Black Dye Staining an Old Parquet Floor

Finishers supply a first-timer with how-to details on applying a dead-black floor finish. January 14, 2008

I am a handyman doing some restoration work for a client. In one room there is an old parquet floor (the type with various grains exposed) and it is stained a dark walnut - any top coating has been worn off. She wants it stained black, as dark as I can get it without losing the grain. I've read about iron black, India ink, etc. All sound doable, but with the differences in grains, will I be able to get a relatively uniform finish?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor M:
A dye stain would need to be sprayed on to get it even, as it dries way too fast to wipe on. Spraying is probably not a very good idea, as there is overspray and the possibility of fire or explosion with pilot lights. Check with your local finish supplier. They will be able to help you match a colour in a wiping stain or a waterbourne stain.

From contributor P:
There are plenty of black waterborne dyes out there - WD Lockwood, TransFast, etc. Test first, though. Not everyone is happy with the results of a black dye. They often have a blue or purple tint. Dyes may not be a good idea if there's a lot of direct sunlight on the floor. They tend to fade.

They're not difficult to apply. Spraying is easiest. You will have to sand all of the old finish off for the dye to penetrate.

Dyes usually look terrible until you topcoat them, so make sure your test includes whatever topcoat you plan to use. You may want to do your test while the floor sander is still available in case you don't like the results.

What do you mean by different grains?

From contributor B:
Why not go to the paint store and have them mix up some black or very dark wiping stain? I would not use a dye or anything like that because it would be hard to control over a large area.

From contributor D:
Water pop the floor after sanding so it accepts as much color as possible. Waterbased dye is easy, but not really black. But if you use Duraseal ebony oil stain over black dye, you should be good.

From contributor N:
Dick Blick water based India ink is the best solution if black is what you want. It's basically a very thin but extremely opaque paint and that's exactly what you're asking for since you want grain definition. Apply it with a foam brush and you're good to go.

From the original questioner:
Thanks all. The room is going to be a library done completely in black and white. The existing parquet is stained a dark walnut color. By different grains, I mean that each 1X4" slat that makes up the design in a tile has a different grain (top, side, cross cut, etc.) as opposed to parquet designs that have all top grain designs.

Sounds like I need to sand to remove the existing finish and then apply one of the recommended stains. Luckily there is a small utility closet with the same flooring, so I have a good area to test various products in.

I had hoped that since the existing finish is pretty dark, I might be able to rough up the surface to take the black product, but sounds like I'll be renting a sander... and a sprayer? The room is meant to be a showpiece. Maybe I should just tell the client it's beyond me.

From contributor D:
There is absolutely no need to do this with a sprayer. Proper products and a brush and some rags will make a beautiful black floor. No need to overcomplicate this. The process is sand to 180 grit, water pop by wiping with water damp rags to open the grain, dye with waterbase black dye like Sherwin W. Sherwood dye concentrate (rag on and off), and then seal with Duraseal ebony penetrating floor finish. Spraying makes for too much masking and is unnecessary with waterbased dye. I have done this process at least 15 times.