Can you change color of your hardwood floors - Westchester NY refinish hardwoodThe answer is usually YES!   Many homeowners don’t realize that you can change the color of hardwood flooring when you refinish your floors.  Yes, it’s true…you can go light or dark or red tones or anywhere in between.  Most are pleasantly surprised it doesn’t matter if you are going light to dark or vice versa.


First, let me caveat this by mentioning that I’m assuming you can sand and refinish your hardwood floors.  Most homes in Westchester NY and Fairfield CT as well as the Northeast and Mid Atlantic tend to have solid hardwood flooring and solid hardwood can be sanded and refinished many times (unless it’s so old that the floors have worn down to the tongue and groove…note, this usually takes many generations and I’ve seen hundreds if not thousands of hardwood floors and I believe only twice they were too old and thin to refinish).  So most solid hardwood floors can be refinished.  If, however, you have engineered hardwood, you may or may not be able to refinish the hardwood – it depends on how thick the top layer of hardwood is and how the wood is installed (floating floors can not be sanded).


The process for sanding and refinishing hardwood floors

Can you change the color of your hardwood floors - Refinish hardwood flooring - Westchester NY1.  First, you sand the floors with sanding machine.  We typically do 3 sandings, each with finer grits (the grits vary based on the type of wood and age).  This ensures your hardwood is smooth and that it properly accepts the stain and/or polyurethane for a better and longer lasting look.  When you do this, the wood essentially looks like new raw hardwood.


2.  Step 2 is to add a stain...or if you decide to go “natural,” you jump to the next step.  You can choose a light stain such as Golden oak or Golden Pecan, or a dark stain such as Ebony, Jacobean or Royal Mahogany.  Or, you can choose a mid color stain such as PrStain color testing westchesterovincial or Special Walnut or English Chestnut.  You can also choose red tones such as as Red Mahogany or Mesquite Red or Sedona red, or a bit lighter with Gunstock. 


For a full range of stain colors, check  For my customers, I help them select stain colors and my guys will test 3-4 for them on their own floors.  This is important first because every floor is different based on the species, grade of wood and age of wood.  Further, wood is a natural product and there is color variation – the wood will accept the stain differently, so testing on one piece or looking at a stain chip is irrelevant.  You want to look at it on your own floor and see over a wider space of several boards before finalizing.   Please note that testing the stains does not damage your floors or wear them down any further…they will still get 2 more sandings.


dark stains on different wood speciesThis slide demonstrates how the same stain can come out different on different species of wood.  This is a pre-finished floor using a custom color called mocha.  The color and graining difference is a bit more dramatic in person, but this slide helps demonstrate the difference.  This is mocha on red oak, maple, ash and birch.







Westchester refinish hardwood floors - red mahogany  3.  The third step is to add polyurethane – usually 2-3 coats.  Assuming you are using oil based polyurethane it takes 24 hrs for each coat to dry and you screen (or buff) the floors after the 2nd coat is applied and in between each additional coat.  This helps smooth the floors and importantly helps the polyurethane absorb better and last longer.  (for more info on oil based polyurethane vs. water based polyurethane).   For the polyurethane, you want to select the type of finish or sheen that you prefer – matte, satin, semi gloss or glossy.  Currently, satin is the most stylish and probably 90% select this option.  A satin finish tends to show the scratches less than a semi gloss or glossy finish (the glossier you go, the more the light reflects to show the dents and scratches).


How light can you go with hardwood?

sand and refinish hardwood floors - red oak natural - westchester NYWell this depends on what type of hardwood you have.  Aside from bleaching/white wash finishes, the lightest you can go is natural (i.e. no stain), so it’s the color of the hardwood with the polyurethane (which is a clear coat with a touch of tint…it’s pretty close to the impact that putting a top coat of clear nail polish has).  Most homes have oak flooring and to the left is a picture of red oak hardwood natural – with no stain. 


If you have white oak, it will be a bit darker (because white oak is a bit darker than red oak – for more info on red oak vs. white oak hardwood).  If you have maple, it will be a bit lighter; if you have pine, it will be a bit darker (and perhaps a bit redder pending on the species of pine).  If you have Walnut or Brazilian walnut, it will be much darker as this wood is a dark brown, or likewise if you have American Cherry or Brazilian Cherry, this will be redder/more orange as that is the natural color of the wood.  But, most homes in Westchester NY and Northeast/Mid Atlantic have oak.   The only way to get the wood lighter than its natural color is to bleach it or use a white wash stain.  I’m not a huge fan of these both because the color often reacts with these oils and resins on these woods and doesn’t usually look the way customers expect and can become blotchy on non-oak woods.  You also need to use a water based poly which doesn’t last as long (and is more expensive) to prevent yellowing.


Hardwood floor refinishing ebony stain - Westchester NYPlease note that you MUST SAND the floors in order to change the color of the hardwood floors.  You can not just add stain or paint on top of finished floors…it will not look good and it will not last…it will peel off.  And, yes, I have seen this done before and it looks horrible, so don’t even try it.



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My name is Debbie Gartner, and I'm known as "The Flooring Girl." I own my own flooring store called Floor Coverings International, and we serve Westchester NY and Fairfield CT counties.We install hardwood flooring, carpet, tile flooring, laminate, bamboo and cork flooring. We also refinish hardwood floors. We are a shop at home flooring store. You can call us at 914-937-2950 to schedule a free flooring consultation or email us at Let us "bring the store to your door."If you are calling outside of Westchester/Fairfield Counties, please contact us at 914-407-3899.

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57 Response Comments

  • Francis Cummings  March 24, 2013 at 12:25 am

    Need help with hardwood floors turning red no matter what kind of stain or finish I use. Even used polyurathane and it turned red. Please help. It would be greatly appreciated.

    • TheFlooringGirl  March 25, 2013 at 8:47 pm

      Francis – What type of wood do you have? Maybe you have brazilian cherry or some sort of cherry that is naturally red. Usually, a dark stain (e.g. ebony or jacobean) will drown out the redness. I hope that helps.

  • Ana S.  April 22, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    Buying our first home and the previous owners installed engineered oak floor two years ago, that seems yellow/orange and has really busy black grain pattern that drives me nuts. It looks like crazy tiger strips all over the floor. Do you suggest we stain darker to help get rid of the black grain pattern/contrast?

    • TheFlooringGirl  April 23, 2013 at 2:21 pm

      Ana – First, you will need to see if it is possible to sand and refinish your floors. Some engineered hardwood can, and some can’t. It depends on how thick the wear layer is on top. Ideally, you have some extra pieces and/or a box of the original. You can look to see from the pieces and/or call the manufacturer and/or call a flooring person to look

      If you don’t have leftovers, try contacting original owners to see if they can help. Or if you have registers in the floor, you can lift them to get a side view.

      Please note that if the floors are floated, you may not be able to refinish at all, especially if floor is uneven and/or moves.

      But, if you can refinish, then most likely going darker will hide the graining. I would check w/ a local flooring expert as you do want to look at the species of wood. If it’s oak, for example, going very dark or very light will show less graining.

  • Dee  July 7, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    I have a flooring team that just (today) sanded my reclaimed oak. He put some stain in a couple of areas (oil based poly, chestnut, and medium brown). What I really like is somewhere between the poly and chestnut but he says those are my only options. He also said that he doesn’t like to use water based poly because it’s not as good for the floor, while the other flooring guy with whom he is working wants to use water based. So, I need to make the call soon. What would you do?

    • TheFlooringGirl  July 7, 2013 at 7:33 pm

      Hi Dee. First, there is an option to blend stain colors. You could do a 50/50 blend. It’s generally ideal to use a standard color in case you want to match other rooms later or if you only need to refinish some rooms. There may also be some similar colors to the ones you chose – look at duraseal and minwax colors. I definitely would not do a water based stain. Those do not come out very well and often look blotchy. That’s different from what I wrote about on oil vs. water based poly. There is the stain – the color…and then the poly goes on top. Typically you use a stain w/ oil and then either water or oil based poly. Personally, I would do oil on both as it should come out better visually and last longer.

  • Rutrow  February 25, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    I have two different types of hardwood in my home. One area light, the other dark. Can sanding them down and staining one color make them match?

    • TheFlooringGirl  February 28, 2014 at 9:51 pm

      Rutrow – This is challenging to answer without seeing it. If they are in fact 2 different species of wood, they will come out different. If it is one species, but 2 different stain colors, they should turn out the same. More often than not, wood matches each other, especially if it was all installed at the same time.

      I hope that helps.

  • Esta  August 31, 2014 at 6:50 am

    We have light hardwoods in our house. they are made of natural hard rock maple and not stained but sealed. For some reason in the dining room in some areas the wood is turning dark.We put them in 4 years ago. why is this happening and what can we do about it?

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 31, 2014 at 12:33 pm

      Esta – It’s challenging to say without seeing it, but the most likely reason is that the poly has worn off and now they are absorbing some water (perhaps just from everyday cleaning). You may have a water based poly (which doesn’t last as long, and it’s possible that there is a lot of scratching from movement of the chairs. That’s my best guess. You may need to sand & refinish the floors. I would recommend calling in someone local to give you an opinion as they can give you better advice after seeing it in person.

  • Erin  July 30, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    We recently installed an engineered wood with a matte finish. I have found that I LOVE the color- but I see footprints as soon as anyone walks across it. Would changing the finish (not the color) from matte to something glossier help? …And can I even DO that with engineered wood?

    • TheFlooringGirl  July 31, 2015 at 8:56 pm

      I’m not sure if finish would change it. It may be due to the type of wood you have. Some of the exotic woods are oily and do that. Usually matte shows prints the least. Are you sure it’s a matte finish? You could try a screen & recoat…which can generally work on engineered wood, as long as it’s not floated.

      A simpler solution may be to wear socks.

  • Buddy moore  August 9, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    I redid the hard wood floors in my house. The bed rooms have white oak and hallway livingroom and dinning room have red oak we tested minwax cherry 235 stain and liked it but when we put the first coat on it came out very red on the red oak. I have not put poly down or anything yet. Is there anything i can do to make that red more brown? I have heard about tinted poly and mixing a little bit of a darker stain in with the first coat of poly but i dont want to try it and make it worse!

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 11, 2015 at 8:02 am

      Yes, I’m not surprised it’s coming out more red on the red oak. Obviously the best approach is to resand the floors and retest/start again, but I understand you may not want to do this. You can try a tint to make it a bit darker and browner. This is better than adding a 2nd coat of stain as that will not properly absorb and then the poly will not properly adhere on top of it. You can try the tint, but you still may not be happy and then may need to go back to the drawing board anyway. Try to test in a closet, if there is one.

  • Bertha Gill  August 24, 2015 at 9:23 am

    Very interesting article. It sounds complicated work. My advice is to call a professional service if you are not sure what are you doing. Greetings!

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 25, 2015 at 12:54 pm

      Bertha – Thx. Yes, sanding is best done by the professionals. There is no contest on looks and durability. and, the money saved by trying it yourself is minimal.

  • Esther  August 27, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    Your website looks great!
    Please can i change the color of solid Wood flooring from beech to light oak? is this posible? thank you

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 28, 2015 at 6:39 pm

      Esther – If you have beech hardwood (i.e. the species), you can’t change it to oak. Beech is not really a color (or at least I haven’t seen it). But, if you have solid Beech (or solid wood), you can change the color by sanding it and staining it.

  • Bill Schneider  September 10, 2015 at 2:29 am

    After power sanding my Strand Bamboo flooring, i noticed after appllying 3 coats of oil base poly..all the boards ends are lighter than the rest of the floor..Whats up with that??

    • TheFlooringGirl  September 10, 2015 at 6:33 am

      Bill – I don’t believe strand woven bamboo is meant to be sanded. In addition, I believe you are supposed to use water borne poly with it. I would call the manufacturer. But, honestly, bamboo is not meant to be sanded and all and when you have the types that can be sanded, it generally does not hold up well – maybe it will last for a year or so. I would call the manufacturer.

  • Dodie  September 15, 2015 at 3:57 am

    We had 1000 sq ft of red birch clear hardwood flooring installed when we built our house 10 yrs ago. I’m interested in staining them darker, but all of the websites that I’ve read state that birch doesn’t stain well. Which type of stain would work best? What are your thoughts on the hardwood oils such as Rubio Monocoat?

    • TheFlooringGirl  September 15, 2015 at 6:22 am

      Yes, birch (as well as maple) do not absorb stains well – they come out blotchy no matter what you do. That’s because it’s a closed pore wood. It helps if you add a conditioner to open up the pores.

      Darker stains tend to show it more than lighter stains. I might look in a store to see what you like – you can look at birch or maple as they come out pretty similar. And, you’ll see the blotchiness on the prefinished ones so it will guide you. Note: the stains will come out different on birch/maple vs oak, so you need to test and see what you prefer. Many of the darker stains turn out grayish on maple and birch (which actually looks pretty cool).

      Re: oil poly vs monocoat, that’s the top layer. Monocoat tends to give a more “old world” look. I am not sure how they would look on birch.

  • Dodie  September 15, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    Thank you for your quick response. I was afraid you were going to tell me that. You mentioned using a wood conditioner, would water popping the grain work better?

  • Matt N  October 3, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    I just had a really nice matte coffee colored oak engineered hardwood floor put in my new condo. Much to my surprise, many of the planks have very strong red undertones (which I am very much not a fan of). Is there a way to cover up the red? Thanks in advance!

    • TheFlooringGirl  October 5, 2015 at 6:09 pm

      Matt – It’s really hard to answer this question without knowing the wood or thickness of top layer or way it was installed. Most likely, no, there is probably very little you can do. Many/most engineered hardwood floors can not be refinished (as this would be the way to change the color). If the floors are floating, you won’t be able to refinish them at all as they will move with the sanding machines on top.

      It is odd, though, that if you got a matte coffee colored oak that you are seeing lots of red boards. You may want to go back to the manufacturer and see if they sent defective batch and/or if their samples were misleading.

  • Mallory  October 5, 2015 at 12:29 am

    Help! My husband & I just had our floors refinished. Pulled up nasty carpet & found southern yellow pine floors. The professional who came to finish them told my husband that “some area” would be darker than others due to the original owners not staining certain parts of the floor. We thought no biggie, it will give it character… Wrong! We now have two HUGE dark squares right in the middle of our floors that are a total eye sore! What do I do?! They can’t even be covered by an area rug (but who even wants to do that when you just got new floors?!)

    • Mallory  October 5, 2015 at 12:31 am

      Whoops! Posted too soon.. Anyway, is there anything I can or should do? Have him come back & red and? Find a stain and try to blend? I’m just at a total loss but this can’t be acceptable?!

      • TheFlooringGirl  October 5, 2015 at 5:59 pm

        Mallory – That is odd. I’ve never heard of stain on some areas having such an impact. However, I have seen the impact of carpet (and area rugs) and vinyl having a big impact as the light has penetrated the floors less in these areas. Pine is a bit more sensitive to light than oak + it’s often been there longer so more time for aging due to light (or lack thereof).

        I am not sure what to advise you on this, especially as I can’t see it. I would recommend you contact the installers and get their advice as they can see it and provide better solutions. My inclination would have been area rugs to cover. I have a hunch doing another stain in that area will look worse vs what you already have.

  • Mallory  October 5, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    Thanks for the response. I did contact him & he said there are not many options… One would be to stain as dark as possible but I think that would look terrible in an already dark, old house. Plus, all of our windows, baseboards, doors, stairs, etc are a beautifully stained SYP wood… OR to tint a poly & brush it onto the lighter, already poly-finished area to try to darken it?? This makes me nervous but I don’t know what else to really do. Wish I could show you a photo of how crazy it looks! Thanks again! Wish me luck!

  • Bart  October 7, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    We just had our oak floors sanded while we where gone when we got back home they had stained with Natural oak stain and does not match the rest of our house is there any way to darken the floors without sanding them again they did not put any polyurethane as out hose is on pear & beam and does get moisture under it.

    • TheFlooringGirl  October 8, 2015 at 6:48 am

      Bart – This depends on how close the colors are. If the new area is a bit lighter, they may be able to do a screen & recoat where they add another coat of poly and add a tint to it to darken it. Also, it may just be the newly sanded area needs time to age and catch up to the older areas. Hope this helps.

  • Monika  November 7, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    Enjoyed reading your site. Alot of information. What is your recommendation for inlay floors. We bought a house with different designs in each room. Looks to be oak with a Brazilian cherry inlay. The oak is now looking more orangish. If we have it refinished to modernize it, any suggestions how to keep inlay but change stain.

    • TheFlooringGirl  November 8, 2015 at 9:25 am

      Thanks so much. If the inlay is a different species, that it will still stay there as you refinish the floor. Generally, lighter colors will show the most contrast and darker the least, so it depends on your preference. Definitely test stains and test some in the area that has the inlay.


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