Difference Between Refinishing, Painting & Staining Floors

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Difference Between Refinishing, Painting & Staining Floors

Olympia Floors

When you’ve looked up hardwood flooring online, you likely bumped into three terms: “refinishing”, “painting,” and “staining.” “Painting” is the easy one of the three that one can tell exactly what it entails; but what about the other two? “Staining” is the process of changing the wood to a darker color, usually by hand-applying a liquid wood stain product. “Finishing” is the process of applying a varnish, which, along with a coating of sealant, helps to protect the wood while giving it a glossier look. “Refinishing” involves redoing the current finish on your flooring, which revitalizes and restores its appearance. These procedures can be messy, smelly, and difficult (especially if you’ve never experienced doing it before), which makes it a good idea to let the professionals at Olympia Floors handle the job to beautify your hardwood flooring.


Hardwood stains are available in two formats in dozens of colors: Oil or Water-based. 

Oil-Based Stains Oil-based stains eliminate the need for additional sanding because they do not raise the grain; they also give you a longer working time, enabling you to stain floors, cabinets, paneling and doors without the worry of dried lap marks. 

Water-Based Stains Water-based stains come in a wider range of vibrant stain colors than oil-based stains. They require only soap and water for clean-up. You can stain and finish in one day because they dry faster. Smell much less than oil-based stains.

Application Tips

For adequate absorption into the wood, all stains require open pores.

Applying stain over a finished surface will not change the color of the wood. Your cloth will simply wipe off the stain blocked from the pores by the existing finish.

Lightly sand bare wood 

Always sand in the direction of the grain to avoid leaving unsightly scratches. To open the pores in preparation for staining, begin with a medium-grit sandpaper (#120). Work your way to a final sanding with a fine-grit sandpaper (#220). 

A foam brush, a cloth or a bristle brush can be used to apply stain.

On open-pored large woods, such as mahogany, ash, and oak, work the stain into the pores by increasing your pressure. Deep pores are filled with stain when you brush or rub against the direction of the grain. The wood absorbs an ample amount of stain when you apply a liberal amount of it to the wood.

Before you wipe off any unabsorbed liquid, you must pay attention to how long you had left the stain on the wood.

The longer you leave the stain on, the richer and deeper its color will be. Use careful timing for consistent color. The clear finish will be prevented from adhering and other issues will be caused as well if you allow any stain to dry on the wood surface.

Wipe in the direction of the wood grain with a dry cloth to remove the last of any unabsorbed stain.

Under a coat of clear finish, any swirl marks left by a stain-saturated cloth will become even more obvious.

It is best to use the gel form of stain when staining vertical surfaces, such as unfinished paneling or doors. 

This is because its thicker consistency enables it to cling to vertical surfaces without immediately running, giving you more time to apply an even coat of stain.

Always keep in mind that a stain does not provide protection, only color.

Once the stain has dried, apply a clear finish to protect both the stain and the wood—and to make the final results look even more beautiful.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Wood Staining


Don’t leave knobs, handles, hinges or pulls on a piece.

Be sure to remove all knobs, handles, hinges or pulls before you start finishing or staining, because wood finishing products tend to change the color of any metal hardware.

Don’t attempt to obtain a darker color by allowing any unabsorbed stain to dry on top of the wood.

Stains are formulated to dry in the wood, not on the wood, so this will just peel off later.

Don’t apply a clear protective finish before the stain has dried completely.

The solvent in the finish will activate the damp stain, allowing your brush or cloth to pull the stain out of the pores of the wood


Always prepare the wood with a light sanding.

Apply a pre-stain wood conditioner to ensure an even stain color. 

Stir the can of stain thoroughly.

To evenly redistribute any color pigments that may have settled to the bottom, stir the can of stain thoroughly.

Test any stain you consider using.

Test on an inconspicuous spot any stain you consider using to ensure that the color of the stain—together with the natural color of the wood—produces the color you are looking for.

Apply a second coat.

If you want a richer, darker tone, be sure to apply a second coat according to label directions.

Olympia Floors trusts all this wonderful information will be very useful to you going forward.However, if you are from the Chicago area and find yourself in need of professional assistance with your hardwood flooring, whether it’s installation, staining, finishing, or refinishing, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Olympia Floors right away. Our elite flooring specialists will have your floors ready and looking as pretty as can be in no time, at the greatest prices in Chicago. We are renowned for providing world-class flooring services in EVERYTHING that has to do with flooring, for we are a complete one-stop shop with full service. Come see our completely mesmerizing inventory. To know more of everything wonderful about us, please visit our website. Thank you so much.

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