Stain color trends for hardwood floors – Westchester NY – Updated April 24, 2016

Refinish hardwood floors - Westchester NY - ebony flooringWhen it comes to hardwood flooring in Westchester NY, dark and light are in – both extremes. Light stains gives the room a nice warm, airy and welcome look; dark stains hardwood gives the room a more formal and sophisticated look. At the moment, dark seems to be the preference between the two, but this can vary based on the home owner’s tastes and style of the home.

 

In addition, over the last two years, a new trend has emerged and an old one has been reinvented. Gray is the new hot trend. And, white wash has been reinvented. Yes, you read that right! More below. Because of these strong trends, I needed to update this article. (My original article was from 2011 and yes, styles and trends evolve).

 

When we are refinishing hardwood floors in Westchester NY, we usually test 3 stains for a customer on their own hardwood. It’s important to do this as all wood varies and accepts the stain differently based on the type of wood, grade of wood and it’s age. Also, wood color varies, so it’s much better to test it on several pieces – some lighter, some darker to get a true picture of how the stain will look (vs. a small chip that is on fake wood)

Stain color testing westchester

Minwax stain colors westchester

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dark hardwood stains

 

Ebony hardwood flooring - Hartsdale NY 10530Dark colors are probably the most stylish and dramatic. There are several similar tones, so I think it’s usually best to see which is just the right shade for your taste.

 

– Ebony for a deep espresso stylish and dramatic look. Jacobean is very similar, so it’s good to test that stain, too. Jacobean is currently the most popular stain. Often, we will test a 50/50 blend of Jacobean and Ebony (this is nicknamed espresso) and many of our customers love this combo.

 

True Black Duraseal stain 199–  Over the last year or two, many customers are looking to go darker and darker – even darker than ebony.  Ebony is a very cool toned color, but you can still see the graining of the oak.  Due to this high demand, earlier this year, Duraseal introduced a new color to their line up called “True Black” and it is striking.  So, if you want extremely dark, give this color a try.

 

 

 

 

 

How to get dark hardwood floors– Dark Walnut is similar to Ebony and Jacobean, but it a bit lighter, which some customers prefer. Jacobean and dark walnut show the dirt a bit less than ebony.

 

– Royal Mahogany has a bit of red cut in. It’s almost a combo of Red Mahogany and Ebony.

 

 

 

Light colors for hardwood flooring

Refinish oak hardwood floors - Westchester NY - light naturalLight colors are very cheery as well as neutral. They also work for modern looking homes (and ironically, ebony on the opposite extreme also works for modern).

 

– Most often, if someone is going light, we will do natural as this is the lightest you can go, and it usually costs less than adding a stain. Lighter, especially natural tends to hold up better/last longer and show less dirt.

 

– Golden Oak, fruitwood and ipswich pine are also a nice options – just a tad darker and adds some gold tones for more depth

 

 

Mid toned stains

Herringbone - Provincial hardwood floors - westchester NYMid tones tend to work for traditional homes in Westchester – they just seem to work color and style wise. They also tend to hide some of the imperfections if the wood is older.

 

– Provincial is the most popular mid tone color. It works well because, it is a brown stain (and does not have reds mixed in), so it’s very neutral and goes with almost everything. The picture on the left is provincial, but it appearing much lighter than usual due to my flash. The picture below is more indicative of what provincial typically looks like.

 

mid tone stain colors for hardwood– Special Walnut is very similar to Provincial but a tad browner, so usually I recommend that a customer tests both colors on their floor to see which they prefer. Provincial often works better in more traditional homes and special walnut often looks a bit more contemporary.

 

– Chestnut is similar to special walnut. Please note that all of these stains come out slightly differently in everyone’s homes pending the species (red oak vs. white oak) and age of wood.

 

 

Red toned stains

westchester hardwood flooring - red tonesRed tones are more polarizing and less popular than the brown tones, regardless of whether the stain is light or dark. Red tones are more challenging to decorate with as they are more challenging to match other wood furniture, as well as paint, window treatments and pillows. Many homeowners and decorators find the reds limiting.

– Popular red tones include red mahogany, sedona red, mesquite red and red oak. Most of these are pretty red.

– Then, there are red/brown blends such as English Chestnut. This is a mid toned reddish brownish color.

– On the lighter side, there is Colonial maple (rather orange) and Golden Pecan (which is similar to golden oak, but with a hint of red).

 

 

Up and coming stain color trends – Gray and white wash:

Gray hardwood floors

gray hardwood floor refinishing westchester countyYes, gray is the new hot color. It’s been very popular in tile and carpet for the last 3-4 years and it’s now been making its way into hardwood. Gray is a bit challenging to achieve and more expensive than typical colors as you need to blend 2 colors and use a water based poly (otherwise it will yellow). You can read more about gray hardwood floors here – Refinishing hardwood floors gray. My higher end customers and those moving from NYC seem to have a lot of interest in this

 

Whitewashed floors

white washed hardwood birch driftscapeYes, one of the most surprising resurgences is white washed hardwood floors. Yes, 5 or 6 years ago, this was so 80’s, but now it’s coming back! The trend seems to be driven in part by the gray trend and in part by high end beach resorts in the Hamptons and now the Jersey Shore. NYC often starts the trends and this is becoming bigger there, so it’s naturally migrating to Westchester County NY as we have so many who move here from the City and work in the City. It’s especially popular with wider plank flooring.

 

White washed floors are more expensive. Similar to gray floors, you need to use a water based poly, and this costs a bit more and you often need to add an extra coat for more durability. In addition, using a higher grade water based poly such as Bona Traffic will help make your floors last longer (and will be less susceptible to yellowing), but this poly does cost more.

 

Minwax and Duraseal Stain colors.

Minwax stain colors

Here’s a stain chart for Minwax Stains. Please note that this is a picture of a picture and hence it may not be color correct. Regardless, stain colors come out different on different woods (and even different pieces). It’s always best to test some stains on your own floors.

minwax stain samples

 

  • Natural
  • Golden Oak
  • Provincial
  • Red Oak (the stain color, not species)
  • Puritan Pine
  • Ipswich Pine
  • Colonial Maple
  • Special Walnut
  • Red Mahogany
  • Early American
  • Gunstock
  • Red Chestnut
  • English Chestnut
  • Cherry
  • Fruitwood
  • Golden Pecan
  • Pickled Oak
  • Weathered Oak
  • Classic Grey
  • Driftwood
  • Ebony
  • Jacobean

Duraseal Stain colors

And here is the Duraseal stain chart. Again, you should test these stains on your own floors before committing to a color. They do come out different on different species, grades and age of wood. Also there is overlap of stain colors between Duraseal and Minwax. (both are made by the same manufacturer – Minwax).

 

  • Duraseal stain colorsGolden Oak
  • Provincial
  • Special Walnut
  • Golden Pecan
  • Colonial Maple
  • Fruitwood
  • Red Mahogany
  • English Chestnut
  • Cherry
  • Weathered Oak
  • Dark Walnut

  • Classic Grey
  • Driftwood
  • Neutral
  • Sedona Red
  • Coffee Brown
  • Rosewood
  • Nutmeg
  • Spice brown
  • Golden Brown
  • Antique Brown
  • Royal Mahogany
  • Chestnut
  • Ebony
  • Medium Brown
  • Gunstock
  • Mesquite Red
  • Early American
  • Country White
  • New color:  True Black

 

Video – Which stain colors are most popular

 

What stain colors do you prefer – take our poll and see the results:

For hardwood floors, do you prefer dark, light or mid-toned?

     

    For hardwood floors, do you prefer brown/golden tones or red tone?

       

       

      You may also find these hardwood flooring articles helpful:

      If you live in Westchester County NY, and you would like advice on refinishing your floors, please give The Flooring Girl a call at 914-937-2950.

       

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      Check out my Ebook – Top 6 Hardwood Refinishing FAQ’s.

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      Hardwood flooring stain color trends – Westchester NY

       

      TheFlooringGirl

      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 debbie@TheFlooringGirl.com. 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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      103 Response Comments

      • tracy  November 17, 2012 at 9:34 pm

        Hi, I am wondering what color stain you would suggest for a walnut floor. A lot of the house will have white paneling and the walls white. We were thinking of dark but don’t want to go so dark we can’t see the beauty of the walnut. Thanks!

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  November 18, 2012 at 12:42 am

          Hi Tracy. The dark will look great with the wood paneling. I would test a few to see which you like the best. I would stick to brown tone (no red undertones). The darkest would be ebony…you may want to test, but that may be too dark and drown out the graining. My gut tells me that either dark walnut or jacobean would be best, but you guys will need to be the judges of what you like best.

          Also, you could just test natural to see if you like that (since walnut is naturally dark…and it darkens over time).

          Reply
      • tracy  November 18, 2012 at 8:12 pm

        Thanks for the reply. We tried dark walnut but it was really dark on the walnut floor and made the grain almost disappear. The natural is beautiful but too light and it’s character grade walnut so I am afraid of a streaky floor with just tung oil. We are considering provincial. Have you ever seen that on a walnut floor?

        Reply
      • Denise Randall  June 30, 2015 at 2:54 pm

        Hi,
        I have red oak floors on the upper level (Bedroom area) of my home, we stained them Provincial. We are putting new red oak floors in the downstairs section of our home and I would like to go with a darker look. I like dark walnut. Would it look strange to have those two stains in my home?

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  June 30, 2015 at 9:03 pm

          Denise – I think it’s fine to have 2 different stains on the different levels. Generally when people have different colors, they go darker on 1st floor and lighter on 2nd. I would do the steps the same color as the 1st level. I think those 2 colors can look nice together. I might also test jacobean.

          Reply
      • Corinne  July 15, 2015 at 4:22 pm

        Have you seen the result when staining the basic 3 inch maple flooring using minwax “classic gray”. Does the yellow tone bleed through? Thank you

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  July 17, 2015 at 6:30 am

          Corinne – I’m not crazy about that color as it seems to have green undertones. We prefer to mix white and ebony to get to desired color. Going a bit darker hides he yellow more.

          Reply
          • Jae  October 4, 2015 at 8:35 am

            Your website has been a great resource. While preparing to install pre-finished engineered grey floors we discovered the original maple flooring in my 100 year old Chicago bungalow. I’m firm on grey floors in my kitchen and getting ready to buy stain to experiment to find the right combination for my desired grey floor look. This will be my flooring finishers first time mixing stains. Fingers crossed.

            Reply
            • TheFlooringGirl  October 5, 2015 at 6:12 pm

              Jae – I hope it works. You may want to check out the article I have on refinishing gray hardwood floors. Also, maple floors are rather tricky to refinish. Make sure your installer is comfortable with both of these. I’ve gotten many calls with botched up gray floors from people that haven’t had much experience with them.

              Reply
      • Tieara Jones  August 23, 2015 at 7:08 am

        Hello I just recently stained my flooring with the Golden Oak. It came out really dark & I don’t understand why! It’s been drying for 2 days & some parts are a little lighter than others! Do I have to redo the entire process to get the shade I want? Also if I like the bare wood is it ok to just apply polyurethane to it?

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  August 23, 2015 at 11:14 am

          The most likely reason is that you didn’t properly sand the floors. They need to be sanded 3 times, each time with finer and finer grits. The 2nd most likely reason is that you didn’t wipe off the stain or you let it sit too long. In any even, if it’s too dark or blotchy, or you don’t like the color, yes, unfortunately, you will need to start again.

          And, yes, you can go natural and just do 3 coats of poly. This is prob your best solution if you think golden oak is too dark (golden oak is one of the lightest stains).

          Reply
      • Roberta  August 25, 2015 at 7:09 pm

        What color durostain should I use for s small house. I sort of like golden brown.
        Does this go with a brown couch?

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  August 26, 2015 at 5:57 am

          Roberta – Honestly, I think you should just choose whichever stain you prefer. I would not let just one piece of furniture dictate the colors for the whole home. But, I would recommend shades of brown vs. shades of red or red-brown. On how light/how dark, that depends on what you prefer…as it is your home.

          Reply
      • Carlotta  September 10, 2015 at 4:22 pm

        Hi I am interested to stain my floor pickled oak 260 but my contractor is telling me that’s basically the same as no stain at all. Is it true? I am looking to do the floors really light. He’s asking me to pick 3 colors to stain for samples, are golden peacan, pickled oak and weathered oak good choices?

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  September 12, 2015 at 11:28 am

          Hi Carlotta – No pickled oak is not the same as no stain at all (which would be natural). Pickled oak is a stain and natural has no stain. Pickled oak is lighter/whiter than natural.

          In terms of what’s good/bad, that depends on what you like and what style you’re going for. There is no harm in testing them. But, with pickled oak and weathered oak, you need to use a water based poly (which is more expensive). Otherwise, it will turn yellow and look really bad. You can do either water or oil based on golden pecan.

          Reply
          • Carlotta  September 14, 2015 at 7:06 pm

            Thanks! I’ve looked at the stain sample that my contractor did but none of them work. I want a “farmhouse white birch” color, would this be the whitewashing? and how do I achieve this color?

            Reply
      • Alice  September 17, 2015 at 6:20 pm

        Hi I am also interested in white washed floor (white oak in my case). You mentioned that for white-washed look, water-based poly is the only way to go. My contractor suggested to improve durability of the floor, to apply an oil-based poly( absco) as the top coating, above 3 layers of water-based poly (bona traffic). I am worried about the oil coating turning yellow over time, but I also do not want to have to refinish my floor within a few years. Your advice on this will be highly appreciated!!!

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  September 19, 2015 at 11:44 am

          Yes, you should be worried. It will turn yellow. Also absco is a very low grade and cheap poly. I know many that have had major issues with it. Also, the water should not be applied over the water based unless you wait at least 6 months. I think this would be a major mistake and you will want to redo you floors…in fact within a year and probably sooner.

          Reply
      • Steven Thomas  September 17, 2015 at 10:48 pm

        What color stain would you recommend for white oak hardwood floors to go with my Kraftmaid English Toffee color cabinets and Kona Beige silestone countertops. My floors are natural now but I’d like to try something different.

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  September 19, 2015 at 11:40 am

          Hi Steven. I’m not familiar with those exact colors but from the sound of the names, I would probably go dark as you need a contrast. I’d test jacobean, dark walnut and even a 50/50 blend of ebony/jacobean. In the end, it depends on what you like as it is your home. Good luck with your project.

          Reply
      • James  September 27, 2015 at 1:25 pm

        Hi there. Great website and very helpful. I have an early 1930’s home with white trim/burberry beige walls. The hardwood is original golden oak with mahogany inlay around the border. I am having the floors resanded/stained by a professional and I love the contrast of darker stains like espresso with the lighter walls/trim but would also like to maintain the inlay showing through. Ceilings are 8.5 feet and most of the furniture fabric/stair runners are in the white/beige color group. Can we get away with going into the Dark Walnut, Espresso palette or is better to stay in the Provincial/Special Walnut group. I will test everything but ideally would like to maintain the mahogany inlay border as a design feature. Our goal is to add some contemporary features that will still work with the overall age of the home. Thank you!

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  September 28, 2015 at 5:02 am

          James – That sounds like a lovely home. Lucky you with the mahogany inlay and high ceilings. I think the dark can look nice, and I would definitely test dark walnut – test some over the mahogany to see the contrast. As you go darker, the contrast w/ the mahogany won’t be as great. In my experience, mahogany seems to absorb dark walnut stain more than jacobean and dark walnut, so that that may work better (vs. the darker stains will prob show less contrast based on how the oak vs mahogany absorb the stains).

          I hope that made sense. But, yes, test for sure.

          Reply
          • Michael Hall  October 4, 2015 at 1:30 pm

            Hello flooring expert! I’m the other half of the household that has the 1930s oak floors with the mahogany inlay. We tried some of the stains on the floor (walnut, jacobean, ebony) pre-sanding so we have an idea of what direction we want our professional to take. All of the spots we stained look more like dark brown or black paint than stain! Is this because we are pre-sanding and have a coating on the current floors? We thought we could get a sense of which color we like beforehand but maybe that’s not possible. Appreciate your insights. Also, I took pictures of a neighbor’s floors we love. Is there a way I can send you the pics so you can tell us which stain they are? Thanks! Michael & James

            Reply
            • TheFlooringGirl  October 5, 2015 at 6:03 pm

              Hi Michael. Generally, when we test the stains, it gives an excellent sense as to how the color will come out. Are you doing this yourself? If so, that may be the reason. You may not be sanding properly. If this isn’t something you do on a regular basis, I would suggest that you hire a professional instead, esp as it sounds like you have beautiful floors with an inlay and you may ruin them.

              If you are hiring a professional and just testing this by hand and using sand paper, it probably won’t come out properly. Our guys use machines to to this work…both for testing and in real life.

              Reply
      • Lisa  October 7, 2015 at 10:21 am

        Hello. Floor refinishers are here as I type, so I need to determine stain color and finish. I had planned to go with a wax finish as that is what the flooring company said most high end customers in the Dallas area request. I have had poly before and it seemed to scratch easily. Why do you prefer polyurethane over wax?

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  October 8, 2015 at 6:51 am

          Wax has higher maintenance. Poly lasts longer. Most people in higher end homes here prefer poly. I don’t know the Dallas area, though.

          Reply
      • Nwright  October 18, 2015 at 10:27 pm

        Great website and video! Could you tell me what stain color is featured in your video under the “natural” section. More speficially, the image on the right (spot 2:30 in the video)

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  October 20, 2015 at 5:59 am

          Thanks so much. I’m not sure the stain color used on the right; it’s possible that it is ipswich pine. The left is white oak (the species) with no stain. Colors often look a bit different in pictures vs real life so it’s best to test.

          Reply
      • Kathy  November 7, 2015 at 6:31 pm

        I have 18 year old maple flooring and I am just unhappy with it. It looks dated! I would love to do a white wash on them but not sure if this would be appropriate for maple. I know it is a difficult wood to stain etc. What would you suggest?

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  November 7, 2015 at 8:39 pm

          Yes, maple can be challenging to sand. It’s best to use water based poly for maple (for natural, white wash or light stains, esp Bona Traffic as it will hold up better and yellow less.

          If your floors are just beat up and you like natural, refinishing natural is your best bet. You can also test white wash or gray and see what you think, but be sure to hire a professional w/ experience in this area and use Bona traffic.

          I hope that helps.

          Reply
      • elaine  November 9, 2015 at 10:30 am

        Going from Natural Red Oak Floors to Special Walnut. Due to Red Oak does it appear to show red tones? Help they stain tomorrow and very concerned.

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  November 11, 2015 at 1:26 pm

          Elaine – Generally special walnut is dark enough to cover the red undertones, but you always should test. I hope your project goes well.

          Reply
      • Cameron  November 16, 2015 at 8:03 pm

        What would jacobean and classic gray look like mixed 50/50 and 75/25?

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  November 16, 2015 at 8:32 pm

          You’d have to test it to see. I would expect that it would be a mixture of dark brown and gray. If you test it and like it, I’d use Bona Traffic for your poly, otherwise it will yellow.

          Reply
          • Cameron  November 17, 2015 at 3:16 pm

            Would Jacobean and Weathered Grey have a darker slightly distressed look than the Classic grey?

            Reply
            • TheFlooringGirl  November 17, 2015 at 9:14 pm

              Most likely yes. Classic gray does not have much of a distressed look; it looks more modern to me.

              Reply
      • Sophia Papakonstantis  November 28, 2015 at 9:38 am

        Hi flooring expert! We have just refinished our dining room floor which is white oak with 2 separate stains as the first was not at all what I was hoping for. My flooring guy applied Jacobean per my request and I hated it! It was too grey and light-so I had him reapply ebony on top and I love it! My question now is regarding the poly? I don’t know if I want satin or semi gloss? The majority of the floor will be covered by an area rug, however I do still want the sheen to be something I like. Any insight on this? Thanks in advance for your time!

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  November 28, 2015 at 2:48 pm

          Personally, I prefer satin and it’s much more in style. But, if you don’t like it, it’s not right for your home. I think you said it well – “I want the sheen to be something I like” and only you can answer that. See if your flooring guy can test it for you (even if it needs to be in a closet).

          Reply
          • Sophia  November 28, 2015 at 7:34 pm

            Thank you so much for your response. Do you think its possible for my flooring guy to apply the first coat of poly in semi gloss finish and if I don’t like it to then go with the satin as the final coat? I’m leaning towards satin however I’m a very visual person and need to see things in “real time” first, which is what I should have done with the stain. You had mentioned that he can/should apply the poly in a closet as a test sample, however my concern is that the lighting will be totally different in my closet as opposed to the dining room which has large-ish windows. What do you think? Thank you!

            Reply
            • TheFlooringGirl  December 3, 2015 at 7:34 am

              Yes, this is possible. I would say go with your gut and do that one first…and look at the results before the last coat so you can adjust. Or test on some loose pieces of wood.

              Reply
      • Uday Parekh  December 14, 2015 at 7:39 pm

        Hello Flooring Expert,

        Your website and blog is wealth of information. I have read some of the articles multiple times to get better understanding on what it takes to install a beautiful floor. In my opinion, you are undisputed flooring expert on the web.

        We installed approx. 2000 sq. ft. of two staircases, new #1 Red Oak and refinished approx. 500 sq. ft. of #1 Red Oak. Since we are living in this house, we are doing this project in three phases of staining. During 1st phase of staining we tested Dura Seal Antique Brown, Coffee Brown, Chestnut and 50% Antique Brown/ 50% Coffee Brown. We decided 50% AB/50% CB. When they had just applied stain only, it looked real good and the color we wanted. After 2 coats of Masterline oil based poly, we see lots of Red and especially at nights with lights turned on. So we decided to try out Coffee Brown only thinking it will over power Red in upstairs loft area with only 1st coat of Poly. We didn’t see much improvement in removing red tone.

        Now we are wondering, what can we try out for the remaining (last phase) phase of the downstairs front of the house where we have little more natural lighting. We really want Mid brown tone. Do you have any suggestions? If this phase of staining turns out to be what we really want, then, we can think about resending previous stain.

        Please advise.

        Respectfully,

        Uday

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  December 15, 2015 at 10:36 am

          Hi Uday. Thank you for your kind words. I really appreciate it. I wish it were true!

          Anyway, I think it’s best to test and look at the stain when it’s wet. In my experience, coffee brown and dark walnut tend to hide the reds the most. You will have to test to see what color works best for you in terms of drowning it out and it not being too dark for you. Obviously, if you go full dark walnut, it should drown out the red, but it may be too dark. The same may be the case for coffee brown, but test it. Then maybe lighten it a bit by mixing in a lighter color. Chestnut might work, but it may have some red mixed in. Also, another mid toned brown stain to try is special walnut.

          The truth is that the stains look different on everyone’s floors. But, try the dark walnut and coffee brown and cut something lighter in there and hopefully that will work. Also, make sure that you are testing it in the same way the installers will do it…otherwise your test and real life won’t match.

          Reply
          • Uday Parekh  December 18, 2015 at 3:05 pm

            Thank you so much for your reply. The current finish 50 /50 Coffee Brown/Antique Brown looks like Rosewood and similar to stain color in your Red Tone section Picture. This mix is used in Family Room, Kitchen & Breakfast & MBR.
            The Front section of the house still needs to be stained and that area is Entry, Formal Living, Formal Dining & Guest Bedroom. So I was thinking, Jacobean may bring desired result. Will Jacobean be better in hiding Red vs. Dark Walnut? Will Jacobean look OK next to Rosewood like stain in Breakfast area? The overlap between two different stain will be two 32” wide door entry.

            Thank you so much in advance.

            Uday

            Reply
            • TheFlooringGirl  December 19, 2015 at 7:31 am

              Dark walnut will hide the red more than jacobean; jacobean has a bit of red cut into it.

              With all of this, you will need to test it – both to find what you like and if you feel it works well with what you have or if you want to refinish the other areas.

              Reply
      • Bryan  December 28, 2015 at 8:53 pm

        Hi Flooring Girl! I’m so grateful for your website; I’ve learned so much here! Thanks for all the great content.

        I’ve got a 60 year old cabin/cottage style home with red oak floors. I’d like the finish to be as light as possible, but i’d like to hide SOME of the grain, whirls and knots in the wood with some opacity. Obviously I still want to see that it’s wood, but soften the intensity of the contrast in the grain. Basically I’d like a somewhat uniform light color, that looks bright and natural. Can you recommend a stain color/brand/technique for this?

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  December 28, 2015 at 10:10 pm

          Hi Brian. First, thanks for the comps. I really appreciate that.

          Now, regarding your question, you have competing priorities here, so you’re going to need to test and prioritize. First, to hide the knots/whirls, you want to go as dark as possible…which I know conflicts with your desire to go light. Regarding hiding the grain, in general, either going light (e.g. natural) or very dark (e.g. dark walnut or jacobean) tends to camouflage the graining the most. Conversely, going in the middle (e.g. special walnut) tends to show the grain more.

          so, given that the extremes show the graining less and you want to go as light as possible, you may choose to go natural. But, bear in mind that will reveal the knots more.

          One thing you can consider is looking at the stain samples on the mixwax or duraseal samples and see which look you like the graining best on.

          I hope this made sense. I’m not sure if it helped or not.

          Reply
          • Bryan  December 29, 2015 at 12:03 am

            thanks so much, that helps! I never considered that the knots and grains would act differently, but it makes a lot of sense.

            To clarify(no pun intended), I read elsewhere that in addition to the stain color(ie jacobean or natural), one can also choose opacity:

            http://www.cabotstain.com/do-it-yourself/steps/Choosing-Stain-Color-Opacity.html

            Wondered if you had any experience with that, as it seems like I can get that light color with a little more camouflaging, perhaps even of knots, etc.

            Anyway, thanks again and happy holidays!

            Reply
      • Sara  January 20, 2016 at 9:18 pm

        I want a mid brown color for my red oak floors, I don’t want the brown to be red. From reading your comment dark walnut will not show red, but that’s too dark. Can you mix it 50/50 with natural and it be a a lighter non red brown?

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  January 21, 2016 at 9:28 pm

          If you feel that dark walnut is too dark, then try special walnut which is lighter.

          Reply
          • Sara  January 23, 2016 at 12:06 pm

            Special walnut will not be red on red oak?
            If it’s too dark can you add natural to lighten it? Or will the red oak show if you lighten it?
            How about a mix of 50/50 ebony and natural?

            Reply
      • Sandy  January 24, 2016 at 4:07 pm

        We don’t have duraseal carried locally but have found some great example pics of coffee brown mixed with country white. Can you recommend what coffee brown is closest to on the Minwax stain choices? Thanks!

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  January 25, 2016 at 9:44 am

          Sandy – I would try antique brown. medium brown or special walnut (I’m not sure if all those are avail in Minwax). Or, call Minwax directly. Minwax makes both Minwax and Duraseal. Ask for their recommendation.

          Reply
      • Susan Taubes  February 7, 2016 at 7:53 am

        Your website is so helpful. I have an old house with 100 year old white oak w a border that seems many dif materials
        I want to play it safe and not go too dark but I want it to look rich

        Suggested special walnut but is it better to go provincial
        Also looked at chestnut and early American

        Any advice would help. I really don’t have a good idea what it looks like as the pics aren’t helpful depending on light

        Help !
        I have to pick the rail color
        Thank you

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  February 8, 2016 at 6:07 pm

          Susan – Your floor sounds lovely. I love the borders. Often I seen them around here with walnut and maple. The woods absorb the stains differently and so we often test in this area. Personally, I like special walnut the best out of all of those, but I also like provincial. The reason I prefer the special walnut is that it’s brown and more neutral and more likely to work with the other species. Provincial is also nice. It’s around the same darkness, but a touch of red in it. I would test these as sometimes the provincial looks better on the wood and sometimes the special walnut does.

          I’m not a big fan of Early American as it has more reds/oranges in it and it tends to get more orangy over time. I find it’s more challenging to decorate with that color.

          Reply
      • Sandy  February 24, 2016 at 12:09 am

        Help-just stained red oak floors today, a nice dark brown and for whatever reason kitchen looks lighter than living room/entryway. The finishers are coming tomorrow to put first coat of water sealant on. Can they add 2nd coat of stain over the entire floor to darken it? They drive a distance and we don’t want to be a pain but not sure why kitchen appears to be so much lighter. What is simplest solution?

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  February 24, 2016 at 9:38 am

          I would not recommend putting a 2nd coat of stain on. If you do that, the poly won’t adhere properly and you can get peeling. I would probably consider converting to oil based poly (for a darker look) and/or adding a tint to the last coat of poly to darken a bit (assuming it’s close). If not, you may want to start again, resand and restain while testing the colors.

          I would also get your installer’s perspective on this. Why do they think it’s lighter? Is it possible you have different species there? Or is the wood newer?

          Reply
          • sandy  February 24, 2016 at 10:38 am

            You are a lifesaver to bounce ideas off of. Wish you were closer. The kitchen was original, everywhere else is new red oak. One person thought kitchen was white oak, but it is same builder and floor guys from 13 years ago. It would make sense that the pores in kitchen are more closed and not accepting the stain as well. Finishers use water based sealant. They are advising we put coat of sealant down today and then followup with pigmented sealant next. We wouldn’t mind all of it being a bit darker but definitely in the kitchen. The color tone is great we were just expecting it to be darker from what we started with. We are working to tone the oak grain down by being darker, and painting our kitchen cabinets white so great contrast. Do you feel pigmented stain will darken and tone down pigment at least in kitchen? They haven’t suggested we start over.

            Reply
      • sandy  February 24, 2016 at 10:42 am

        I meant to say…Do you feel pigmented poly will darken and tone down grain. What would you do? I’m expecting them to show up anytime. Thank goodness I work from home. We are so glad we want dark. We have had natural for 13 years and it is awesome to experience something different.

        Reply
      • Sandy  February 25, 2016 at 5:44 pm

        In your expert opinion is tinted poly ok to use between layers of clear poly? Do you think it will help with much uniformity? Thanks!

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  February 26, 2016 at 9:20 pm

          Tinted poly should only be used on the top layer of poly.

          Reply
      • Susie  March 28, 2016 at 9:03 pm

        Hello, Can you tell me which stain you used in the picture with the open floor plan, white fire place, and french doors? It is in the dark section. It is gorgeous and we are trying to stain our floors. My husband got all three stains you mentioned to try. Thanks so much!

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  March 29, 2016 at 5:41 am

          I believe that is a 50/50 ebony/jacobean blend. You will need to test the colors on your own floors. They sometimes look different in pictures (often a bit darker). Also, the stains will look different on different woods.

          Reply
      • Ruth  April 13, 2016 at 7:39 am

        What a wonderful blog/site. I am out of your area, but I am hoping you can lend some advice. We are just starting a refinishing of all of our small 1953 Long Island home’s white oak floors. We have very light cream color painted walls and small rooms so I don’t think I want a stain that is too dark. Our contractor just installed new white oak floor in one room and we went with satin over minwax english chestnut because it did not look too dark or too red in our tests on scrap. (We had narrowed it down to honey or english chestnut.) However, I still think it looks too red. I prefer more brown and less red or orange/yellow but I think a more plain brown like minwax special walnut may be too plain. I am weighing my options for a stain for the remainder of the house. Perhaps minwax honey or provincial? They all are so close in brightness and color. What do you think?

        Reply
      • kristen  April 13, 2016 at 9:09 am

        I LOVE your website and it has been extremely helpful during our renovation process. I have something i wanted to run past you and I am hoping you have time to comment. I installed 1700 Sq ft of 5″ White Oak planks. I want to get a dark charcoal gray/brown look. However, I can’t seem to find anything similar to what i am look for. I am wondering how you feel about mixing Duraseal 1 Ebony and 1 Country White. This is for a beach home and we like dark but I feel Ebony is too dark. Trying to get the darker restoration hardware look without going too modern with just a classic gray. Help !

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  April 16, 2016 at 6:47 am

          Kristen – Yes, when it comes to grays, you just need to test the ratios. We generally mix different ratios of ebony (duraseal) and white (bona). Occasionally, we’ll mix in a bit of brown (e.g dark walnut or coffee brown). Note: you probably need to use a water based poly on this (I’d recommend Bona Traffic HD).

          Reply
      • Jennifer  May 7, 2016 at 9:20 pm

        Thank you for this site!! We are doing a remodel now of an old log cabin. The floors originally were southern yellow pine so we matched them for the addition. We plan on sanding all the flooring (old and new) to achieve a blended unified look. The cabin has dark brown wood painted beams throughout but we are looking for a light brown (not yellowy or orange floor); my husband wants nothing too dark. We tested medium brown, provincial and antique brown (without first sanding the floor) and it came out blotchy and a bit dark, esp in certain spots. Please help. What is best advice to get a unified color (despite age difference of wood), light brown and no blotches. THANK YOU.

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  May 8, 2016 at 10:25 am

          Hi Jennifer. What a fun project. First, I hope you are not doing this yourself. If you are and/or if you are using rental machines, it will be extremely challenging to avoid the blotchiness, especially in pine which is softer and more challenging to refinish. This is most likely due to equipment and user inexperience. Second, with pine, you’ll need to add conditioner before adding the stain as it will open the pores.

          If the sanding isn’t done properly and with 3 grits, you will never get a good result, regardless of stain color (although I’m guessing that lighter colors will show the issues less.

          My gut would have been to start with special walnut and then try darker stains.

          Reply
      • jennifer  May 7, 2016 at 9:30 pm

        Just a couple of more facts – we also tried Early American and Special Walnut – but both of those had a strange hue (greenish) on the southern yellow pine (all colors were duraseal). Would love your thoughts on best technique to apply to get unified color and also maybe good mix of colors to try to achieve a light brown on the yellow pine wood.

        Reply
        • TheFlooringGirl  May 8, 2016 at 10:29 am

          See the last comment I gave. I have a hunch the issue may be the sanding. But, I would also test brown/darker stains until you get the right color. Early American is too red. Special walnut may not be dark enough – try dark walnut instead. Coffee brown work, too. Also, there is a new color that just came out called “true black” and you may want to try mixing that in to make a bit darker. In my experience, ebony and jacobean (which come out darker than dark walnut on oak) tend to come out lighter on pine. So, try the new true black, mixed in with dark walnut or antique brown if they aren’t dark enough themselves.

          Reply

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