Cherry toned hardwood flooring
Do you love the warm cherry colored hardwood floors? Ever wonder how to get red-toned hardwood floors?
Well there are 2 ways: 1) install hardwood that is naturally red or 2) sand and stain your hardwood floors with a red-toned stain.
Let’s explore both of these options.
Please note that this article may contain affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.
Which types of hardwood species are naturally red?
Here are the species of hardwood that are red or cherry toned. For purposes of this article I’m focusing on the most common and most popular species. For a full compilation species, check out the wood database.
Brazilian cherry is the most popular and one of the hardest cherry toned floors. On the janka scale, the hardness rating is 2,350 making it close to twice as hard as red oak (1,290). Brazilian cherry is natural red and some boards have orange tones. The boards have smooth graining and wide color variation.
Brazilian Cherry is very photo sensitive, meaning that over time the light (both natural and indoor) darkens and reddens the floor. Many are thrown by this as the flooring looks lighter than the samples they selected. But over time, the colors will deepen and redden, especially over the 1st 6 months. For this reason, it’s best to wait 6 months before adding area rugs.
You can read more about Brazilian Cherry in this article.
American Cherry is sometimes confused with Brazilian Cherry. Brazilian Cherry is rather hard (2350 on the janka scale) while American Cherry is only has a hardness of 950. American Cherry is a bit lighter and pinker than Brazilian Cherry. Both are very sensitive to light and darken/redden with light.
American Cherry has smooth graining (smoother than oak, but not as smooth as Brazilian Cherry) and tends to have more color variation. Even within boards, parts may be lighter and parts darker. It’s common to see American Cherry in wider boards, especially 5″ in width. American Cherry tends to be more than Brazilian Cherry.
As the name implies, American Cherry is grown in the US, primarily in the Northern and Lake States.
Santos Mahogany is brilliantly red exotic hardwood. It tends to be a bit redder and deeper in color than Brazilian Cherry, and it tends to have a bit less color variation than Brazilian Cherry. The graining is smooth and rich looking. It tends to be priced a bit higher.
Santos Mahogany is 2,200 on the Janka scale. It’s primarily grown in South and Central America. It’s Spanish name is Cabreuva. It has high rot resistance so it’s often used on higher end decks and porches.
Please note that there are other species of mahogany such as African Mahogany, Honduran Mahogany, Swamp Mahogany and others. Be wary that most of these are softer wood ranging in hardness from 900-1250 on the Janka scale. Sometimes, these may simply be called Mahogany, especially if they are in an engineered form and/or less expensive.
Other cherry tone hardwood species
- Tiete Rosewood
- African Padauk
What types of wood species are reddish/amber toned:
Douglas Fir is often found in older homes in Westchester County and the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic, especially in homes built in the 1920’s and earlier.
Douglas Fir naturally has gold streaks and red undertones. It tends to darken and redden over time and it’s a bit more light sensitive than oak (and most has been around for 100 or so years). If you stain it with a light stain, such as colonial maple, it will deepen in color with reds and golds. And, of course if you use a reddish stain (see below) e.g. gunstock, red chestnut, it will become even redder. Above picture is new Douglas fir, below picture is Douglas fir that has aged (and deepened in color) with a light stain. (A red stain would make this even redder).
Douglas Fir is rather soft (only 660 on the janka hardness scale) so when you refinish these floors, I’d definitely recommend a 3rd coat of poly. Douglas Fir was used a long time ago when the tools weren’t as strong as it was easier to mill and cut vs. oak. And, because most of the Douglas Fir you’ll find in homes was from the 1920’s and earlier, you will tend to find much longer boards.
Kempas is an exotic hardwood from Malaysia and Indonesia that is more amber (or orangish) in color. Some call it a pinkish brown. It’s a more affordable exotic wood compared to Brazilian Cherry, Tigerwood or Santos Mahogany. It’s not as hard (it’s 1,710 on the Janka hardness scale vs Brazilian Cherry which is 2,350, but still harder than red oak which is 1,290). The graining is similar to Santos Mahogany.
Kempas generally is found in a solid form; it’s unusual to find engineered Kempas.
Other types of amber/reddish wood species:
Refinishing your existing hardwood for a cherry look:
If you already have hardwood flooring, you have the option of sanding and refinishing and using a red-toned stain. Below are a list of reddish stains. Note that these colors will come out different on different floors, so it’s important to test. So, for example, if you have red oak floors, the stains will come out different vs red oak floors (red oak tends to have pink undertones, so the colors are a tad redder. If you have Douglas Fir floors, they are naturally redder and golder, so these tend to look more red vs. the oaks. Floors can also look different based on grade of wood, age and lighting, so we always recommend that you test the colors (and test a few).
Here are some red/cherry stains (can be found in Minwax and Duraseal collections):
- Red Chestnut
- Red Mahogany
- Sedona Red
- Mesquite Red
- Red Oak (the stain color, not the species)
Here are some reddish/amber toned stains:
- Cherry (the stain, not the species)
Here are some reddish/brown toned stains:
- English chestnut
- Early American
You have the option of sanding and refinishing virtually all solid hardwoods. The stain colors will come out different on each species so it’s generally best to test. Please note that some closed pore woods, especially maple and birch, are challenging to refinish. Due to their nature, they do not absorb the stains as easily as red oak or white oak. They will often turn out blotchy, and you will see this both on prefinished and site finished hardwoods.
Please also note that each species has its own unique graining. If you start with oak flooring, don’t expect it to look like Brazilian cherry when you add a red stain. The color will be a bit different and the graining and color variation will be rather different.
Cost of refinishing hardwood vs replacing it
Many customers ask me about the price of refinishing hardwood vs. replacing it (especially after they realize that it’s a bit inconvenient and they often need to be away while the work is done). Well let me tell you that there is no contest in costs. Refinishing will always cost way less than replacing.
In fact, often it costs around 4 to 6 times as much to replace the wood vs. refinish. Why? Well because, you need to rip up the existing wood/haul it away, order new hardwood (and let it acclimate) + install it. In addition, you need to replace the base molding (or add shoe molding. So, if you have existing hardwood floors that are in relatively good condition, it will save you a lot of money to refinish them.
If you are adding new hardwood, the world is your oyster. You can either choose a hardwood flooring species that is red (or reddish) or a lighter hardwood (such as oak) and stain it a red color. You also have the option of doing both.
If you have existing hardwood in your home, you can easily refinish your floors with a red stain. Of course you also have the option or ripping up and replacing the wood and starting from scratch.
If you live in Westchester County NY, I offer color consultations to advise customers on paint colors and stain choices. My designer discount at the paint stores usually more than offsets the cost for the hour consultation. Read more here. I’ve just started to offer phone consultations, too.
How to get cherry colored (or reddish) hardwood floors