Can I Use Stain Alone When Finishing Wood Floors?

By: Danny Lipford

When we purchased our home two years ago, we had the heart of pine floors sanded and a coat of polyurethane applied. The first time we moved a dining room chair the poly started to peel. Then a year ago we got a dog, and his claws have added to the peeling of the poly. If I sand the floors and apply a coat of stain, will his claws still mark the floor? Will the stain peel like the poly, and will stain give the floors a shine? -Teri

Hi Teri,

There are a number of possible reasons the polyurethane finish on your wood floors may have peeled including:

  • Too low a temperature when the finish was applied.
  • Defective finish.
  • Improper surface preparation.

I’ve had good luck finishing heart pine floors with polyurethane, so it’s probably not the wood that’s causing it, though if the heart pine has a very high resin content, it can bleed out and cause adhesion problems.

Stain alone is not a substitute for a finish on floors but a way to color it before the finish is applied. You would still need to apply finish to your floors after staining to protect from spills and foot traffic. If you didn’t want to go with a built-up finish like polyurethane, you could apply several coats of an oil finish such as Tung oil. However, while it won’t peel, an oil finish does not offer nearly the protection of a varnish finish like polyurethane.

In answer to your other question, claws from a dog can scratch and damage any wood floor or floor finish.

Good luck with your project,

Danny

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