Popping (4)

Just because our house is “off limits” while the floors are being refinished, doesn’t mean we can’t talk about what’s going on over there. In the comments section of Wednesday’s post, we mentioned how our floor guy is “water popping” the floor. A few of you asked what that meant, so here we are to give you the rundown…

When we decided on Dark Walnut (far left), we told Frank, our awesome floor guy, we wanted it somewhat darker than the sample. Basically, we love the tone of Dark Walnut, but we wanted it to saturate the wood a bit more. Frank’s answer? Water popping!

Water popping, also called grain popping, is when you evenly dampen the sanded wood with water to make the grain contrast more with the wood around it, making the floor “pop”. Time for some geeky science content! Even after the tree is dead, some of the wood’s basic functions continue to work. The basic function we’re interested in is how the wood’s cells expand upon contact with water. When you dampen the wood, its cells swell slightly to draw in the moisture.  This allows the wood to absorb more stain, which results in a darker, richer finished product. Water popping is especially helpful when applying dark stain to lighter-colored wood (like our floors).

Here is a nifty demonstration from Russet Street Reno (who were brave enough to tackle floor finishing, unlike us!). The left side is espresso stain on a piece of freshly sanded pine. The right side was dampened with water prior to applying the stain:

As you can see, the right side of this piece of wood is much more saturated with stain than the left. To read more about Russet Street Reno’s water popping experience, check it out here.

This process, and floor staining in general, is definitely not in our “DIY comfort zone” at the moment, so we left this project up to the professionals. However, if any of you out there are brave enough to conquer this type of project on your own, here are some tips from the National Wood Flooring Association. (Who knew there was such a thing?!):

  • Before attempting to use the water popping technique on a floor, do a test on a sample board. The key to successful water popping is controlling the amount of water applied to the wood and the amount of time the wood needs to dry before applying the stain. Measure the moisture content before water popping to establish the baseline moisture content, and then test to see how long it takes for the wood to return to its original moisture content.
  • The effect of water popping will vary, depending on the amount of water used, the length of time it’s allowed to dry, the species of wood, and the type and color of stain to be applied.
  • Record the moisture content of the wood flooring before water popping. The wood must be allowed to dry completely and the flooring must return to the correct moisture content before proceeding with finish application.

So that’s what is going on behind closed doors at our place. We are so anxious to see the finished product and how water popping enhanced our stain of choice! In the meantime, we’re going to go take a sneak peek in the window. 🙂

Experiment photo courtesy of Russet Street Reno.

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  • Reply
    November 12, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Now THAT is very cool. I had no idea there was such a thing. Thanks for the info!

  • Reply
    November 12, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Hey, I’m a new follower. Found you on Picket Fence Blogs. Good luck on the floors. I can’t wait to see what they look like when they are finished. Stop by my blog if you get a chance http://diyhshp.blogspot.com/

  • Reply
    November 13, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Can’t wait to see how your floors turn out with this process. I’ve heard it can make the floors look splotchy?

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