor. The build-up will dry darker than the rest of the floor. Resanding the floor will fix this issue. Follow manufacturer recommended dry times to prevent this problem.


Miscellaneous causes of stain blotchiness may include improper preparation, debris, and containments left on the floor before staining. These will cause the stain to not apply smoothly or dry correctly. Read more about debris and how to ensure your wood floor is free of containments.

Many of the cures for the causes previously mentioned above include a complete resand of the wood floor. It is critical to make sure previous coatings are fully removed during the resand process. Follow the NWFA Wood Flooring Sand and Finish Guidelines and check out Basic University onsite classes for any upcoming trainings with NWFA about sand and finish procedures.

HyperTone Stains

Basic Coatings® HyperTone Stains™ is a water/oil hybrid wood floor stain line that delivers high-quality pigment, vibrance, and unrivaled color penetration on all wood floor species, including maple and oak, with the benefits of a water-based stain. Read more about how Basic Coatings water-based products work on every wood floor. This first-of-its-kind formula has a safe and easier application process with no PPE required and non-flammability, allowing used rags to be stored normally without the risk of combustion.

HyperTone Stains also has unmatched versatility with the ability to create an endless amount of colors on commercial, residential, and sports floors. Visit our HyperTone Stain Color Gallery to view HyperTone Stains digitally on 3 different types of wood and click on a chip to see the specific formula that will achieve the color.

For more information about HyperTone Stains or to speak with a Basic Coatings representative, please visit this link.

Source: NWFA’s “Problems, Causes, and Cures 2018”

Photos courtesy of NWFA’s Problems, Causes, and Cures (3rd Edition, 2018)