Our House

The Hardwood Floor Refinishing Adventure Continues – Tip For Getting A Gorgeous Finish

Last Updated on April 7, 2021 by Kristi Linauer

I was going to wait until the floor was finished before I shared more pictures with you (probably tomorrow), but quite honestly, I was way too excited about my progress yesterday that I couldn’t wait.

If you missed the first part of this floor refinishing project, you can click here to read about it

Refinishing my hardwood floors - sanding progress

And you can click here for the products and process I used

Adventures in staining my red oak hardwood floors - products and process

So yesterday morning, I finished staining the floor in the breakfast room and pantry. And then I had to wait a minimum of eight hours for that stain to dry before I polyurethaned the floors. While I waited, I read comments on yesterday’s post, and some of you noticed (as I had) that the stain was uneven in places, like under the windows in the living room.

staining red oak hardwood floors - 8a - living room and entryway

I think that’s due to the differences left by the edge sander vs. the drum sander which cause the wood to soak up the stain differently. But in addition to that, the overall finish just wasn’t quite as dark/rich as I had hoped. Now I know that just adding polyurethane will add some depth/richness to the color, but I wanted the color evened out all over just a bit, and plain polyurethane won’t do that.

So I started thinking, googling, reading, researching. Should I add another coat of stain? I really did NOT want to do that.

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me that the way to even out the color was to add some sort of colorant to the polyurethane. Was that even possible? And what would I use? I researched dyes, but the options mentioned weren’t locally available. Then I remembered that with Waterlox, you can actually mix stain in with the first coat of Waterlox, and then follow up with one or two coats of clear Waterlox. If you can do that with Waterlox, why can’t you do that with polyurethane as long as you’re adding oil-based stain to oil-based poly?

I researched it, and I did find several people who said, “No! You can’t do that,” but it seemed like they were just guessing and had never really tried it. Then I came across the last comment here by a man who says he’s been adding stain to poly for years with no problem, specifically in repairing/restoring trim in historic homes. And then I came across this picture showing floors that were sealed with a 50/50 mix of Early American stain and polyurethane.

floors coated with 50-50 mix of stain and polyurethane

So I decided to give it a try! (Note: This is definitely off-label usage of these products. Try at your own risk!) I tested out two different ratios, and finally landed on an 8:1 ratio of polyurethane to stain. (I just used the same stain I previously used — 50/50 Dark Walnut and Special Walnut.) I poured an entire gallon of polyurethane (Mixwax Super Fast Drying Polyurethane for Floors) into my plastic bucket, added two cups of stain, mixed it together well, and was on my way.

I applied the stain initially with an applicator pad with a long handle, applying about an 18-inch strip at a time, and then followed up with a paint brush (taped to the end of an extension pole so I wouldn’t have to do any work on my knees) to smooth and even out the poly. The results were fantastic! You can see in the photo below of the music room floor the difference it made in the color. Of course, it did darken it, which was fine with me. But it also added a beautiful richness while evening out the color variations in the wood just a bit.

refinishing red oak hardwood floors - adding stain to first coat of polyurethane to darken the color - 1

The color difference was less noticeable in the entryway and living room where there’s much more light.

refinishing red oak hardwood floors - adding stain to first coat of polyurethane to darken the color - 2

And here is the living room and entryway with the entire floor coated in one coat of the poly/stain mixture. I took this photo this morning after it had all night to dry, so the sheen you see here is how the satin finish looks when dry. I do still have at least one more coat of polyurethane to add (just poly — no stain), so it should even out any differences in sheen that are still visible.

refinishing red oak hardwood floors - adding stain to first coat of polyurethane to darken the color - entryway and living room

The areas around the windows still aren’t perfect, but they’re much better. And heck, these floors ARE almost 70 years old, so I can’t expect perfection, right? 🙂

refinishing red oak hardwood floors - adding stain to first coat of polyurethane to darken the color - living room and entryway

Sorry for this dark picture. My music room light isn’t very bright, and you can see I took these this morning before the sun came up. 🙂

refinishing red oak hardwood floors - adding stain to first coat of polyurethane to darken the color - music room and entryway

refinishing red oak hardwood floors - adding stain to first coat of polyurethane to darken the color - music room

I’m so excited about how these floors are turning out! But now I have to get busy and get another coat of poly on these floors ASAP. I started applying the polyurethane at 10:00 last night (finished at midnight), and there’s a 12-hour window in which you can add a second coat without having to sand first. If you wait longer than 12 hours, the first coat of poly has to be sanded before adding the second coat. And I DO NOT want to have to sand these floors. 🙂


My floors are finished! Click here to see my newly refinished hardwood floors

My newly refinished red oak hardwood floors

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  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 8:51 am

    Beautiful sheen! Those floors look so rich and pretty – love, love, love them. As far as the inconsistencies, that is the charm of ‘old’ hardwood floors. Great job Kristi!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Lisa E
    January 31, 2017 at 8:57 am

    You continue to amaze. Looking beautiful!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Theresa P
    January 31, 2017 at 8:57 am

    I am so happy that you stained these floors. I was very unsure of the orange/red, so this is HUGE for me!! Great job!! And, about the variations under the window, I definitely think they are less noticeable now and once you get the room filled, they’ll be practically unidentifiable!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 8:58 am

    So pretty! I really don’t think you’ll notice those inconsistencies in color, especially under the LR Windows, once you get all the furniture back in there. The color is just right!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      January 31, 2017 at 9:35 am

      I agree! No one will ever notice the imperfections when the room is finished. It looks amazing.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 8:59 am

    I am so happy that you had that comment from that gentleman…..isn’t know.edge from your fans just FABULOUS!!!!!
    LOVE LOVE LOVE the floors doll….way to go!!!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 9:00 am

    Love it! Honestly, once you add draperies and furniture to the room most people will probably never notice any color variations. 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 9:09 am

    The floors are beautiful and you are so smart to do your own research and figure this out for yourself. Not to mention most of the outer edge of your floors will have furniture placement and the view will never be an empty room to compare lights and darks and textures… so the portions of your floors that get the most viewing will be absolutely BEAUTIFUL! I love them and I’m so impressed with your hard work and ingenuity. You are my hero!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 9:11 am

    Beautiful!!!! I agree, they’re old floors, so you should be able to accept some imperfections. My 91-year-old floors desperately need to be re-finished. Just can’t see doing it myself, like you are -what a goddess you are!!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 9:13 am

    Well done! And thank you for trying new things and taking us along for the adventure 🙂 I love learning new things – especially when someone else has taken the risk for me – lol!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 9:17 am

    The floors look fantastic and I think imperfections are to be expected – not only because your floors are old, but because wood is a natural product anyway… I love the colour and richness the floors gained – I was a bit dubious about them being too dark (and I normally love dark colours) but I think you managed to balance desired depth and colour very well. Congratulations!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 9:17 am

    The floors look fantastic and I think imperfections are to be expected – not only because your floors are old, but because wood is a natural product anyway… I love the colour and richness the floors gained – I was a bit dubious about them being too dark (and I normally love dark colours) but I think you managed to balance desired depth and colour very well. Congratulations!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 9:26 am

    The floors look beautiful, Kristy! I’m curious, if you used an oil based stain and poly, will you have to repaint the baseboard with an oil based paint? Pretty hard not to get any of the finish on the baseboard, so usually that gets repainted eventually.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 9:29 am

    Wow, Kristi, they look gorgeous! I’m glad you hired someone to do all that sanding. It let you do the most beautiful and artistic part of the job. I absolutely love the color!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 9:35 am

    They look gorgeous and I think any slight variation in color won’t be very noticeable once the furnishings and drapes are in place.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Dee Miles
    January 31, 2017 at 9:36 am

    Absolutely fantastic Kristi!!! Standing and applauding! 🙂 All the thought and research has paid off.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Carol Fraley
    January 31, 2017 at 9:37 am

    The floors are so beautiful! I tried to refinish my living floor and within a with months they just start peeling up! I don’t know what went wrong in the process, so discouraged!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      January 31, 2017 at 11:19 am

      Oh my, that scares the heck out of me! What products did you use? And did you use a water-based clear coat, or an oil-based clear coat?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 9:38 am

    Just beautiful!! I know you don’t like the word rich when describing your home, but your floors are such a pretty rich color!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 9:49 am

    That looks so, so good! I can understand your excitement.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 9:50 am

    Those floors are gorgeous!! Great job.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Laurie Willis
    January 31, 2017 at 9:52 am

    Loving the new color! Looks great. I wouldn’t worry too much about slight variations in some spots. Once the room is furnished, you will never notice them.

    So have you decided on the wall color for the music room? Can’t wait to see what you do to the piano too.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 9:55 am

    Absolutely stunning!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 9:57 am

    Kristie, the floors are absolutely beautiful!!! You have such a strong mind at figuring out how to do so many projects. I can imagine the smile on your face and the light feeling on your heart!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Mark E Tisdale
    January 31, 2017 at 10:14 am

    I’m not normally fond of dark wood floors but these are gorgeous! I think it’s because there’s just so much depth to yours. They feel very “rich” you know?

    Beautiful work as always!


  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 10:16 am

    Your floors are gorgeous Kristi! Good job!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Leanna Lindquist
    January 31, 2017 at 10:27 am

    You inspire me. I’m pleased your labors have been rewarded with such beautiful results. I always look forward to seeing your progress.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 11:06 am

    What a clever solution! The area under the windows looks so much better and the floors are rich and beautiful. Great job!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Robbyn Mendleski
    January 31, 2017 at 11:12 am

    Gorgeous! gorgeous color, gorgeous sheen! Love that you stepped out and took that risk (for us – lol) and that it turned out SOOOOO good

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 11:16 am

    Wow! I thought yesterday’s pics were transforming…you have outdone yourself. Such depth and richness of color. Can’t wait to see them completely finished.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sheri Hepworth
    January 31, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Goodness; the floors are beautiful! Did you scream with glee when you stood back and admired them? I know I would have!! Wonderful job.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 11:51 am

    The floors look beautiful. When you get furniture and rugs placed in the room, all the imperfections won’t be noticeable.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Rebecca B
    January 31, 2017 at 11:52 am

    Lovely. And boy, do you work FAST! That’s a lot of staining and finishing to do!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    I love how they’re turning out. The floor color looks so lovely in the room with the fireplace, against the wall color, etc… Well done!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Rebecca Francis
    January 31, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    Looks like you found your beautiful color. Once you add furniture I think you will be happy with your floors even more. You go girl! Beautiful job!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    They are turning out beautifully! And if there is any qualms about them not being evenly stained, forget about it. Floors are just a backdrop to your furnishings & decor. Once the room is loaded up with your things, nobody will notice.
    But I think even if the room is empty, they look great.
    Will you need to repaint your baseboards when the floors are done? Or did you tape off your baseboards to prevent stain from getting on them?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    Your floors are GORGEOUS!!! You are doing such a fantastic job!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    Poly that is tinted has been available comercially for some time and I have used it on shelves and other items with good results. I can’t see why that would not transfer over to floors. They look beautiful so far and I can’t wait for the finished product!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 1:08 pm


  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Your floors look amazing! You have done a great job.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    I’ve added Universal Tint Colorant to water based polyurethane many times to tweak a finish in one step, so it doesn’t surprise me to learn that you can do similar with oil products; thanks for all that research. Your floors turned out beautiful and the color is warm and inviting.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    Love the color! Love the old,new look. Imperfections are expected in old floors. Don’t let any naysayers get to you 🙂 it is astounding!! Great job!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Marianne in Mo.
    January 31, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    LOVE! love the color and the sheen.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    Your floors are absolutely beautiful. Ours have to be done but currently we are in the middle of a snow storm in Connecticut so I will have to wait until Spring.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    My husband is a professional floor sander for 40 years. He only mixed stain with urethane for me when I insisted the pine boards he installed were too light and he is not a fan of staining soft wood. They turned out beautiful. Your floor sander should have been able to get those sanding lines out from the difference between edger and drum, but it is a much more labour intense sanding job to sand for stain rather than clear coat. Usually couple dollars more per square foot. Everything is looking great and really coming together. You amaze me!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    You work so very hard, so I am glad that your experiment is a sucessful. It’s really coming together and looking great!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Susan Lawson
    January 31, 2017 at 5:04 pm

    You are such an amazing problem-solver. Your solution worked so well, and the floors look beautiful. I like them darker too. I think the wood near the windows, though, darkened simply because of its greater exposure to light. That happens with most wood floors–put a rug down under a nearby table and when you pull it up its outline will be there, most visible close to the windows where the UV rays have darkened the wood even more. I think walnut it the only wood that gets lighter instead of darker the longer it’s exposed.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    Your floors look incredible! They turned out so great! Perfect color perfect job!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Claudia Phillips
    January 31, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    At Last!!! I know about this.
    About 1997, my floor expert did exactly as you did. (And he was the Floor Guy for the movie stars. He just happened to live in my town.) He gave me the option of adding one quart, two quarts, etc. to the poly.
    Good Job! You’re a woman who works hard and you do great work.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sarah Suponski
    January 31, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    the floors look amazing and honor their age. Great work!!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2017 at 8:02 pm

    They look great! We are getting ready to put in hardwoods, so I love seeing the different stain options.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    February 1, 2017 at 6:47 am

    I think they are beautiful, and, in my book, the color variation only adds character. Once you get furniture, drapes, accessories, etc. in the rooms, there will be no way to distinguish the uneven areas. Look forward to seeing it all finished.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sharon C
    February 1, 2017 at 9:48 am

    Your floors are looking gorgeous……you are doing an amazing job, yet again!!!!! Love the color! So excited to see these mains rooms all come together with your new vision and plan. I think 2017 is your year to really get your decorating groove on!!! And I know I don’t say this often, but, I just love your blog and always look forward to your posts!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Rae-Ann Hendershot
    February 11, 2018 at 12:14 pm


  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    September 30, 2018 at 11:17 pm

    Beautiful! What exact poly did you use and how has it held up? I’m in the process of doing this and it has been the most stressful thing I think I have ever done. Absolute nightmare! Issues with sanding, stain, color..you name it, it’s gone wrong! I have a terrible feeling I threw away a lot of money and might end up just ripping these hardwoods out in 5 years or so. Long story short, I’m hoping I don’t mistake with the wrong poly. I love the way the water based looks, but worry about durability. Thanks for your help!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      October 1, 2018 at 12:17 am

      I used Minwax oil-based poly for floors in a satin finish. It’s held up great, and I have a big dog with big claws and two cats.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    July 26, 2022 at 11:56 pm

    Hello, I’m using minwax as well and when I initially did my test swatch, the instructions said to wait some minutes (I think up to 15) before wiping off, so that’s what I did. Now I’m noticing everyone wiping off stain immediately. Will I need to wait 15 minutes for each section to get the color I want or does wiping off almost immediately yield the same results? Thanks!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Kristi Linauer
      July 27, 2022 at 12:39 am

      I don’t think I would wipe it off immediately, but I don’t ever remember waiting 15 minutes, either. I think as long as you’re consistent it will work out fine. In other words, work in sections that take you a set amount of time to cover — 5 or 10 minutes, and then go back and wipe off the excess. The start the next section of the same size that takes the same amount of time. That way it’s all consistent. What you don’t want to do is do one section, leaving it on 5 minutes, and then do another section, leaving it on 15 minutes, and another section at 10. That would leave you with inconsistent color.

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        July 31, 2022 at 5:36 am

        Thanks so much, that is helpful. Another thought I had was how large an area I should do. Should I only do what is in arm’s reach to avoid stepping on stain? If it takes me 10 minutes to do a sizable area but then I have to step on some of the stain to wipe it up, I shouldn’t be doing that, correct? Stepping on portions of stain to get to other portions to begin wiping up might make it uneven?

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        July 31, 2022 at 5:41 am

        I also forgot to ask… when wiping up the stain, do you wipe hard pr just enough so there isn’t stain pooled on the board? I noticed the harder you press when wiping, the lighter and streakier the stain tends to get. My husband says that he feels you have to wipe hard or firmly so that the board is practically dry. I worry that will result in uneven color as you press harder and make lighter spots but he says any unevenness will just be the grain of the wood.