Unfortunately the cost was too much for us to be able to do comfortably right now, so since it was mostly a cosmetic change anyways, we decided that now is not the time to do it. Maybe down the line we will get to it, but now is not the time.
However a few weeks ago, I was ready to get this done, and we even delayed painting the house and going to IKEA thinking that our floors were getting redone. Also, we didn't even get a Christmas Tree!! I know, I know, there is still time, but it's really not worth the hassle right now with the holiday being only a few days away now. Which just means that next year I'm going to get that tree as soon as I can!
We were debating between Dark Walnut and Jacobean, both by Minwax, and as suggested in the comments of this post, we wanted to see each in the light of the rooms. So, in preparing for the floors being refinished, I went to the hardware store and picked up a 2'x1' board in Red Oak, which is the type of wood that our hardwoods are. I grabbed a small can of the two colors we were debating for stain and a small can of poly to go over the top.
I prepped the board that I got by sanding it, then wiped all of the sawdust off with a dry cloth, and actually used one of those compressed air cans that you can use to clean out electronics to get the remaining dust particles off. I then water-popped the board, by wetting the wood with warm water and letting it air dry. This is done so that the grain opens and the wood absorbs more stain, therefore making the color as dark as the swatch.
Then, it was time to add the stain. I used a small foam brush from the hardware store and applied the stain with the grain of the wood. Once I had the board covered, I went over it again one more time to make sure that the coverage was even. I did the same thing for the second color stain on the other half of the board, and then let the stain sit for 15 minutes.
I couldn't find any of my work cloths because of the shambles that my garage is currently in, so I grabbed a pair of old but clean socks and used them to wipe the extra stain off the boards, again going with the grain of the wood. I then left it overnight to dry before applying the first coat of polyurethane.
The next day, I wiped down the board with a slightly damp paper towel, just to make sure that there was no lint or dust on it that would get stuck in the polyurethane. Using a clean foam brush, I applied the poly in a not-too-thin-but-not-too-thick coat, with the grain of the wood, then using the reflection of a flashlight, made sure there weren't any big bubbles on the surface. I left this to dry overnight, just like I did the stain.
The next day, I repeated the last step, but before applying the final coat of polyurethane, I used some fine-grit sandpaper and sanded down the board gently, making sure that any bubbles that the poly left were popped and the new coat would stick better and finish off all the coverage. Once that was left overnight to dry, we were ready to remove the painter's tape.
Since I polyurethaned over the edge of the tape on the board, I used a razor blade to score the seam so that it didn't leave little pieces of tape everywhere. After that, the tape came up very easily.
Just a note about using painter's tape with stain - it might not work the way you want it to. If you notice in the picture below, I had a lot of bleeding with the stain under the tape. Because this was just a sample board and not a piece of furniture, I didn't mind, but if you're trying to use this technique with a piece of furniture or an important project, you will likely end up with some bleeding.
And with that, we had a finished board to bring from room to room to test the stain colors.
But, then we didn't use it, because we figured out that refinishing the floors was out of the question for the time being. So now I just have this board that's stained two different colors for no reason. But, when the time comes to actually have the floors done, I'll have this ready to throw in every room to make sure we like the color.
Anyone else really get their hopes up on refinishing the floors and then not have them done? I was devastated, but I'd rather hold off so we can do some other smaller and less expensive things to the house.