Staining Floorboards

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Staining floorboards with a transparent varnish or wood dye is a popular option nowadays with many of us preferring to enhance the natural beauty of the wood rather than covering it with carpet, lino or paint.

Another reason for using a varnish or wood dye is that it will also help to protect the flooring as well because, in the case of the varnish, it doesn't soak into the wood but actually 'sits' on top of it.

Whether you are fixing up a room in the house or decorating a new home improvement project the natural look of wood is an ideal way to give any room the wow factor.

The Preparation

It isn't difficult to prepare the floorboards for staining but it is tedious, laborious but, unfortunately, necessary.

The wood needs to be clean and free from grease. This is important as the wood dye or varnish will not 'grip' if it encounters dirt or grease which will result in the stain looking patchy.

To achieve the right surface for staining the floorboards must be sanded. This is the boring part!

It is hugely important to remember to sand with the grain of the wood. If you sand across the grain the wood will scratch and look awful. The wood needs to be sanded several times beginning with a coarse paper and finishing with a fine grade.

Once the sanding is done you are good to go.

Applying The Finish

Staining floorboards is quite straight forward once the preparation has been done but the technique varies depending on whether you are using a varnish or a wood dye.


Before using the varnish straight from the tin it is a good idea to firstly seal the wood by applying a thinned mixture of varnish and solvent (10 to 1 ratio). Doing this will enhance the final result and help the neat varnish adhere to the floorboards.

Once the sealing coat has been applied the varnish can be applied using a four inch paintbrush. Use thin coats applied evenly across the floorboards and it will probably take two or three coats to finish the job.

Wood Dye

Using wood dye is different to varnish as the dye will be absorbed by the wood and, because it is not as thick as varnish (or paint) it will dry quickly and is very fluid. You do have to be a bit of a speedster when using wood dye!

There is no need to seal the floorboards after they have been sanded simply apply the wood dye straight from the tin using a four inch paintbrush or a paint pad. Apply the dye thickly but evenly and you shouldn't need more than two coats to finish the job.


When staining floorboards the golden rule is to also work in the direction of the grain whether you are sanding or applying varnish and wood dye. Going against the grain is never a good idea!

Before using either a varnish or a wood dye it is always sensible to work with a test piece of wood to make sure the finished result will be exactly what you are looking for.

For more info see the related pages below

How To Lay Floor Tiles

Fixing Wall Tiles

Is It Still Worthwhile To Convert Your Loft?

Multi-Story Conversions

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