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Thread: Finishing Red Oak Stair Treads

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
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    St. Charles, IL
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    Finishing Red Oak Stair Treads

    I was wondering if anyone here had some wisdom to share when finishing Red Oak stair treads. I've got a floor-grade oil-based polyurethane for the top coat, but I need to stain the treads to match the existing flooring. The one thing I noticed with the deep oak pores is that they like to collect dirt and you'll eventually see a traffic pattern on the wood (the old Oak treads had this problem). Is there an ideal method to fill or seal the grain so that this phenomenon is less likely? I bought a gallon of sanding sealer yesterday, but I'm clueless if this is what I need (and do I apply it before or after the stain?).

    Thanks for any advice in advance.
    Last edited by Frank Snyder; 02-02-2007 at 11:46 AM.

  2. #2
    Stain first. Some stains can be a sealer themselves. Sanding sealer is usually thinned finish. It can't hurt to apply a coat.

    If the stairs will be all wood and used heavily, just put a fresh coat of your finish on every couple of years. Sand them with 220 or whatever is appropriate, and top coat. Good as new.

    Oil is fine, but water based will dry much faster, smell less, and will be as durable (some water based finishes claim to be more durable than oil.) Use a good 2 parter (anything from Bona - I also use Hilliard.) I don't like to use oil beacause of the smell and dry to recoat time. If it's your house, it may not be as much of an issue. It does dry slower, though, so you may get dust settling in the finish. This problem exists with water based finishes too, but to a degree far less than that of oil based.

    Good luck!

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the response, Sam. I've got an entire gallon of a floor-grade oil based poly which I'd like to get rid of (used it for a small project and only available by the gallon). I'm prefinishing the treads here in my workshop, so not to offend the homeowner with VOC's. It sounds like the sanding sealer is an unecessary step if I'm already staining the wood. I thought I needed to address the open pores of the wood to keep them from collecting dirt, which the previous treads did. But the previous treads looked like they had maybe one light coat of a wipe-on poly, so I'm guessing this was actually the cause, and not the open pores, for the darker grain sections.

    I'll apply the stain, wait a day, then apply 2-3 coats of the floor poly. I know this stuff takes 24 hours to harden for each coat, so I'll be patient and not make any dust.

    Thanks again.

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Concord, NC
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    After reading this thread, your question yesterday is now a little clearer. If you are interested in filling the open pores, you need a pore filler, like Pac-O-Pore. It's a heavey paste wiped on and then wiped off that fills the grain of open grain woods. This is used more often for mahogany furniture to give it that glass like finish. Red oak is a open grain wood, but most stair treads don't need a piano finish and I have never seen it used on floors or stairs.

    Richard

  5. #5
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    Nov 2005
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    St. Charles, IL
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    Thanks, Richard. I think that was what I meant. I don't dabble in the dark arts of finishing, so I have no idea what this "sanding sealer" stuff is. All I know is BLO, tung oil, and poly. Then wax on, wax off , Daniel-san.

    I'll forgoe the pore filler since these are just stairs and not a Steinway.

    Thanks again.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Philadelphia
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    Sanding sealer is just a thinned poly with some "stearates" to make it powder quicker when you do your first sanding. The floor guy pro I rent and buy from suggested that regular poly would be good enough. He was right. It worked out fine.

    There is wood filler especially for floors. I used some latex stuff I bought from the Borg. It is the consistency of cream. The suggestion is to apply it on after your 80 grit sanding. You work it in with a paddle.

    Well, let me tell you, it really gummed up my sandpaper getting that floor resanded after applying the pore filler. AT $7 bucks a sheet or disc for the rental sander, it really chewed up a lot of dough.

    On the next floor I didn't use the wood filler. I just put an extra coat of poly on. It worked out OK. I could've used some between where the boards join in some cases, but really not very noticeable.

    All in all... my suggestion is to use it for 1/32 or bigger cracks, but use it sparingly, and be sure to scrape off as much excess as you can, 'cause it's loads up the sand paper really fast.

    For stairs to fill the OAK pores, I don't think I'ld use it. Not worth the trouble. Puttin down 1 or 2 more coats of poly would be much less work, less costly, and will look great.

    One last thing, be sure to let each coat dry long enough that it powders easily when sanding between finishes. Screen it with 120 grit between coats with drywall screen. It will come out really great with this finishing schedule.

    - Ken

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