Staining Maple Flooring: Complications and Approaches

Staining Maple Flooring: Complications and Approaches

Maple Flooring

With both strength and beauty, maple is one of the most popular wood flooring options. These planks are tough enough to stand up to decades of wear, boast a neutral colour that suits almost any decor style and are highly affordable. Homeowners gravitate toward maple for its durability, smooth grain pattern and light, creamy colour. However, maple flooring does have some pitfalls you need to be aware of if you are considering installing it in your home. 

Why choose maple flooring?

With many options available, why choose maple for your floors?

    • Appearance and durability: Maple has a sleek, subdued look that allows your furniture to take center stage. It’s durable, affordable and a practical choice.
    • Timelessness: The smooth blonde tones and delicate grain pattern of maple provide a neutral base for decor. It works well in traditional and rustic homes as well as contemporary, minimalistic, modern, and coastal designs. Once placed in your space, maple flooring is adaptable and timeless.  
    • Any size room: Maple’s light colour optimizes daylight, making it a great choice for small, dark rooms. The lack of colour variation and grain pattern make maple perfect for large spaces.
    • Damage resistance: Bowling alley and gym floors are often built from maple as it stands up to abuse; dropped pans, rolling toys, pets, kids.
    • Affordability: Since it’s a fast-growing and abundant wood, the cost of maple is relatively low compared to oak, cherry, teak and mahogany. It’s a more environmentally friendly choice than wood from slow-growing trees.

The challenges of maple flooring:

Maple wood is beautiful but can be difficult to work with.

    • Staining difficulties: The tight grain of maple makes the absorption of stain uneven, resulting in a splotchy look. Either stick with the natural colour or try a dark stain as it will give you a more even finish. Staining maple is tricky and best left to a professional.
    • Visible scratches: Though maple doesn’t scratch easily, scratches stand out against the smooth grain. You’ll need to apply a protective seal in areas of heavy foot traffic. A wax rubbing compound may be used to polish out small scrapes and gouges. 
    • Humidity problems: Maple is not as stable as some woods, meaning it is responsive to changes in the environment. Fluctuations in temperature and/or humidity can cause boards to shrink, warp and/or split. Keep your rooms at a constant temperature and humidity level with the use of a humidifier and/or dehumidifier. Choose a supplier that guarantees that your maple has been handled correctly before your purchase. 

Does maple wood stain well?

You can stain maple, but it’s difficult to do without blotches because it’s a tightly pored wood. Maple absorbs stain unevenly. Achieving a uniform stain is a problem for even experienced finishers, difficult but not impossible. Always choose an experienced flooring professional when staining maple flooring. 

How do you successfully stain maple flooring? 

    • Water popping: To get maple to accept stain you can use the method of water popping the grain. This involves putting water evenly on the floor to raise the grain of the wood, then allowing it to dry overnight before staining. This promotes more even staining, but is not a guarantee of a perfect result. 
    • Trans tint dye: Toning lacquer topcoats with dye is a good way to stain maple. By mixing trans tint dye with lacquer you get the dark colour you want. Be careful to use a small amount of dye. 
    • Gel stain: This is one of the easiest methods to get a dark maple stain. Sand the maple with 36, 80, and 100 grit sandpaper to get an ultra-smooth surface. Apply the gel stain evenly. Because gel stain does not penetrate deeply, there will be fewer blotches. 
    • Condition before staining: Treating the surface with a pre-stain wood conditioner helps prevent streaks and blotches by evening out the absorption of oil-based stains. Conditioner can be applied over any wood but is especially necessary when working with soft or porous woods like maple.
    • Careful sanding: When fine sanding maple floors, always reduce drum pressure to its lowest setting and slow the drum speed, if your machine allows for it. Avoid sanding maple too smooth. Sanding finer than 100 grit and/or fine screening closes the already tight grain of maple so much that the finish coats tend to show a washboard effect that’s difficult to hide. Always consult the finish manufacturer’s directions.
    • Careful cleaning: The density of maple and the light colour tend to show even the slightest bit of dirt or dust. Thoroughly vacuum the floor, baseboards, window sills and adjoining areas. Create a clean area adjacent to your work area and clean your shoes, pants and knee pads before the application of any finish coats. 
    • Take care between coats: Maple’s density and light colour make screen marks, sandpaper lines and/or swirls obvious. Always use worn or old sandpaper, screens or abrasive pads. Minimal abrasion is preferable to aggressive abrasion.
    • Utilize the right finish: Shiny areas can appear on maple flooring wherever there are heavy finish spots such as drops, puddles, turn or stop marks. Stick with semi-gloss or gloss topcoats and use care when coating. Thinner coats work better on maple. 
    • Educate yourself about the difficulties involved in the staining of maple flooring so you are warned of possible appearance issues.
    • Use an experienced contractor: There is no magic solution or tool for sanding and finishing a maple floor. The trick is a diligent sanding job and the application of thin, uniform coats. Always use a contractor experienced in finishing maple floors. They’ll have developed methods and procedures for successful finishing and achieving beautiful results. 

Maple’s simple, understated beauty, durability and modest price have made it an enduring classic and a particular favourite for contemporary homes. To maintain your maple flooring, keep your home’s humidity under control. As maple is a tricky wood to work with, always hire a professional for staining and installation services. 

Looking for quality maple flooring? Need help staining and finishing a maple floor? Contact Smith Bros. Floors, one of Canada’s oldest hardwood flooring companies; family-owned and operated. We use industry-leading flooring and finishes because we want your flooring to last! With a tested crew of installers and finishers and a lifetime guarantee on workmanship and longevity, Smith Bros. quality cannot be beaten! We provide exemplary customer service, from site visits, to quotes, to installation and follow-up. Call us at 403-255-7791 for a free consultation.

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