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. www.waterlox.com

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.

Stairs darker than floors

Q: I have natural cherry wood floors. Today I got them sanded and polyurethaned, and now the stairs that we’re previously done looks darker. They have never been stained and contractor says they used oil based poly w/ high gloss. Why doesn’t it match, and can it be fixed?

A: Give the floor time to age. It will get darker.

We have been told that a dark stain will show scratches

Q: We are considering having our natural (no stain) red oak flooring (3/4″ thick) refinished with a dark stain and 3 coats of premium oil urethane. We have been told that a dark stain will show scratches (from the dog), and marks far more than the current natural floor does, and that we will always be touching up the scratches (if that’s even possible to do.) What is your experience with dark stained floors and wearing capabilities?

A: I think you will be fine with dark stain. If the floor is well finished, what will tend to happen is you will get nail impressions in the wood itself, without actually damaging the stain. If the dog is ever able to scratch through into bare wood, you can likely get a marker that is a fairly close match in colour. Eventually, like every floor, regardless of colour, you will need a buff and recoat. Keep your dogs nails trimmed and filed smooth.

Staining to hide dark pet urine stains

Q: I am refinishing my 45 year old oak floors. When I removed the carpet there were 3 dark stains. I figure it is pet urine. Sanding is finished, but the stains are still visible. If I apply a darker (perhaps cherry oak) stain, will it hide the urine stains or will they just get darker? Could I apply less stain to the spots to try to even it all out?

A: I would think they will likely go darker and you may have to use a stain that is heading more towards black to hide them.

Similar Q: We recently bought a house which has manufactured light color, oak maybe, wood floors. They appear to have a layer of real hardwood on top and then about 3 layers of other type material. We have an old dog with control issues and his urine has stained the floor a darker color in spots. No bucking or other damage from the moister, but stained.

Can we stain the floor with a much darker stain like dark walnut or kona to cover/blend in with the stains and then put polyurethane on it? If so, do we need to hand sand the floor first?

A: Sorry for the delay. All existing finish and or stain has to be removed to clean wood and then stained. Going with a dark stain may or may not completely hide the pet stain. It should help to hide it. There are also tinted finishes but they really aren’t meant for floors. Perhaps if you have some extra boards you could just replace the ones damaged. This is an engineered floor.

Related Q: I have dark staining on my natural oak hardwood flooring from my dog repeatedly urinating on it. I have read the floor would have to be replaced rather than bleached or refinished. However, could I stain them darker?

A: Yes, staining dark will help to hid the marks.

Staining white oak floors dark

Q: …what color of stain should you use for staining white oak floors dark? Such as an ebony color.

A: I don’t think I understand the nature of your question. Staining white oak is no different than staining any other hardwood floor. Pick a colour you like, have the floors properly prepared for stain and then apply stain. If you want the colour to be as dark as possible, water pop the wood first. This means wetting the floor to open the grain and allowing it to dry before staining.

Follow-up Q: My floor have been stained already and I do not like the color. Poly also has been applied. What do I need to do to correct this mistake? My floor color is a light walnut. I wanted a dark, ebony colour.

A: These floors will need to be sanded down to bare wood again and start from scratch.

Dark grey floor stain

Q: We are looking at purchasing an engineered hardwood floor for our kitchen – maple / graphite dark grey floor stain. I was told by a someone that dark grey stains don’t wear as well as they don’t penetrate as deep as other “lighter” stains. Is this true?

A: I don’t think that would be an issue with a good quality engineered floor such as Mirage. The colour you are considering is fairly dark also. The greater problems occur with white which does show marks significantly.

Molding and doors

Q: My husband and I are building a new house. We are putting hard wood floors in every room except the kitchen and bathrooms. We are putting in cherry color floors. Should I do the oak doors and all the molding in the same color?

A: I would tend to think, if you are using the same species for the trim, then you should go the same colour. However, keep in mind that if at some future time you decide you want to change the colour of the floors, the trim will be much more difficult to deal with.

Dark grain

Q: I just had my pre-finished red oak floor refinished with what should be the same color (gunstock) and 3 coats of oil-based poly. The wood grain is so much more noticeable than it was in pre-finished form, and I don’t like it as much. Will this difference fade some over time and will the ambering of the poly affect it? My installer says in 2-3 months the grain will not look as dark. Thank you for your response.

A: You simply cannot duplicate on site what is done in a factory setting with machines. If he did a good job sanding and staining, the colour is nice and even and the finish is smooth, you should accept that, in my view.

In the factory, each board is run down the line, sanded by machine, and water based stain and polyurethane (both of which dry very quickly) are sprayed on, buffed and cured under ultra violet light. With on site sanding and staining, the heavy grain of oak will absorb the stain much darker since it is the softer part of the board. Perhaps you should have gone “natural” rather than stain?

Matching darker, older floors with bright new floors

Q: After sanding down our 50-yr. old hardwood, we put 3 coats of poly on them and they turned out great. However, we decided we wanted to put the same hardwood in our kitchen. So we bought unfinished white oak, sanded it after installing, and then put 1 coat of poly on. It does not match the colour of the old hardwood which is much more orange. Some people have said to put a 3-6 inch “border” in between the 2 such as staining a strip a darker colour in order to separate the differences. Would you recommend trying to stain the new wood a completely different colour?

A: Wood gets darker with age so the 50 year old oak would be expected to be different. You might elect to stain the new floor, but don’t expect a perfect match. Perhaps better to stain the old and new floors together. Your flooring contractor can best advise you and perhaps make some stain samples.

Similar Q: After finishing [polyurethane] the floor we noticed that the new oak hardwood flooring is lighter than the old oak flooring. How can we make them match?

A: This is absolutely normal and to be expected. Give it 30-50 years to age. Sorry but it takes time. Otherwise, stain all the floors. Any difference then would be slight.

Stain too light and red

Q: I just had my hardwood floors redone professionally and the stain came out too light and too red (we did tests but for some reason the floor came out differently). Is there any way to darken the floors and/or get them to be a darker brown without totally redoing them?

A: Provided you have not applied a coat of finish, you could stain the floors again with a different stain. You will have to allow enough time for this second coat to dry before applying a coating. What might help is to use Dura Seal Quick Coat, which is a stain that dries for coating in a few hours. www.duraseal.com.

Or, you could have them screen off as much of the stain as possible, and use an orbital sander around the edges. Pop the grain with warm water and re stain with a brown colour, rather than red. If your floor is a #1 common grade, that might explain the deeper red colour.

Removing dark stain

Q: We have select hard maple flooring from Canada throughout our new construction home as well as two sets of stairs that are also hard maple. Our flooring and stairs should have been sealed naturally; however, a dark stain was applied. After professional sanding, stain remained in all joints of where the flooring was put together. Fortunately, the bottom floor was not stained; therefore, we had it sealed naturally as desired. We had to replace our upper flooring due to the unauthorized staining in which left dark lines in each joint and when sealed naturally those dark lines were highlighted, it looked awful. Both sets of stairs including railing, balusters, spindles, skirt/running boards and posts have also been stained. Our former contractor sanded some areas of the stairs in an attempt to correct his grave error for ~3 weeks before breaking his contract and leaving. One coat of stain was applied; however, it is a darker stain and it seems impossible to remove all the stain due to disproportional stain absorption. We would greatly appreciate any professional advice or suggestions on what our options are concerning both sets of our hard maple stairs. Also, if you know anyone that has dealt with such a problem in the past and/or would be qualified to complete our stairs, we would appreciate a referral. Someone mentioned wash coating…what exactly is this?

A: I am sorry. I don’t know what “wash coating” is. That aside, the North American Maple Flooring Manufacturers Association does not recommend staining hard maple because of the blotchy appearance that is created. It is not the best wood for staining.

Like all woods, especially if a dark stain is used, it really is impossible to remove all traces of stain. Even oak will harbour traces in the heavy grain that won’t be removed by sanding. At this point, I really think your options are: live with the traces of stain, or re stain the stairs so the dark areas don’t seem as noticeable. I know this can be a decorators challenge. But once a wood is stained, and the stain will penetrate deeper into the wood than any floor finish, you cannot remove all traces of it. You are going to have to deal with what you’ve got.

Ebony finish

Q: I am an architect and I’ve been having some questions on how to finish a floor with an ebony or black finish. We have a 3/4″ thick, 3 1/4″ wide solid oak floor and would like an ebony finish. What the best way was to achieve a good looking durable finish?

A: After the floor is fully and properly sanded and prepared, and vacuumed of dust, stain with ebony. Dura Seal now has a fast dry, oil based stain which dries to coat in about 2 hours. To achieve the depth of colour ebony deserves, you may have to wet the wood (not soak) with water (don’t miss any spots) to pop open the grain. When it is dry, apply the stain. I prefer to apply in 5 foot rows, and buff off the residue with a carpet pad under my polisher.

Apply a coat of gloss polyurethane with a lambs wool applicator and a bristle brush to cut in the edges. When this has thoroughly dried, abrade the finish with either a maroon pad with fine grit strips attached, or 220 grit screen. Vacuum all the dust, and wipe down with a micro weave pad. Apply another coat, the sheen being your choice. Do the procedure again and apply a 3rd coat.

Several years ago I did an old maple floor in a store front. It was in such terrible shape, I tried to talk the store owner out of it, but she insisted. Some time afterward, when her renovations were completed, I went back to have a look. The store looks magnificent, and the floors looked amazing too.

Choosing light or dark stained floors

Q: ….I wanted really dark floors. Dark walnut. He said I wouldn’t like it and didn’t want to go that dark. I’ve always had light, natural floors, and wanted a complete change this time….

A: I am certainly the last person you would want to pick the colour of your floors. However, I can tell you that while really dark colours require daily vacuuming because they do reveal house dust, a decorator involved in one of my jobs picked a dark colour for a lady along with dark paint. I gasped! He was annoyed. The decorator said not to worry. Dark colours never go out of style. He was right. I was wrong. It looked great. I like light colours, but the darker ones are much richer and elegant to look at. Lighter stains are easier to apply, and perhaps that was the real issue with your contractor. Bottom line. I may give advice, but it is you, the customer who must finally pick the colour and live with your choice. If there was no finish on this stain, you may be able to use 80 grit screens on a polisher and 80 grit abrasives on an orbital sander (for the perimeter of the room) and remove as much of the stain as possible. After that has been accomplished, wet the floor to help open the grain and stain it again, this time with a darker stain. Once the finish has been applied, you have to start over from scratch to change the colour.

Similar Q: My wife and I currently have carpet in the house and are looking to install wood floors. We are trying to decide whether to go w/a light or dark(er) colored wood (engineered). Any tips on choosing light or dark stained floors? The lighter color seems to make the room brighter, but our furniture is dark colored. Also, we know the light color will not show as much dirt. Any suggestions on which way to go in terms of light or dark?

A: I dug up an article that may help: http://www.ehow.com/how_7170222_match-wood-floors-furniture.html.

This was the Wood Flooring Guy’s answer:

I’m not a decorator but I would go light given that you have dark furniture.