Dear Rob: I want to stain my maple hardwood floor to match my stained maple kitchen cabinets, but my hardwood guy refuses saying that they stain will not take. I know my kitchen cabinets are stained maple, so what gives? Why is he pulling my leg?
-Jared H. from Orem, Utah
Dear Jared: Your installer is not really pulling your leg and is actually trying to make you happy with your floor and his workmanship.
In my own flooring business, Natural Wood Floors, I have been asked to stain many maple and hickory floors when refinishing, but I usually tell my customers no. That usually makes them unhappy, but the reason is that the grains in both maple and hickory flooring can be very hard in spots and very soft in others. When trying to stain these woods, the hard spots will not absorb the stain easily, and when that happens, you will have a light patch that looks blotchy.
When maple or hickory kitchen cabinets are stained, it is done in a factory controlled environment, and they use different types of fast dry, spray-on coatings. They are then dried with UV lights so that the color is consistent. These conditions are impossible to reproduce in your home because the coatings we use on site are gravity permeable and are slower drying.
This is what the Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association says about the subject:
“Due to the extremely tight cellular structure and variable grain patterns inherent in northern hard maple, the Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association (MFMA) does not recommend staining or bleaching maple strip flooring under any circumstances.
While small areas of individual flooring strips may accept stain without difficulty, it has been our experience that much of the maple surface will appear uneven and “blotchy” following the application of most stains or bleaching agents.
MFMA strongly suggests contacting your floor finish manufacturer directly for specific tinting product recommendations and application instructions.”
I think the risks are too high to move forward with staining maple and hickory, but if you are really dead set on the stain, there is a trick that some very skilled refinishers have used to successfully stain a hickory or maple floor that is called water-popping. When water-popping, the floor is actually dampened with a sponge so the grains can be opened. The wood is more likely to absorb stain. This is a very risky thing to do, and many younger installers have not been taught how to properly do this, so I still do not recommend it.