Why does my new red oak flooring differ so much from my existing red oak flooring?

Q: Why does my new red oak flooring differ so much from my existing red oak flooring? I recently replaced my tile runway and tiled kitchen with red oak to match my existing red oak wood floor that runs parallel. Now it’s all wood, but looks completely different.

I was aware that the color may not match perfectly, but not only is the color way off, the water based satin polyurethane is shiny on the old floor and looks matte on the new floor. The grain of the new floor looks like it is on the surface whereas the grain of the old wood looks like it’s hidden by the poly. The old floors have a yellow glow while the new floors don’t.

We used a custom color grey/Jacobean mix. The two floors look completely different. I even had the floor guy come back to screen and recoat the old floors and they still don’t look right.

A: You may have two different species of oak between the old and new. There are differences between southern and northern or Appalachian oak both with the grain, wood color, etc. Still, you are using what sounds like a dark color so I wouldn’t have expected a huge difference in the color provided the wood was water popped before applying the stain. This is a matter of wetting the floor surface and letting it dry before staining. This helps to maximize penetration into the surface fibers and deepens the color.

I have no explanation for the change in sheen from one to the other if they used one mixed batch of finish for the entire floor. The shine from the finish is determined by the flattening agent in the finish, not what it is applied to.

Related Q: I had oak floors in my new house (installed in 1991) and one room had carpet. I asked a flooring guy to put in oak and match it; he said he could. Well, the flooring is a different stain and sheen. I’m not sure what to do. He says it’s not possible to match oak stains.

A: I would disagree that “you can’t match oak stains”. The stain colors in any given manufacturer line are the same color today as they were 10 or 20 years ago. That doesn’t change. What does change is the wood. For one, over years of exposure to sunlight everything changes color from what it was. And there are all sorts of oak. And there is old growth and newer growth which will all take the stain differently.

You can see this even in a sample of stained, factory finished flooring. Not every board in a large sample is identical. Some pieces are lighter. Some may look more yellow than brown. But the overall look blends together. Now, regardless of whether this is a prefinished floor or sanded and stained on site, did he not let you see the color and sheen of the product before proceeding? There is the mistake.

It is about near impossible to guarantee the sheen of the finish will be exact. Even when using the same manufacturers finish, it is always encouraged to mix together enough finish for complete application because there can always be slight variation from one batch to the next.

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