How To Decide on a Final Stain Color


In our last blog post, we went into great detail about choosing stain colors. If you haven’t seen that post yet you can read it here .

One of the hardest decisions you may have to make when it comes to your hardwood floors is choosing the color you will eventually stain them. This is an important decision because you will have to live with your choice for a long time.

Dark Stain Sample Boards

If you’ve followed the advice from that post, you’ve probably narrowed your choice down to 2 or 3 of your favorite colors.

So, in this article we’ll show you the steps we can help you go through to finally decide on a color that you’ll be completely 100% happy with for your hardwood floors.

First things first though…

What’s with the Small Stain Samples???

One of the biggest complaints we used to hear when helping people choose a stain color was that the samples are far too small.

And you know what? They were right. Most stain samples are no more than a few square inches… if that.

Stain Fan Deck

How on earth could you get a good idea of how it would look on your hardwood floors from such a tiny sample?

So to address this frustrating issue, we decided to make things much easier for you by assembling some much bigger stain samples on sections of actual hardwood flooring as you can see in the image below. They have also been coated with one of our finish systems so you can see exactly how the color will look on the floor once finished.

Large Stain Samples

Now you can put them these larger samples on your floor, step back and get a much better idea of how your entire floor will look.

How to Use Our Large Stain Sample Boards…

We suggest that our clients give our large stain sample boards a test run for a few days in their homes. This will help you to see the 2 or 3 colors you’re having trouble deciding on in different light settings – in the morning, during the afternoon and in the evening under artificial light.

You may love one particular color in the bright morning light but after a few days of living with the sample board decide that it makes the room far too dark in the evening.

We also suggest moving the sample boards around the rooms to different locations. Put them up close to your furniture to get an idea of how they work together.

Naperville Stain Samples

Does one color look better with other wood pieces of furniture more than the others?

How does each sample look with your rugs and sofa?

Think about the ambiance of the room you’re hoping to obtain when choosing your stain color. Remember that the wood in your home doesn’t have to be all the same type and color, but they do need to work well together.

After a few days of seeing the large samples in their home environment, most of our clients have a much easier time of making their final choice.

But What if I Still Can’t Decide?

In some special cases we have clients who still can’t decide between 2 similar colors on the sample boards and are wondering what a blend of both might look like. Or maybe they would like to see a lighter or darker shade of a certain color.

In these situations we are happy to put some actual custom mixed stain samples on the actual hardwood floor itself. We can sand an area in one of your rooms and apply the custom mixed stain colors side-by-side so you can easily see the difference between them. That way for certain you’ll have the exact color you were looking for.

Stain samples on floor

Usually this last step is not needed but we are happy to offer it to our clients to make sure they’re 100% satisfied with their final choice.

Once the difficult decision of color choice is made, the rest is looked after by us. We’ll prepare your floor for staining using the detailed steps you can read about here .

Then your newly stained hardwood floor will be coated numerous times with one of our top of the line finish systems to properly protect it for many years of enjoyment.

More Information:

For a more in-depth article about choosing a stain color you can download the PDF article “What Color Should I Stain My Hardwood Floors?” here .

Updated Jan 2023

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Hi Tadas. We are in the middle of choosing a color to stain our oak hardwood floors and your articles have been very helpful. I just wanted to let you know that and say thank you.

I wish we were in Naperville so we could hire you! Unfortunately we’re on the other side of the country :(

Thanks for the help anyways and I hope business is good for you.

Hello Brett,

Thank you for your thank you :)

I’m glad I was able to help from way over here. Good luck with your hardwood floor staining and refinishing project. I hope you love the stain color you end up choosing.

Mighty useful, I appreciate it.

You’re welcome Dolly

Sitting here, and the guys are in the other room now sanding…..I live no where near you, but your site helped me a lot. Your floors are magnificent and I hope you are doing well with customers on your side of the country! I actually love carpeting, but am letting my husband make me do this….it’s hard to decide on the color because the furniture I have now is not permanent. So, guess I’ll have to flip a coin….but you REALLY helped me make my decision! Thanks so much for the free advice, it’s wonderful to have someone explain things the way you have! Lynn

Hi Lynn! We’re glad we could be of help, that’s why we’re putting all this effort into our blog here, to help people like you :)

Thank you for your compliment about our work too, that made our day. And yes, we’re staying very busy over here – too busy in fact!

Good luck with your stain color choice, I understand why it would be a tough decision. I hope they turn out great.

Tadas Sadunas

What a great post

Short, sweet, to the point and free – exactly as information should be!

Thank you Lucas

Thank you for the post, very helpful.

A million thanks for posting this information.

Have you ever seen or done a house where each room has a different stain colour?

Hi Rick,

We haven’t had that request personally. I’ve seen a floor in a show room that had a floor with different stain colors but usually this is done with different types of hardwood, not stain.

Tadas Sadunas

Excellent post, mate! Thanks for the useful information

You’re welcome Greg, glad to be of help.

Thank you for professional assistance.

Looking at your sample boards on floor in 2 columns —
(RIGHT column having lightest board on top)

what’s the STAIN in 1st column MIDDLE board,
& the stain in 2nd column BOTTOM board ??

Thank you very much.


Hi Mary,

Sorry for the delay, I overlooked your comment and I do apologize. I’m pretty certain the colors are English Chestnut and Special Walnut. The brand is Duraseal.

Hope that helps.


In the samples on the floor, what stain is the last one in the first column and the middle one in the second column. Thanks for your help!!

Hi Julie,

I’m not exactly sure because these were samples from 3 years ago and the computer screen doesn’t show the colors accurately. I think it is Early American for the first and a blend of Early American and English Chestnut for the second one.

Sorry I couldn’t be 100% certain for you.


Love, love your blog! We are in the middle of our first DIY floor project and I wish I would’ve found it earlier. (Our floor looks like a small patchwork quilt with stain choices…boards would’ve been easier and more helpful) This is slightly off the stain choosing topic…however, we are planning on finishing sanding tomorrow and don’t know which grit to end on. Some say 80 and others say 100. What would be the difference in quality and appearance of stain? Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with DIY-ers like us!

Hi Shelley,

You have probably finished your floor by now, sorry I didn’t have time to reply earlier. We’re in the middle of our busiest time of the year and I don’t get as many chances to reply to the comments as regularly.

To answer your question, you can finish on either grit but which one we choose depends on a few factors like the type of wood, the cut of the wood, the condition of the floor, stain choice and whether you intend to water pop your floors or not.

I think for DIY’s it’s probably best to sand up to 100 grit and then water pop before staining. That will ensure most of the scratches from the edger are removed.

I hope the project goes/went well for you guys.


We’ve purchased an old English Tudor and the oak floors are beautiful but worn and need some love. I’m leaning towards the expresso/Jacobean in hopes the natural oak color combinations will blend and pop. Plus the dark wood is beautiful in an English Tudor. We’ve been gathering information on DIY like squirrels gather nuts for the winter, it wasn’t until this blog, which helped us feel confident enough to go forward and prepare for this huge DIY project. Thank you all for the wealth of proper information. Many blessings for the company’s prosperity.

Hi Haunted Joes,

Thanks for the compliment, glad we could be of help :)

Good luck with the project!


Hi I have oakwood floors and I have alot of black stains in the floors. Right now I’m thinking about staining them but I really wanted to stay natural look for a lighter floor. If i do stain them what color should I stain them? I was thinking cherry wood myself?

Hi Rodney,

Are the black stains from pet urine or water marks from planters? If so then a cherry colored stain won’t cover them as they are most likely all the way through the wood. If they sand out then yes cherry would look nice. If not, then you have a choice of either replacing the stained boards or staining the floor a very dark color to hide them.


Choosing between Dura-seal Dark Walnut or Jacobean on Red Oak. I have pretty good size sample boards but still stuck. My family sees yellow/orange in the Dark Walnut (I think is out of style) and they see green in the Jacobean (green, really?). Do you see these under tones in these colors as well? Are folks using a lot of the Dark Walnut stain color?

Hi Marla,

Can’t say I’ve seen green in Jacobean myself. It most likely has something to do with that particular piece of wood. I would take a guess and say the sample boards may be white oak. If so, it’s better to do a sample on red oak like your floors.

To answer your question, yes, Dark Walnut is still a popular color. I think it will be for some time yet too.


Hi Tadas,
Great website with some extremely helpful info.

Quick question – we have been trying some Rubio color samples on our red oak floors and have found the oak (tanins) tends to bring out more oranges/reds. Have you had any luck finding a light-medium brown color without these tones coming through.


Hi Mark,

The best way is to fume first. Castle Brown is a good medium brown color that looks good on red oak.


Like others, I want to say a huge thank you for all your posts. I have a farmhouse that dates to 1860 with the original wide plank oak floors (with later pine in the kitchen). We are getting ready to re-finish them and I am learning all I can to be sure we care for them properly. I was deciding between (1) Rubio and (2) stain (maybe) + Pall-x gold. Chose the Pall-x gold b/c I am worried that my local floor refinisher might not be experienced enough to get the Rubio just right and it looks like that could make them a maintenance mess, especially in the kitchen; and (2) b/c they are face-nailed and uneven, with gaps, etc. it sounds like you think it’s not a great fit for Rubio.
My questions are these: what is the difference between Pall-x clear vs Pall-x Natureseal, and how do I decide which to use? Same question for Pall-X Gold and Pall-X Pure for the finish. If we sand the floors and like the look, or even if we stain them, we will probably want to hold the color exactly as is. Thanks so much for all you do to educate us all about these special floors!

Hi Tricia,

Pall-X Gold is a good choice. -X Clear is used for floors that have been stained white or a pastel color. It’s pure clear and doesn’t effect the color like some other sealers can. -X Natureseal gives you a natural untreated wood look. Good to use if you don’t stain and want to keep light floors, like maple, look as original as possible. -X Color would be used over a stained floor (changing the color before finish is applied).

Pall-X Gold gives you different sheen options. Pall-X Pure is an ultra matte sheen. It has no sheen at all and looks like there is no finish on the wood.

Hope that helps.


Hi Tadas, We are installing white oak flooring in our home and I’m trying to decide on a stain color . I would like to go black but no one else in the house wants too Can you tell me how you achieved the color in the first picture of the left most sample board? Thanks for you help Sue

Hi Susan,

If I recall correctly, that color is a mix of Magic Oil Black and Natural.


What is the stain color you have on the hardwood floors that you have pictured with the TWF on the bottom right? It’s a herringbone pattern. It looks like a weathered blonde/gray.

Hi Dusty,

That floor is raw, ready for it’s final sand before applying a stain and finish.


I’m currently located in Elmhurst, IL but am building a house in TX. My builders are asking for my Duraseal stain color choice and I’ve been calling all over the place and searching the internet for a place where I can see the stain on actual wood instead of in a catalog. I found your blog post and was wondering if I could come by and see some of your larger floor stain samples? Please advise.

Thank you!

Julie Williams

Hi Julie,

Yes we can arrange this. We’re in Elmherst often. Give me a call on 630-995-0662 and we’ll arrange something.


We ran into an issue that I have not seen covered online. After our existing oak floors were sanded (25 years old and the typical gold color stain of the 90s), the stain samples are showing orange-red lines at the beveled edges of the wood. This looks even worse in direct sunlight. The installer said it’s typical as the sander doesn’t get into the beveled grooves. These orange lines have made it a challenge to pick a stain color. Very light, medium brown and darker browns – I can still see the lines, especially in direct sunlight.
Can you write an article or provide any insight on what colors are best for the issue? Or any tricks of the trade to deal with it?

Hi Denise,

Yes this is an issue with pre-finished floors that have beveled edges. Best way, but most time consuming, is to remove the finish in the bevels by hand scraping or with a specialized router. The second option is by sanding the floor flat down to the bottom of the bevels. This can remove quite a lot of life from your floor though if the bevels are large. We tend to stay away from refinishing pre-finished floors with large bevels for this very reason.


Hi Tadas!
Like so many others really appreciate you blog and your willingness to not only share your expertise ,but reply to all that inquire .
I also am days a way from picking my final stain choice . We have white oak floors and are considering ebony,50/50 Jacobean /ebony however I see red with the Jacobean. Wondering your thoughts on 50/50 dark walnut /ebony ? I like ebony a lot but in its own afraid it may be to dark . Thank you in advance ! Kim
Ps. I’m from the Windy City ,but live in Texas now . Which I was close ,I would use you in a flash!

Hi Kim,

Happy to help :)

Both mixes will look great. You can also lighten the ebony by mixing it with 50% Neutral and that way you won’t get any red. Best to test on some sample panels just to make sure. It’s a lot of work removing stain once it’s down.


Hello, what is the last stain color in the last photo? We are having our acacia floors refinished due to yellowing. Thanks!

Hi Victoria,

The one at the top? I think that is expresso. The bottom grey one is a custom color.


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