Black Stain for a White Oak Floor

Experienced floor finishers describe an iron-and-vinegar formula for a penetrating black wood treatment that works on oak floors. June 30, 2007

My good friend is a flooring installer. He's working on a big expensive ugly contemporary house. The architects have requested a qtr sawn white oak floor. It needs to be stained/dyed black. The topcoat is a non-film finish called DuraSeal (it looks, smells, and tastes like Watco oil). He's been doing samples in my shop. The best so far are 6:1 alcohol/black transtint. Jeff Jewitt specs 32:1 on the bottle. I've recommended the India dye that always comes up in the "black" discussion here. What solvent base would you recommend for doing large floors? I would think the alcohol would dry too quickly.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor M:
I've done two white oak floors spec'ed "black". I used Dura-Seal Quick Coat 2 hour penetrating finish #131 ebony. It's a self-sealing stain, 2-3 hour dry time. I did a final screen coat at 100 grit, water shocked the floors just before staining, and applied 2 coats of ebony. For the topcoat I used Glitsa (alcohol based). You do have to work fast... but it doesn't flash as fast as you would think. A 24" squeegee for application makes it go down fast.

From contributor D:
The black for the white oak should be obtained with a "rusty nail" color process. This is steel wool soaked in distilled vinegar for several days. Remove the steel wool, filter and apply like a water based dye. The wood will slowly turn translucent black. If more color is desired, use Duraseal ebony penetrating finish for a first coat. The final coats should be neutral Duraseal, as the wood will not absorb any more color after first coat of Duraseal. Building colored Duraseal over the first coat will leave color but it will walk off quickly, leaving an unhappy customer. This is an extremely colorfast process, unlike aniline dye.

From the original questioner:
My friend tried the ebony Duraseal. He said it looks brown. The Duraseal tech confirmed it is very dark brown. It looks good on light woods. How dark does the rusty nails trick get? They are looking for the black paint look. Just the grain should show.

From contributor D:
Rusty nail with ebony Duraseal as sealer is very black. It does show depth in direct sunlight, but is almost opaque in indirect lighting. The longer you soak the steel wool, the darker. It will look grey after drying from first coat, but sealer returns the black. I am not aware of any way to go blacker short of pigmented floor paint.

From contributor I:
I would look at the ICA stain line. They have a black in WB (CNA) that I use all of the time and they also have some solvent (IN) based black if I am not mistaken.

From contributor Z:
I once did a computer armoire with black India ink. It came out wonderful. I'm not sure how well it would work for a floor, but it might be worth a try. I bought my ink from an art supply store by the quart, taking about 2 quarts to do the whole armoire 2 coats deep inside and out. Maybe they could work out a deal with you for larger quantities.

From contributor H:
The acetic acid/steel wool method will give you a very permanent dark grayish black that appears black in normal house lighting. For a darker, blacker look, apply a water dye (4 to 8 oz. per gallon) over the top of this with an ounce of ammonia for better penetration. Let everything dry for at least 24 hours before applying sealer. Do not add color to clear coating, for this will wear off in time, especially on a thin penetrating film.