Yes, and no. Technically, the color of the wood has no impact on how much the floor scratches. However, darker floors tend to show scratches, dirt, dents, footprints and imperfections more.
So what impacts the scratching on wood?
Primarily the finish of the wood, and the wood species (i.e. how hard is the wood and how strong is the graining (stronger graining hides scratches more). You can read more about the hardness of wood species here. You can learn more about finishes here. And, of course, heavier traffic impacts the wood.
Please note that this article may contain affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.
Why do dark hardwoods show scratches more?
Most floors in the US are oak (which are naturally light). If they are dark, that’s because they have a stain on top. The stain is topical, so when you scratch through the stain, the original color of the wood is revealed. Hence, when you have a dark stain, you notice the color difference more vs. a light stain that is more similar to the underlying wood. Regardless of species, natural (i.e. no stain) will show scratches less.
Why do dark hardwood floors show dirt and foot prints more?
Dents and cracks, a natural characteristic of wood, are magnified on dark floors, especially those with a high gloss finished. In fact, dust, dirt and damage show more on dark flooring due to the contrast in color between the dirt and the stain color. Also, darker staining hides the graining more (which many prefer) and makes the color of a wood plank look more uniform. This, in turn creates less camouflage for the dirt and dust bunnies. (On the other hand, darker stains do cover up knots and natural gaps in wood (from typical expansion/contraction and aging of wood)).
What can you do to protect you dark hardwood from scratches?
There are a few solutions to help reduce scratches in dark hardwood floors. This advice really applies to all types of hardwood – light and dark and will help make all types of wood floors look better for longer.
1. Use oil based polyurethane for longer life
We prefer using Duraseal poly which you can buy here.
2. Add an extra coat of poly
Your floors will last much longer if you use 3 coats of polyurethane (rather than 2). For extremely busy households, you may even consider 4 coats, but generally 3 is perfectly sufficient.
3. Use a satin finish (or even a matte finish)
Not only is satin finish more stylish, but it’s more practical too. The shinier you go, the more the dents, scratches and dirt will show. You can read more about hardwood sheen levels here.
4. Periodically screen and recoat floors
This is one of the best kept secrets in the hardwood industry. If you screen and recoat (or buff) your floors once every 3-4 years BEFORE your floors get scratches through the color, you can prolong the life of your floors and avoid a full sand and refinish.
5. Add area Rugs and entry mats.
This is especially important for entryways where water, snow and salt may be brought into the house. This is even more important if you have pets as they don’t typically (in my experience) remove their shoes (LOL). It is also very important for areas that get heavier traffic and chair movement (e.g. your dining room table/areas where you typically eat and move chairs, family rooms).
6. Remove your shoes
Shoes probably do the most damage to our floors (due to the dirt and small rocks that get caught in them, as well as some of the nails that may wear through as your heal wear down. Removing your shoes and wearing socks or slippers can have a huge impact on keeping your floors in great shape. I’m amazed at how much better floors look (and how much longer they last) in homes where my customers remove their shoes.
7. Get felt pads for chairs
This is can make a big difference, especially on chairs that you use and move a lot (e.g. dining room chairs, kitchen chairs. Get some extras as they do fall off over time. You can buy them directly from Amazon here: felt pads.
8. Avoid chairs with wheels
Yes, chairs with wheels can be deadly for hardwood floors, especially dark hardwood floors. Dirt and grit gets caught in the wheels and this will wear down the polyurethane on the floors. If you have rolling chairs consider adding an area rug or a plastic mat.
9. Clean dark floors regularly and with a swiffer or soft duster.
Keeping dirt and grit off the floors will not only make the floors cleaner and healthier, but it will prolong the life of your floors. Use swiffers or soft dusters. Avoid brooms as these can cause scratches in your floors. We recommend Bona Hardwood cleaner to our customers.
10. Plan B – How to fix minor scratches – use a stain pen.
Plan B – What to do if you have a scratch? This is not a perfect solution, but consider buying a Minwax stain marker. It can help camouflage your scratches, especially if you only have a few. It comes in many colors including ebony, dark walnut, red mahogany, golden oak, provincial and cherry. Some people will even get 2 similar colors (e.g. ebony and dark walnut) as there is color variation in the wood.
Are dark hardwoods right for you and your household?
Only you can answer this question. Dark hardwood are certainly chic and stylish. Currently, in Westchester County and the NYC Metro area, dark hardwood floors are the most popular. But, they can be a bit more challenging to maintain. I generally advice customers to get what they love, but they need to make the call on what’s more important – style or practicality. Sometimes, a good solution for those that prefer dark but also want easier to maintain is to go a shade or two lighter.
I think this customer summed it up well from apartmenttherapy.com
“I bought my house with light hardwood floors. In three years, my 4 year old and three cats have managed to destroy them! I have another little girl on the way and I’m dreaming of the day when the kids get older and I can have them redone…DARK. So basically I think you should get what you like because they will have to be redone someday anyway.”
Dark hardwoods do show scratches and dirt more than light hardwood floors do. Importantly, there are ways to help prolong their life and minimize the impact. Are dark hardwood floor right for you?
- Dark hardwood floors – stylish and chic
- Dark vs light hardwood floors
- Which stain colors are most in style?
- What types of hardwood floors are best if you have dogs?
I wrote this e-book to help new home buyers make smart decisions when looking for homes with hardwood floors…or looking to buy a home and then add hardwood. I’ve packaged all of my best tips into this book and hope it will help you make smarter choices in your flooring choices and in buying a home that can support high quality floors.
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 now started to offer phone consultations, too.
Did you find my tips helpful? If so, feel free to buy me a coffee and support my blog
Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors, whether they are light or dark
Does dark hardwood scratch more easily than light hardwood?