April 27, 2023

Water-Popping Hardwood Floors Explained

Male hant hold plastic mop and wash dirty ploor closeup background.

Homeowners, interior designers, and real estate developers agree that hardwood floors are worthy investments for three reasons. They’re durable, long-lasting, and offer timeless beauty unlike any other. Hardwood flooring tops other choices due to their unique graining and natural wooden hues, but getting the best grains out of hardwood planks requires a critical and risky method: water popping. Learn about water popping, its significance, known benefits, and risks with this hardwood flooring guide. 

What is Water Popping?

Water popping, also called grain popping or raising the grain, is a process that opens the grains in hardwood floorings. The method uses water by adding them to your newly-sanded hardwood floorboards before applying a stain and finish.

It’s a conditioning technique that allows homeowners to achieve hardwood flooring with richer graining and a more even appearance. Water popping changes how much stain penetrates the planks and works by using wood’s natural reaction to moisture and water.

Hardwood, like any wood, is a naturally absorbent material. Trees contain numerous cells that absorb water and fit in groups of narrow pipe-like passages. Each cell wall holds small amounts of moisture while the hollow parts of the inner cell act as a room for keeping and releasing liquid. These cells and pathways collect and transfer water and other nutrients from the roots to the other parts.

Once hardwood farms cut trees, the lumbers they collected are still moist. Before transferring them to the mill, they keep them in the clearing for kiln-drying. Kiln drying is drying out hardwood lumber by removing the excess moisture until they’re ready for manufacturing.

Although kiln-drying removes most of the water from the cut hardwood, the cell structure within the wood remains. Even after harvesting the lumber, these cells continue absorbing and releasing moisture.

Water popping takes advantage of these cells because manufactured hardwood planks are refined and smooth. Before they reach the shops, hardwood strips go through several passes of sanding, which closes the natural grains of the hardwood. Due to this, hardwood floorboards have difficulty accepting stains from stuck sawdust and wood particles inside their pores.

Water popping reopens the pores of the grains, making the hardwood floors porous and easy to stain and finish.

The Benefits of Water Popping

The most notable benefit of water popping is how the method reopens the hardwood grain’s pores. Porous hardwood floorings make it easier to stain and finish them. Further understanding the perks of water popping is essential, so here are some detailed explanations.

Stains are More Even Across the Hardwood Floor

Sanding creates sawdust and fine grits, making the hardwood denser and less porous. It also makes the graining throughout the wood uneven. Using various grits of sandpaper allows your flooring to become smooth, but some patterns from the planks get hidden.

Due to this, parts of your hardwood floors have deeper staining, while others have less noticeable stains. When done right, water popping opens all the pores throughout the floor, allowing even stain application.

It Raises the Hardwood Fibers

The water-popping process causes the fibers in the hardwood to rise. When that happens, the surface areas become more absorbent, allowing stains to penetrate deeper into the hardwood. Due to this, stain application gives you a richer wood appearance.

It Keeps the Professional Look Without the Sanding Marks

Although it doesn’t always happen, some professionals and experienced DIY homeowners can make mistakes. The hardest part of finishing hardwood floors is sanding them, and it takes high levels of skill and control to achieve an even, well-sanded floorboard. In addition, the sanding process can leave noticeable marks after applying stains.

With water popping, grains in the hardwood rise. The process allows sanding marks to blend in with the hardwood fibers. Due to this, nothing stands out after the wood stain application.

The Risks of Water Popping Hardwood Floors

Experts continuously remind homeowners and remodelers about the risks of water-popping hardwood floors, especially those without experience. Although hardwood floors look better after a successful water-popping process, improper execution can lead to irreparable damage.

Remember that you can only confirm a successful water-popping process after applying the stain. When the hardwood flooring surface has richer, even staining, you succeeded in water-popping the floorboards.

But if the floor’s surface feels different in some areas, the process is unsuccessful, and repeating it is necessary after re-sanding. In addition, numerous sanding and water popping can only damage your hardwood flooring.

Uneven Water

When you pour different amounts of water into the areas of your hardwood floor, you’re increasing the risk of the hardwood absorbing various moisture levels. When that happens, it can cause your floorboards to break down decades earlier. In addition, it would make your stains look blotchy.

Staining Without Drying the Hardwood Floor

Homeowners should give their hardwood floors enough time to dry out. Staining the hardwood before they’re dry will only make the stains blotchy. Always consider that the drying time can vary due to several factors, such as:

  • Temperature
  • Indoor humidity and air circulation
  • The amount of water added
  • Hardwood specie

When the room has a lower temperature or higher humidity, it’ll take more time for your hardwood floors to dry. Homeowners should also consider that water-popping outcomes vary in different hardwood species. Some hardwoods are naturally more welcoming to stains and don’t require water popping, but some are not.

Water Popping Hardwood Floors in Austin, TX

Hardwood floors are a part of every remodeler’s to-do list because of their benefits, including their classic beauty and appeal. Water popping enhances the grains and richness of stained hardwood floorings, but doing this method is full of risks. Understanding how the process works will help homeowners consider if they need it on their hardwood floorboards or keep it with simple sanding and finishing.

Get an expert’s opinion on water-popping hardwood floors in Austin by visiting Kelly Hardwood Floors today!