Refinishing hardwood floors gray in Westchester County

Gray hardwood floors in Westchester - refinishing oak


gray hardwood flooring maple westchester county

Yes, believe it or not, gray hardwood flooring is in style! Higher end homeowners in Westchester keep requesting gray hardwood floors. Yes, gray! It’s an up and coming trend. Finding prefinished gray hardwood is easy, but how about if you already have oak hardwood floors in your Westchester home?


As background, it’s easy to get the gray color in pre-finished maple or birch floors. Because these woods are close pored, they absorb the stains differently and some of the darker brown stains turn gray on maple and birch (see picture to the right). These same stains will look brown on oak, but gray on maple. So, now that this trend has caught on, we have many homeowners who want to refinish their existing hardwood floors (which are usually oak) to have a similar look).



Stain color testing westchester - hardwood refinishingWhile achieving this gray look on existing oak hardwood is challenging (and is not to be done by your everyday contractor), it is possible to achieve when you have talented hardwood flooring refinishers. It costs more than your standard type of refinishing (read below to understand why), but for those looking for the stylish gray look, it’s well worth it. How do you achieve the gray effect? Well first, the stain is a combination of ebony and white wash. We test different levels until we find the right level of gray that our customer prefers – it could be dark gray, light gray or somewhere in the middle. We will test the gray colors on your hardwood floors.



Testing gray stains 2 Testing gray stain colors on floor










In the above pictures, you see different ratios of white:ebony. In the far right picture, the sample on the right is 3 parts white to 1 ebony, middle is 5:1, left is 4:1. In the left photo is 7:1. These are shown on white oak. The carpet sample is from Tuftex (Marblehead is the style).


gray hardwood floor refinishing westchester countyFrom there, it’s critical that you use a water based poly (rather than an oil based poly). An oil based poly will turn the floor yellowish and it just won’t work well with the gray. So water based poly in this instance is the best way to go. White wash costs a bit more, and water based poly costs a bit more. We strongly recommend Bona Traffic HD poly for this effect (see below on where to buy). It just lasts longer than traditional Bona and other water based polyurethanes. And, of course it costs more. It’s often better to add an extra coat of water based poly, too for a more durable finish. After all, refinishing hardwood floors can be rather inconvenient as you need to move all the furniture and often vacate the house. And, since this is more expensive than your typical refinishing job, you might as well make it last longer so you can postpone the need to refinish your floors again.


grey hardwood floorsPlease note that refinishing hardwood floors gray is challenging and should be handled by an expert, especially one with experience in gray and white washed floors. First, the sanding must be immaculate. Stain should be consistent and applied in strips to avoid any cross-grain color-variant lines. Test the stains carefully (before applying). Stains should dry at least 24 hrs, consistent with dark colored stains (and/or to the manufacturer’s specifications.




hardwood flooring selection tipsBe careful with the wood species. Gray stained floors tend to turn out best on white oak flooring. Red oak has underlying red tones, and often a darker gray is needed to achieve the desired look. Stain can turn out blotchy on maple floors as these are close pored species (this blotchiness occurs with all stain colors). Gray does not come out very well with pine floors which have underlying yellow as well as red tones. If you try this on pine, I’d suggest a deep gray to wash out the yellows (and note: these floors will get more yellow over time as the pine ages).  And, if you’re looking for this particular floor (which is pre-finished) – Shaw Castlewood Hearth, you can buy it here.  And, here is link to some other pre-finished gray hardwood floors.


Here is some testing we did with gray stains on a house that had both red oak and white oak flooring so you can see the difference. The right oak is on top and the white oak on the bottom. (These mismatched species were installed by a previous contractor but it’s a great illustration to show the difference). The differences in color and graining are more apparent in real life.


gray stain testing on red oak and white oak

gray stained oak on red oak and white oak floors










Recommended polyurethane for Gray floors and where to buy

When it comes to water borne poly, there is no dispute, Bona Traffic HD is the best in the market place. It looks great, dries quickly, and doesn’t amberize. It’s perfect if you’re staining your floors gray, or white, or just going for a natural super clean look. It costs more than Bona Mega, but it’s worth it as it looks better, lasts longer and amberizes less. This is the only product we use with gray or white washed floors.
Buy Bona Traffic HD


Should you use Rubio monocoat or tung oil for gray hardwood floors?

Oiled gray floors castle combe becktonYou definitely can use tung oil or Rubio monocoat for gray hardwood floors, but it’s generally not my first choice.  There are pros and cons with using tung oil (or similar products).  One of these days, I’ll have to write a full article on this topic. These products are still rather niche, but they are growing in popularity for their natural and unique look, as well as low VOCs and importantly the ability to spot treat scratches and mishaps.  They are especially popular in NYC.


hardwood with tung oil castle combe becktonUnlike polyurethane, the oils penetrate into the wood.  This gives the wood a unique patina and texture.  It looks more natural and a bit more rustic.  (Note: some people love this, others don’t).  It has a very flat and matte finish.


Most oiled floors use linseed or tung oil, or a combo of the two.  The oils penetrate the wood and attach at a molecular level making the wood stronger while leaving the texture and color unobstructed.  Over time, the oil ages with the wood and the patina grows stronger.


oiled floors castle combe byrdcliffe - stainin hardwood grayIn addition to the environmental benefits, many like the ability to spot repair the oiled floors.  As a homeowner, you can do the repair yourself, and you don’t need to sand and refinish.  Instead, you just apply more oil.


But, there are some downsides to the oiled floors.  The biggest disadvantage is that they can be more difficult to maintain.  You need to periodically treat the floors with more oil.  Furthermore, the floors aren’t protected from water (or pet accidents).  Polyurethane, on the other hand, provides a protective layer that rests on top of the wood.  This prevents liquids from penetrating; oiled floors don’t have that same level of protection.


Sanding hardwood gray - Castlecombe holborn tung oilThe other downsides to oiled floors are that they cost more (significantly more) and they have a longer curing time (which means it will be longer before you can move your furniture in.

Importantly, with oiled floors, you shouldn’t use a regular hardwood cleaner. Instead, you would use Woca natural soap and the Woca Wood Refresher.  These items cost more than the typical hardwood cleaners, but at least you can make repairs as scratches occur.  And, you can buy these products on Amazon and have them shipped directly to you.


I’d say that if you absolutely love the look of tung oil, then go for it.  And, if the ability to spot treat is very important to you, then that is an added bonus.  If you have pets that may get the floors wet (from going in/out when it rains, water dishes or accidents), you may want to avoid this option.  If you don’t like to spend a lot of time on touch ups, and instead prefer a floor with less maintenance, then use Bona Traffic HD (note: Bona Traffic is also environmentally friendly).



gray hardwood oak shawRelated refinishing articles:

somerset greysone maple



somerset charcoal gray oak homestyle











Do you need a local flooring contractor?  Find one here.

For more info, check out my Ebook – Top 6 Hardwood Refinishing FAQ’s.


6 Secrets of Refinishing hardwood floors ebook

Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors


Gray Hardwood floors - staining existing hardwood floor gray

Staining hardwood floors gray

How to refinish hardwood floors gray







Staining hardwood floors gray | Refinish wood gray | Westchester County


151 Response Comments

  • Carrie  August 4, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    My husband and are planning on refinishing our wood floors in a gray stain. The floors are red oak with clear finish. I have been doing some research in order to find the gray color that we want and read your blog on gray floors in Connecticut. I am hoping you can let me know a bit more detail on the process for staining the floor using the white wash and ebony stains. Do we stain the floor white wash first and then ebony or should we mix the stains to achieve the gray color we like. We are hoping to do this ourselves and could use some advice. Thank you for the article – it is the only I found that provides a bit of guidance on the stain colors to use for achieving the gray stain.

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 7, 2013 at 6:35 am

      Carrie – Actually, it can be done in a number of ways. One way is to mix. Another way is to apply a stain (even a mixed stain) and then do white wash on top. We’ve done in several ways and test it for the customer. That’s what I’d recommend you do…but if you do 2 coats like that, you have to wait 24 hrs in between (on both the testing and when you actually do the full floor. Test until you find the combo you like. It’s definitely trickier than traditional stains, so be forewarned.

      • lisa whitney  August 28, 2014 at 6:19 am

        what brand of white wash do you use?

        • TheFlooringGirl  August 29, 2014 at 2:23 pm

          We generally use Duraseal or minwax for the stain colors. Hope that helps.

          • Jeff Brazil  July 20, 2015 at 11:54 am

            This article is VERY helpful. Thanks!! To be sure I’m doing this correctly – are you mixing Ebony Oil Stain with a White Oil Stain (such as Duraseal Country White)? Or are you mixing Ebony with some kind of special whitewash base or pickling base? Thanks in advance for your reply!

          • TheFlooringGirl  July 21, 2015 at 5:53 am

            Jeff – thx so much. The truth is that you could mix any of the above. I believe my guys are using a stain simply called “white.” It may be made by Bona, but I will need to check. Hope that helps.

  • Sue  October 11, 2014 at 8:52 am


    You have three pictures above, the first you mentioned was either maple or birch, but what woods are the next two? The one that has no furniture and the one with white couch? They look really good!


    • TheFlooringGirl  October 12, 2014 at 4:40 am

      The next two are oak. It looks like the 2nd is red oak and the 3rd is white oak (but it’s been a while since I’ve been in those houses).

  • Lindy  October 13, 2014 at 1:33 am

    Hi! I love the wood in the picture with the blue painted walls. Can you tell me the colors used and the process? I’ve been struggling with my wood floors and need some help. Located on the west coast. Thank you so much!!!

    • TheFlooringGirl  October 14, 2014 at 8:22 pm

      Lindy – I’m so glad you like them. This is gray…it’s literally a mixture of white (from bona) and ebony. You can play around with and test the ratios until you get the color/shade you like.

  • Liz  October 20, 2014 at 8:50 am

    How do you deal with the red/ pink tone in red oak we are doing an family room addition and are adding red oak to match the old floor which is golden oak . I would like to to a natural color with a gray tone.I tried the weathered gray color and the wood has a pink tone. How can I keep it from looking pink? Thanks

    • TheFlooringGirl  October 21, 2014 at 6:37 am

      Liz – Great question. Yes, unfortunately, red oak is a bit more challenging than white oak for white washes and gray. The only thing you can really do it to try to drown out the color by going a bit darker.

      Golden oak is a stain color and the yellow tones help drown it out and most likely you have oil based poly on that area, and the poly continues to darken and amberize and covers the red/pink more. Unfortunately, you can’t do this on the gray areas as that will make the gray yellow and that will look funny, and it will look worse over time. I wish I had better advice, but I’d say cut in more ebony into the gray stain to cover it up.

    • Cathy  October 21, 2016 at 11:31 am

      I had red oak floors installed and used a clear water based urethane finish. The results were spectacular – no yellowing at all. This could be a bettter option than trying to finish grey – it gives a slightly bleached look that will stand the test of time style wise. I used a mat finish.

      • TheFlooringGirl  October 22, 2016 at 8:59 am

        Cathy – Yes, using a water based poly such as Bona Traffic can give a nice clean and contemporary look. It’s definitely not for those looking to do gray, but it is an alternative and less expensive option.

      • Francesca  October 31, 2016 at 6:37 pm

        Did you wipe it down with mineral spirits before you applied the water based poly? I have red oak floors and I just stained them with grey. I was told to wipe them down with mineral spirits before I use the water poly. Is this correct?

        • TheFlooringGirl  November 2, 2016 at 7:34 pm

          I have never heard of that Francesca. But, usually you add bleach to the floors to drown out the pink from red oak.

  • Charlotte mann  November 5, 2014 at 10:17 am

    what about using pine wood? Do you do the same to get gray?

    • TheFlooringGirl  November 6, 2014 at 7:43 am

      Unfortunately, the gray (or whitewash) doesn’t work as well on pine due to the yellow in the pine. They color has yellow undertones and those tend to become stronger over time. Some pines have both yellow and red undertones. I would not recommend gray for pine, but if you were to try it, I would recommend going a dark gray (e.g. 25% white/75% ebony) as this will do more drowning out of the yellow.

  • Carmen  January 27, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    We are trying to do grey wash floors… We have what I think is white oak.
    I’m looking at stain and I only see white wash in water based… Do we use ebony/white wash/poly all water based?
    I’ve used water based poly in the past and I honestly like oil based better. Seems more shiny, durable, lasts better with frequent cleaning…. I’m nervous about using water based. Where do you get this Bona brand?

    • TheFlooringGirl  January 31, 2015 at 6:05 pm

      Hi Carmen. My apologies on the delayed response. It’s been a crazy busy week.

      There are some gray stains. Minwax makes one called Classic Gray, and I’m sure there are others. However, yes, I think it’s best to mix ebony and white and play around with the ratio until it is as light or dark a gray as you prefer.

      Yes, you do want to use a WATER based poly for either gray or white washed floors. If you don’t, it will turn yellow and it will get more yellow over time, and it will really look bad. (and, yes, I have seen people mistakenly do this and it looks horrible).

      While I prefer oil based poly for regular stain colors (I have a whole blog post on that topic), for gray and white washed floors, you need to use water based poly. I would recommend using Bona. Even better is Bona Traffic (which is better than bona mega). It lasts much longer and yellows less. It costs more, but it’s worth it! And, you can also do an extra coat of poly to help with durability.

  • Mike  March 5, 2015 at 10:47 pm

    Debbie – Very helpful here. Thanks. I’m staining red oak grey. You are suggesting mixing OIL based ebony stain with WATER based white-wash, correct? I’ve done this effectively (all minwax products including minwax water-based pre-stain). When applied, my results completely drown out the wood tone (after 2 or 3 coats). It almost has a latex paint look/feel. Easy to play with the color range too. My question is…am I OK mixing oil and water in this fashion? Additional detail – I’m mixing 4 to 1. Heavier on the white wash. The result is a very blue version of grey. After it dries, I hit the wood with ebony oil-based stain again and I get a pretty sweet blackish grey with bluey undertones. It’s exactly what I’m gong for I just want to make sure this oil-water thing I’ve got going isn’t going to blow up on me in a few months or after water base poly hits it. My gut is telling me that this coating may not be durable. Not sure thought. Thanks much for the help!

  • mike  March 5, 2015 at 10:50 pm

    Sorry…I meant to address my post to Debbie!! Please edit! Thanks…

    • TheFlooringGirl  March 7, 2015 at 9:41 pm

      Hi Mike. The stain is supposed to be oil based and the poly water based. That may be why you are having an issue w/ the colors. And, you only want to do 1 coat of stain. If you do multiple coats of stain, the poly may not adhere properly. Hope that helps.

      • mike  March 10, 2015 at 12:44 pm

        Yep. Thanks. I am applying too many coats. Going to do some testing with commercial / industrial oil-based stain and base. Going to try to mix in green to neutralize the red. May work, may not. Gotta try.

        • TheFlooringGirl  March 15, 2015 at 10:39 am

          Mike – I hope it works for you. Yes, sometimes just testing the mix can really help. Good luck.

  • David  May 15, 2015 at 11:11 am

    Hi Debbie,
    Unfortunately I just found your website, hopefully you can help. we are now on the third attempt at staining our floors gray and its not going well. contractor 1 attempt 1 came out with too much pink. The floors(mix of existing 80 year old red oak and brand new select red oak) were sanded completely and attempt 2 resulted in a perfect color that we loved but poly that wouldn’t stick and looked 20 years old within a week. Contractor gave up. Contractor 2 attempt 1 (only I hope) sanded completely but this time the stain is taking 4 days to dry between applications. They did two coats and the newly installed wood had pink showing through although the color on the original floors was fine. They then tried to put another coat on the pink rooms but it wouldn’t take the stain. They then buffed the floors and this allowed the new stain to take however we are now at 4 days and still not dry. we have kept the AC at 70 and the fan on 24/7 for when the temp drops at night to the air keeps moving. we have also been running a large dehumidifier in the basement. My question is this; are we setting ourselves up for another disaster when they try to poly (Bona Traffic) or if we have enough patience will these floors dry enough to be finished properly and last? thank you

    • TheFlooringGirl  May 16, 2015 at 3:29 am

      Oh gosh, David, this does sound very frustrating. I’m not sure what they are using for stain and why it is taking so long to dry. It really shouldn’t take more than 2 days. (I did have a customer a few years ago that had another disaster story similar to this and the contractors had used some sort of paint blend).

      They should be using regular stains a mix of ebony and white, and just test the ratio. Generally darker grays will reduce the red. Bona traffic is the best poly to use, so it sounds like you are right there.

      Oh, and it should only be 1 coat of stain, not 2. If there are 2 the 2nd will not absorb properly and the poly will not adhere properly. I hope that helps.

      • David  May 16, 2015 at 6:45 pm

        its minwax gray colored stain. thats another thingg that bothers me, the fact that it is a specific color from a reputable company yet it seems it does not behave like other stains. pretty sure it was the poly not sticking last time. very worried about it happening again as it has been 5 days since the last coat and still not dry. contractor tells me my house is too damp. not buying it.

        • TheFlooringGirl  May 19, 2015 at 8:24 am

          David – I would recommend that you call the manufacturer directly. Ask them how long their stain typically takes to dry. Ask them their thoughts on what could have gone wrong and the proper methods. I think that will give you greater peace of mind.

  • Cheryll  July 22, 2015 at 6:02 am

    I am in chattanooga tn. No one around seems to know how to get the grey hardwood stained. Rhey have sanded my floors and tgeir attempts 4 times now. New red oak floors down. I dont want browns, reds or golds showing. I read article and they did purchase ebony. But they are now wanting me to give them the ratio mix. Sherwin williams has not been able to help at all. On red oak … I want a med grey. Please help. Thanks Cheryll

    • TheFlooringGirl  July 22, 2015 at 6:10 am

      Hi Cheryl. We mix a combo of ebony and white. We test it for our customers. That’s really the only want to do it. Not sure why installers wouldn’t do that. For what it’s worth, you prob. need more white than ebony. Look at above pictures where we tested some. This is on white oak, but it should give you some benchmarks. It definitely works better on white oak than red, but since you have red oak down, you really can’t change it.

      • Cheryll  July 23, 2015 at 11:21 am

        Just wanted to let you know we finally found the brand of white you were referring too. Only one store in Chattanooga, TN had it. We did test 4 different variations and found one I loved. The installers just called me and said he is staining and his partner is coming behind him wiping over it and they are finding that the stain is drying so fast, it is not wiping off when his partner comes behind him. Is there any other process to the floor besides sanding really good that was needed prior to the stain. He said it is not wiping off once applied, seems to be drying super fast?

        • Cheryll  July 23, 2015 at 12:06 pm

          The worker just actually called me back and said it is a sticky texture, and it is like the towel they use to wipe it down is almost sticking to the stain, it is not wiping off. What is the recommended time frame of applying the stain and wiping it off? He tried a sample spot in another area of applying it and wiping it on immediately wiping it off, and it took the stain off, only leaving it in the grains. so that does not work as well. It ‘s very strange this did not do this during the sample areas? just wondering if you have ran into this?

  • cristy  August 19, 2015 at 12:49 am

    Installing hickory hardwood to match the rest of our house and would like to stain in the greys. Any idea how it will look on hickory? I like the brownish grey not a blue grey that you get with the premix stains.

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 20, 2015 at 11:17 am

      You know, I don’t actually know how it will look in hickory. You can look in stores or online to see if you can find pictures. You can also test it on your own floors…and if you don’t like it, go with a different color. Mix white and ebony stains for the grays. I’m not crazy about the premixed ones either.

  • Mary Kay Hillsley  August 24, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    Hi, I was wondering whether you have used the Duraseal weathered oak or gray colors mixed with any of the brown stains to produce a slightly weathered old French floor type effect. What brown might work with red oak to keep it from being more red as it gets lighter? Thanks.

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 25, 2015 at 12:53 pm

      Mary Kay – In general, we’ve been mixing the grays as we are not happy with the premade colors (and our customers don’t seem to like them either). I’m not sure about which brown would be best mixed to produce your effect, but I would test. My gut tells me that dark walnut would be best, but I might test that, coffee brown and jacobean. Or maybe antique brown. The only way to know is to test on your floors. The stain come out different on everyone’s floors.

  • Tabitha  September 5, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    We installed red oak and we are trying to stain the floors grey. After applying the white ebony mix we achieve the gray color but not without the pink. We want a light grey color. I know this is very unconventional but in another spot we even applied white latex paint and then the stain. We got the color we loved but then a part of the board turned yellow and that happened without applying any poly to it. Any idea why it would turn yellow?

    • TheFlooringGirl  September 6, 2015 at 11:56 am

      Tabitha – It’s much easier to do gray on white oak. With red oak you often need to go darker to drown out the red. Alternatively, you can try bleaching the floor. I’ve never heard of using paint, but I can’t imagine that being a good idea…especially for the future as it will seap through the cracks and prob. be stuck there forever.

      The yellow, BTW, might just be a reaction with the paint and stain. Or, it could be yellow from the poly.

  • Hanne  September 7, 2015 at 10:03 am

    We are redoing our maple floors in our kitchen and dining room and are wanting them to be the color in the picture you have of the room with blue walls. I saw Bona has a grey stain, would you still recommend using the ebony and white mix? If so what ratio would you recommend? Thanks!

    • TheFlooringGirl  September 7, 2015 at 3:10 pm

      Hanne – Please be aware that the wood in the picture is white oak, not maple. Regardless, you need to test it. The color will come out different on maple and also the colors look different in real life vs. the picture. Personally, we prefer doing ebony/white blend and testing. You can try Bona’s gray, but I’ve heard some complaints about the premade stains. But, I might test the one from Bona as well as a mix to see what you like.

      I can’t advise you on the ratio as that is taste specific and it will definitely look different on maple. (BTW, it often looks nice on maple…just different).

      • Hanne  September 8, 2015 at 5:24 pm

        Thank you so much, I appreciate your quick reply!

  • Sara  September 27, 2015 at 6:27 pm

    Hello! I’m stumbled upon you while looking for hardwood floor ideas. We have real maple hardwoods and have disliked them from the start. They are not our style. We want gray really bad, but are scared. It’s my understanding with maple the stain can be blotchy, but I think we would be okay with this. Our style is very farmhouse/industrial/cottage and think it would look fantastic. Thoughts?

    • TheFlooringGirl  September 28, 2015 at 4:58 am

      Hi Sara. Yes, I think gray can look really nice, especially on maple. Be sure to test the colors, use water based poly (I’d recommend you spend the extra on Bona Traffic) and hire someone who has experience w/ gray floors and sanding maple. Don’t just hire anyone.

  • Mike  September 28, 2015 at 11:35 pm

    When you talk about the ratio what is a part? Tint or quarts?

    • TheFlooringGirl  September 29, 2015 at 6:27 am

      Hi Mike. A part is just a ratio…it doesn’t matter what “size” the part is, as long as it is consistent. So, it could be 5 pints to 1 pint, or 5 cap fulls to 1 cap full, or 5 quarts to 1 quart. I hope that makes sense.

      • Mike  September 30, 2015 at 7:46 pm

        Thanks for the response. My wife and I have been working hard at this color. We finally like a mix that was made but it requires 2 coats of stain to get the color we like. Do you think it will be ok?

        • TheFlooringGirl  October 2, 2015 at 11:18 pm

          Mike – In general, doing 2 coats of stain is not the best approach. The 2nd coat doesn’t adhere as well nor the coats of poly to that, so you may have some warranty/peeling issues. However, if this is the only way you can get the color to work the way you want, you may feel it’s worth it to take that risk. Speak to your installers about this and any added precautions they may add (e.g. potentially longer drying time before poly goes on).

  • Elaine  October 19, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    Very helpful regarding staining gray. My concern is whether the Bona Traffic water poly is durable enough as I have 2 medium-sized dogs and dont want my floors scratched up. Any experience with this issue?

    • TheFlooringGirl  October 20, 2015 at 5:55 am

      Elaine – Bona Traffic is a great product and should hold up well with your dogs. This is your best option if you are going gray (or white wash). A consideration for the future is to do a screen and recoat 3 – 4 years later to add another coat of poly for some added protection.

  • Melissa  October 20, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    Hi. I found your site while surfing for grey floors. We are looking to stain white oak. I’d like a driftwood grey looking floor, i.e. a medium brown color that is greyed. Can I achieve this by mixing ebony and white or do I need to also add a brown stain color to the stain mix? Also am i understanding correctly that you should use minwax or duraseal oil based stain(1 coat) and then Bona Traffic Water based poly. How many coats of poly?

    • TheFlooringGirl  October 23, 2015 at 7:04 am

      You can mix the stains however you want, and if you want brown undertones, then yes, mix that in (prob. use dark walnut or special walnut – you’ll need to test). Yes, you are correct on stain, poly combo. I’d recommend 3 coats of poly (assuming that is within your budget). That will last longer.

  • Laurie  October 27, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Thanks so much for your advice. I am also a flooring girl and get a lot of customers who want a gray stain. your input is helpful! Thanks

    • TheFlooringGirl  October 27, 2015 at 9:16 pm

      Laurie – You’re welcome. Glad I could help.

  • michelle  November 2, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Hi – love your website! Would love to know your thoughts on our flooring. We really want to change it to gray stain but wondered if you think we would have to go to dark due to the red tint in the hardwood flooring. Can I post a picture on here to show you an example?

    • TheFlooringGirl  November 3, 2015 at 7:03 am

      Michelle – Thx so much. You will just need to test it. The darker you go, the more it will hide the red undertones. I think you’ll prob. need a mid gray, but try it on your own floors and see what you like.

  • Melissa  November 17, 2015 at 3:57 pm

    Have you ever stained square parquet floors gray? I’m thinking a out staining mine instead of replacing them but wasn’t sure if this would work because they go in so many different directions.

    • TheFlooringGirl  November 17, 2015 at 9:13 pm

      No, we haven’t tried that. I don’t know how well those would look. But, most are red oak, so they don’t look as nice as white oak (with gray). And, most parquet that I’ve seen has some gaps and that may show up more with the gray (vs. dark stains cover these a bit). Please bear in mind that it’s a bit more expensive to refinish parquet and it’s a lot more expensive to do gray.

      If you do end up doing this, I’d love to see some pictures.

  • cameron  November 19, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    What would a weathered gray (at around 75-80%) look like mixed with espresso?

  • Katherine  November 20, 2015 at 1:32 am

    Hi Debbie. Thanks so much for your very useful tips. I have the same question as others, but I can’t seem to find an answer – re. mix of ebony and white stain: I checked Minwax and Ebony is OIL based while White stain is WATER based. Are you suggesting mixing oil and water based stains? If not, what brand makes OIL based white stain? Thank you so much!

    • TheFlooringGirl  November 21, 2015 at 4:43 pm

      Katherine – We generally use Duraseal for both the ebony and white. Those are oil based stains. And, it’s fine to use oil stain with water poly. What you want to avoid is mixing the poly with oil and water.

  • cameron  November 20, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    I meant weathered gray (at 75-90%) with kona?

    • TheFlooringGirl  November 21, 2015 at 4:46 pm

      Cameron – You will have to test it. We have not done that combo. But, even if we had, it looks different on different woods/ages of wood. Unless when you say Kona, you mean Bona. Bona is water borne poly (Kona is a color). If you are doing anything that has gray in it, you should use a water borne poly, and I’d recommend Bona Traffic. It’s more expensive but it’s worth it. I hope that made sense.

      • Cameron  November 22, 2015 at 6:35 pm

        What brown stains are usually added to make brown undertones?

        • Denise  November 23, 2015 at 12:40 pm


          I have oak hardwood flooring (red and white mix, more white than red) and our flooring contractor is using Duraseal Country White, Quick Coat to refinish them back to their original state (Bruce Windward strip, winter white).

          First Attempt
          DS Country White, Quick Coat stain was applied (day1). The floor was sealed with a water base seal (day 2). The floors browned a little but were still pretty. Another water base seal was applied (day 3, amber tint was added to the second seal).

          The floor looked beautiful however some areas didn’t adhere well. The thought is that the DS Country White, Quick Seal oil stain and water seal don’t work together.

          Second Attempt
          The contractor:

          • Sanded the floors back to raw and reapplied the DS Country White, Quick Coat Saturday (day1)
          • Sunday a small discolored area (1′ x 1′) in the middle of the floor was noticed and corrected by re-sanding and re-staining using DS Country White, Quick Coat to correct/blend the color
          • The plan is to use Street Shoe water base Lock N Seal today (day 3)
          • Apply another coat of the Street Shoe water base Lock N Seal again, the day after (day 4)
          • Apply a water base poly (day 5)

          Are there any concerns with this approach?

          After reading the posts in this tread it sounds like we should wait at least 2 days before applying any product to the DS Country White, Quick Coat and should use water base products only such as the Street Shoe Lock N Seal and poly finish, is this correct?

          I don’t want my floor to yellow due to the use of oil base products which is what the contractor was going to use on the second try. I’m hoping that the water base products noted above are going to adhere correctly and keep the floor from turning brown or yellowing. Please help 🙂

          • TheFlooringGirl  November 25, 2015 at 10:05 am

            Denise – First, if you’re still having issues, I would recommend you contact the manufacturers of the products directly to get their thoughts. Second, right don’t use any oil based products with white wash/white colors…they will turn them yellow. Use water borne poly. We typically would use Bona Traffic. Street Shoe is probably also a good option, but as I said we use Bona Traffic which I know is top notch.

  • Andrew  December 3, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    I’m a hardwood flooring contractor, and just discovered this blog. For the most part, the information noted here is pretty accurate, especially regarding finishes.

    The one aspect of staining a gray, or many other colors, that has never been mentioned, however, is a bleach application prior to applying stain. This does several things: It eliminates most of the original color of the wood, it adds uniformity to the overall color, and it opens the grain so stains can be applied more evenly, especially in maples and pines. For example, some have noted the pink hues that a red oak adds to the finish…which can be eliminated by a bleach application.

    Note, it’s critical that the bleach be applied evenly, so that the results are consistent, and that you use a self-neutralizing bleach….usually in a 2 part mix, designed for wood. Puddles or drips will show up as lighter spots, so alot of care is necessary. This should only be done by a flooring professional, as the bleach can burn your skin and ruin your clothes.

    • TheFlooringGirl  December 3, 2015 at 7:42 pm

      Andrew – Excellent point! I actually was planning on doing a different post on bleaching and white wash options, but haven’t yet had a chance. And, yes definitely can use the bleach on red oak to help drown out the red. It costs more and yes, you are so right that it needs to be done carefully. I will try to update this post later in the month when I have some more time.

      Thanks so much for your input.

  • Lauren  December 27, 2015 at 4:50 am

    Hi! I love your blog and I’m so glad I found it!

    I would love your opinion on a problem we’re having with our brand new floors. We just had French white oak 7″ wide plank engineered hardwood floors installed (stained and finished on-site, also nailed and glued). They were stained a gorgeous shade of light grey, which we loved, but then after our contractor put on 3 coats of finish, the color changed to a yellow/ amber tint. We didn’t discover that Bona Mega was used for the finish until after the final coat was applied. Huge mistake! We’re still scratching our head over why he used Bona Mega for the finish, which changed the color dramatically.

    We’re trying to find a way to remove the tinted finish and get back to the grey we loved so much. Do you have any experience using the Bona Recoat system or a similar chemical finish remover? Do you think this would be a good solution? Since the floors are brand new and the only issue is the tinted finish, we are trying to avoid sanding. I’d love your opinion!

    • TheFlooringGirl  December 27, 2015 at 11:46 am

      Oh gosh, that stinks. I’m not familiar with that product, and we’ve never had this issue, so I’m not sure what to advise you. You probably have nothing to lose by trying it though, and if it doesn’t work, I suppose you can sand and refinish again. I might test it in a small area first.

      The challenge you have is that you have the yellow tint and are trying to put on clear which of course doesn’t drown out the amber. When you screen and recoat, you are scuffing up and often taking up the top layer, so theoretically, it should help, but it may not be enough. Chemical remover may help, but it may also react with the gray, so I’m not sure. I hope it does work. Maybe call Bona and ask them.

  • Cynthia  January 11, 2016 at 9:55 pm

    I am doing Grey on red oak, beautiful samples on the floor currently by a great stain guy in Park city, UT. So unusual. Wondering before I go ahead if wear shows more, or what concerns I need to have for going forward. Thank you , love your site. now if only I could find the guts to let my hair go as well!

    • TheFlooringGirl  January 11, 2016 at 10:57 pm

      Cynthia – Thx so much and so glad you have a great sanding installer. In general, lighter shows scratches less and in general colors that are closer to dirt color show dirt less.

      My advice to use is to use Bona Traffic and do 3 coats poly. This is help it last longer. And, of course take your shoes off for greater longevity.

  • Julie  February 24, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    Love your article! So helpful and so well written!
    I have more of a style question for you. We just bought a lake house and plan to re-stain the hardwood in a med gray, paint the window trim a clean white and paint the walls in neutral tones with a gray undertone. BUT… We plan to keep the beautiful kitchen cabinets and two-story fireplace surround in the natural birch they already are. My question is… Will the birch and grey woods work well together from a style perspective?
    I welcome your opinion!

    • TheFlooringGirl  February 24, 2016 at 6:15 pm

      Hi Julie. Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m not sure if the gray and birch will work so well together. It would not be my first choice as you are sort of mixing cool colors with warm tones. On the other hand, I have seen this work surprising well in a home I recently visited and I am seeing lots of pictures online w/ grays and yellows.

      What I would do it test the stain color out with a piece of your cabinets and see what you think. (You can detach one of the drawers or something. It might work if your birch is very light. If you don’t like the combo, you could change the stain color…or just do a different stain color in the kitchen (e.g. ebony or white)…both of those go with the gray and should also go with the birch.

  • Giselle  February 24, 2016 at 8:12 pm

    Hi Debbie.

    I really loved your article. I am however a little hesitant about doing the floors grey but I really like them.

    We have a contractor resanding our existing red oak hardwood as well as laying new floors in the bedrooms…so hallway and main floor rooms will be sanded down from a natural red oak…no stain. Then new red oak hardwood in the bedrooms.

    This contractor uses Bona Dri-fast stain. He tried to get a gray using ebony and clear as he says we don’t want to use water based stain.

    I noticed that Bona Dri-fast stain actually now comes in a gray (oil based). If we use the gray stain……do we still have to use the water based Poly (which I guess is the sealer like element after the stain??) or can he use the oil based poly. Will that gray stain still turn yellow over time?

    He says that the water based is not durable enough. But I don’t want yellow floors either.

    Any advice on this would be appreciated


    • TheFlooringGirl  February 25, 2016 at 7:35 am

      Hi Giselle. Thanks for your comments. You can use either an oil based or water stain, but generally oil based stains come out better. From there you can either use oil or water based poly.

      Now, in generally if you are using a water borne poly, and especially for gray, you only should use Bona Traffic. That is the best and will last long. Most other water borne polyies will not last. Your contractor is both correct and incorrect. Above, I have links to Bona Traffic and where you can buy. Please note that Bona Traffic costs more. It is worth it. And either you can buy the product or your contractor, but either way, expect to pay more.

      Second, I generally don’t recommend Bona for stains (although we do use Bona White when mixing with ebony as I think they have one of the best whites). We mix with duraseal ebony.

      I’m not familiar with the Bona gray stain, but it would not be my recommendation. Either way, test the colors to see what you like. It’s more challenging on red oak, so you may need to go darker and when you blend it ebony, you can get the shade.

      I hope that helps.

  • kristy  March 1, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    Your blog is very helpful. We have white oak floors and are trying to achieve a light gray washed look. I would like the finished product to look like sanded white oak with a slight gray tint. Do you have any recommendations on the ratios of ebony and white we should start with? Also, have you ever mixed stain with white paint to lighten? Our contractor mentioned that this is better than the white Bona stain?

    • TheFlooringGirl  March 2, 2016 at 8:30 am

      Hi Kristy. You’re going to need to test this and it would need to be a high ratio of white to ebony. You may start at 7:1 and then keep adding more white.

      I would definitely avoid white paint! First, you are likely to have issues with that – both short term and long term. And, I would expect to have issue with that the next time you refinish your floors as the paint will go between the boards. I have heard lots of nightmare stories where people have used paint…and many have had to completely replace their floors or else have had to put carpet on top as those lines will be permanent.

  • Tracy  March 29, 2016 at 1:41 am

    I have read most of the comments in the blog and really appreciate it; however I am new to staining and a bit overwhelmed and not sure exactly what to do next. My project is staining a red oak dresser. I sanded the wood and then applied 2 coats of minwax classic gray oil based stain. The color came out to pinky to match my headboard which is a midtone gray/brown. I consulted a woodworking tradesman and he suggested that I try mixing Amber TransTint dye solution to denatured alcohol and testing that. He said that it should tone down the pink color. However, I watched a youtube on using dye with alcohol and if not extremely careful the wood will come out blotchy. I was wondering if you have any suggestions for me?

    • TheFlooringGirl  March 29, 2016 at 5:30 am

      Tracy – I really don’t have experience with refinishing furniture. I would guess it it s a similar process. It will always be more challenging with red oak as it is naturally pinkish. Generally, you need to do a darker gray to mask out the pink/red undertones. On the floors, you only want to do one coat, not too and I would guess the same for furniture.

      Note: if you are seeing blotchiness, that is most likely because you haven’t sanded enough or properly and therefore wood is absorbing differently. On the floors, you need to sand 3 times finer and finer grits and I would guess the same applies to furniture.

  • kristen  April 13, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    Hello again,
    can you tell me the stain that was used in the picture with the tan couch that shows the bottom of the couch and the metal legs above, and the picture at the very top “elite staging” and the charcoal color. How would we achieve these colors?

    • TheFlooringGirl  April 16, 2016 at 6:45 am

      Kristen – I don’t know the exact blend they used. With grays you need to test them. We generally mix different ratios of ebony and white, and occasionally blend in some brown (e.g. dark walnut or coffee brown).

  • Cathy  April 16, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    I have heard multiple issues with gray. The color doesn’t wear well over time. I have a crazy dog who runs around the house and I have heard its best to stain with white oak and not red oak, which unfortunately I have.

    Could you offer some guidance? Thank you

    • TheFlooringGirl  April 17, 2016 at 5:58 am

      Cathy – I’m sure that many have difficulty with gray because they use a cheap water based poly…and if that’s the case, it won’t wear well, regardless of color. You need to use Bona Traffic for it to hold up well.

      If you have red oak, I would suggest doing a darker gray.

  • Lola  May 1, 2016 at 8:34 am

    Why isn’t anyone mentioning the use of Miniwax Classic Grey? That product can be mixed with the darker brown stains too, right?

    • TheFlooringGirl  May 1, 2016 at 12:28 pm

      Lola – I generally don’t like the Minwax classic gray as it usually doesn’t come out well on oak. (We recently used it on birch and it looked great). On oak, it often has blue and/or green undertones and I get many calls from across the country saying that this is what happened when they use it. I think a safer bet is to mix ebony and white until you have the right blend/depth of color. You are right that you can mix the colors.

    • TheFlooringGirl  May 1, 2016 at 12:28 pm

      Lola – I generally don’t like the Minwax classic gray as it usually doesn’t come out well on oak. (We recently used it on birch and it looked great). On oak, it often has blue and/or green undertones and I get many calls from across the country saying that this is what happened when they use it. I think a safer bet is to mix ebony and white until you have the right blend/depth of color. You are right that you can mix the colors.

  • Melissa  May 7, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    Hi Debbie,

    I was curious if you have tried using the apple cider vinegar and steel wool combo to weather and grey out the wood. I see of all over Pinterest for the DIYers with their grey reclaimed furniture. I haven’t seen too many do it on floors but the ones I have seen have looked great! It normally turned out medium brown Grey

    • TheFlooringGirl  May 8, 2016 at 10:21 am

      No, I haven’t and I’d be hesitant to. Those seem to be getting the gray color by damaging the wood.

  • elaine  May 9, 2016 at 8:01 am

    I need to refinish my brazlian cherry wood floors and would like to add a gray stain to it, have you seen this done or have you done it and what recommendations or photos might you have. We are in the Chicago area. Thank you!

    • TheFlooringGirl  May 11, 2016 at 6:59 am

      Elaine – No, we definitely have NEVER done that and would not attempt it. I doubt that you can do successfully. It will be very red. Bleaching it will make it slightly less red, but will permanently damage the wood. I doubt that it would come out right with the oils in the wood and the reddish and yellow color. It could only possibly work with a very dark gray. Also, brazilian cherry doesn’t absorb the ebony very well, so you would need to test colors.

      Personally, I think this is a big mistake and risk and I would never attempt it.

  • Jason  July 25, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    Thanks so much for this post. Before finding this our hardwood guy was steering us toward premixed, which did not look that great. We followed your directions and mixed up a tone that we liked (using the Bona White and Minwax Ebony). He did recommend the Bona Traffic but says he’s used to laying 3 coats and buffing each coat before reapplying. I noticed that you had recommended more than one coat of poly in your article and then warned about multiple coats (and how some nightmares have occurred) in the comments section. Do you believe, if done right, you can successfully apply more than one coat of Bona Traffic over gray floors? Our guy says he does it all the time and success is a matter of buffing well to promote adhesion between layers. Thanks!

    • TheFlooringGirl  July 26, 2016 at 7:20 am

      Hi Jason. Glad it’s been helpful. There may be a tad of confusion between coats of poly and coats of stain. You should do 1 coat of stain, and ideally 3 coats poly. The Bona Traffic is the poly, and yes, 3 coats is ideal. I hope that hleps.

  • Eve  July 25, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    If we manage to get our floors stained grey and want to switch back to a warmer color in a few years, can the floors be re-finished to get rid of the grey?

    • TheFlooringGirl  July 26, 2016 at 7:16 am

      Eve – Absolutely…provided you have solid hardwood. The stain is topical and it is sanded off when you refinish, so you can go from light to dark or dark to light or gray to whatever.

  • Jennifer  August 1, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    Thanks so much this is a very helpful article! My contractor is saying that after he sands he also applies water to the floor so that it absorbs the stain more evenly. Do you agree with this method? Also, he says for mixed colors the stain needs a longer drying time (2 days), do you agree? Lastly how much drying time do you leave between each coat of bona traffic Hd? Thank you!

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 2, 2016 at 9:15 pm

      Hi Jennifer. Your contractor is referring to a water pop and that generally costs more and allows the wood to absorb more stain. We often use it for when people want to go darker with the stains. I think it’s perfectly fine. We generally test it for a customer. It’s neither better nor worse – depends on which look you prefer.

      I’ve never heard of mixed stains taking longer, but he may mean that it takes longer by adding a darker color or mixing in some minwax which takes longer than Duraseal. Regardless, the stain dries when the stain dries and often you do need to allow 2 days, especially with darker stains and especially when it’s more humid.

      For water based poly, it can vary a bit based on humidity, but generally it’s prob 4-8 hrs between each coat and generally each subsequent coat takes an extra 2 hrs (same thing happens w/ nail polish – 1st coat dries faster, 2nd coat takes longer). Although you can generally walk on floors 8 hrs after last coat, I’d still recommend waiting 24 hrs. (And, 3 days for furniture).

  • Kristen  August 20, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    You are fantastic and have been a great help, I nearly read every one of the responses on this blog. Question, since we have the flooring guy coming on Monday to begin the job and we have already committed to Minwax
    50% Classic Grey and 50% Jacobean (wish we knew about the ebony/white mixture prior to committing) Given these are both premixed colors…would you still suggest a water poly since there is classic grey or can we go for oil based? We want to prevent yellowing on our Red oak. We will have 3 coats applied regardless. Also, how long do you typically wait after applying stain before you wipe off?

    Thank goodness for this blog you have helped so many with the difficult world of home renovation decisions!!

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 21, 2016 at 10:21 am

      Hi Kristen. Thank you for your kind words. I really appreciate it. As long as you tested the mix and like it, you are good with the stain color. And, yes, I would do water borne poly on gray…unless it’s so dark that the gray isn’t very noticeable. The water based poly will prevent the graying and should maintain the original color as close as possible.

      I would strongly recommend Bona Traffic as it’s the best – looks best, yellows the least and lasts longest. But, please note that this will cost more than the oil based.

  • Petrina  August 24, 2016 at 7:45 am

    We are refinishing our floors gray . We had the exact formula from our friends but our result is not the same . I think the guy who did our floor applied to thick of a layer stain . Now is looking like a solid gray with the wood not showing at all . How can we fiks that . Thank you

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 25, 2016 at 7:12 am

      There could be many reasons for a color difference. The biggest reason may be that you have different wood – different species, different grade, different ages.

      All that aside, it should not look like a solid gray, especially if it’s oak. (It might look more solid on maple or birch..and/or your definition of solid may be different than mine). But, it should be semi transparent.

      I suppose it’s possible that you may have a mix with paint in there. I have seen that before and that is not good. It often permanently seeps through the cracks of the wood and never sands out when you change the color.

      All that aside, if you aren’t happy with the color, the only way to fix it is to resand and retest. I’m not sure if you tested before you did this (or if you just used their mix). The colors come out different on different woods (and different pieces.

      Gray is very tricky and there are not that many installers that have much experience with it. And, it will come out different when applied at different times.

  • Lisa Griffin  August 31, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    Hello we have Brazillian Cherry wood floors and want to change the color to get the red out. Would you recommend bleaching them or what color stain should we use. Thank you

    • TheFlooringGirl  September 3, 2016 at 3:16 pm

      No, I would not recommend bleaching brazilian cherry floors. It’s very risky and will permanently damage the wood. You may also get a reaction with the resins. Instead, I would recommend going dark to drown out most of the red. We have found that dark walnut works best and hides the red the most (moreso than Jacobean and ebony which looks darker on oak). That aside, there is a new color, called true black, which is darker and we have not yet tested it on Brazilian cherry.

  • Brian  September 19, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    I have a question about white stain. My wife wants to try out the mixing of white and ebony stains you have mentioned on some pine flooring we just installed. I haven’t been able to find “white stain”. I have found minwax water based white base tint. Is this what you are referring to or is there a white stain that I just haven’t found? Thanks.

    • TheFlooringGirl  September 20, 2016 at 2:21 pm

      Brian – We usually use Duraseal Country White stain. The minwax one I think is watered down. Note: if you are doing pine, you are better off going darker gray due to the yellows, reds and resins in the pine.

  • johanne  October 7, 2016 at 7:35 am

    Hello, love your website! I’ve just had prefinished Wickham Ash hardwood installed in charcoal which is a grey brown. The installer left stain of which he used for finishing in oak. We are staining two unfinished pieces of maple to cover our stairs to a lower level and the same stain used on the oak has come out just grayish in the maple. I had sanded first with 220. Would you suggest trying another brownish stain over the gray to lessen the grayish hue and incorporate brownish tones? Thank you!

    • TheFlooringGirl  October 8, 2016 at 3:17 am

      Oh yes, maple is a closed pore wood and stains will come out completely different on them, no matter what you do. Yes, some of the darker stains will come out grayish on maple.

      My recommendation is that you call Wickham so they can advise you. I believe they provide formulas to match, but bear in mind it may not cross species. You may have more luck with dark walnut.

  • Laurie  October 10, 2016 at 12:30 am

    Wow! So happy to have found your site. I’m adding more hardwood in my dining, hall & master. My floor guy brought a sample to the wood specialist. They agreed it was white oak. After installing, sanding & 1st coat of sealing (no stain) we all can see clearly that I now have 2 types of oak…red & white. It looks so orange & red. Is there a possible stain that can match on two diff woods? I love the color of sanded floors without stain or oil poly… they look light grey. Can I put the Bono Traffic directly to my sanded floors without a stain. The wood looked similar until we put the oil poly finish on. Thanks for your help.

    • TheFlooringGirl  October 10, 2016 at 5:29 am

      Hi Laurie. You may be able to try a light stain (e.g. golden oak, fruitwood) etc on the red oak to bring it closer to white oak. But, bear in mind that you will need to resand and refinish before adding the stain (since you already added a sealer). The wood needs to be raw so the stain penetrates the wood. Alternatively, you can add in some tint to the last coat of poly to darken it a bit. You will just need to test this.

      Or, if you go very dark (e.g. dark walnut or darker), you won’t notice the color difference as much (and of course you would need to resand to do that.

      Yes, you can do Bona traffic and that will give you the closest color to the natural wood. But, you will need to talk to you installer to make sure there is no issue with the poly working with the sealer that was used.

      I hope that helps

      • Laurie  October 10, 2016 at 9:20 am

        Thank you for answering so quickly!
        My floor guy did not want to do anything but glitza…I asked him if I could have them as close to the sanded grey look and he said no. I don’t want very dark but I would go a brownish grey. I’m standing here in my entry looking at the two woods meeting and it’s so frustrating. Red & brown! Would you recommend a brown that’s not orange, red or gold that can unify these woods without being dark brown? A medium brown? Or is it too late? Dark brown or tear it up?
        I do appreciate your help!!

        • TheFlooringGirl  October 10, 2016 at 9:40 am

          Laurie – It’s really hard to counsel you without seeing. You will need to test and see what you think looks right.

          Note: Most contractors don’t know how to do gray and it scares them. If you do gray of any sort, you need a water based poly such as Bona Traffic. (I’m not sure if Glitza is water or oil based). Also, bear in mind that if you add poly, your floors won’t look very gray, unless you add a gray stain.).

          I hope that makes sense.

          • Lautie  October 10, 2016 at 10:36 am

            Thank you so much. I feel I’ve learned much through your site and your prompt answers!!

          • TheFlooringGirl  October 10, 2016 at 5:45 pm

            Thanks so much. I’m so glad to hear that.

  • Geoff  October 26, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    Hi, I’ve read a bunch of your articles as they have a lot of good info! We purchased a new home and the standard flooring options are red oak that is either unstained, grey, or several shades of brown. We like the unstained floors in their new state but really dislike the yellowing that occurs over time. Grey is in the model home and we really like it, but we’re concerned with two things: 1) scratches, especially since the stain hides a lot of the grain, which I feel like could camouflage scratches and 2) the floors yellowing over time creating a weird color with the grey stain, as you mentioned above. The floors are from Maine Traditions and are prefinished and I’m not sure the details of the stain – I’m assuming prefinishes are generally oil based? We’re also considering the darker finishes, but are worried they will be too dark for the smaller size of the house.

    • TheFlooringGirl  October 30, 2016 at 5:38 pm

      If you are putting in unfinished wood w/ gray, use Bona traffic and then it should hold up well to scratches/just as well as oil based poly and you won’t get the yellowing. If you are getting prefinished wood and it’s gray, it’s probably water based poly already and may even have aluminum oxide which will help its scratch resistent. You’ll have to check out the warranty on it to get more info and/or can speak out the manufacturer info. The picture you sent looks a bit like maple (but I couldn’t get it that large, so I may be mistaken).

      Darker stains will show the scratches, moreso than the gray. I hope that helps.

  • Francesca  November 2, 2016 at 7:41 am

    Hi Debbie!

    Your website is wonderful and so helpful! After coming across your page a few weeks ago, you inspired my husband and I to stain our floors gray! I really appreciate how you actually respond to readers. I thought I left a comment 2 days ago and kept checking for a response but I realized it never posted! I called your business number this morning and you have very friendly employees! Anyways on to my dilemma…

    Long story short, staining ours floors has been a huge undertaking and we aren’t nearly as skilled as we thought we were. We have been at these floors for a few weeks now and still haven’t been able to move in. I took off work today as a last attempt to salvage my floors. I believe we have red oak wood. My husband sanded the floors multiple times with multiple grit paper and I really think he did a good job. But when we went to stain the floors (we used minwax classic gray) some areas took better then others. He resanded a few areas and stained again and the same thing happened. We continued to stain but just left it on some areas longer. This seemed to work but there are a few blotchy areas. I keep trying to cover up the red tint. After letting the stain dry for multiple days, we wiped it down with mineral spirits. This seemed to be a huge mistake because it started to make those problem ares spotty again! We called a Minwax rep and were told it’s important to use mineral spirits before the water based poly to help it bond better and to wipe up excess stain. Do you also recommend this step?

    At this point, we have invested so much time and money into these floors the thought of hiring a professional to start all over makes me sick. My husband has washed his hands of this project and is frustrated and just wants to hire someone. What do you suggest we do…

    -heavily wipe down all the floors with mineral spirits to lighten the color and then just put a darker stain (dark walnut or Jacobean-what do you suggest?) lightly over the floors to blend in the spotty parts and darken everything? (At this point I don’t even care if the floors don’t look gray anymore. I just don’t want to have to hire a professional after spending all this money on the floors.)

    -stop with the mineral spirits and re-spot stain the trouble areas with stain, let it dry, wipe it down with a damp cloth then start the water based poly coat?

    My gut is telling me to heavily use the mineral spirits over all the floors to lift and lighten the stain and then put a darker stain over that isn’t as difficult to blend.

    Your advice is greatly appreciated!!


    • TheFlooringGirl  November 2, 2016 at 7:33 pm


      First, thanks for your kind words. I really appreciate it.

      Second, oh gosh, I feel your pain and frustration. To be honest, I’m not sure what to tell you. You are not going to like what I have to say. The best advice I can give you is to hire a professional. I know you don’t want to do that. But, I have a hunch that’s what it may come out to. A professional will do it right and way faster than you can.

      I think the fundamental issue is that you haven’t sanded the floors properly. Part of that is due to the machines you are using – the ones at Home Depot and similar places are very low quality so even an experienced sander would have difficulty with them. Then, the other part is inexperience.

      Regarding mineral spirits, I’m not sure what to advise you on that one. We have never done that and I don’t know if that’s a good or bad idea. But, either if the sanding isn’t done properly and/or the mineral spirits has a reaction, the stain won’t properly penetrate. You may also have issues w/ the poly adhering.

      I do think dark will be much easier, so given where you’re at, that’s probably what I would pursue. I don’t know your living situation, but I would recommend that you are probably better off trying to do one room only and see how it goes, given your specific circumstances.

      I hope this helps. Good luck with your project.

  • tTracey  November 14, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    Hi Debbie,
    I have mixed 2 oil-based Minwax stains to create the color that I want. The floor refinishing professional that I hired doesn’t want to use the mix due to the quick separation of the 2 stains and the potential for color differences on the wood. Has separation of the stain mix been a problem for others? And how can one avoid this?
    Thanks for your time!

    • TheFlooringGirl  November 16, 2016 at 4:04 pm

      We have not had that issue. But, if it is separating, I would assume that is an issue and follow the advice of your installer who probably does this sort of work all the time. Ask the installer and/or minwax why the separation is happening and what could be done to alleviate that. Perhaps they have different formulas that don’t mix well.

      Or, better yet, try duraseal (which is made by minwax) and tends to be higher quality. They have many of the same colors.

  • Cameron  November 30, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    What ratio of ebony/white would you recommend for a medium gray? What brown would you recommend to add a little warmer to the mix?

    • TheFlooringGirl  December 1, 2016 at 6:50 pm

      Probably around 5:1. My guys often start off w/ 3:1, then 5:1, then 7:1. The 1 part being ebony the other parts gray. For browns, I would probably try dark walnut (darker) or coffee brown (a bit lighter).

  • Hiten  December 30, 2016 at 11:50 am

    Hi Debbie,

    Instead of doing mixing of MinWax/Duraseal to get the gray, what do you think of using Rubio Monocoat (possibly with bleach)? Would that be cheaper to do?

    Also what do you think of WocaDirect stain too?

    The above would be to get Red Oak a lighter shade of Gray.

    Thanks – excellent site by the way!

    • TheFlooringGirl  December 30, 2016 at 4:59 pm

      Hiten – You could try it. I would be very hesitant to literally mix the bleach with a stain. That could be a recipe for disaster. But, you could do bleach first, then a stain on top. You could try woca and rubio monocoat. But, this will definitely cost you more. If you like this look better, go for it. But, don’t do it to save you money, because it will actually cost you a lot more.

      • Hiten  January 7, 2017 at 8:41 pm

        Thank you very much Debbie.

  • Marte Cliff  January 10, 2017 at 1:01 am

    I always love your informative articles Debbie. We’re planning to get rid of the living room carpet next Spring and I would love to go with grey – but I’m not sure it would look good with birch doors and window trim.

    • TheFlooringGirl  January 11, 2017 at 6:32 pm

      Marte – Thank you so much. Yes, you’ll have to look at the samples together with the birch. It may work or it may look awful. But, you could try natural with Bona traffic poly. That might look good.

  • Dave  January 28, 2017 at 4:25 pm


    I have an old hardwood floor but I don’t know the type of wood. It is on the lighter side. I took a test piece and sanded it by hand as best I could to get the finish off. I used Minwax Charcoal Gray and covered a small area. It came out like paint to me! It was not attractive at all. I don’t see the grain through the color hardly at all. Certainly not like at all like the picture Minwax shows. It was not a premix, they did it at the store. Any thoughts?

    Thanks a lot.

    • TheFlooringGirl  January 28, 2017 at 6:45 pm

      Dave – I was going to ask you if that was a new stain as I had never heard of it. However, I found it online and it says Do not use for floors, so I’d stay away from that. It looks like you found a water based stain and those are very challenging to use, especially for novices, anyway. I would use a combo of ebony and a white was and test it.

      • Dave  January 29, 2017 at 7:26 am

        Thanks a lot! I have a rather large area to cover which will take several quantities of ebony and white to cover (i.e gallons, or whatever). Once I do my tests and settle on a mixture how do you continue to achieve that same mixture ratio of ebony and white gallon after gallon? I mean, I understand 5:1 or whatever it ends up being, but when working with gallon size quantities I would think it would be hard to pinpoint the mixture so it could be repeated.

        • TheFlooringGirl  January 29, 2017 at 11:30 am

          Dave – You have to combine the mix in a different can. Often, my guys take one of those large plastic milk containers and cut the top off. They will generally use a stand item (could even be a measuring cup) and fill it up 5 times for white and 1 time for ebony (or whatever the ratio is). To test, they generally just use the caps for the stain to measure.

          • Dave  January 30, 2017 at 11:22 am

            That’s great, I appreciate that. One last question (I’m sorry), I’m having difficulty finding oil based white wash. Neither Home Depot, Lowes, or Sherwin Williams seem to have it. They only have the water based. Ebony I can find just not the white. Thanks again!

          • TheFlooringGirl  January 31, 2017 at 5:39 am

            I think the white stain may be water based (I’ll need to check). But, I would try to go to a flooring store to make sure you have the right item and best quality.

  • LInda  February 2, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    Hello Flooring girl! I am installing brand new hardwood flooring and don’t know where to go to buy it. I am scared of hardwood from China. Every place I ask says its not from China or they say it is but that the regulations have changed and it’s safe. Also, I would like my finish to have cool toned undertones, nothing warm or red and I don’t want it to be dark. I would like the boards to have a mix of light and dark boards, but not rustic looking, few knots. What do you recommend for wood choice and stain? White Oak?

    • TheFlooringGirl  February 3, 2017 at 4:09 am

      Linda – You have many options out there. I think white oak is a good option. If the wood is unfinished it would probably be from the US. If you are getting prefinished oak and it’s solid, chances are it’s from the US (as that’s where it’s grown and it wouldn’t make much sense to get from China. If it’s prefinished wood, you can just go with the big brand names from the US. I personally like Somerset, but there are many options such as Mohawk, Shaw, Armstrong. You’ll just need to find a color you like. Each brand has different colors.

      • Linda  March 14, 2017 at 3:25 pm

        Thank you for the reply. I am looking to get 4″ unfinished white oak select. I’m looking to do 3 coats of the Bona HD water based poly. My question is, in talking to various contractors, the color I’m looking for (medium brown with cool tone browns, slight grey, not too dark) they are telling me it would be a mix and since I’ve got so much floor to do (over 2,000 square feet) it will be hard to mix the same mixture for the whole house. Any recommendations?? Thank you again!

        • TheFlooringGirl  March 14, 2017 at 7:28 pm

          Interesting. Yes, it would be a mix for sure, but it seems to me that a good contractor should be able to do this well with careful measuring. Yes, I agree it’s a bit of challenge. You may want to look around for a contractor who is more confident in this arena and has more experience with grays and mixes. That hasn’t been a concern for my guys. The bigger concern that I’ve warned my customers about is that if they do some now and some later (e.g. 6 months to 1 year), it won’t look the same. We did a gray mix on around 3000 sf and didn’t have an issue (as well as others that were 1000-2000 sf. Your mix sounds a bit more complicated and we did something similar using maybe 4 colors and did it for 1000 sf and my guys weren’t concerned. The much bigger challenge was finding and experimenting to find the right color combo for this decorator. But, after that ratio was figured out, it was straight forward.

  • Eliz  February 16, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    Hi! I really like the stain options you have shown on the picture with red oak on top and white oak on the bottom. Could you share the stain ratios for that picture?

    Thank you!

    • TheFlooringGirl  February 17, 2017 at 8:02 am

      Eliz – Those were done a couple of years ago and I don’t remember the ratios, but most likely we did 3:1, 5:1, 7:1, 9:1. The higher number is white and the lower number is ebony.

  • Lisa  March 10, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    Hello, You have some beautiful floors on your site. My husband and I are currently in the middle of remodeling our downstairs. And we are finally putting in wood flooring, which we’ve always wanted.

    We want to do a lighter gray floor. Our contractors have put down white oak and have created some samples. However, we don’t like any of them and we’re concerned at this point that we may not be able to get the gray color we want. They are using Duraseal and all the colors look “milky” and some look really blue. We don’t want to go back to a brown because we’re trying to update and we just painted our oak cabinets. But we want it to look like natural wood, not thick or coated. Do you have any suggestions for color mixes to provide us with a natural looking gray?

    Thank you!

    • TheFlooringGirl  March 12, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      Yes, I seem to get a lot of comments and phone calls about people getting blues. I think most of them are using Classic Gray and other premixed colors from Minwax or Duraseal. They are too thinned out and watery and this is why contractors are having so many issues with them. My advice to you is stay away from those. Instead, create a custom blend of white and ebony. We usually use country white (but there are other whites that can work). Keep mixing the ratios (my guy usually starts darker and then keeps adding in more white).

    • TheFlooringGirl  March 12, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      Hi Lisa. Yes, I seem be getting a lot of questions about this, and it seems that the common thread is that many have used Mixwax or Duraseal Classic Gray. My recommendation is to stay away from that color. It’s way to light/liquidity and seems to have a lot of blue (and sometimes green) undertones. Instead, your contractor should make a custom blend of ebony and white. We usually use Country White. We generally start darker and then cut in more white until we find the right ratio for the customer. When in doubt, I find with gray it generally turns out better if you go a bit darker.


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