Refinishing hardwood floors gray in 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 pre-finished 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 closed 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).
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While 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.
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).
From 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.
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Please 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.
Be 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.
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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.
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.
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Should you use Rubio monocoat or tung oil for gray hardwood floors?
You 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.
Unlike 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.
In 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.
The 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).
Update: Recently Duraseal introduced a new line of gray blends. These a combo of light and dark grays as well as greiges (gray/brown blends) and you may want to check those out in this article: Duraseal’s new gray and greige blend line.
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Related refinishing articles:
- How long does it take to sand and refinish hardwood floors?
- Best paint colors with gray hardwood flooring
- Hardwood flooring trends
- Hardwood floor stain color trends
- Duraseal’s new gray blended stains
- Which are the best brands of polyurethane?
- Recommended cleaning products and accessories to maintain floors and reduce scratches.
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Staining hardwood floors gray | Refinish wood gray | Westchester County
243 thoughts on “Staining hardwood floors gray | Refinish wood gray | Westchester County”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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?
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).
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.
Thank you so much for your response. It was so helpful. We decided to just go with a “classic” wood color and ditch the gray. They have sanded and stained one day, and now have put on 2 coats of water based poly. They will come back tomorrow and put on a 3rd and 4th I believe. I have not had wood floors before but I’m wondering about the “roughness” is some spots of the floor. Walking around with socks today, there are spots on the floor that are fairly rough and will pull at the fibers in the socks. (I’m just using that as an example to describe the roughness). Should they have this roughness? I really assumed they’d be smooth. They have been scraped with the grain and the roughness is really coming from the wood itself. Maybe the next coats of poly will take care of that but maybe not. I think they’re only planning to use water base. Thanks for your responses!
Lisa – Yes, things will smooth out soon. They still need to screen the floors and add another coat of poly. Water poly is thinner than oil based so you are feeling the roughness more and this is also another reason you want at least 3 coats. Also, you should not be walking on the floors until after the last coat of poly has dried.
Thanks so much for everything. They were doing exactly what you said and the floors turned out great. Again, your help was invaluable. Too bad you’re so far away from Dallas, upstairs floors are next! LOL
Lisa – Oh excellent. I’m so glad to hear that! And, thanks for keeping me posted. I really appreciate that.
We are going to install white oak flooring and want a natural wood look with no staining or amberizing. Can we just use Bona HD Traffic on the wood? We would also like a matte finish instead of glossy. What product from Bona do you recommend?
Joe – Yes, that would look nice. I would strongly recommend Bona Traffic HD (see this blog post: https://theflooringgirl.com/hardwood-flooring/which-are-the-best-polyurethane-brands-for-floors-which-do-i-recommend.html.
I would probably get it in satin (or else potentially matte). In water based, the finishes are a bit duller, so satin in water looks like matte in oil, and matte looks super matte.
If you are doing this yourself, you can buy both…and try both to see which you prefer. You should do 3 coats of poly. It’s the top coat that will give it the final sheen. So, if you do matte on 1st coat and feel it’s too matte, then switch to satin for coats 2 and 3 (or vice versa).
I hope that helps.
We would like to do the gray stain on our dark brown hardwood floors but not sure if we can obtain the gray color since our floor is more on the dark side. Have you worked out on dark wood before ?
Claudia – It depends what you mean by dark brown hardwood floors. If they are oak and just stained dark brown, that is no problem at all and it’s done all the time. You need to sand the floors and that will remove all the dark brown. However, if you mean that you have a different species that is naturally dark (e.g. Brazilian Walnut), that is a different story. This would be more unusual as most homes have oak (or else another lighter wood). We have never done gray on brazilian walnut. I suppose it’s possible and it would be darker gray. It might be a tad tricky though due to the oils found in most exotic woods so I’m not sure how it would turn out. You may also need to use a conditioner (test it) so it absorbs more evenly. I would guess that it would be slightly easier on American Walnut than Brazilian walnut, but that is simply speculation. Both of these floors would be dark gray as the wood is naturally dark.
But, I would look to see what species you have. If you can’t tell from the surface, see if there is a grate or register in the floor that you can lift up and then view the profile of the wood.
Where do you live? When was the house built? (And was the hardwood installed at the same time?). These may give you indications as to the species of wood you have.
I hope that helps.
i want to thank you for your blog .
I built my own wood floor out of douglas fir 1×6 and wanted to stain it grey . i used the bona grey since it works well with the bona traffic hd . despite all of the work involved letting wood dry, putting in the tongue and groove nailing it down sanding and more sanding filling a few gaps and more sanding , then a stain prep and then the bona grey stain and finally first coat of bona traffic hd . The floors turned out better then i anticipated.
Thank you 🙂
Your blog was a lot of help
Joe – Oh good, I’m so glad to hear that. Thanks for stopping by and letting me know. I really appreciate it.
Hello Debbie. Thank you for your blog post. I decided I wanted grey floors without realizing that it would be a challenge. I have brand new straight grain white oak floors and am going for a relatively light grey floor. We did some test squares mixing duraseal country white and classic grey in different parts, but there always seemed to be some yellow undertones coming through. What do you recommend to eliminate the yellow? We were thinking of bleaching the floors first which we also thought might lead to a more uniform flooring color. Any thoughts you have would be greatly appreciated!
Deirdre – Yes, gray is challenging. To fix your issues, you need to change the stains. The gray washes are way too thin and waterery and hence the yellow from the white oak is coming through. First, you need to use Duraseal, not minwax. And, it should be duraseal ebony.
see this article on why duraseal over minwax and where to get it: https://theflooringgirl.com/hardwood-flooring/minwax-vs-duraseal-stain-better-hardwood-floors.html
Re: the white, we typically use Bona White, but the truth is you could use a minwax or duraseal white such as country white or something similar. Your true missing ingredient is the ebony.
Hope that helps.
Debbie, I should also mention that in a couple of the rooms, we put a one inch inlay of walnut as part of the floor border (otherwise all oak). If we do go with the bleaching of the oak, do we need to be careful not to bleach the walnut? In this scenario, how would one protect the inlaid walnut from the bleach since there is oak, which would need to be bleached, on either side? Thanks!
Pls see my other comment. You should not need to bleach white oak at all (and it damages the floor, not to mention what it might do to the walnut). If you do bleach (and I do NOT recommend you bleach), then yes, you’d need to carefully tape off the walnut. But, there is a way better solve – do white + ebony.
How to combine stains to create greige on oak floors
You would want to mix stains using ebony and white for the gray and then some form of brown e.g. dark walnut or special walnut and test until you have the right mix. It will probably take a while to experiment with this if you haven’t done it before.
OK, so I have white oak and want a dark gray stain. We are going to waterpop it. Use 7 parts ebony / 1 part white. water based poly. That will get me a dark gray?
Steve – First, you’ll want to test it. I don’t know your definition of “dark gray.” That being said, you want to reverse your ratios…so it would be 7 parts WHITE to 1 part EBONY. But, I would test 7 to 1, 5 to 1, 3 to 1. I have a hunch, you’ll probably prefer 5 to 1 or 3 to 1 if you want dark gray, but this is a preference thing.
BTW, if you do 7 parts ebony to 1 part white, it will pretty much look like ebony.
Test with and without water pop. This will have an impact on how the grain looks and it’s hard to predict which way you’ll prefer until you see it.
Hi i have a white oak floor and want to stain it gray.
My contractor wants to mux duraseal classic gray and country white. Do you think this si a good idea. He showed me some samples but i was not crazy. Also when he puts the poly finish layer on it seems darker.
Eric – This would not be my inclination. In general, their gray mixes are very liquidity. And, if you don’t like the look, it’s certainly not right. We generally mix Duraseal ebony and Bona White. But, it depends how light you want to go. It sounds like you are going very light based on that mix. Choose what you like regardless. The most important thing is that you use Bona Traffic HD. Do not use oil based poly – that makes it darker and more yellow and will look terrible and will look worse over time. And, don’t use the cheaper poly…it won’t last as long. See this article: https://theflooringgirl.com/hardwood-flooring/which-are-the-best-polyurethane-brands-for-floors-which-do-i-recommend.html
thank you very much
he sanded my white oak floors to the bare original conditon
is there alight stain color you can possibly recommend
im trying to avoid anything brown/red
I would mix duraseal ebony + Bona white until you get the right ratio for the color you like. You may find 7 to 1 or 9 to 1 or 11 to 1 works…just test until you like the color. I hope that helps.
I mean 7 parts white to 1 part ebony, BTW.
I am having a white oak piece of furniture made. I mixed ebony and white…and no matter what i do all the samples have a blue tint. Any advice, please
Zaza – That is odd (and I’m sure frustrating). Are you using Duraseal ebony and Bona White? If you are mixing other premade whites (e.g. country white, etc.) from either Duraseal or Minwax (or other places), that is most likely your issue. If you are using above brands/shades, I’d recommend going darker and using more ebony and/or mixing in Duraseal True Black. I hope that helps.
Wow, amazing blog that I found at the right time! Thank you! I am hoping you might have a “recipe” suggestion for me. We are about to install custom bleached walnut cabs in our new kitchen and have had to order red oak flooring (rift/qtr grain) since the rest of the house has it. Would have way preferred white oak. We are installing the floors and staining this week. I am hoping for a medium (or even light) brown with a touch of gray to pick up the bleached part of the cabs. But really want what we choose to hide the red in the oak. I realize this may mean darker, but curious your thoughts. Which duraseal browns have a green tint? Coffee brown or dark walnut mixed with one of your light gray ratios (dura ebony and bona white)? Weathered oak and gray? My floor guy (stuck with him as part of the project) is only going to mix up whatever recipes I bring to him. If you see this and have any ideas, I’d be very grateful!
Oh gosh, you really need to test it. And, will need to mix the recipes on site and adjust…especially with red oak. It looks different on each floor and more often we have been doing on select grade, so it will look different. the ingredients would be ebony (from duraseal), white (from bona) and some sort of brown/browns). Usually dark walnut works best, but sometimes coffee brown works better pending on the tone.
Start with lighter gray (e.g. 3:1 ratio of ebony to white) and then keep adding ebony and brown to get the right mix. Your guy will have to be patient. We’ve done this a few times…and sometimes, it may take 10 or more mixes. It needs to be one on site with 1 or 2 and then keep adapting.
I wish I could give you a recipe, but that’s really impossible until you see what it looks like on the wood and next to your cabinet sample.
This is great advice! Thank you so much. I really am just looking for the colors that are best to start with. Maybe I’ll grab those 4 (ebony, white (bona), coffee brown, and dark walnut) and hope he is patient. Thank you for shedding light on the best browns to get the red out. (Is there any truth to fruitwood? I keep seeing that in tips on some articles.) Anyway, thanks!
I’m sorry….one more question. Do you think we could get away with duraseal medium-brown and then add the gray ratios you laid out? I prefer not to have too dark, but not sure if the medium brown will hide the red as well. Wish my floor guy were more interested in working with me (stuck with him as he’s GC guy), but he’s asked me to pick 3-4 cans at most. Thank you!
Claire – You can certainly try it with medium brown. Of course going darker will cover up the red better, so it is a trade off. but, I suppose you could add more ebony if needed.
Also, find out what the “real” issue is. Is that he doesn’t want to pay for more cans of stain to test? If that’s the issue, you can offer to buy the other cans (e.g. on Amazon…it may be hard for you to find duraseal locally…not sure) or offer to pay him for the additional cans.
Thank you so much!
You’re welcome, Claire.
Thank you so much for your site and blog. I am trying to get light grey floors with a red oak level 1 or level 1 floors. I am certain they are not a select grade. My contractor has shown me several samples but not of duraseal ebony or bona white. So far, everything has pink tones. I can’t stand the pink. He bleached one sample but the wood looked damaged. Would bleaching my floors give it that weathered, beachy look that I don’t care for? Should I just replace my red oak with select white oak?
Hi Liz. It’s always more challenging to do grey on red oak, especially light gray. The 2 main solutions are 1) go a bit darker (i.e. mix in more ebony) or 2) bleach before. Generally the bleach drowns out the pink tones so it’s more of clean slate (not necessarily beachy). Some people do both.
The other issue you may be having is the ingredients being used. We have found duraseal ebony and bona white works best. The minwax and duraseal whites are just too thin and liquidy…so pink shows through more. Ebony in duraseal also works better (and dries faster).
I hope this helps.
Oh and it shouldn’t matter if there if you have select grade or No 1. The pink tones would be about the same. The grades are more about the color variation and number of knots.
Thanks for the quick response. I will ask my contractor which products he used. I am concerned about bleaching my floors because the wood samples I saw that were bleached looked very damaged similar to bad hair dye job. The wood had white spots and looked damaged. Is there a type of bleach or process that needs to be done to ensure that the floors don’t become damaged from the bleach?
Liz – I understand your concern with the bleach. It’s not my first choice. Your alternative is simply to go deeper in the gray. Also, BTW, the wood should not look like that. Perhaps you installer isn’t applying it correctly or putting too much on it. I’ll try to ask my guy what he uses, but I think it’s just regular bleach. It sounds like the application of it may be the issue.
See if you can find a darker gray that you like and then you can avoid the bleach all together. It’s not the best for wood, especially if it’s not applied properly. (It dries out the wood a bit…just like hair dyes dry out your air…I think due to the ammonia).
Yes, I noticed that the wood did look drier after the bleach. I asked my contractor for a sample of bona white and duraseal ebony. He is concerned that the formulas are different and I believe that one is oil based but he will try it. I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping it comes out good without too much pink. Thank you so much for your help. I will keep you posted.
Liz – Excellent. He shouldn’t have a problem with it. We’ve been using that combo for years. Also, it’s okay to use an oil based stain and water borne poly. But, I’d always advise against mixing the poly (e.g. doing a coat of oil and then a coat of water or vice versa). In your case, you should be using bona traffic HD for the poly.
Hi great article. I’m going to give this a try in a couple of weeks. I’m having trouble finding the duraseal ebony stain. Is it this? https://www.amazon.com/Dura-Seal-Penetrating-Finish-Quick/dp/B002EDRXW4
Also what about the Bona white stain? Do I need to order it from their website as I can’t find anyone that has it. Is it the white on this site? https://www.bona.com/en-US/Bona-Professional/Products/Coatings/Stains/Bona-DriFast-Stain/
Nick – Yes, that’s right ebony stain.
And, yes, I know it’s so annoying that Bona doesn’t have their white stain on Amazon. I keep checking for it every couple of months. I would guess you can order through Bona (or else ask them where you can buy…they may have a store locator).
I just found your other page where you put a link to the DuraSeal. Its different than the one I sent you. What’s the difference? Your link is more expensive so trying to see what is different. Also how much square footage would this cover? Trying to figure out if I need more than one. Thanks!
The one I sent: https://www.amazon.com/Dura-Seal-Penetrating-Finish-Quick/dp/B002EDRXW4
On your page:
Oh gosh, I didn’t realize the discrepancy in price. They are actually the same product! I guess there are 2 different distributors selling it on Amazon. One has shipping baked into the price, the other charges additional for shipping…but clearly the one you found is nets a lower total price.
The coverage is according to package is 500sf, but we have found the actual coverage is more like 400sf per gallon (or can).
Thank you they looked the same and I did notice that about the shipping. I emailed Bona and asked them where to get the white and they directed me to a Denver distributor as well as this website which was free shipping after $75.00 or something. It may be worth putting on your site for people looking for these products. Here is the site: floormechanics.com
Another question: what do you use to apply the stain and poly? I haven’t researched this yet. What tbar tools or applicator pads are recommended? Is there something different for the stairs? Thanks!
Nick – thanks so much. I will check them out (hopefully later this week). I really appreciate that and the follow up.
No, you generally do not and shouldn’t add stain to the poly. It weakens it. And, the stain is for color and the poly is for protections, so they do 2 separate things.
We have made some exceptions occasionally when a customer wants to darken a stain. Then, we’ve added a bit of a tint (ebony) to top layer to make it a bit darker. But, you should only do that if you have 3 coats poly all together and only on top layer…and only for color purposes. It’s better to get the stain to the correct shade before if you can.
I wasn’t talking about mixing them. I was asking what tool do you use to apply the stain and poly?
My client has American Cherry floors and she would like a gray white washed floor. Have tried minwax and other stains with no luck. Will try ebony duraseal and bona. Any other recommendations. Is it even possible to do white washed with american cherry floors?
Lisa – I would advise against this. I don’t think this will ever come out looking good…unless you go very dark.
First, you’ll need to do a bleach to drown out the red. Note: this is not healthy for the wood and also may not work well with American cherry…it may in fact have a reaction. I would never do it for any of my customers on cherry unless they signed a waiver of some sort.
Second, no, I would never use Minwax for this. Minwax is for do-it-yourselfers; professionals use Duraseal. And, especially when it comes to white and grays, minwax stains are inferior. They are too watery and do not come out well. When it comes to gray, we use Duraseal ebony and Bona White.
But, I would not expect this to work out well on Cherry…you are between a rock and a hard place. The best way is to bleach first (and damage wood) and then do the gray mix. But, I think it’s very risky on Cherry, especially as the cherries (both American and Brazilian) are more oily, so I would expect problems. Or you do it without the bleach, but then have a lot of pink showing through.
But, it might work if the person wants to go very dark gray. It may be enough to hide the red.
Also, by the way, we have found that on most woods with red (e.g. Douglas Fir, Braz Cherry and American Cherry), that generally dark walnut comes out darker that ebony on those species. It just seems to be the way the woods absorb the stain and their pores. So, if you were to try this, I would also test with dark walnut. And, you might also test with true black. I have not seen True Black on American Cherry, so not sure how it would come out.
You will have a much easier time (and probably happier client) if you just do a dark stain…or a dark stain with a hint of gray. Or else replace the wood and go for White Oak or Maple. Maple is more expensive, but “easier” to get gray. But, it is much more challenging to sand and stain, and it’s blotchy.
I hope that helps.
PS: If you want to test a section with bleach, you might see if there is a closet you can do it in, or under refrigerator or something…i.e. a place that it’s okay if it gets ruined.
I wasn’t talking about mixing them. I was asking what tool do you use to apply the stain and poly?
We are about ready to stain after a lot of floor-color deliberation (through a first floor reno). I relayed a lot of your (awesome!) intel to my gc’s flooring guy and he has suggested trying bona gray and a duraseal medium/dark for the new/existing red oak. I don’t want to go so dark that we have dust-showing issues, but need a bit on the darker side of medium to contrast the cabs.
He is asking for only a few final “real” samples on Monday and I’m wondering what your thoughts are on bona gray (versus your usual combo) to simplify the process — he is pretty grumpy about tinkering, which stinks but I’m stuck with him. We’ll definitely try dark walnut, but curious if you prefer coffee brown to medium brown for red oak to lessen the red? And….have you seen the brand new duraseal colors?! Very minimal marketing or even chips, so my guy hadn’t even heard of them. A lot of gray and brown, super cool. May throw aged barrel in the mix!
Anyway, thanks for your awesome site!
Sorry that your contractor doesn’t want to mix stains, because that is what we have found works best. We are finding ebony + white or true black + white comes out best, especially on red oak.
These 2 colors make gray…and then it’s just about how dark (or light) the gray is. On red oak, you’ll probably want to do a mid to darker gray to hide the red undertones. I would not worry about it being too hard to clean/showing dirt…because you can just add more white. I hope this makes sense. This is what you need to do to get gray. You can try Bona gray and see if you like it, and if so go for it.
I’m not sure what you’re asking with the browns. We have sometimes used dark walnut or coffee brown in with the ebony + white to get a gray brown (just a bit). But, if you’re asking can you do those browns with white, I suppose you could, but it won’t be gray…it will be more of a beige.
And, medium brown doesn’t look good…it comes out too red, especially on red oak.
LC – Sorry about the delay. I’ve been rather busy.
Re: Bona gray, we have found that very difficult to work with and the sample doesn’t usually come out the same as the real floor. We have found doing an ebony/white mix works best and/or mixing in some true black. If your contractor doesn’t feel comfortable mixing, I’d recommend you stay away from gray. There’s a good chance you won’t be happy with the outcome, even if you’re happy with the sample.
Re: Cofee brown, yes, this is better than medium brown, especially on red oak (medium brown has turns out rather reddish).
If he can’t mix, try dark walnut, antique brown and coffee brown.
I would stay away from the new duraseal colors. I’m not familiar with them, but I’m guessing based on the colors that these are water based stains and they are much more challenging (and expensive) to apply and often come out streaky. Plus, you would probably need to use Bona Traffic on them. If you do a traditional brown stain, you can either use oil based or water borne poly.
I hope that helps. Sorry that I’m just getting to this now.
I’m finally ready to refinish my floors this weekend. I applied the samples and am going with the 3:1 as I have red oak and the dark looked better like you described. I’ve done a ton of research but was more or so a month ago and I forgot all the small details. I have a few questions in the overall process:
1. Sand 36 grit
2. Fill wood putty
3. Sand 60 grit
4. Sand 80/100 grit
5. Apply one coat of stain. Dry how long before putting the Bona traffic?
6. Do I buff or anything before applying the poly?
7. Apply first coat of poly. Wait how long to dry before 2nd coat?
8. Buff before 2nd coat? How long to dry?
9. Apply final coat. Buff after?
I guess most of my questions are in the buffing/screening process. Can you please provide suggested details in the topic. I’m excited to get going and lots of great info here.
I’ve read to lightly sand between coats with 220 grit sand paper. Do I do a light sand on the stain before my first coat of poly?
NO, do not light sand or buff the stain. That will lighten and ruin your stain. The highest grit you should use before the stain is 100. If you do more, you will close the pores and it will not absorb the stain properly.
Nick – First, you put putty on, then 36 grit…then you may need some more putty as some may get sanded off.
Then 60, then 80/100 grit.
Stain. Wait at least 24 hrs.
then Bona Traffic 1 coat. Wait at least 3-4 hrs.
Then buff, then 2nd coat Bona Traffic. Wait at least 4-5 hrs (each coat takes a bit longer to dry).
Then buff, then 3rd coat poly. I would wait at least 8 hrs before walking on floor (w/ socks), but 24 hrs is even better.
No buffing after!
Hope that helps.
That does help confirm my process, thank you. Can I use one of those flat sanding pads that hook to the pole to lightly sand between poly coats with 220 grit instead of getting a buffer machine?
We would know what the results of Brazilian hardwood floors stained to grey would look like. Do you have any before and after
No, I don’t have any pictures. I would expect it to come out pink and it’s not something I would recommend at all.
Thanks for your instructions. I’ve finally fished..came out great. A little darker than I expected but the red seems to pop out places with the red oak. A few places were tough to blend since I have never stained before and took me about half way through before I had it down and learned how long to let it sit, wipe away drop marks right away and whatnot. I know you said don’t sand after the stain but it was bugging me a few places I needed to feather so I ended up doing it throughout the floor to kind of blend in some areas and I think it came out pretty sweet once I evened everything out. Next question I did two coats of Poly with the one gallon of traffic HD in satin. I know you are preaching 3 coats and I’ve read 3 is much better other places but the instructions state 2 is sufficient. I’m down to do another coat but it seems fine and I hate to have to buy another $130 gallon when I would only need half of it. Is it really going to make it look that much nicer? I’m sure durability would be better but seems fine. Thoughts?
Nick – Personally, I would do 3. It will look a bit better, but the real reason to do it is durability. It will probably last an extra 2 to 3 years and hold up better to scratches.
Thank you I was leaning towards it. I’ll go pick up another jug tomorrow and be done with it! Good news is this is the easy part. Thank you very much for your help I learned a lot and was able to do it myself and came out pretty fantastic.
Nick – You’re welcome. And, so glad it’s turned out so well.
Hi there I’ve been following your site and blog on the gray washed floors and I’m just about ready to have the contractor handle the redwood floors. I have a quick question…Do you use BONA DriFast Naturals for the White and for the Ebony is it DuraSeal QuickCoat or Penetrating Finish? Any tips before we get started?
Earl – Yes, that sounds right for the stains.
HOWEVER, I don’t know what you mean by “redwood” floors. If you have a wood that is naturally red (e.g. American Cherry, Brazilian cherry, Douglas Fir, Mahogany), DO NOT try to do gray. It won’t work.
If you mean you have red oak, then you have 2 choices: 1) Bleach the floors first or 2) choose a darker gray to hide the pink undertones. If you don’t, you floors will look pinkish.
Sorry, yes I meant Red Oak wood floors. How would you go about bleaching the floors? I’ve never heard of that technique. Is there a special bleach that is used? Or is it the common household Clorox we’re talking about?
If you haven’t done it before, I would hire a professional. If you use too much, you will ruin your floors. If you can’t do that, then do a darker gray or ditch the gray and go for a traditional gray. Gray is very difficult to achieve, especially on red oak and even most professionals have difficulty with this.
I read through about 2 years worth of comments, and decided I needed to ask questions, that might be answered, but I’m running short of time, being that I need to have stain on site tomorrow. We currently have MInwax Dark Walnut on our floors. We are building a new home, and just want a gray undertone to the floors, but not a full blown gray. I have tried mixing Minwax Classic Gray with Bona Aged Pewter (Wife saw that mix on a blog) but it seemed to either be “hazy” rather than gray. I know this is strictly an opinion question, so bare with me. If you like the darkness of Dark Walnut, but wanted gray undertones, would you mix/blend ebony, white, and a dark walnut? Or is that just asking for trouble?
Gregory – Yes, I would probably mix duraseal ebony and bona white for the gray and just mix to taste. (More white vs ebony..e.g. 3 parts white to 1 ebony…or 5 to 1. I would avoid both minwax classic gray as well as duraseal’s classic gray. They are too watery. I’m guessing that Bona Aged Pewter is better than those, but it may not be the right shade of gray for you..and you may have red oak on the steps which makes everything trickier.
with ebony + white, you can suit to your own taste.
I hope that helps.
Floor guys did gray stain mixed white gray and black … stain on bullnose stairs look like paint instead of stain how can we fix before applying poly? Please help ..looks like maybe left stain without wiping
Talk to your flooring guy. This could look different as the species may be different. Treads and stairnoses are often red oak, and if you have white oak or another species, it would not look the same.
But, if it doesn’t look right, they may need to sand those again. You need to speak to your flooring guy (before poly is applied) to see why it looks different. I can’t see it so I’m just hypothesizing. Note: if they are different species, they will never match. If they are old pine, they may need to sand, add conditioner, then apply stain.
Also, you can always add a carpet runner on top if it’s due to the wood species.
I hope that helps.
Is it possible to mix the Ebony with the Classic Grey to get a draker grey? I have red oak floors? Thanks for the help
Jackie – Absolutely. But, be sure to use Bona Traffic on top of it.
I just found this blog and I wish I found it earlier. I hired a contractor for the flooring of my whole place and its taken a month to finally stain freshly purchased oak wood to the shade of gray I’ve wanted. He went the route of 2x coats of white followed by 1x coat of grey staining which turned out beautifully!
He was said to be done today and we went in and the whole floor turned yellow! Reading your blog, I guess he used the oil-based poxy…
I had a question as to how to proceed. This definitely took him longer than he anticipated and I feel he’s fed up but after investing so much in this I want this done properly… He was going back (on top of the oil based poly) to restain it with the grey stain and then use a different poly on top. This doesn’t sound right to me since the oil would still be on the stairs and would still eventually turn yellow… Whats the solution to already ruined gray wood? Is there any way to recover without sanding and repainting/restaining?
Thanks for your help
Tina – Oh gosh, it sounds like you may have hired an inexperienced contractor. It should not take that long. Usually my guys can install 1000 sf in a day, so installation should have only been a few days. They also seem to be able to sand 1000sf a day (and from there, it’s all about stain application and coats of poly and drying time.
It sounds like the contractor didn’t apply stain correctly nor use right poly. You should only have 1 coat of stain, not 2. The stain is supposed to penetrate hardwood. When you do a 2nd coat, then that does not adhere properly nor the poly to the stain. I have a hunch you will probably need to have floors fully sanded and refinished.
So, when you do this, have them mix the stain before and test and just apply 1 coat. then, do 3 coats Bona Traffic HD for poly.
I don’t think there’s any way that they will be able to buff/screen off all of the oil based poly without damaging stain. I would not expect it to last either.
We have red oak flooring that we are refinishing. I would like a medium grey with warm brown added….so warm grey
nd not the cool side of the grey. What Minwax stains would you mix to achieve this? And what kind of poly would you use?
For the poly, that is easy. You should use Bona Traffic HD. You can find the link on this page to buy on Amazon. For the stain, this is trickier, and you’re going to need to mix and experiment until you get the color you prefer. I would not recommend Minwax at all. This is what do-it-yourselfers use and it’s inferior to Duraseal and Bona and it takes much longer to dry. For the gray part, I would use Duraseal Ebony + Bona White (neither Minwax nor Duraseal are good for whites…they are too watery…and their premixed grays are also too watery. For a brown, you’re going to need to test. We have mixed in special walnut, antique brown and dark walnut. Those go from lightest to darkest. You’ll need to see which you prefer for the color you’re hoping for. It is a bit of an art.
HI Flooring Girl, I so glad to stumble on your blog. I have learned so much about flooring with all the information on your blog. I’m having my brand new red oak floor stain in a few days. I really wanted a gray floor but due to the nature of the red tone in red oak floor is very hard to achieve the color. My floor guy mix duraseal ebony and country white 50/50. one with water pop one without. they both look very nice. I have been looking at all these stain color for the past weeks. I’m not ever sure of the stains anymore. my eyes are confuse (hahaha). Have you ever done a 50/50 ebony and country white on red oak? what are your thoughts? oh and he’s using LastnLast water poly. Please help as I need to stain in a few days. Thank you!
First, I will tell you that red oak floors come out better if you bleach them first. However, with a 50/50 blend it may be dark enough to camouflage the pink undertones. You’ll have to look at that to make sure.
Second, we use Bona white rather than country white as the white is more opaque. We have occasionally done country white, but Bona white looks better.
Third, one thing is for certain..you need to ditch the LastnLast and trade up to Bona Traffic HD. That is super important. and, it will cost you more. Lastnlast is low quality and it won’t hold up (so you will pay more in the end as you will need to refinish much sooner). Bona Traffic will look the best by far – both when applied and over time. I would expect Lastnlast to amberize more and more over time. This is probably more important than the actual stain color you use.
I hope this helps.
Hi! What color of Bona white is your preference to achieve these gray colors? Apparently there are a few whites to choose from. Also how many coats of the stain do you recommend to put down?
Dani – My guy just uses “white.” I have a hunch they’ve introduced some variations now, so you can give those a try. There is no right or wrong answer. With gray, you just need to test it.
Hi ! Can you stain Brazilian cherry grey? If so, how?
Matt – That is not something I would recommend as it is very red and you will probably have red/pink coming through. If you were to try it, would bleach it first (which is not so good for the wood and may not come out evenly due to the oily resins) and then stain with a mix of Duraseal ebony and Bona White. You would need to go a darker gray than an oak due to all the extra red.
Oh hi Matt. I see I missed some of your other questions. Sorry, I’ve been busy and I have a flood of questions, and just can’t keep up. So on the poly, definitely use Bona Traffic on top of this if you do gray. As I mentioned it’s iffy…not sure how well the bleach will drown out the red. And, it sounds like you don’t want dark brown. And, you may not love the other options (based on your comment). So maybe see if you can try this in 1 room and see if you like it. I see you live in Florida…where they tend to use a lot of engineered flooring, so I’m hoping you have solid wood, as you may need to sand again if you’re not happy with it. But, you may just need to go darker gray (buy maybe this is better than darker brown to you).
Regarding going natural with Bona Traffic. That’s definitely an option, but it won’t solve the red issue. It will be lighter than doing oil based poly and lighter than it is now (in fact, when you refinish, it will be lighter anyway as you’re removing the top layer (it’s like when you have a suntan and you’re skin continues to replace itself.
But, it will darken over time due to the sunlight (and artificial light). It will be a bit lighter/more orange/less red (I hope that makes sense). Be careful w/ the poly you use. Bona traffic HD has some UV protection in it, so it will help a bit, but still you can’t stop the natural process. The oil based poly will be darker and redder.
I hope this helps. But whatever you do, test it first and I don’t think testing in a closet will work well.
I’m using NordicSeal on white oak and I want to apply 2 coats. Should I buff between the coats?
Terry – No, you don’t. Check out the info and video on this page. Bona Nordic Seal
Hi Flooring Girl! I am finding your blog very helpful, thanks for all of your tips! I am in the process of refinishing and staining my Brazilian walnut floors. When I bought and installed the floors they were pre-finished with an espresso brown color. I wanted to stain them gray, and after the flooring guy did a few samples on my floor, I chose Bona Dri Fast stain in Grey. After he sanded and stained and did one top coat, the color is all over the place with grays, yellows and browns (based on the variations in the wood). He is suggesting re-sanding and bleaching the floors until they get to a more uniform base and then re-staining (to achieve a more uniform gray look). Do you think there are any risks in bleaching these floors and taking this approach? Thanks!
Tara – It’s very challenging to stain any of the exotics gray, due to the nature of the color, color variation and oils in these woods. You can try the bleach. Not sure how well it will work on this wood and whether there will be any reactions with the oils in the wood. I would test it in a section first. Note: the bleach will dry out and damage the wood a bit.
A much easier and safer option is to do a darker color. You could even try some of Duraseal’s new gray blends – some of the darker ones may look quite nice.
Thanks for your quick response, Debbie! Do you have any specific recommendations of the darker gray colors to try? I really appreciate your input! Happy holidays!
Tara – For darker gray, we generally just do Duraseal ebony + bona white…we just use less white. Also, you can check out this article I just published about an hour ago and try Duraseal’s new “dark gray.” See the article here: Duraseal’s new gray blends.
Thanks! Super helpful!