One of the biggest questions we get here at Tadas Wood Flooring Inc. when it comes to staining floors is: Should I get my floors stained and if so, what color should I go with?
It’s easy to see why this can be such a dilemma for some people, your floors will have a huge impact on the look of your home and if you get them wrong, you’ll be stuck with them for a long, long time.
The answer isn’t as hard as you might think. There are a number of factors that will affect whether you should stain your floors and what stain color best suits your home, all of which need to be taken into consideration before making a decision.
Let’s go through a few steps to see what your decision should be.
Just to be clear – when we talk about “staining” we are talking about a separate step done to color your wood floors . This step is done in-between them being sanded and the clear coats of finish being applied. Many people think ‘staining’ means applying the top coats of oil or polyurethane. But in the flooring industry, those are referred to as ‘finishes’. The multiple coats of clear finish gets applied on top of the stain.
As such, no floor needs to be stained.
It’s perfectly OK to just apply finish to them without this step.
But if you’d like to change the color of your hardwood floors and have a surface finish applied, then they will need to be stained or have a pre-treatment done to them. If you want to go with a hardwax oil, then you have the option to use a stain under the oil (for OSMO Polyx-Oil and Pallmann Magic Oil), or go with a pre-tinted colored finish.
The photo below shows the huge difference applying a stain can make…
So the first decision to make is whether you should even consider adding color to your floor, or if it should be kept in its natural state.
Consider the following questions:
If you are lucky enough to have an exotic, rare or special wood floor such as mahogany, cherry, rosewood, walnut, aged pine and even maple then we strongly recommend they don’t be stained.
They already look great in their natural colors.
Most people stain their floors in an attempt to get them to look like one of these awesome floors. If you already have this type of naturally beautiful hardwood floor in your home then you’re way ahead of the game.
On the other hand, maybe you have a more common type of wood like red or white oak. Then you have a decision to make.
Oak floors can look great left their natural color as you can see in this photo…
There are new finish systems available now, like Pallmann Pall-X Gold or Loba Invisible (used on the floor above), that don’t turn oak flooring that old orangy-yellow color that people associate with their grandparent’s floors.
Those floors from the 1950’s and up to the 2000’s turned that way because oil-based polyurethane was used. As they aged over time, and with exposure to the sun, they slowly turned that amber color we all want to keep away from.
New water-based finishes have come a long way in stopping that effect. No more 70’s orange oak floors if you don’t want to stain.
But, if you would rather add some color to your floors to simulate a more exotic or dramatic look, then oak flooring takes stain very well with the correct techniques. And they look great when done properly as you can see with this stain mix of Sedona Red + Ebony…
The kind of flooring you have shouldn’t be the only deciding factor though. In the end it will all come down to your own tastes and preferences. We have stained many different species of wood floors for clients, including Brazilian Cherry and maple floors that clients weren’t in love with.
This can be one of the toughest decisions you’ll have to make when it comes to refinishing your hardwood floors. Take a look at just some of the options you have below. It can be a bit intimidating.
This is the stain color chart from DuraSeal…
And here are the colors available from Bona…
And those are just the stain colors.
On top of that there are many colored products that can be used from hardwax oil companies like Rubio Monocoat, Pallmann and Loba.
Here is the extensive colored oils Rubio Monocoat has available…
And then, to make the choice even more complicated, there are pre-colors and aging treatments you can apply first before the colored oil. AND, they can be mixed and/or layered for pretty much unlimited color choice.
Below are the Rubio Monocoat Pre-Color Easy colors…
And here is there selection of pre-aging treatments like RMC Smoke and RMC Fumed…
And to top it off, here is a small sample from the selection of Pallman Magic Oil colors…
That’s a LOT of choice!
Unless you have the exact image in your mind of how you want your floors to look, you’ll need to find some inspiration.
One of the best places to see different flooring styles and colors is in that stack of home decoration and renovation magazines you have piled up in a corner somewhere. You should be able to find images of houses with all sorts of wood flooring colors, stains and shades within them.
Websites like Houzz are great for looking at photos too.
What grabs your eye?
Do you like the light, clean open look of a lighter colored modern grey shade…
Or do you fancy the deep, elegant and bold look of dark black floors…
Maybe your eye is drawn to the brown shades in between these two palates…
Apart from looking in magazines and online, you can also take a trip down to your local big box hardware store and browse through the flooring isle to see what tickles your fancy.
You should be able to pretty quickly see what you like and even more importantly what shades you don’t like with the big samples they have on display.
You can also check out our own collection of photos from previous hardwood floor projects for some inspiration.
If you have a certain taste in furniture or a design style you’re going for, it will be a big help to decide on a wood floor stain color.
For example, if you want a country, farmhouse theme in your home, then you won’t want to stain your floors Dark Ebony or Jacobean, you would go for something like Early American or Colonial Maple.
On the other hand, if you’re going for a more modern contemporary style, you won’t want to put down a color like Sedona Red as it would look completely out of place.
You would go with something much bolder and modern like Ebony, True Black, Dark Grey, Graphite or one of the Rubio Monocoat mixes.
Try to find a color that will set the tone for the theme you’re going with.
You want something that will ground your room/s styling and not clash with your décor. Think about the ambiance of the room you’re hoping to obtain when choosing colors.
Again, this will depend on the style you want to have in your home.
When this article was originally written almost 9 years ago, dark colors were all the rage in magazines. Then grey floors came in strong. Now we’re seeing a bit of a swing back to lighter colored stained floors, while still having many clients choose a dark stain.
I guess what I’m getting to, is that whatever the current style is, it doesn’t mean it has to dictate your own style. They are your floors and you have to live with them.
Plus what’s in now could be “out of style” soon according to the design gurus.
You have to decide on something you like that will look good with your furnishings long-term.
On that note, red/brown shaded stains like Walnut and Chestnut have a very warming, homey effect in a home and are a very safe bet.
Lighter shades like Cherry and Golden Oak will accent the natural grains and beauty of a floor while still giving it some depth and color.
While dark shades like True Black and Ebony will make a grand statement in a home and show off furniture more.
Lighter floors can be better for small dark rooms as they will brighten them up, making them look bigger because they reflect light. Dark floors will absorb light and have the opposite effect.
One reason for going with a dark colored stain may be to hide blemishes or imperfections. If there are large areas of water damage or pet stains, then a dark stain and maybe a pre-color treatment might be able to adequately mask these areas and other imperfections, without having to do extensive repairs (assuming the wood itself is stable).
One other thing to note about dark stained floors is that maintenance will be somewhat more difficult.
Scratches will show through easier and dust will be much more noticeable on the surface. So if you have a full house running through, scuffing things up, tracking dirt and dust in and you don’t want the stress of continually cleaning up, you may want to consider a lighter color.
Lighter floors are considerably easier to maintain and keep looking clean.
If you’ve narrowed your choices down to 2 or 3 colors then you’re well on your way to getting the perfect stain for your hardwood floors.
As I’ve gotten a bit carried away with this post, I’ll make that the subject of my next blog post (you can read it here ). I’ll go into detail explaining the best way to make sure you’re completely 100% happy with your decision, before you commit to staining the entire floor.
As you can see, the choice you have in stain colors for your hardwood floor is almost unlimited.
After sanding and refinishing hundreds of hardwood floors in the Naperville and Chicago area, we have experience with pretty much every color available.
Whatever your taste is, dark, lighter floors, red hues, grey or brown and all the shades in between, you will have no trouble finding a color that fits in perfect with your home. And if you can’t find the perfect color out of a tin, we’d be happy to mix some different stains together for a custom blend that matches your taste and style.
If you need some extra help in choosing a stain color all you have to do is ask us and we’ll be happy to lend our professional help.
Updated June 2020