2018 trends for hardwood floors – 11 Trends to watch
Hardwood flooring continues to grow in popularity, and it is by far the preferred flooring type for homes. Ironically, this is followed by all sorts of products trying to mimic the look of hardwood flooring, regardless of whether it’s porcelain tile that looks like wood, engineered wood planks (e.g. Coretec Plus) or a whole slew of other knock-offs.
But still, most people want the real thing…REAL HARDWOOD. It’s stylish, comfortable, warm, timeless, natural and lasts for over a century. Hardwood makes a house a home, and you can refinish hardwood over the years to change the color and style as fashion trends and preferences change. For all of these reasons, most homeowners prefer the real deal…and love that it also improves the value of their home at the same time.
As I’ve mentioned in previous floor trend articles, different people have different tastes, and it’s more important to choose something you like rather than something on trend. (Of course doing both is ideal). There are different style homes and different decors, so choose what you love and what works with your home.
You will also see that some of of these trends are a bit contradictory (e.g. both very dark and very light stain colors are most stylish). Again, this goes back to different types of homes and different strokes for different folks. Not all colors work in all homes, and you also need to consider your overall decor theme (including paint color for walls and furniture), so choose something that you love…and anticipate you will love for a long time.
So I wanted to share the latest trends in hardwood flooring for 2018. This 2018 wood flooring trend post is organized as follows:
- Hardwood flooring Stain Trends
- Hardwood floor sheens/finishes and textures
- Hardwood floor materials and style trends
Please note that this article may contain affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.
2018 Hardwood Flooring Color Trends
1. Dark and cool tones
Yes, the trend towards darker colors keeps growing and growing. It’s been on the rise for the last decade or so. We seem to find two types of customers – 1) ones that prioritize style over maintenance and they tend to go darker and darker (these customers tend to be households without kids (either “pre-kids” or kids that have gone to college) or wealthier households that have extra help to keep the floors extra clean) or 2) those that absolutely love dark floors but want to go a bit lighter so that the floors are easier to maintain.
Either way, one thing is consistent: Cool tones are strongly preferred. There is a strong move away from warmer tones (e.g. reds, red/brown blends or yellow undertones) and a preference towards browns that are more pure and cooler (i.e no red undertones). Cool tones are preferred both the walls (especially grays) and floors, and these work hand in hand together. I even see some customers blending in a touch of gray to the dark browns (both to lighten it a bit and to add coolness and depth to the color.
For those looking to go darker and darker, they are generally blending ebony/dark walnut (i.e. a 50/50 blend), ebony/jacobean or trying out the new true black. True Black is the newest stain from Duraseal, and as the name implies, it’s truly the blackest stain you can use – it’s more opaque for a darker look and more modern feel as it hides most of the graining you find in oak.
The picture to the right is True Black. It’s often a good solution if you find that you have a mixture of wood species in your home as it camouflages the differences more. But, true black floors do show every bit of dust, so be aware of this.
Darker floors are a bit more challenging to clean and maintain. You may find this article I just wrote helpful: 10 tips to clean and maintain dark hardwood floors. For those looking to go dark, but a bit lighter (either due to preference or for easier maintenance), try dark walnut, antique brown, coffee brown or special walnut (or a blend of these).
- Duraseal vs Minwax stains – which is better and which do the pros use?
- How to prevent scratches in hardwood floors?
- Most popular stain colors
- Most popular shades of gray paint for the walls
2. Gray, gray blends and white washes
Yes, gray, gray and more gray. Gray flooring has been on the rise, and you can see it everywhere you go – in wood, tile that looks like wood, and gray vinyl planks that look like wood. I think I started to notice the trend and demand for gray hardwood flooring around 2010 or 2011. First, I really only saw this in pre-finished (or factory made wood), and it wasn’t until 2012 or so when I started to get lots of local customers ask us to refinish their existing floors and turn them gray.
I finally blogged about how to refinish gray hardwood flooring (the right way) in 2013. Of course, refinishing your hardwood floors gray isn’t a simplest task, and you really need to have an expert who has refinished many floors gray (and yes, over the years I’ve gotten tons of calls from homeowners who hired a contractor who can’t do this…and they find out in the middle of the job). Check out the article to find out the best way to do it. (Hint: it is NOT by using the gray stains from Minwax or Duraseal). Oh, and you also need to use Bona Traffic HD for the polyurethane.
Related article: How to sand and refinish your hardwood to make it gray
Over the last 2 to 3 years, we’ve been seeing more variations on the grays where people will blend in some browns for a gray/beige (or griege) look. White washes have also grown in popularity (but they are also harder and more expensive to achieve with real hardwood).
3. Light, natural and muted
Yes, on the opposite extreme to dark, the 2nd most popular floor choice is light – i.e. going natural. But the theme is a consistent one. There’s a preference to drown out the yellows and go for cooler tones. Hence those that are more up on the trends are going for the high grade and more environmentally friendly water borne polyurethane, especially Bona Traffic HD.
Bona Traffic HD is an amazing product. First, it just gives a more natural, lighter and more contemporary look. The wood looks more natural and it doesn’t have that yellowish tint (oil borne polyurethanes give a more amber color, and they amberizes more over time). And, Bona Traffic is better for the environment (lower VOCs) and it smells less. And, it dries and cures faster. It is more expensive, but it’s worth it if you are going for a light and natural look.
You can read more about Bona Traffic HD Polyurethane in these 3 articles:
- What are the best brands of polyurethane?
- Bona Traffic vs Bona Mega – which is better
- Bona Traffic vs Bona Traffic HD – what’s the difference and is it worth the extra money?
2018 Hardwood Floor Finishes/Sheens and Textures
4. Natural looking finishes (Satin, Matte and flatter sheens)
Matte and satin finishes are the most popular sheens. It’s all about low luster. Semi gloss and glossy finishes are very dated, and very difficult to maintain, as they show every speck of dust, scratch and dent. Over the last few years, flatter finishes have become even more popular as more and more people are going for water borne poly, especially the higher grade Bona Traffic. For walls, flat paint finishes are also more popular and stylish.
The great news for matte and satin finishes is that they are both popular and practical. They are easier to clean and look better longer.
5. Higher grade and more environmentally friendly polyurethane/oil finishes
The preference, when possible, is to use high grade polyurethanes that are both durable and environmentally friendly. Personally, I think the best option for this is use a high grade waterborne polyurethane such as Bona Traffic HD. You can read more about this in Trend 3. This does cost more, but the finish is very hard and durable. It looks great, smells less and dries faster.
Alternatively, there is another solution that has also been growing, and that is oiled floors. (Note this is DIFFERENT floors refinished than oil based polyurethane). Oiled floors have zero VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) and do not have polyurethane. Instead these oils penetrates into the wood. This gives a rich and more natural patina. They have a duller finish.
Most oiled floors use tung or linseed oil, or a combo. Some use safflower, soy, sunflower or hemp. Some formulas use resin 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.
Oiled floors allow the homeowner to easily fix scratches themselves by applying additional oil. The oil is easy to use and enhance the natural appearance of the wood.
However, these oiled floors have some real downsides (aside from the much higher cost for the oil and the application process…and yes, they are even more expensive than Bona Traffic HD).
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 do not have a protective finish, so they absorb water (as well as 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.
If had to choose between these two options, I would usually recommend Bona Traffic HD over oiled floors as it provides more protection for your floors, lower maintenance and of it costs less than an oiled floor.
6. On-site refinishing (vs. pre-finished wood)
There has been a rising preference for site finished hardwood over pre-finished wood (i.e wood manufactured and finished in a factory). Site finished wood looks better – it’s more contemporary and has cleaner lines. Pre-finished wood often has stripes on the edges where you can see the underlying color of the wood underneath, especially if you are using a wood with a stain. This is not always obvious when you are looking samples, but it’s very apparent once you see the wood installed across an entire floor.
Site finished wood looks more professional and has a more consistent color and finish across the floor. It’s smoother on your feet and much easier to clean. (Pre-finished wood has micro-beveled edges where dust gets caught. It’s also a much better option if you using hardwood in your kitchen.
And, importantly site finished wood is customizable. You have the ability to test and mix stains on you wood and look at them in your own home and lighting. You can also choose your desired finish (e.g. matte or satin).
7. Wire brushed and textured floors
Wire brushed floors are etched with a subtle texture to enhance the graining of the wood. They are a more modern version of distressed wood. They have a real vintage look as the wire brushing enhances (rather than conceals) 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 or wavy like distressed or hand-scraped wood. Some wire brushed wood is monotone, but most are 2 toned, done with 2 passes of stain (generally a darker coat as the main color and then a partial glaze with a lighter color.
You typically would find wire brushed hardwood in a pre-finished form as the wire brushing is very labor intensive (it has to be done by hand) and very few installers know how to do this technique. The pictures in this section are actually site finished locally. These are blends of gray + white and golden oak/white + white and use Bona Traffic HD for the polyurethane.
2018 Hardwood Flooring Material and Style preferences
8. Solid hardwood floors that last a lifetime (rather than engineered wood or bamboo)
Given the preference, most people are selecting solid hardwood over cheaper and shorter term alternatives such as engineered wood or bamboo. Solid hardwood will generally last 100+ years. (We have in fact refinished many floors from the 1800 and 1700s). For those looking for a long-term floor and one that improves the value of their home, this is usually the best solution.
Solid hardwood also allows homeowners to sand and refinish and change the colors as styles and preferences change, as well as allowing new home buyers to choose their preferred colors.
Homeowners are realizing short falls for engineered hardwood flooring (i.e. they usually can’t be sanded and refinished, so if you get scratches, or water damage or pet accidents, you may need to fully replace them. However, in some areas instances, engineered hardwood may be a better and more economical solution and practical solution, (e.g. warmer climates where homes are built on slabs (e.g. in warmer climates) or concrete sub-floors in apartments or basements), they remain popular. But, in the Northeast, Mid Atlantic, most of East Coast, Mid West and other places built with plywood, solid hardwood is the preferred form.
Also, many more customers are becoming aware of pitfalls and misleading marketing on bamboo flooring. Bamboo is actually a grass and it does not hold up well to foot traffic or pets. It scratches very easily (and shows scratches more than oak does), and it does not hold up well to water (e.g. water by entry areas, minor spills, accidents from pets). In addition, it’s NOT a green product due to long shipping distances from China, huge amounts of adhesive and of course some from the bigger box stores may be laced with formaldehyde.
Never have I seen a “wood” (and remember it’s not a wood; it’s a grass) have so many customer and installer complaints. We stopped installing it years ago. There is a reason bamboo costs less…it’s simply inferior and generally doesn’t even last for 10 years, despite the supposed 25 year “warranty claims” (if you can even call it a warranty), don’t hold up. And, removing it, along with the glue left behind on the sub-floor, cost more than than the original wood cost.
9. Farmhouse Style
Farmhouse style and rustic looks have been on the rise, in part accelerated by Joanna Gaines and her Fixer Upper TV show. Farmhouse decor and shiplap is everywhere on Pinterest. In fact, I finally wrote an article with 8 decorate with Shiplap. In terms of flooring, there is a range of farmhouse styles pending on the style of home, walls and the homeowners taste.
Often you’ll find a preference for wider planks, more subtle, paler and cool tones (e.g. grays, gray mixes, white washed floors), floors with stronger graining and/or more knots. Occasionally, you’ll multiple width planks, and often distressed and rustic floors as well as mid to darker browns.
Farmhouse decor is really a return to a more authentic, simple and natural look…a return to a simpler life.
10. Simpler layouts
Most customers are showing a strong preference for simpler layouts – more towards a single with plank in a straight lay, and a move away from multiple widths, herringbone, chevron, borders, diagonals, etc. Customers want a clean and simple look for the floor. Some of these other options distract your eye and look too busy.
Customers want a clean look with fewer distractions. You can even see this in kitchen cabinet trends where many are choosing a Shaker style. By creating balance, it reduces clutter. And, it enables homeowners to use more patterns with throw pillows and area rugs.
11. Wider planks
Yes, wider wood planks make your space look larger (and better). Interesting enough, they make modern homes took more contemporary and older homes look more rustic and authentic. Wider planks have been growing in popularity over the last decade and are strongly preferred over the standard 2 1/4″ strips that were installed from the 30’s through the 90’s. Nowadays, it’s rare to install anything below 3 1/4″ for new installations (unless you are matching wood that’s in the rest of the house.
2018 Hardwood Flooring Trends Conclusion
So those are my top 11 trends for hardwood flooring for 2018 and beyond. Most of these trends have been building for years, and I expect them to grow even more in popularity. You can see that many of these trends are synergistic and there’s a strong preference for cooler tones, lower luster and more subtle colors and textures. These trends are consistent with paint trends as the floors and walls need to work together in harmony.
Which is your favorite trend?
- How to keep dark hardwood floors clean
- How to refinish gray hardwood floors the right way
- What are the most popular shades of gray paint?
- How to prevent scratches in your hardwood 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.
Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors