By Kelly Ragalie & Tito Boror
In today’s flooring market, there are many new floor stain technologies available to the professional contractor. It’s a daunting task, however, to learn each of the new products, and then determine which is the best for the job.
Start with the basics: how are they applied and what are the differences between application techniques? This can often guide the contractor with where to start. Some of the answers to these questions are based on experience and skill level, and some might be determined by the customer needs and expectations.
Here is a brief look at application methods for the newest color technologies.
Before jumping into stain application head first, it’s important to ensure the floor has been sanded properly for the species and color selected. It’s also important to determine whether the floor should be conditioned or water popped before stain application. Water popping allows the grain to open in order to increase color penetration for a deeper desired color. Once the water popping process is complete, then we can determine which type of color is appropriate for the project.
Some of the most-common stains/colorants on the market today allow you to achieve just about any color and/or combination your customer wants. These are some of the more-common types:
Water based stains are those made of extremely small pigments in combination with a water-based solution. These stains are available in many colors and can often be mixed with one another. They often reduce blotchiness in certain species like maple or pine. These stains must be coated with a compatible finish.
Alcohol based stains are a solvent-based product with pigments that are designed to be finished with waterborne finishes. They are fast-drying, lap-mark-free, and help reduce issues such as side bonding or bleed back.
Oil Modified stains are generally low odor, wipe on/wipe off, and provide fast dry times allowing for quick application of finish coats. They are self-sealing, and must be coated with a compatible finish, and are available in a wide variety of colors.
Oil Sealer Colors are sealers with pigments designed to be applied to the floor, allowed to penetrate, and then have the excess removed from the floor. These products give a rich, deep color, can be mixed, and are often coated with compatible finish products.
Penetrating Oils are plant, vegetable or other organic-based oils that penetrate into the wood surface, filling the pores with pigment and oil solids. These finishes provide deep, rich color options. These oils are not required to have a coat of film finish on top; rather, they are both a color and finish in one product.
Reactive Products are those that are chemically designed to react with the tannins in the wood species. These reactive products often result in brown or gray tones, depending on the wood species. These can be unpredictable in nature, as the amount or type of tannins in any species is unknown until application. These products sometimes come with neutralizers to inhibit continual reaction, and some are mixed with water products to limit the overall color tones. Each manufacturer has specific product requirements and recommendations. They require the application of colorants and/or finish products to seal them into the wood.
Application of most of these products is commonly known and used throughout the industry. Wipe on/wipe off techniques have been used for years. Newer techniques to the U.S. include trowel application, in which the stain or oil is troweled on by using a flexible metal trowel, either in a standing position or on one’s hands and knees. Trowel application can be intimidating for some, but most contractors find a technique and grow to enjoy the method. Many of the trowel-on products require an additional step of removal either by special buffing pads or towels.
Most manufacturers will recommend a specific system of application and will require specific penetration and curing times for each product. There have been some older techniques in practice, like using old pieces of carpet on buffing machines. This can pose an issue due to the use of anti-stain and soiling additives previously used in the carpet remnant materials reacting with stain and color products. Other methods include rollers, lamb’s wool, trim pads, or other flooring tools.
Cerusing is a buzz word used in the flooring industry today. This is a technique of layering multiple colors on top of each other, producing a unique effect. The most recent knowledge of this technique started in the factory-finished flooring industry in which the ability to apply different layers of color in very short amounts of time was already built in. However, job site application was still too complicated. That changed when manufacturers took some notice of European floor work and developed new products that would allow for similar techniques on the job site. Some European producers have been using hard-wax oils, penetrating oils, or other products to achieve the look of a complex multi-color floor for centuries.
To successfully use the cerusing technique, start with the application of a colored initial coat (any of the above), followed by a second coat of contrasting or complimentary color, which may be oil, paint, stain or other color product in order to achieve a multi-layered effect. The most important factor when cerusing a floor is allowing for appropriate dry times and compatibility between products.
The color palette is literally endless. Additional coats of color can be added to intensify tone or dull prior application of color products. With today’s savvy customers requesting floors they’ve found on Pinterest and Instagram, our industry is literally creating finish “looks” that we have not seen before. Being creative and following the manufacturer specific instructions allows us to take our game to the next level.
Kelly Ragalie is Technical Sales Representative, NW Territory at Loba-Wakol in Tualatin, Oregon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tito Boror is Technical Sales Representative, NE territory. He can be reached at email@example.com.