How to Get a Better Finish on Your Walnut Flooring

Walnut flooring is a beautiful flooring option in terms of looks and durability, while also being light on maintenance requirements. Its warm colours and graining patterns can add charm to your dwelling. The most popular types of walnut flooring are Brazilian walnut (Janka hardness 3,600) and American walnut or Black walnut (Janka hardness 1010).  They come in both prefinished and unstained varieties.

The porous property of this wood helps hold stains and finishes very well. Walnut looks great with just a few coatings of finish without a stain because of its beautiful natural colour. However, when it comes to applying a wood finish, there are several techniques which all look great on walnut. Below are some tips on how you can get a better finish on your walnut flooring.

  1. Prepare Your Floor Prior to Finish

The key to a great floor finish is preparation. You need to prepare the surface of your walnut floor properly before starting the finishing process. Here’s a step by step guide to the preparation stage.

  1. Clean thoroughly: Cleaning your floor is very crucial to get rid of any dust, dirt or grime. Mix trisodium phosphate (TSP) and warm water. Use the mixture to clean the floor with a mop. Make sure to allow the floor to dry completely.
  2. Check thoroughly: Watch out for protruding nails or hardware. Sink them into the wooden floor properly. Also, carefully check if there are any cracks on the floor. If you find holes or cracks, fill them with wood putty. Allow time for the putty to dry out well.
  • Sand the floor: Proper smoothening of the floor surface is necessary for a good finish. You can start sanding with a drum sander (with 36” sandpaper). If any section of the floor is left out, you can fix those sections by manual sanding them with a handheld tool.
  1. Vacuum thoroughly: Get rid of all the sawdust generated by sanding with either a wet or dry vacuum.
  2. Sand the floor for the second time: After the initial sanding, use 80-grit sandpaper to sand the surface a second time.
  3. Vacuum again: Remove all the sawdust with a vacuum cleaner.
  • Sand the floor for the third time: If you find any cross-grain scratches after the previous sanding, make sure to remove them by sanding again, parallel to the graining pattern. Use 100-grit sandpaper.
  • Vacuum once again: After the final sanding, vacuum the area thoroughly to remove every bit of sawdust. Don’t forget to remove sawdust accumulated in between the wooden boards/planks.
  1. Stain the Floor

You can stain your walnut flooring after following the steps above. Just make sure to apply a wood sealer before staining. A sealer helps seal wood surface pores, minimizing the chances of blotching or streaking.

To stain your walnut flooring, you can either use a clean piece of rag, cloth or a brush. Follow the graining pattern of the wood when applying the stain. Allow the stain to dry completely before moving on to the next steps.

  1. Apply Finish

It’s now time to decide what kind of finished look you want for your walnut floors. There are several options.

For a matte look, use Tung oil. It highlights the grains in walnut wood. Tung oil has to be mixed with a solvent in a ratio of 1 part oil to 1 ½ parts of solvent. You also need a thinner like turpentine, mineral spirits or citrus spirits to mix with Tung oil and solvent to ensure maximum penetration into the wood cells within 40 minutes. You can add more thinner and adjust the mix accordingly. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Apply with the help of a brush or paint roller. Start from one corner and gradually move up to the other side.
  2. If your room is small, allow it to dry for 40 minutes before reapplication. If your room is large, then you can start to reapply again from the starting point if the oil has soaked in by the time you finish applying the initial coat to the whole area.
  • Apply 3 to 7 coats of finish on the first day. In case there are some dry spots, treat them individually with coats.
  1. On the second day, apply several coats of Tung oil mixed with thinner following the same 40 minutes-rule as before.
  2. Allow the floor to dry for 7 to 10 days before you move in.

For a satin sheen, go for oil-based polyurethane and follow the steps below.

  1. Slowly stir the polyurethane so that the particles and hardeners mix well. Make sure that no bubbles are created during stirring.
  2. Following the walnut graining pattern, coat the floor with polyurethane with the help of a brush. Let it dry.
  • After it dries out, take a 220-bit orbital sander and sand the floor again.
  1. Remove the residues with a vacuum.
  2. Repeat applying another coat of polyurethane, sanding, and vacuuming once more.
  3. Complete the entire process of finishing with a final coat of polyurethane.

It takes time to finish walnut flooring. A perfect finish gives a flawless uniform look to the floor. If you need assistance installing, staining and finishing your floors, seek out the help of a hardwood flooring professional. A beautiful walnut floor can add value to your home if you decide to sell in the future, so make sure it’s done right!

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