More Causes and Cures: Stain on the Brain

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Oct 24, 2019

Photo credit: Joshua Crossman, PTL Hardwoods, Yelm, WA

After all these years, handcrafted hardwood floors are still the flooring of choice for many and add value to any home. There are, however, several job site issues that can challenge any hardwood flooring professional. Let’s take a look at three stain-related job site challenges worth keeping in mind.

Bleed Back
Cause: Bleed back is an issue that can occur when staining wood floors. Stain that has penetrated into the open grain of the wood, fine cracks, and even into the tongue and groove between the boards can wick back up to the surface, forming wet dots or a wet line along the edge of the boards. Sometimes this doesn’t happen until after the sealer or first finish coat is applied. In essence, you might think the stain is dry, but if there are pockets of wet finish beneath the surface, it will most likely work its way to the surface at some point.

Prevention: Inhibiting pockets of wet stain from forming below the surface is crucial, and applying the stain thinly and evenly is an excellent way to start. Some contractors prefer to buff in the stain to achieve an even and thin stain job. Not all stains can be buffed on though, so check the label instructions or contact the manufacturer to find out if a particular stain can be buffed.

Cloudy or Hazy Finish
Cause: A cloudy or milky finish can occur when a finish is applied over a stain that is not completely dry yet. The solvent from the stain can get trapped and will cause the finish to look cloudy or hazy as it’s trying to get out.

Prevention: Allowing the stain more time to dry is the best option. Never rush dry times! Increasing airflow and ensuring that the job site has proper temperature and humidity helps as well. 

Blotchy Stain
Cause: Similar to cloudy or hazy finish, blotchy stain can occur when a finish is applied before the stain is completely dry. Blotches can also occur as a result of using wood species that do not evenly accept stain or from inconsistent sanding, water popping, or stain application.

Prevention: Water popping the floor prior to applying the stain will help the wood absorb the stain and help you attain a more even tone. When water popping, be sure the moisture is gone before staining. Air movement and ventilation is important in getting stain to dry before top coating with a sealer or finish.