2016 Hardwood Flooring Trends.
Yes, it’s hot off the presses – the Top 12 Hardwood Trends for 2016. You’ll notice that several of these trends are synergistic with each other. And, you may also notice that some trends are contradictory to each other (e.g. dark and blonde colors are both in style).
Please note that different customers have different tastes when it comes to style and color choices. And, different woods work in different styles of homes. I generally advise my customers to do what they prefer and works for their home (and budget) not just to follow the trends.
This article is divided into 5 Trend sections: Stains, Finishes, Styles, Species and Sources, locations/construction methods. And, for the first time, I’ve added a 6th section that shows what’s dated or “not hot.”
What’s Trending for Hardwood in 2016
Hardwood Stain Colors
Overall, there’s a shift towards darks and lights (yes, the two extremes), as well as cooler and browner tones. Redder and warmer tones are less popular and more polarizing.
1. Dark and darker
Yes, dark continues to grow and grow and grow. I’ve been discussing dark hardwood floors for a few years. The most popular colors have been ebony, espresso (which is a 50/50 blend of ebony/jacobean), jacobean and dark walnut. We test these colors on our customers’ floors as the stains look different on different woods (and even different planks). And, please understand that many of the pictures on line looker darker than they do in real life.
Lately, we’ve had more requests to go darker and darker and darker. To serve this need, Duraseal has now added a darker stain than ebony…it’s called true black. It’s just about to hit the marketplace. Another solution to get the floors darker is to open up the pores with a water pop. This extra steps costs more, but it helps the wood absorb the stain more for a darker and super contemporary look.
Here is a picture of white oak floors using Duraseal’s True Black #199.
Here are some key questions that customers ask about dark hardwood floors.
Bonus tip: What to do if you have a scratch? This is not a perfect solution, but consider buying a Minwax stain marker. It can help camouflage your scratches, especially if you only have a few. It comes in many colors including ebony, dark walnut, red mahogany, golden oak, provincial and cherry. Some people will even get 2 similar colors (e.g. ebony and dark walnut) as there is color variation in the wood.
2. Grays and white washes
Yes, gray is hot when it comes to hardwood floors. This cool tone has grown in popularity and we get more and more requests for gray, especially among our higher end and more fashion forward customers. We also get tons of phone calls from across the country on how to refinish hardwood for that gray look. You can read more about that here: How to refinish and stain hardwood floors gray. The best way to do this is to mix ebony with white (read more in that post).
Gray is more expensive as you need to use a higher grade water borne poly such as Bona Traffic HD. We see all sorts of mixes from light to dark gray (it’s best to test). We also have some customers that mix in a touch of gray with darker brown stains.
You can also also get pre-finished gray floors. Generally gray looks best in maple and birch which are a bit more expensive than oak. But, there are now plenty of oaks in the marketplace. If you already have oak in your home, I’d recommend that you stay with the same species so that you can match the floors (even if you refinish later). Maple and birch are more challenging and more expensive to refinish as they are closed pore woods.
White wash is also making a comeback, believe it or not. But, it’s often done in a more contemporary way with a touch of gray or wire-brushed (more on that later). Or, it’s done as a steep contrast with white in some rooms and a deep ebony in others.
3. Ultra Blonde
Blonde or natural hardwood tends to be the 2nd most popular color after the darks. Natural makes the space look larger and airier. It tends to give the home a more casual look, and often costs a bit less.
But, lately, I’ve been seeing a new twist on this, especially among those with white oak floors. Rather than using an oil based poly (which makes the floors a bit darker and more amber), many are opting for water borne poly, especially higher end Bona Traffic HD for a lighter and less yellow look. The finish is more matte, too. This option has some other benefits, too including that it dries faster and smells less (but it does cost more).
For more info, check out my Ebook – Top 6 Hardwood Refinishing FAQ’s.
Finishes for Hardwood
4. Matte and satin finishes
Shiny and semi gloss are out; satin and matte finishes in. Satin (with a bit of sheen) is the most popular, but now matte is starting to gain more appeal. See this article: Which type of sheen is most popular for wood floors? Some of this is driven by the increased popularity of water borne poly as well as oiled floors and wire brushed finishes. Some of it is also driven by the honed look in granite and poured concrete counter tops.
5. Wire-brushed hardwood
What does wire-brushed wood look like? Wire-brushed is a weathered and authentic look to your hardwood floors that’s created by using wire bristles to open and enhance the wood grain. It’s an etched look that gives subtle texture while still maintaining a smooth surface. It’s used for a cottage chic (or shabby chic) look and it helps hide dirt and imperfections more. It’s more expensive to make (as there is an extra step and often 2 colors applied with one as a glaze), and is generally only available in pre-finished hardwood. Shaw’s Castle Oak line is a perfect example of this.
The wire brushing process scrapes off the softest portions of the wood leaving the hardest wood. It exposes and emphasizes the graining to give it more character. You see this more often with wide plank flooring.
6. Wider planks
Wider planks make your space look larger and more modern. Generally, most new hardwood installations are 3 1/4″ planks and wider. Generally, 3 1/4″ to 6 inch planks, especially when they are site finished (so they are smooth and there are no bevels) look more contemporary (especially compared to the more traditional 2 1/4″ that you see in older homes). Planks that are 6″ and wider, especially when they are pre-finished, tend to give a more rustic and barn wood look.
7. Modern Vintage and Cottage Chic
This is a trend where old world meets new. It’s hardwood that looks vintage (wider planks, more matte finishes or wire brushed finishes) but in more contemporary colors and cooler tones (vs. the warmer/redder tones you see in reclaimed or older wood). These floors tend to be flat with square edges (i.e. no bevels).
Oiled floors are growing as well driven by this modern vintage look as well as a desire for a more natural look. US Floors Navarre Line is a wonderful example of pre-finished oiled floors. These lower VOC products are easier to repair and give more of reclaimed wood look. The natural oils penetrate the wood and become part of the floor. They enhance the natural grain of the wood to preserve the original beauty and patina. While some prefer this look, it is more expensive and can be much higher maintenance. These items are rather niche due to both the cost and maintenance.
You can also see this modern vintage style growing in furniture from West Elm and at the group tables in your local Starbucks.
8. Simple, Sustainable and natural looking
First, I’m seeing a trend towards simplicity and keeping the same flooring throughout the home in virtually all areas – same wood, same color ….including kitchens and entryways (see below for more info on hardwood in kitchens).
Second, I’m noticing the preference toward simpler layouts. So, the wood is the same width and same direction. Most are shying away from multi or random width planks, borders, herringbone, medallions. Less is More!
Third, customers seem to be more interested in long term sustainable solutions, rather than cheaper temporary fixes. They want higher quality hardwoods and ones that look more natural and higher grade. They are opting more often for solid hardwood that will last a lifetime (and then some) rather than engineered wood or bamboo that will need to be replaced and often look more fake (as many are rotary sawn). This helps them both while they live in the home as well as resale value.
I’m also seeing higher grade polyurethane and more coats so that floors will last longer before they need to be refinished. More customers are avoiding products made in China.
Species and Sources
9. American grown and made
While there had already been an underlying trend to buy hardwood grown in the USA both to support our own economy and the trends towards darker colored woods (which works better with wood grown in the US), this trend intensified after the 60 Minutes Investigation of Lumber Liquidators. Since that episode aired, there has been a strong aversion towards products made and imported from China. It’s amazing how many customers now ask me where the wood is manufactured They have a strong preference for domestic products.
The most popular hardwoods from the US are red oak, white oak, hickory, maple, birch and pine (including Douglas Fir). You can read more about them here: Which hardwood species are from America?
10. Shift towards white oak (rather than red oak)
Oak accounts for approximately 80% of hardwood flooring in the US. While red oak comprises the majority of this wood (as red oak is more abundant than white oak), more and more consumers are preferring the smoother graining and more contemporary look of white oak. The linear mineral streaks add to this more modern look compared to the strong graining of traditional red oak.
For a higher end look (and more expensive), some are even choosing rifted white oak (this is a special cut that is more smoother and more linear (and has less expansion/contraction). On the flip side, some are choosing character grade white oak for a more vintage look.
Importantly, white oak tends to work best with some of the latest stain color trends (dark, gray and white). White oak is a bit darker, so it helps give a darker color with ebony, espresso and jacobean; white oak works better with grays and white washes (red oak tends to have underlying pink tones) and it looks more modern with a clean water borne poly (such as Bona Traffic). White oak is also more impervious to water than red oak. You can read more about red oak vs white oak here.
Hardwood preferences by room and construction methods
11. Hardwood in kitchens (and everywhere on main floor).
Hardwood continues grow in popularity for kitchen floors, especially as open concept floor plans are on the rise. Hardwood has surpassed tile as the preferred surface, especially here in the Westchester and NYC Metro area. Everywhere you look, you’ll find hardwood being showcased in kitchens – home magazines, houzz.com and pinterest.
Why is this? In a nutshell, hardwood is easier on your feet, warmer, easier to clean and makes your space look larger. It’s generally less expensive and improves the value of your home. It ultimately lasts longer, too.
You can read more about both the pros and cons with hardwood and tile in kitchens.
There has also been a resurgence for adding hardwood in entryways and powder rooms as well. Here in Westchester County and NYC Metro area, most homeowners prefer to have hardwood in all areas on the first floor (or main living area).
12. Site finished solid hardwood
Here in the NYC Metro area, there is a strong preference for solid and site finished hardwood. Most homes here have hardwood already, so this is the look customers are accustomed to, especially mid to higher end customers.
Pre-finished hardwood looks more fake here, due to the micro-beveled edges, which often show the underlying color of the original wood underneath. Also, dirt tends to get caught in the edges. When hardwood floors and sanded and refinished on site, the floors are smoothed out and you have the ability to test and customize the stain colors.
You can learn more about pre-finished vs unfinished hardwood in this article.
What’s Dated and on the decline for Hardwood in 2016
- Reds – Reds and cherries seem to be very polarizing and only a minority of the population tends to like these (maybe 10-20%). Browns are much more stylish and much easier to coordinate.
- Shiny and Semi gloss finishes – Again very dated, and not very practical. The shinier the floors, the more they show the dirt, scratches and dents more. So, it requires more cleaning and it’s often you need to refinish the floors faster.
- Parquet – Most people will acknowledge this is a very dated look. It also tends to make your room look smaller. I’m referring to the cheaper parquet that you often see in apartments with concrete subfloors. Note: there are some super premium high end parquet, especially in older homes with custom marquetry. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing them, you will know that “they just don’t make them like that anymore.” We’ve had the pleasure of refinishing some of those floors from the early 1900’s and they are stunning!
- Bamboo – In my opinion this seems to be a fad which has run its course. Bamboo just does not hold up well – to water or foot traffic. They tend to be a cheaper alternative to hardwood and most can not be refinished, so they really aren’t very sustainable.
Bamboo seems to have gained popularity from cheaper big box stores, and most are made in China and many have a lot of adhesive and may have high levels of formaldehyde. Customers are getting smarter and realizing this. Generally, these products are bought by 1st time homeowners for apartments and starter homes. The 60 Minutes investigation on Lumber Liquidators exposed a lot of issues among the cheaper wood flooring and composites, especially those made in China.
- Brazilian Cherry and other exotic woods – Most of these are reds or have red undertones and the colors are a bit dated and polarizing. They are more challenging to decorate with. They also tend to show scratches more. We’ve had many requests, especially in higher end homes to refinish these floors and “drown out the reds.” These were really popular 10-15 years ago, but the combo of customers wanting to buy more “made in USA” products and color trends towards browns and cool tones, these seem to be in the decline, especially among higher end households.
- Pegged hardwood, bevel edges and multi-width planks – Pegged floors are out as they look dated and add clutter to the floor. Many of these woods have large beveled edges which not only look old fashioned, but also collect dirt.
Other helpful resources:
- Recommended cleaning products and accessories to maintain floors and reduce scratches.
- 2016 Carpet, runner and area rug trends.
If you live in the Westchester County/Fairfield County area, give The Flooring girl a call at 914-937-2950 and we’d be happy to set up a free flooring consultation. (Out of state, please call 914-407-3899).
For more info, check out my Ebook – Top 6 Hardwood Refinishing FAQ’s.
If you live outside of Westchester County/Fairfield County, feel free to use my special link to Fast Floors to order your flooring and have them shipped directly to you. In particular, I recommend the following brands: Somerset, Armstrong, US Floors and Coretec Plus