The process of Dye/Staining maple floors.
Since beginning the process we call dye/staining maple floors we have had many new opportunities to explore this process with additional jobs.
Most people have some difficulty grasping the full concept, but it is visually apparent to almost anyone that the results achieved by using conventional oil-based, pigmented wood floor stains is not acceptable, once they see it. There is no “trick” way to apply a floor stain that will make it work any better.
So we know we have to dye the wood first, then we can use the Stain. We have also determined through practice, that we get better results (easier) with medium tone stains, versus very dark stains. We have developed a palette of colors that work very well, and these make the maple look natural, instead of a species of wood that is unrecognizable.
This month I looked at a dark Dye/Stain floor we did a year ago, and while the owners are still very happy with their floor, my critical eye led me to small flaws I did not like. This was due to shrinkage/separation of the floor boards, where the maple filler we use to fill the entire floor in the process of finish preparation, showed up as hairline cracks that were lighter than the Dye/Stained floor. So my preference is to stay within the medium wood tones, where the contrast is minimal.
The use of water-based aniline dye is not new. Furniture manufacturers have been using aniline dyes for more than a century. I haven’t researched the history of aniline dye, but our supplier goes back to the late 1800s, which is far enough back in time for me to indicate reliability.
Applying the aniline dye on a freshly sanded maple floor is not for the faint of heart. If the dye is not applied correctly, then a complete re-sanding is the only solution (sorry!). It takes sample preparation with careful measurement records to create the correct combination of Dye and Stain to achieve the results desired.
I wouldn’t advise making the samples on the customer’s floor, since the Dye runs deep, and may be difficult to “erase”.
We also tell customers that Dye/Staining a maple floor is not easily reversible. The Dye will penetrate the edges of the boards, especially on the ends, and even after aggressive sanding, there will likely remain dark “pencil lines” if you choose to refinish the floors back to their natural color.
We then Dyed the floor with a “Fruitwood” color, to change the base color of the wood from White/Tan to more of a Cherry or Red Birch color. As you can see, the floor still looks pretty bland at this point, but you need confidence that you are headed in the right direction.
Then we apply the oil-based, pigmented floor stain:
It is clear from the pictures of the stain going on the floor that the turns of grain and swirls in the wood show up. If just the stain were used, these would look like “blotches”. The dye attacks these areas as well, but seems to enhance their appearance. Some close-ups will show what I mean:
The finished product is what we wanted to achieve when we started working with this process, and our customers are delighted to have a more contemporary looking floor instead of the generic “gym floor” they thought they were stuck with.
The overall result using a (4) coat waterborne finish system, gives the floor durability that will last.
We use ceramic-fortified, two component waterborne finish. We believe this offers similar durability to the factory finishes now available.
Yes, this entire process is more costly than standard refinishing of Maple flooring, but for the customers who are looking for the results this offers, it is better than tearing out the old flooring and replacing with a new flooring product that has the color they want.