Different Color Techniques

By Jason Elquest, Owner of Blackhawk Floors in Scottsdale, Arizona and NWFA Regional Instructor

Color, color, color! There are so many choices today for coloring a wood floor. Stains, Dyes, Reactives, and the list goes on.

The most traditional colorant for floors has been oil stain. Traditional stain gives us the ability to change the color of wood with relative ease. Also, with these products we can create the magical “Ceruse”, a word no one knew five years ago. And with the aid of water popping, the act of wetting the surface of the wood with water, we are able to create deep rich colors with lots of depth.

Now, dyes have been around forever also. They have been less widely accepted because of the learning curve it takes to use them on large surfaces like floors. They are either alcohol or water based and the pigment that is in them is much smaller than the pigment in traditional stains, so it is able to penetrate more of the wood. If used properly, you are able to achieve some amazing colors. Keep in mind, these dyes can and do fade over time and exposure to UV rays, so applying a traditional stain over the top of them is necessary to help maintain the color.

Wood bleach is also a technique that has been around for a long time. This technique gives us the ability to lighten the natural tones of a species. Keep in mind that is does not work well with some species, and it does not take all of the color out of the wood. Wood bleach will allow you to achieve some of the lighter colors that are most common with today’s floors.

Reactive colorants, this includes a large array of manufacturer’s products, as well as many homemade brews. These products react with the wood itself, usually the tannin in the wood. A species such as white oak has a higher tannin content and a neutral color, so this has become the go to for most of the reactive products.

Today, the options for coloring a customer’s floor is almost limitless. We can achieve colors that were not thought possible even a few years ago. What ever product you choose, make sure that you make a sample. It is very easy to incorporate two products that are not compatible with each other. Make sure to stick with a finish system and have fun experimenting with colors.

One more thing, and I am thankful to have learned this from Frank Kroupa, make a recipe card for each of your colors that you create. Make sure to keep track of your sanding sequence, stain or colorant used, and of course finish and sheen. It is amazing how often a customer will like a color that you have used before, or you have to do a repair on a floor that was custom stained. Having this recipe card makes the repair that much easier and leaves you with a happy customer!

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