How to Treat Floorboards

How a person decides to treat his floorboards has a large impact on how wooden floorboards look and how they hold up to wear over the years. Different types of stains and finishes provide varying amounts of tint, shine and durability for floorboards. In general, stains add colour and protection to the wood and while sealers finish and protect wood with a clear coat. Oil-based penetrating stains soak into wood adding tint and some protection. Water-based, polyurethane and acrylic stains coat the wood with a protective layer over the surface of the wood rather than soaking into it.

Choose a type of floor treatment. People who want to tint the floorboards while allowing the natural texture of the wood to show through often prefer an oil-based penetrating stain. Penetrating stains also have an advantage over other types of stain because they soak into the wood and, therefore, do not chip. Water-based stains tint floors but add a coat over the surface of the wood that may obscure the look of the natural wood grain. Polyurethane and acrylic finishes add the strongest protective coat to wood, but do not look as natural as oil-based stains. These two types of finishes come in clear and tinted versions.

Sand the floor with an electric sander before treating the floorboards, as recommended by and the USDA Forest Service. Start by sanding out imperfections with a somewhat course sandpaper, such as a 60-grit sandpaper. Finish sanding the floor with a 120-grit sandpaper to smooth the surface of the wood in preparation for treatment.

Sweep or vacuum the floor so that dust leftover from sanding does not end up in the finish, as recommended by

Apply the floor treatment according to the directions on the treatment container. Most types of floor treatments work well when painted on the floor with a paintbrush. However, Utah State University Extension explains that people sometimes apply coating finishes with a wire brush to make the finish surface rough and create a less slippery floor surface.

Allow the treated floorboards to dry completely before walking on them or putting furniture back in the room.


When choosing a tint colour for the floor, make sure to match it to the wall paint colours and furniture colours, rather than just picking an attractive stain.

Things You'll Need

  • Electric sander
  • Broom
  • Wood treatment, such as stain or clear sealer
  • Paint brush
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About the Author

Lisa Chinn developed her research skills while working at a research university library. She writes for numerous publications, specializing in gardening, home care, wellness, copywriting, style and travel. Chinn also designs marketing materials, holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology and is working toward a PhD in cognitive neuroscience.