Hardwood Flooring Trends for 2017
Hardwood floors continue to grow in popularity across the country. Whether it’s new hardwood or refinishing existing hardwood floors, it’s all about wood. Tons of customers are ripping up their carpet and refinishing the wood floors underneath. Almost everyone seem to want hardwood. In fact, even in non-hardwood surfaces (such as tile, luxury vinyl and laminate), it’s all about imitating the wood look. And, wood is now the most popular flooring surface in kitchens.
As I look at what’s trending for hardwood flooring, I would classify it as a Tale of Two Cities. What’s so interesting is that the extremes are what’s most popular right now. They are BOTH modern and contemporary, but in different ways. For example, I’m seeing the following extremes:
1. Modern Drama (e.g. chic black/very dark or gray) or A return to authenticity and history (i.e. celebrate the natural look, the wood’s flaws, more of an old vintage look)
2. Very Dark or Very Light hardwood floors
3. Smoother grained floors or floors that are rustic with a lot of character (i.e. they have knots, mineral streaks and are distressed)
4. Smooth and Flat texture and finish or Distressed hardwood for an aged look
Bear in mind that just because something is trending or is popular, doesn’t mean it’s right for you, your family or your home. I always recommended that my customers do what they like and what feels right for their style/decor and their lifestyle needs.
Please note that this article may contain some affiliate links.
This guide is divided into 4 sections:
1. Stain Color Trends
2. Finish Trends
3. Layout Trends
4. Style and Lifestyle trends
Hardwood Stain and Color trends (ultra dark, ultra blonde, gray
1. Ultra dark
Yes, dark hardwood flooring is the most popular and continues to grow. Now, most home owners are looking to go darker and darker. It seems that the most popular seems to be a 50/50 blend of ebony/jacobean (sometimes called espresso) and 50/50 ebony/dark walnut. And, of course the pure forms of ebony, jacobean and dark walnut are super popular (those are named from darker to lighter).
Due to high demand for super dark (or ebonized) floors, around a year ago, Duraseal introduced a new stain color called True Black. It’s even darker than ebony and it’s more opaque. (Note: these floors are challenging to maintain as they show every bit of dirt).
Above right, you can see Duraseal True Black (#199). And, below, you can see a stain test showing True black (left) vs Ebony (right).
Most of my customers who prefer dark flooring are going for a more opaque look – one that shows less graining. The darker you go, the less you see the graining and you also see less color variation in the wood planks. Many prefer this look both because it’s more contemporary and also because the floors are more uniform making it easier to decorate.
If you’re looking to buy the True Black stain, you can purchase it online at Amazon by following above link or clicking on the picture of the can. It’s not available in most stores yet.
Note that the darker you go, the more you will see dirt and scratches. For that reason, many of my customers who love the darker ebony look will instead go slightly lighter (e.g. dark walnut) as they are much easier to maintain.
You may find these articles helpful for tips on cleaning products and ways to reduce scratches:
- Hardwood cleaning products, felt pads and other accessories for wood floors
- How to reduce scratches in hardwood floors
2. Ultra light – blonde and white washed wood floors with more natural finishes/lower gloss finishes
The 2nd most popular color is going very light, and lately it’s been lighter and lighter. Many prefer this crisp clean look and they want to avoid the yellows/golds. For that reason, more and more have been going towards water borne poly, especially the higher grade Bona Traffic HD.
Bona Traffic gives you a light, fresh and natural look. It’s the lightest you can go (unless you bleach the floors or add white wash). The look is contemporary and it has a more matte finish. Bona Traffic HD is a wonderful product (the highest grade water borne poly) – strong, durable, and it both dries and cures quickly (thereby reducing the time to be out of the house). And, it doesn’t smell as much as oil based poly.
Bona Traffic HD does cost more than oil based poly, but it’s worth it if you want this fresh clean and contemporary look.
White washes also continue to make a comeback. They tend to be more popular in pre-finished woods (as opposed to floors that are site finished) as they generally come out lighter. This is due to the wood used (i.e. lighter species and newer wood (which is lighter) and the finishes and treatments available in the factory. The whitewash stains available in the general market are a bit light/watery. My prediction is that eventually Duraseal will come out with a more opaque white stain.
With white wash stains, you must use a water borne poly; otherwise, the floors will turn yellow. Bona Traffic is by far the best choice, especially for white washes, both because of its durability, but also because it amberizes the least. It looks the best both short-term and long term.
Regardless of whether homeowners are going natural or white washed, or using water borne or oil based poly is used, satin and matte finishes are most stylish.
The demand for gray hardwood floors continues to increase. Some prefer lighter grays and other prefer darker grays. Over the last year or two, I’ve also noticed a rise in gray/brown blends.
You can read much more about how to refinish existing floors to make them gray in this article: Staining hardwood floors gray. Please note that this is not easy (I get calls and comments from homeowners all across the country where things didn’t turn out right). So, if you’re planning to refinish your floors gray, check out the article (and I’d recommend hiring a professional and someone with a lot of experience doing gray.
Refinishing your floors gray is more expensive because you really need to use Bona Traffic HD. Because it’s more expensive and more challenging to decorate with, many end up going with a dark stain for the floors and gray paint for the walls. This combo is much easier to decorate with.
Will gray go out of style? Yes, probably…but probably not until it’s time to refinish your floors anyway.
4. Cooler tones over warmer tones
Cooler tones and brown tones are much more in style vs warmer and red tones. In fact, I have a survey question on my site that shows only 17% of customers prefer red tones over brown tones. (By the way, you are welcome to cast your vote for this and the other flooring poll items). Cooler tones tend to make it easier to decorate with as they give you more opportunities for paint colors, furniture, window treatments, pillows, etc.)
Hardwood Finish Trends (satin, matte, water borne poly, oiled floors)
5. Satin and matte finishes
Shiny finishes are definitely out. They are dated and impractical as they highlight the dents, scratches and dirt more. The clear preference is for satin which is much more subdued. It has a lower sheen and tends to hide imperfections more. With the rise in water based poly, along with grays and white washes, matte finishes are starting to rise in popularity. You can read more about finish and sheen levels here: What type of sheen is most stylish? Note: the more muted satin and matte sheens are more popular both in lighter and darker colors.
6. Oiled floors
Oiled floors are a fairly recent phenomenon and they’ve become more popular over the last couple of years.
Oiled floors don’t use polyurethane to coat them. Instead, they use an oil (e.g Rubio Monocoat) that penetrates into the wood. This gives the wood a unique patina and texture. It’s more natural looking and has a duller finish.
Most oiled floors use linseed or tung oil, or a combo of the two. Some use safflower, soy, sunflower or hemp. Some formulas use resin as waxes, such as bees wax or carnuba for higher durability. 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.
One of the advantages of oiled floors is that they are easy to repair. In fact, you don’t need to sand and refinish it as it scratches. Instead, you can repair it yourself by adding more oil. The oil is easy to use and extremely low in VOC’s. The oils enhance the natural appearance of the wood.
The disadvantages of oiled floors is that they can often be more difficult to maintain (you need to periodically treat the floors with more oil) and the floors aren’t protected from water (or pet urine). Polyurethane provides a protective layer that rests on the wood and prevents water from penetrating. Oiled floors don’t protect the floors in the same way. They require a lot more regular maintenance.
Importantly, with oiled floors, you would not use a regular hardwood cleaner. Instead, you would use Woca natural soap and the Woca Wood Refresher. You can easily buy them on amazon by following the links in this paragraph. These items cost more than the typical hardwood cleaners, but at least you can make repairs as scratches occur.
7. Wire brushed
Wire brushed floors have been on the rise the last couple of years. These floors are etched with a subtle texture to enhance the graining of the wood.
Wire brushing pulls the soft grain from the growth ring leaving the heart wood exposed to the surface. It’s stylish and helps mask everyday wear and tear (and dirt).
Wire brushed wood has a bit of texture, but it’s not rough like distressed or handscraped wood. Wire brushed wood has a real vintage look.
Wire brushed wood is usually factory made, so it’s generally in a pre-finished form. Occasionally, you can find some people that have a wire brushed sander, but these are few and far between.
Hardwood layout and style trends (wider planks, multiple widths
8. Wider planks
Wider planks have been preferred and on the rise for years. They are more popular and they make your space look larger. The standard that you see in most homes built from around 1950-2000 was 2 1/4″ strips. Now, people prefer to go at least 3 1/4″ wide (this makes a huge visual difference) and even wider (e.g. 4″, 5″, 7″). The preferred width can vary based on whether the wood is solid or engineered (prices shoot up much faster in solid wood and the planks expand/contract more), size of room and budget.
And, for those going for a more rustic look, wider is better (e.g. 7″ and even wider) for a more vintage look (as that’s how old pine floors were made).
9. Multiple widths
Over the last year or so, I’ve noticed an uptick in using multiple widths for hardwood floors. It seems to be a return to historic and more authentic floors. Historically, floors were multi-width to utilize the cut of the trees in the most efficient way.
Note: Multi-width planks seems to be a bit of fad that comes and goes over the generations and it can date your house. Hardwood colors change over time, and it’s easy to change their when you sand and refinish. But plank width and pattern are permanent (or may be there for 100+ years), so consider that you’ll be living with these for a while.
10. Chevron (over herringbone)
Chevron is the more contemporary version of zig zagged wood. Herringbone gives a more historic look and Chevron is more angular and action oriented for a more modern and action oriented look.
Chevron can be seen above and herringbone below.
Chevron is a tad more expensive than Herringbone (and requires a bit more skill). Both of these are more expensive vs. a standard straight lay as the wood needs to be specially cut, it takes more time and skill to install and it takes longer to refinish as you need to refinish the floors in both directions.
Imagine a V being repeated again and again – that’s a Chevron. The flooring is cut at an angle so that the pieces come to a point. Herringbone floors are not cut at an angle, and they are created by placing the rectangular pieces in a staggered pattern (similar to cobblestone roads).
Style and Lifestyle Trends
11. Farmhouse and weathered planks
There’s been an overall mega trend to return to the past and simpler times. We’ve seen this in decor styles, especially in kitchens (think French Country kitchens) where many want to have a friendlier and more approachable home – one that fosters communication and reduces formality.
The farmhouse style (or shabby chic) provides a rustic and time worn look. This provides a sense of style, but also provides an easier way to maintain floors. The floors naturally have more character (in color, texture, mineral streaks and graining) so they camouflage scratches.
Farmhouse flooring is usually wide plank (often 6-10″) and often uses multi-width planks as they mimic the look of floors from the 1700 and 1800’s. These floors often come in pine or character grade oak with mineral streaks and lots of knots.
Here in the Northeast and Mid Atlantic area, you can find homes from the 1700’s and 1800’s. We’ve had the honor to refinish many floors from the 1700’s. These floors are stunning and witnessed a ton of history. These floors have character, including gaps between the planks. Many have face nails (as that’s how they were installed in those days.
Some of these farmhouse floors have warmer tones (as old pine does) and some is reclaimed wood. Some have darker and cooler tones for a aged vintage look. This wood is not cheap. People are choosing it for a style statement.
12. American over exotic
Yes, the trend is buying local and home grown woods. Oak is the most popular (and reasonably priced. It’s timeless. It’s practical in that it hides dirt and scratches more and it’s easy to sand and refinish. Maple, pine and hickory are also popular.
With maple, many are going for a light northern European look (there’s a strong preference for clear grade which has less color variation). When it comes to pine and hickory, most are going for a more rustic look with lots of color variation among the boards and lots of knotting for an old world style.
Part of this trend is due to economics – Domestic species tend to be less expensive – plus, many would just prefer to support our local economy and part is due to aesthetics, especially as there is a strong preference towards darks and cooler shades and reds have become dated.
This contrasts with the trends 8-10 year ago towards the exotics (e.g. Brazilian Cherry, Mahogany and Tigerwood). These floors (especially the red colors) have become rather dated and are certainly less popular among most home buyers. They also tend to show scratches and dirt more.
13. Trend towards high quality/longer lasting and more sustainable wood
As more people care about the environment, there seems to be a trend towards more sustainable wood and making sure that their floors will last longer. There is a strong preference towards solid, as this will last a century or more, and towards woods that will hold up better.
As the economy improves (bit by bit), and as more cheap products have been exposed (see 60 Minutes episode), more homeowners prefer to pay a bit more to get a wood or a finish that will last longer and avoid the inconvenience and future expense of needing to refinish (or replace) sooner.
People are wisening up to the concept of “you get what you pay for” especially as some of the cheaper woods coming from China just don’t hold up well, and many have adhesives laced with formaldehyde. More are going for higher quality woods, even if that means doing a smaller area. They are also choosing higher grade polyurethanes and doing more coats.
2017 Hardwood flooring trends conclusion
There you have it – 13 hardwood flooring trends for 2017. I would expect these trends to gain even more popularity over the next few years. Several have been growing for a decade or more and some are new trends over the last year or two.
As I mentioned before, while it’s good to know what the trends are, it’s more important that you love your hardwood floors, and you do what you love and what works best with the style and decor of your home. All homes are different, and everyone’s taste is different. I recommend that do what you love, regardless of whether it’s on trend or off trend. And, remember, hardwood is on trend…so you can’t go wrong with hardwood.
Other helpful resources:
- 2017 Carpet, Runner and Area Rug Trends
- 2017 Flooring Trends (covers all surfaces)
- Recommended cleaning products and accessories to maintain floors and reduce scratches.
- How to prevent scratches in your hardwood floors.
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2017 Hardwood Flooring Trends – 13 Trends to follow