Refinishing Hardwood Floors
April 27, 2004 9:12 AM   Subscribe

I'm gearing up to re-finish my hardwood floors this spring. My question is about stains and polyurethanes. Can I use an oil-based stain with a water-based poly coating over it? I can't seem to find any water-based stains, and I want to be able to put multiple coats of the poly down, and I only have about a week to do this (2 small rooms), so I need to take into consideration the quick drying times of the water-based finishes. The guy at the paint store said I could do the oil stain with the water poly as long as I let the floors cure first, but walked away from me when I asked him what that meant. Is a week enough time to sand and finish the floors of two rooms?
posted by archimago to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
I am assuming that the poly coating is some type of polymer or acrylic. I would be very nervous about doing what you propose.
posted by konolia at 12:12 PM on April 27, 2004

My cousin edits Popular Woodworking magazine. I asked him your question. He says:

"There are water-based stains out there and they are widely available, so they just haven't looked hard enough or they live in a remote area. I usually recommend people use dyes, anyway. Here's a link to a very reputable site that sells water-base and alcohol-base dyes. Good stuff:

To directly answer your question: Yes you can use water-base poly over oil stains. The oil stain does have to fully cure first, which is a two-week deal (i.e. stupid when it comes to floors).

Also, as a side note, water-base poly is not as durable as oil-base."
posted by jessamyn at 12:35 PM on April 27, 2004

i wouldn't recommend it particularly (water based pu sounds healthier - the normal stuff gave me blisters), but i did two rooms in less than a week using "ordinary" pu varnish (although no staining). sanding takes a day and you can re-apply varnish after 24 hours (painting a floor is pretty quick - a couple of hour's work). so you could go down that route.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:36 PM on April 27, 2004

Two years ago I refinished the maple floors in our house. It took me 5 days of basically becoming one with the floor. We had to tear out carpet, staples, tack strips, etc... I think we went with an oil base stain and it was about 8 hours between coats, sanding in between each coat. It might have been water based though. We kind of went back and forth before we settled on what to use.
posted by trbrts at 1:04 PM on April 27, 2004

Two more points:
1. Many people who use water-based poly on floors are dissatisfied with the finish. It just doesn't pop the grain like oil. Also, there are complaints about its durability. And you usually need at least four coats. Here's a fuller discussion.

2. Water-based (aniline) dyes are great. They give you excellent color control and they're easier to apply (basically with a sponge or rag, no brushes). I've never used them on floors, but as in furniture, I suspect it'll require additional sanding between coats (pre-poly) because water raises wood grain. Here's a source I've used.
posted by sixpack at 3:31 PM on April 27, 2004

My spouse and I have refinished two rooms with water-based poly as the top finish. Things we learned from the process: on a not-very-humid day, you can easily get three coats in. I think we put on 6 or 7 total; use rollers on poles to put on the poly as it goes very quickly; take your time between coats to find and remove the inevitable bits of dust, hair, etc; the first few coats need light sanding due to raising the grain, but you can do light wet-sanding beforehand to minimize the amount of sanding you'll need to do. As for going over stain, I don't think I've ever put water-based poly over stain, but waiting for curing is important in either case. The solvents in oil based poly will lift some of the stain as it goes down.
posted by plinth at 4:59 PM on April 27, 2004

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