Can you stain Brazilian cherry floors any color?

Q: We have Brazilian cherry floors throughout that may need to be refinished. A couple questions:

1) Does refinishing mean re-staining?

2) Can you stain Brazilian cherry floors any color (such as a chocolate brown)?

3) Our floors scratch so easily and show a white mark. Since the floors may need to be refinished, what can be done to prevent this?

A: Refinishing means to sand and and apply a finish of choice. Re-sanding and staining means to apply a stain to alter the colour of the wood. Jatoba can be stained. The finishes used in the factory are very hard. When they get scratched they leave what looks like a white scratch. This is how aluminum oxide finishes look when they fracture on dark floors. I have heard that Jatoba can contain an extractive which reacts with oil based finishes and the mineral spirit solvent and can leave white blotches. Since this varies from one batch to another it may be wise to use a water born polyurethane.

Stain brands besides Duraseal?

Q: I just had red oak floors installed. We did the Duraseal stain tests and I personally do not like any of their colors. Is there another stain brand? Or does doing a double coat of stain make it richer?

A: Dura Seal actually now includes the entire Min Wax stain line and comes in a fast dry version. You can make any colour darker and richer by using a technique called water popping. The floor surface is wiped down with a wet cloth (don’t miss any spots) and when dry the stain is applied. Water popping opens the surface grain allowing better stain penetration.

There are a lot of stain manufacturers. Circa, Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, Bona fast dry, etc.

Also see our recommendation to hire a pro.

Want a distressed, aged pine look

Q: We have just had 10 inch T&G pine installed in our new home. In the past we had stained pine floors in our cottage and stained with Minwax Golden Oak. The floors were not sanded and the result was great, an aged pine look. Our new floors were sanded after the floor was put down. We put the same stain down (golden oak) and it does not look good. The grain, etc., really shows through and is very dark brown, not really golden (it was brushed on). I verathaned it this morning and it made it look a little better. We just want an aged pine look. We have not yet done the downstairs. Do you have any suggestions?

A: I’m surprised you got anything to penetrate and stick to that first pine floor you mentioned. There is a condition called “mill glaze” or planer glaze wherein the new wood appears to have a slightly shiny appearance. This has to be removed to clean wood before staining or finishing. Pine is a difficult wood to stain. I had amazing success on nearly 4000 feet of pine I stained. I mixed the colour directly into Waterlox penetrating tung oil finish and mopped it on. No removing the excess is needed. Let it dry and apply another 3 coats. This might be the type of finish and look you are after. You could also beat the floor up some to make it appear old and distressed.

Related Q: Hello. My authentic oak wood floors are requiring spot/ area staining where floor traffic was constant and where vinyl sheet floor was previously installed. After I had lightly hand-sanded a section down to almost the bare wood, in preparation to spot stain, I concluded the entire floor might look good with this easy remedy to create a distressed look. I figured I could always stain over these sections if I didn’t like the effect. Good or bad idea?

A: It is really subjective. If you like the look then it’s a great idea. The first time I saw a couple looking at a sample of hand scraped flooring I told them I spent my entire career trying to make sure my jobs didn’t end up looking like that. So, you can experiment as you like. You can always have the entire floor sanded again at some point provided it is thick enough to handle it.

Staining black walnut grey

Q: I have natural Lauzon black walnut floors that need refinishing. I would really like to achieve a greyed contemporary look (that is so current right now). Is staining black walnut grey possible? What colour would I use (due to the variations of gold, chocolate, blond, red in the wood)?

A: I don’t honestly know how you will achieve such a look with black walnut. Semi transparent stains still allow wood colours to show when using what I would call pastel colours. That is why sometimes when staining oak white we had to bleach the floor first. Colours like that were big in the ’80’s. They aren’t generally very durable.

Webmaster’s Note: I’d make a sample or try it in a hidden spot like a closet. A warmer grey might look cool despite the variations?

Staining Wood Floor a Bold Color

Q: I would like to stain my hardwood oak floors to a very non-traditional, bold color. For example: indigo, blue, or blood red. Minwax makes some water based stains in those colors, are those advisable for the floor? They can be seen here:

They will be coated with oil based polyurethane. Also, Benjamin Moore makes custom colored oil stains, would those be a better choice? Any other advice on working with such colors? Thank you!!

A: I definitely would not use the Min Wax stain. I believe they say on their web site those particular stains are not meant for wood floors. You are much safer with the Benjamin Moore colours and they dry fast. They can be a little tricky to work with too, especially the reds, probably because of the high pigment levels. Apply it in narrow rows with a cloth and then go back and give it a quick wipe with a clean rag to remove any excess.

Dark wood floors show dirt more readily

Q: We have a dark bamboo floor. It shows too much dirt! It’s impossible to keep clean. Would an extra lacquer top coat help this?

A: Dark wood floors do tend to reveal house dust, etc., more than lighter colored floors. Applying another coat of finish won’t change that. If you do apply another coat don’t let it be lacquer. I would suggest an approved cleaner meant for use on top coated floors such as the following:

Webmaster’s note: I’m posting this in “Choosing a stain color” since it may be imperative to that choice. For those not forced to go dark to camouflage pet or water stains, the fact lighter stain colors can make it easier to maintain a “clean look” may be a deciding factor. This dark vs. light rule goes for any surface or flooring. Personally, I tend to throw caution to the wind and let taste be the main factor, and I just live with this slight (in my opinion, not a deal breaker) consequence; our hearth floor is tiled black (against the tiler’s recommendations, for this exact “it’ll show dirt more!” reason) and our wood floor is stained a dark reddish mahogany.

Choosing hardwood floor stain color: Is there a rule about whether the floors should be a darker or lighter color than the other wood in the room?

Q: My family room contains lots of oak (woodwork, windows, bookshelves, TV cabinet built in). It’s a beautiful medium color oak. I would like to replace the carpet with hardwood floors. I feel oak flooring might be too much for the room. Is there a rule about whether the floors should be a darker or lighter color than the other wood in the room? Any suggestions you can give me are appreciated.

A: I worked in a home recently which likewise had a large office/TV room with high quality oak paneling, built in library and entertainment cabinet, and large oak crown molding with oak plank. It was all stained golden brown and looked stunning. If you wanted to do something a bit fancier with the floors, you could install oak but also install an inlay or medallion. Allan Macdonald, the owner of would be more than capable of helping you with that.

Note from Rachel: if any interior designers out there want to chime in about choosing hardwood floor stain color, just submit your response via are question forum incl. your URL so we can send you traffic.

Staining bleached (white) oak floors

Q: I have bleached oak floors / white stained hardwood floors. Will I be able to have them sanded and stained a cherry color?

A: You can change the stain colour but you need to be aware that it is usually impossible to remove every single trace of stain from some parts of heavy grain. So while the vast majority of this stain will be gone to make way for the cherry stain, you may see the occasional but slight trace of white.

Light amber-brown color stains (staining pine)?

Q: I’m getting ready to install some white pine flooring. I’m going to use Waterlox to finish it. I was wondering what stain combinations you have used. I’d like to get a light amber brown color. I’m thinking of using Early American or English Chestnut. Any thoughts?

A: I’ve only used the Waterlox/Min Wax stain mixture on one huge pine floor. It was a terrific way to stain pine. You may have to apply more than one coat of the mixture to get the colour you are after, but it is the best way I’ve found to stain a pine floor. You simply need to do some small sample tests to figure out what will work best.

Too much variation in wood and color?

Q: We are about to replace our carpeted area with hardwood. I fell in love with the 3/4 solid Santos Mahogany, but I am concerned that the color may clash with our existing nature wood trim throughout the house. The trim is between a wheat and pecan color. Would this be too much variation in wood and color?

A: I really think you would be better serve asking a decorator. I know how to do all the work, from installation to sanding, staining and finishing, but I’m the last person you want advice from regarding colours. I agree that Carbrueva is a beautiful looking wood. Some pieces look like someone has woven tapestry into the grain. And it doesn’t change colour as radically as Jatoba.

Note from Rachel: if any designers want to chime in, for some free publicity at that, just contact me via our questions form with your answer and URL!

What colour would go best with oak wood cabinets and shelves that have been stained with “Special Walnut”?

Q: I was wondering if you could suggest what laminate wood/colour would go best with oak wood cabinets and shelves that have been stained with “Special Walnut” (by Minwax). Does it need to be a walnut coloured floor or is there a contrast colour to create a lighter look? (Btw, my wall paint is light, parisian taupe by Behr paint.)

A: I don’t think the colour has to be exactly like the cabinets but it has to compliment either them or the paint colour. I couldn’t even suggest a laminate colour because every manufacturer has a different line-up. Special Walnut stain I know.

Note from Rachel: In the future I’ll work up an article on choosing colours, matching floors with cabinets, figuring out undertones, etc.

Restain or replace for desired colour?

Q: I would like to stain my pre-stained oak floors a darker medium brown. They are a golden natural colour now. I would hire a professional to do this, my floors are in great shape. Can you recommend a professional to change stain color on hardwood floors, or would it be just as economic to replace them with dark floors already done at the factory?

A: It wouldn’t be economical to replace your factory finished floors just because you don’t like the colour. Have them sanded. It will cost more than a site finished floor because the bevels have to be dealt with as well as an aluminum oxide coating which is tough to remove. What area do you live in?

What are the risks in going with a darker stain?

Q: I want to stain my hardwood floors with a darker stain than the natural color I have now. What are the risks in going darker? Will it show everything little speck of dust? The floors have never been stained, only waxed.

A: Dark colours do show dust film more readily than lighter colours. Of course, even with light stains, you might not see the dust as easily, but it is still there. It’s just part of living on Earth. Vacuum regularly and if you have forced air heating, keep your furnace filter in good shape.

What is the best way to match the floor?

Q: We just installed Goodfellow Gunstock wood floors. We are now ready to change the stairs and rails. What is the best way to match the floor? What stain and varnish are the best for this very busy area, and what method should I use to apply the products?

A: I would take a couple of pieces of the flooring to a local paint store and have them mix a colour match. You may have to use a technique called water popping to achieve the depth of colour. You wet (not soak) the totally sanded and prepared wood, let it thoroughly dry and then wipe on the stain. Let it soak for 5 minutes and remove the excess with a cloth.

Also see our recommendation to hire a pro.

Going dark or staying with a natural color

Q: I’m torn between going dark or staying with a natural color on my parquet floors, 700 sq. ft. 1 bedroom apt. The apartment faces North and West so it gets good afternoon light, but I’m worried dark floors will make the rooms too dark? Dark floors would suit the wall colors. Any advice?

A: I have had one decorator say that dark colours never go out of style. If you like a dark colour, go with it.

Custom dark stain

Q: We are building a house and we’re trying to find a dark stain that will compliment our modern interior. We most likely will have a 4″ or 5″ Oak plank or a Walnut. I looked at the Ebony stain, but it seems to have a green tint. We also mixed Jacobean with the Ebony and it still shows a bit green. Can you recommend a deep, rich, dark brown stain color for us?

A: You will likely need to get a mix from a paint store. I have one near me that mixed up a dark chocolate brown. It was quite nice. I don’t know that you will get one “off the shelf”.

Light or dark wood flooring

Q: I must decide on light or dark wood flooring. I love the look of the darker wood, but I have been told that scratches look blaring on darker wood. Is this true, and how do you maintain them?

A: Scratches don’t look great on any colour. Darker colours reveal house dust more.

Use appropriate products to keep the finish clean. If it is a top coat, use cleaners provided by such companies as Poloplaz, Dura Seal, Min Wax, Basic Coating, Mirage etc. Vacuum regularly and use felt pads on the bottom of furniture legs.

I’d like a dark stain. Is there one you can recommend?

Q: I’m about to stain a redwood floor I have just prepped. I’d like a dark stain. Is there one you can recommend?

A: Colour itself is a matter of personal taste. As to stain brands, I’m not all that fond of some of the MinWax stain colours. They can be somewhat slow to dry. Circa 1850 stains are nice to apply but smell really bad and they have a limited colour line. Dura Seal has a decent fast dry stain in all the MinWax colours, but I have had some difficulty with antique brown in particular, not flowing very well off the cloth I was applying it with. Poloplaz also has the same colour line up in a fast dry stain. Very nice to work with and good spread rate. But you only have 10 minutes work time, so you have to move with it. Benjamin Moore stains also spread and cover well and smell awful.

Here is something to consider. There is a tung oil based product called Waterlox. You can mix stain with it at a maximum ratio of 4:1 and apply with a lambs wool. Just apply it and leave it. No wiping off. I did almost 4000 sq. ft. of pine with this method, using a MinWax stain, and it could not have been more even or easier to do. I suggest this, because softwoods can be quite difficult to stain evenly.

2 Colours don’t match well

Q: We have a brand new maple hardwood, factory stained a dark brown/reddish colour. Our stairs are also maple and stained by the home builder, chestnut brown. The 2 colours don’t match well and we want to find out how to find a better match and restain the stairs.

A: If you can’t find a stain match pre mixed, I would suggest your local paint store, who can mix the colour if you take a piece of your flooring to him, along with some boards to sample the colour on.