you can see the difference between the part of the floor that was not water-popped (on the left) and the water-popped part of the floor (on the right). The difference in stain color is dramatic.

What is water popping?

Water popping is a process that opens the pores in hardwood flooring for more consistent stain penetration.  It involves adding water to the wood before applying the stain.  It will make the stain/color look more even and can allow you to go a bit darker and deeper with very dark stains

Wood moisture and why water popping is recommended

A wood flooring manufacturer buys kiln-dried lumber and cuts it down to size. Then, the lumber must be sanded down – often through several passes. During this process, the hardwood goes from being coarse to becoming fine and extremely smooth.

The sanding process closes the natural grain of the wood so the wood is no longer porous enough to accept stain. That’s because the tiny wood particles and sawdust get stuck inside some of the pores.

The sanding process begins with a coarse, low grit paper to flatten and clean the wood, then progressively finer grit sandpaper is applied to smooth the surface even more. Finer grits tighten the grain fibers, making the wood denser and less porous and penetrable.

The result is that the stain is not absorbed deeply into the wood, and most of the stain will be removed when wiped with a cloth.

Benefits of water popping

Stain More Evenly Across the Floor

Due to the application of various grits when sanding, the grain throughout the floor may not be uniform. When water popping is done correctly, the pores are opened throughout the flooring, allowing the stain to be more evenly applied.

Raises Wood Fibers Promoting Stain Penetration

Water popping causes the fiber in the wood to stand up, providing greater surface area for the stain to absorb and penetrate deep into the wood

Sustain a Professional Look and Feel without Any Sanding Marks

Even the best professionals can make a mistake. Sanding wood flooring can leave marks, however small, that are noticeable until after the wood is stained. When the grain is raised from water popping, any sanding marks blend in with the wood fibers, and when stained the marks won’t stand out.

The Stain Appears Darker and Richer

Perhaps the thing that stands out the most on a wood floor is the deep rich color. Water popping enables you to make your stain appear darker and richer. Darker and richer floors are noticeable, which many people admire.