When refinishing your existing hardwood flooring, you have an opportunity to change the color. Natural hardwood floors come a plethora of hues from light tones such as Maple or Hickory, to darker, richer woods like Walnut or Brazilian Cherry. However, many people are bored with the natural tones of their existing floors. Maybe those tones are not the current trend. Possibly, the natural color of the wood is nothing close to what you would LIKE your hardwoods to look like. Many homeowners don’t even know they CAN change the color of their floors. A new stain color could change everything! While this might seem like a daunting decision, there are ways to make the decision easier. Here are a few tips for choosing the right color for your hardwood floors.
- Start by thinking about contrast. You do not want to ‘match’ your cabinets, moldings, doors, or furniture. You want to compliment these items. Many homeowners make the mistake of thinking everything should match. This is a huge mistake. Not only is it nearly impossible to get everything to match exactly right, it creates monotones that end up becoming boring and ugly. Too much of a bad thing is a very bad thing. Try looking at a grain pattern in the floor, and try to go a shade or two darker, or try looking at tones that are the opposite of the cabinets or trim moldings. Once you think of complimenting, your tones start to narrow down.Don’t think about looking at every color available in the rainbow. A stain color from one paint store or big box department is going to look different on every sample you see. It will then look different on your wood floors, in your home, next to your cabinets, moldings and furniture. Lighting, paint colors and time of day can all change the color you see on the floors, so really the only true way to view a sample is to put it on your floor, on your wood, in your home and look at it over a period of at least 24 hours.
- Avoid custom color mixtures. Custom colors can become tricky and a potentially a large problem. When custom colors are chosen, the formula is put together by the on-site technician. While there are often ‘formula’ calculations, it often works that the technician may not follow the recipe exactly, or a homeowner might want something slightly darker, lighter, redder, browner, etc. In addition, if a custom color is chosen and applied, should something happen to the floor in the future that would warranty a repair – the matching of such a color is impossible. Custom colors will never exactly match a specific furniture piece or a tone of paint, and therefore will likely disappoint. Try to find a color that is directly from the stain manufacturer.
- Think about maintenance of the color. Many customers pick a color based upon decor or the advice of an interior designer. That is certainly helpful, and a part of the decision, but often these decisions don’t take into consideration the daily life that will be occurring on this floor. Lighter tones will hide things like crumbs and dust, but you may see more denting a scratching if your species doesn’t have a strong grain pattern. Darker tones will show just about everything like scratches, dust, dirt, etc., and can drive someone obsessed with clean floors absolutely insane. A dark floor in a house with a white haired dog, may not be the best choice. Ultimately, the expectation of what to expect should be discussed and deliberated thoroughly before the choice is made. In theory a medium tone is the most ideal for many homeowners and can give a warmth and richness, without the issues that some of the other tones might present.
- Be selfish, pick the color you will love for the next 15-20 years. Remember that this is your home, your lifestyle, and your choice. Some customers fall into a trap of thinking they need to follow trends, listen to friends or family members, take the advice of a designer, or not know what they really want. This thinking is opposite of the truth. You purchased the home, you live in the house day in and day out, and you are the one who will need to clean the floors for the next 15 years while staring at this color. Choose something that YOU love, and that speaks to you. This often happens the minute it goes down on the floor. You WILL know, and you will be able to fall in the love with the color right away. Have confidence in yourself, and you will make the correct decision!
Kelly Ragalie is a NWFA Certified Sales Advisor and Sand and Finisher, a hardwood flooring inspector, and has spent the last 10 years owning and operating a retail hardwood flooring company, specializing in refinishing and staining hardwood floors.