For years now we have struggled with a poor selection of substandard wood stains. Our US counterparts, on the other hand, have a diverse mix of wood stains which are far superior to our own. This is partly due to the EU regulation and restriction on the types of chemicals which are permitted for use in the common market. The European Market is also significantly less developed with the majority of Europeans preferring to keep wood flooring in its natural colour tone.
In the UK, floor sanding contractors have a few options available. These are grouped into; water based, alcohol based, solvent based and tinted oils
Water Based Wood Stains and Dyes
Safer to work with and more appealing to the climate conscious, water based wood staines are quite difficult to work with because they tend to raise the grain of the wood leaving a noticeable rough texture after staining which needs to be address prior to the final finish coat being applied. To mitigate against this factor a complicated process of water popping, screen sanding then staining must be undertaken. This should not be attempted without the right machinery and prior experience.
Alcohol Based Wood Stain
These group of wood stains use their alcohol content to penetrate pigment deep into wood grain. They remain popular with floor sanding pros for their ability to be bone dry in 15-20 minutes, which allows staining and finishing to be undertaken in the same day. However, this ultra fast curing time presents a host of pitfalls in the staining process. Blotching, over-staining, bleed through and lap-lines are extremely common issues. For this reason alcohol based stains are not recommended for soft woods which have not been preconditioned.
Solvent Based Wood Stain
The solvent based group produce long lasting results and have a superior ability to penetrate wood grain. However, they are not widely used by floor sanding contractors due to their extremely slow curing times of around 3-5 days. They also tend to turn tacky within 20 minutes which presents issues for machine application.
Tinted Oil Wood Stain
Oils have been used for 100s of years for their natural ability to enhance and protect all wood species. Recent technical advances have enabled pigmented fillers to be successfully suspending within oils, providing and excellent medium to deliver stain to any wood grain. Oil does however have an inferior ability to penetrate deep into the wood which results in a less intense stain. Tinted Oil is also the preferred choice when staining herringbone parquet where lap-lines are an inherent challenge.
So, with these points in mind it is important to take care when selecting which type of stain for a given floor. It is always advised to take a trial and error approach by buying a few products and see which solution is right for your floor.