How to Stain Hardwood Floors Darker Without Sanding (Refinishing Steps)

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How to Stain Hardwood Floors Darker Without Sanding (Refinishing Steps)

Looking to transform your light-colored hardwood floor into a darker shade for a trendier, more dramatic feel; but are wondering whether you can skip the intensive sanding stage? If so- you’ve come to the right place.

Restoring hardwood floor to its original shine may require refinishing and sanding before staining with polyurethane. However, at times you may stain your dull-looking floor without sanding. Prepare the floor area, buff, apply your darker stain, and seal with a polyurethane sealer, varnish, or acid-cured finish

In this article, I’ll take you through how to quickly and easily refurbish your hardwood flooring to a darker shade without having to sand it first.

How to Stain Hardwood Floors Darker Without Sanding (Refinishing Steps)

Can engineered wood floors be refinished without sanding?

Engineered hardwood floors feature a layer of real wood on top. This top veneer usually varies in thickness, depending on the brand of engineered hardwood you installed.

Refinishing typically involves sanding. As such, engineered hardwood surfaces with thin veneers (or those that originally had thick veneers but have already been sanded and refinished more than twice) can’t be refinished using this method.

To restore such surfaces, you need to find a way to refurbish without sanding down to the bare hardwood. A buffing machine- which only lightly abrades the hardwood surface- is the easiest and most effective way to achieve this. This technique is also referred to as glazing.

How to Stain Wood Floors Darker Without Sanding

Once you have finished sanding and refinishing the hardwood floor, it’s time to apply your preferred darker stain. Here are some steps to follow:

How to Stain Hardwood Floors Darker Without Sanding

Prep the room

Get the room ready for floor refinishing by taking out all household items and cleaning the floor. To properly clean the surface and get rid of all loose dirt and debris, we recommend using a Ph-neutral floor cleaning spray, or a mild vinegar solution (mix vinegar with some warm water in a ratio of 1:10).

When wet mopping your hardwood floor with the vinegar solution, avoid flooding it with water, as this can trigger structural damage. You’ll- therefore- want to thoroughly wring your mop every time you dip it into your mop bucket.

Buff the floor

Buffing (also referred to as screening by some flooring professionals) is a method used to get rid of old varnish on hardwood surfaces without reaching the actual timber. It’s a more practical alternative to sanding in instances where the floor is made of engineered hardwood planks with thin veneers. By buffing to remove scratches and other small imperfections on the sealant layer, you’ll be able to restore the luster of the hardwood surface.

Before you start buffing your engineered hardwood surface, ensure to wear the appropriate safety gear, as some old protective layers may emit harmful chemicals. A respirator and eye goggles are- therefore- necessary.

To buff the hardwood floor, attach a sanding screen to a floor buffer. Sanding screens are less-abrasive than sandpaper and as such, will only take out the old coating. This is because they feature soft pads. If you have engineered hardwood flooring, they won’t wear through your veneer like sanding does. Finish the process by cleaning off the old varnish residue off the floor using a vacuum cleaner or a dry mop.

Apply a dark stain

After buffing the hardwood floor and cleaning off the residue, it’s now time to stain it darker for a modern, trendy feel associated with contemporary spaces. Dark stains are also recommended for hardwood flooring planks with uneven graining. The darker the stain, the less of the graining you’ll be able to see.

If your hardwood floor is already naturally dark (say, walnut or mahogany flooring), you may want to avoid staining them to an even darker shade, as the natural oils that they contain makes it difficult to achieve a uniform tone. Instead, you may want to apply a coating of dark varnish- which we shall discuss later.

However- if your wood floor is light-colored- such as pine or white oak- staining it darker for a richer aesthetic is highly recommended. The best stains for darker hardwood floors include dark brown and ebony. To stain your floor, use a paint brush to apply two coats of the stain solution onto the floor surface.

Apply a protective treatment

After staining the hardwood floor, you should apply a protective coating to protect the floor against scratches, gouges, and water damage. The protective treatment can either be a sealer, polyurethane finish, varnish, or acid-cured finish. Here’s a brief overview of each of these options:


These work by forming a thin protective layer on the hardwood surface- hence the name surface sealants. Penetrative sealants- meanwhile- soak into the wood. Typically, sealers need to be reapplied biannually.


This is another popular type of protective coating due to its superior moisture-resistance, abrasion-resistance, and wide range of options available. You can either go for water-based or oil-based polyurethane, depending on your personal preferences. Polyurethane products are also typically available in a variety of finishes; including satin, matte, semi-gloss, and high-gloss.

Oil-based polyurethane gives the hardwood surface an amber tone- for a warm visual aesthetic. Water-based polyurethane- meanwhile- is crystal clear and thinner. If you’re concerned about your health, remember that oil-based polyurethane has a higher VOC content than water-based polyurethane. Regardless of the type of polyurethane, you can apply it either by brushing it, wiping it, or spraying it onto the hardwood surface. Read More on Best Water Based Polyurethane for Floors


Finally, you can seal your hardwood floor using a wax or shellac varnish. Wax varnish is recommended for homeowners who prefer a low-sheen finish with a more natural aesthetic. However, it’s relatively thinner than polyurethane, hence not as durable.

Shellac varnish- on the other hand- is a more eco-friendlier alternative to wax. It’s made from lac bug secretions and denatured alcohol. You can also mix shellac with a matte finish for a darker hardwood floor.

Acid-cured finish

Despite not being an eco-friendly finishing option (high VOC content), an acid-cured finish is arguably the most resilient type of hardwood floor treatment. It is so named because it uses acid for the drying process. Hardwood floors that boast an acid-cured finish are delightfully shiny; with the finish highlighting the wood’s graining.

Does redoing hardwood floors restore them?

Restoring hardwood flooring to its original appearance is not an easy task. After years of wear from scratches, scuff marks, and pet urine; the hardwood surface will start to look dull. Fortunately, using the proper refinishing techniques, you can restore your hardwood floor to its former glory.

It’s however, important to remember that different types of hardwoods have different capabilities to take in stains and sealants, thus affecting their ability to be restored. Some types like engineered hardwood and laminate flooring, may not be suitable for refinishing techniques like sanding.

Other Ways to Change the Color of Hardwood Floors

Glazing (refinishing hardwood without sanding) is not the only way to change the color of the wood floor surface. Other ways of changing the shade of hardwood flooring include sanding, painting, and whitewashing. Here’s a brief overview of each of these alternatives:

Sanding- unlike glazing which involves buffing/screening the hardwood floor without reaching the bare wood, sanding takes out the top layer of wood as well. This reveals a fresh layer of wood, which typically has a slightly different hue from the worn layer being removed. Sanding is- therefore- recommended for hardwood floors with more significant imperfections, such as deep dents and burn marks.

Sanding hardwood floors can be done using walk-behind sanding machines like a drum sander or an orbital sander, or handheld sanders- like a palm sander or an edger. The sanding stage should be followed by the application of a transparent finish to enhance the wood’s natural look.

Painting- unlike staining which enhances upon the hardwood’s natural color by incorporating various undertones, painting completely changes the color of the wood. In fact, you’ll not be able to see the wood graining on a painted hardwood floor.

Whitewashing– finally, you can also choose to whitewash your hardwood floor- instead of painting it. Whitewash is a lighter version of paint and is made by combining chalk with dissolved lime. Additionally, whereas you can paint a hardwood floor to any color you want, whitewashing such surfaces will only turn them white.


As you may have observed by now, glazing can still be a rather intensive process, even with no sanding involved. Therefore- if you don’t fancy labor-intensive DIY projects, you may want to bring in the flooring professionals for this one. If anything, sandless refinishing should be cheaper than refurbishing that involves sanding.

The total costs will also include the costs of staining the hardwood floor to a darker shade. Contact your local flooring experts to request and compare cost estimates for the best deals that offer value for your money.

Read More: How to Sand and Refinish Hardwood Floors

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Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

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