CHOOSING STAINS AND FINISHES
I really love dark stains—I have mahogany on my own floors— but you can pick what’s in fashion or follow your personal preference or how the color matches the rest of your house.
The same goes for varnishes; it depends what you’re going for. For example, if you have an old cabin, you’re not going to want a high-gloss finish. You’re going to want a matt finish or semigloss.
I always check with my local hardware store and ask someone who knows their stuff about stains and varnishes because new ones are coming out all the time. A knowledge able salesperson will also be able to advise you on the best finishes for various climates.
Not that advice is always foolproof. The first time I did my hardwood floors, I asked the guy in the store what kind of finish I should buy—choosing between semigloss and high gloss. He told me that high gloss would look like I was walking into a high school basketball court—too shiny. So I got semigloss—and it barely shined! After putting in so much work on a floor, I wanted it to shine. Its personal preference, of course, but I went back three months later and got the high gloss, and it did not look like a basketball court ably because I had old wood floors. They were shiny but it just looked like they were clean.
Again, take advice, but at the end of the day, always trust what you like. And sometimes, you just have to experiment.
When shopping for stains and varnishes, I usually use the big hardware stores because of the selection they have; sometimes the smaller stores will only have two different types of varnish. The bigger stores will have ten or twelve different kinds, with a wider price range to fit your budget.
If you’re really on a tight budget, you may want to get the cheapest varnish, instead of the best, most expensive varnish. This might apply if you’re doing a “flipper,” and getting rid of the property; you may just want the quickest fix, the one that is going to cost you the least amount of money. If this is for your own house, and you don’t want to revarnish or change the look often, then get the very best quality stains and varnishes because you’ll save money in the long run. If it’s an investment property or a rental, then you’ll probably be looking at the cheaper options.
• The easiest way to apply stain is to put it on rags and rub it on the floor. You can also mop it on.
• Varnish is generally easier to mop on. Some companies have their own mops specific to particular products.
• Its common sense, but starts in the farthest corner and work your way out of the room. You have to let it dry, typically for forty-eight hours before you put furniture back, though usually you can walk on it after twenty-four hours.
• Put felt pads on the bottom of your furniture. That way, when you want to move it or adjust it later, you won’t ruin or scratch your beautiful hardwood floors.