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Ask the Staff


I was given some pre-stained solid oak flooring and I am attempting to build a front door with it. My question is two-fold:

Firstly, even though I will be sanding the surface, some residual coloring will still be there, how can I tell if it is oil- or water-based stain?

Secondly, does it matter? That is, will an oil stain cover and protect it regardless of what previous stain has been used?

Hope you can help with this. Thanks a million.

Jack Waddington



Your pre-stained flooring may have had a top coat finish on it as well. It would probably take a chemist to tell you for certain what sort of cured finish is on the flooring. I think flooring with a pre-applied finish is often a fairly tough finish (maybe a catalyzed finish product, either oil or water based.) As long as you sand off all the top coat, it is not necessary to remove every last trace of the stain used to color the wood in order to stain over it and apply new stain and new top coat material. Having said this, it is still a really good idea to take a scrap piece and prep it (sand it down as you expect to sand down your project) and then stain it and top coat it with the products you plan on using. This way you have an idea about adhesion and compatibility. You will also see how the newly applied stain covers the existing look of the prepped flooring. You have to be happy with stain coverage, since you may have some original residual color in the flooring remaining after sanding, you want to make sure the new stain applies over the existing remaining color to your liking.

When prepping, If you want to be on the safe side, after sanding down the flooring, wipe it down with some naphtha solvent and/or denatured alcohol. This will help remove contaminants like wax or silicones, or other applied product that you may not know about.

You should be able to use an oil based stain (stain colors the wood, it does not "protect" since it is not a top coat). Product labeled as "stains and seals" does not make the stain worthy of being its own top coat to provide a good protective finish to the wood. It just means that there is a little binder in the stain to cure and help lock down the color so you can apply a top coat to the stain without much bleed through of the color.


Ed Scent
Highland Woodworking


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