Sell Me on Stain

The good news was that it was way harder to sand the floors than it was to poly and stain them. The bad, it’s still a legit pain in the tuckus 😀 By the time we’d applied the last coat of poly on the floors, we had been at this little “weekend” project of ours for 6 + days, so we were pretty happy to bid it farewell. It’s also super exciting to be done with this phase, since it officially means we can move on to putting humpty dumpty back together again. (I.E moving our stuff into the house!) WOOOOTTTT!!

I had some doubts throughout this little adventure, not going to lie. Man, when you’re knee deep into the process – it’s hard not to get analysis paralysis about the whole thing. See, remember how I hemmed and hawed in the last post about what color to go with? Well, I decided on a color and I absolutely, positively loved it. I tested out on some boards we knew would be covered up by the cabinets.

Minwax Provincial Stain

It’s minwax provincial, not too dark, not too light. It’s perfect, right! I just loved it. So we committed to the entire process and decided, Minwax Provincial it would be.

But y’all, I think I forgot that midway through the staining, that your floors have a tendency to look bad. Like enough to scare you into thinking you most definitely picked the wrong stain color. Or scare you into thinking you’re pretty bad at putting down stain on floors. After we had this stuff down on the ground, I was NOT liking it.

Stain Uneven Before Poly

I mean, truth be told, I liked the color quite a lot but holy man, does that stain application look uneven or what? Blotch city, right? That – that must mostly my fault. User error – whoops. Turns out Jay bird is better at staining than me 😀 BUT, the good news is, things turned out super fab in the end and the blotchyness totally went away once we put down a coat of poly. WHEW.

This is how things looked once we wrapped up with our (2) coats of poly late last week.

Minwax Provincial

It’s hard to photograph and truly get a feel for the color, but I absolutely positively LOVE it. Like hulla dance shake yo pants love it. Although there were lots of things we liked about the super dark stain we did last time around I really did not want something that dark for this house. With the last house, I was afraid to have anyone walk into my house since the dark walnut floors would scratch so easily. Plus, they were pretty much impossible to keep clean, so the provincial was a good middle ground for us. It’s still darker, but it’s light enough that I think it’s going to live much nicer than the super dark floors we had before. Houses are for living in, right?

Alas, before we got to the “after” pictures part, we had some serious prepping to do. It would be nice if you could just waive that magic wand and pop that stain down 😉

First off, all of the edges still needed some attention. Although the edger we purchased got a lot of stained areas where the belt sander missed, there were still all the doorways, and all the corners where the edger couldn’t reach. Dang, people. It took a while to bust this part out.

Prepping Floors for Stain

See in the photo above how there is still orange stain peeking through on the right side of the photo? We had to come through we a paint scraper to remove that, and then sand it down so new stain would stick to it.

Here are the tools of the trade.

How to prep floors for stain

Although it feels kind of odd scraping at your wood floors (isn’t that bad for them?), you literally just take the paint scraper and remove any extra poly and stain that might be stuck on your floors. It’s super important to do this step, otherwise you’ll have spots where the orange stain/poly combo is still peeking through. Not chic, people.

You have to come back through with 80-grit sandpaper (which was our final grit on the floors) in order to roughen up the wood a bit, to allow stain to penetrate through. Confession, we had never done this step before (!) and always wondered why our doorways looked jank. I’m SO glad we did it this time. It made a night and day difference.

Remember how I mentioned we had some trouble areas on the edge, from the overly aggressive hand edger? Well Jay came back through with the 80-grit sandpaper along the room periphery as well, and look how great it turned out once stained.

How to Edge Floors

Speaking of staining, here are all the tools of the trade we used for this step.

How to Stain Floors

First things first – after we scraped and sanded every. single. surface in our 1,600 foot house (oye), we had to come through and remove any dust in the room, so that the stain would not get gunked up as we applied it. We vacuumed out all the rooms first, but even after a really thorough shop vac job, there is still a lot of small particles that you’re unable to see. That’s where the tack clothes come in – they’ll pick up dust you didn’t even know was there!

Gloves are a must – stain is just super sticky and gross feeling, not something you want caked under your nails. 🙂

For getting the stain down, we opted to do a rag application, where we applied the stain once, and didn’t come back to wipe it down.

How to Stain Wood Floors

Here I am applying the first coat in the side bedroom. (Note – right after we took this snapshot, I put on a mask to help with the fumes…). The MAJOR advantage to doing this type of stain application is that it takes way less time than the applications where you come back and rub the stain off later. WAY LESS. It also using a bunch less stain, which is an added bonus (less waste). That being said, with this application (really with any stain application) you have to be extremely careful about how your edges fade into each other, since you don’t want an inconsistent stain coat down on the floors. I tried to feather the transitions, and for the most part, that worked swimmingly.

Another area I was super concerned about come staining time was our transition between the kitchen (our new wood) and the dining room. This is how the wood looked after install.

Matching Up New Wood Floors

And here is how it looked after stain. Pretty seamless, IMO! I’m super happy with how it turned out.

Matching New Wood Floors

We are SO excited to be done with this part of our renovation journey in the new house – it was hard people. Not for the faint at heart.

That being said, we saved a ton of money doing this ourselves. The lowest quote we got for refinishing these floors was $3 a square foot. For our 1,600 square feet – that’s $4,800. DANG.

We spent:

  • 5 gallons of Poly: $160
  • 1 gallon of stain: $32
  • Sander Rental + Sand Paper: $392
  • Applicators and Other supplies (Tack cloth, etc): $29

For a total of $613 – for 1,600 square feet (a savings of $4,187)  WOOOOOOTTTTT. That’s some serious simolian saving.

Here is another parting shot of our beautiful new floors. Muah – I just love em! 😀

Minwax Provincial vs. Dark Walnut


Anyone else out there refinished your own floors? Do y’all have any tips and tricks?

17 thoughts on “Sell Me on Stain

  1. Hi Mary,
    I can’t tell from the picture of the can, did you use a stain and seal in one?

    How many coats did you do? Did you sand between coats?

    You are very inspiring!!

    Kimberly from Canada

    1. Hi Kimberly!

      For the stain, we did Minwax Stain without any seal. Then we came through and did two coats of oil based poly to seal. We did one coat of stain, and two coats for the poly – with no sanding in between coats. Pros, I know, normally sand between coats, but we never have (too much work!) 🙂



    1. That’s a great questions, Michelle! After we chatted about it a bit, we plan on just replacing the quarter round room by room (ugg!!) (since we had to remove it for sanding) Since it had years of stain over it, we didn’t think the paint would take, unfortunately! Lucky, quarter round is super cheap! 😉 For the baseboards that have little splashes of stain, we’ll just paint over that.

  2. Wow. This is impressive. We outsourced our floors (A mix of walnut and spice, see our kitchen post). Even the mess left (like dust on walls) after outsourcing was gross – thank goodness for microfiber cloths. Anyway, good for you guys! The floors look awesome.

  3. Hi

    Looks amazing. Can you recommend a great brand of wood stain? We are using Tover & Bona but we are looking for something different

    Great content

  4. Very glad to hear that the blotchy stain looked good after you put on the poly. I’m at the stain point – and it looks soo blotchy. I’ve been considering just sanding it all up and starting over. You’re giving me hope.

    1. Oh I had a bit of a heart attack at first, but it looks great once you put down the poly! I would say if there are areas that are noticably missing stain or anything like that touch it up, otherwise, it should even out with poly. Good luck!

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