How to Stain Hardwood Floors Darker (Without Sanding)?

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Reviewed by
Eral Kadrija

Tony Adams

Staining hardwood floors darker without sanding refers to applying a new layer of finish without completely sanding off the old finish. So, how to do it?

To stain hardwood floors darker without sanding, use a floor buffer or chemical abrasion kit. If the floor is in good condition (no bumps or imperfections), just clean and degrease its surface and apply a darker shade of stain.

It’s recommended to use gel stain over an existing finish as it’s a topical stain and doesn’t need to penetrate the surface to stick. Its thick flow will prevent light from reflecting, making the floor look darker.

Do You Need To Sand Hardwood Floors?

Is It Bad To Sand Hardwood Floors?

You don’t need to sand hardwood floors, but you will get many benefits if you do. Sanding will remove bumps, and imperfections, and create tiny holes (pores) for the wood stain to penetrate and stick to.

According to many floor experts, you can sand and re-finish hardwood floors up to 10 times without damaging them.

But, you can damage hardwood floors if you use the wrong sandpaper. A rough sandpaper (coarse-grit) will remove the protective layer off the floor and expose the planks to water and other elements.

To sand hardwood floors, use medium or fine-grit sandpaper (80-grit and higher) and only sand across the wood grain.

Can You Refinish Wood Floors Without Sanding?

You can refinish wood floors without sanding as long as their surface isn’t defective. The purpose of sanding is to help wood stain stick better and remove imperfections off the surface.

Sanding isn’t needed if the floor doesn’t have top coats (or sealer) that will prevent wood stain from sticking or imperfections (such as holes or bumps). In this case, just clean the boards (with a degreaser) and apply a darker wood stain.

Sanding isn’t needed if the floor is new or freshly installed as its surface will be smooth enough to accept a new top coat. Also if the existing finish on the boards wasn’t sealed, you don’t have to sand.

In summary, you can stain hardwood floors darker without sanding as long as their surface is clean (or smooth) and doesn’t have a topcoat (or sealer) or imperfections.

You can replace sanding by using a store-bought chemical abrasion kit. The abrasion kit has everything you need to stain a floor darker without sanding. It contains a paste-like product known as a chemical etcher. The etcher will abrade the planks and allow the wood stain to penetrate and stick more easily.

How To Stain Hardwood Floors Darker Without Sanding?

To stain hardwood floors darker without sanding, do the following things.

  1. Clean and Degrease the Surface.
  2. Use a Floor Buffer (Optional).
  3. Apply Dark Wood Stain.
  4. Apply a Protective Sealant.

The tools you need for this project are listed below.

  • Clean rags
  • A degreaser or acetone
  • 1 x soft brush
  • 1 x paintbrush
  • A can of a dark stain
  • A vacuum
  • A sealant (optional)

1. Clean and Degrease the Surface

Clean and Degrease The Hardwood Floor

First, clean and degrease the floor boards. If there’s dirt or oils on the boards, the stain won’t stick because it won’t be able to penetrate the surface. Even if it sticks, it will peel off since the oils and dirt will affect its bonding quality. 

To clean the boards, use a degreased (TSP). You can also use acetone, but acetone is a natural paint remover so you have to wipe it off fast. If you don’t, it can damage the boards. 

2. Use a Floor Buffer (Optional)

Buff The Floor With a Floor Buffer

Floor buffers work in the same way as sandpapers. But with buffers, you can smoothen and remove the existing finish from the hardwood without reaching the wood or timber underneath. So they are a safer alternative.

Use the buffer to remove any imperfection that can hinder the proper performance of the stain. If there is a top coat or a sealant on the hardwood, you can also remove it with a buffer. Just follow the user’s instructions.

After buffing, remove the dust nibs from the surface with a rag.

3. Apply Dark Wood Stain

Apply a Few Coats Of Dark Wood Stain On The Hardwood Floor

Once the floor is smooth and clean, apply the stain using a paintbrush or sprayer. If you use a sprayer, you must thin the stain to make it light enough to be sprayed.

It’s recommended to apply 2-3 coats of stain. Wait until one coat dries before applying the next one. 

4. Apply a Protective Sealant

Apply a Protective Sealant

Wood stain isn’t a protective finish and won’t protect the floor from water, moisture, or other damage. So, you must seal the finish to increase its durability and protect the boards.

To seal wood stains, use polyurethane or gel stain. Apply 2-3 coats of sealant over the finish and don’t use the floor until the final coating fully dries (cures).

The sealant, when dry, forms a protective glossy layer that protects the surface underneath from moisture, water, and other damage. 

FAQs About Re-finishing Wood Floors Without Sanding

Which Type of Stain To Use Over an Existing Floor Finish?

Use gel stain over an existing floor finish to darken its appearance. Gel stain given its thick flow doesn’t allow light to reflect the wood stain underneath. This makes the finish appear darker than it is. 

How Long Does Wood Stain Last Over Hardwood Floors?

On average, wood stain lasts about 4 years over hardwood floors before the finish starts to peel and blister off. Wood stain will last longer if you add a protective sealant over it.

Wood stains don’t last because the floor is subjected to constant use. Your stiletto heels, furniture, foot traffic, and pet claw marks, all cause the finish to wear out and peel off within a few months.

But a few coats of protective sealant will add extra durability to the finish. 

How Much Does it Cost To Refinish Hardwood Floors?

According to different floor renovation specialists, the average cost of refinishing hardwood floors is $1,098 to $2,598.

So, it’s cheaper to refinish hardwood floors than it’s to replace them. Plus, refinishing takes less time than replacing them.

Tony Adams

Tony Adams

Woodworker, Interior and Exterior Painter, Flooring Specialist

Tony is a professional painter and an author of DIY Geeks. Tony has completed over 1,000 painting projects for his clients. It's safe to say he knows what he Is talking about.

Eral Kadrija

Eral Kadrija

Lead Editor, Home Renovator

Eral has a passion for home renovation and repair. Over the years, he has bought, renovated, and sold 7 old homes. Using his experience from different DIY projects he created DIY Geeks.

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