Your floor is in and all the knots have been filled and now it’s on to the next step: Staining! If you’re anything like us, you want to make sure you don’t get stuck with a stain that you really don’t like. That means you’ll have to do some color testing.
Minwax offers small, 8-ounce containers of stain that are perfect for samples, and at less than $5 each, won’t break the bank. When I was testing the stain went on really dark, so after some Googling, found out that I needed to put on a stain conditioner first. I used this Minwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner. Two quarts covered my 400-ish square feet floor.
To test, I treated a plank with the conditioner, divided it into three sections and applied a different stain to each section and finally put on a coat of Polyurethane, so we’d have an idea of what it looked it.
We ended up liking the Minwax Espresso stain the best. It really brought out the contrast in the plywood’s grain.
The first thing to do before applying stain is do a good sweep of the floor with your shop vac to pick up all sawdust and other debris from the installation phase. When the floor is nice and clean you can apply the Pre-Stain Conditioner. To apply it, you just paint it on and let it dry for a bit (but not more than 2 hours).
Once the conditioner is dry, you can start applying the stain. The process is simple: dip a rag in the stain and wipe it on a plank. Then with another rag, wipe off the excess stain. I did one plank at a time and didn’t let the stain sit for very long. The longer you let the stain sit without wiping it off, the darker it will turn out.
Keep a whole bunch of rags handy, as the wipe rag will need to be replaced once it gets saturated. I read all sorts of horror stories of stain-soaked rags spontaneously combusting, so when I was done, I dropped them into a Home Depot bucket full of water. When it came time to dispose them, I stuffed the wet rags into the empty stain container.
I went through two quarts of stain and still have a little left over. The instructions say to let the stain dry for 8 hours before applying the topcoat.
Staining isn’t hard, but you’re on your knees, so knee pads are definitely recommended.