Should you go with an oak or walnut?
Should you select a warm or cool tone?
How about color, true color, white or black?
Just when you think you’ve made a major decision and are ready to install your new hardwood flooring, the choices get even tougher. Hardwood isn’t one size fits all. You won’t walk into the store and find one choice waiting for you.
Instead, you can peruse aisle after aisle of choices, with confusion mounting the more research you do. One resource will tell you to avoid dark hardwood. You’ll hate that it shows every crumb dropped to the floor. The next says stay away from light hardwood. You’ll see every mess more, and you’ll worry constantly about staining.
Which is true? What should you believe? Let’s dive in and help you decide the right color hardwood floor for your needs.
What determines color
You might think the color of the hardwood is easy to come by. The manufacturer selects a color and that’s what you’ll see. It’s not as easy as that.
The final color you see is determined by two factors:
1. The grain of the wood
2. The finish or stain applied to the wood
When you head out into nature, it’s easy to see that different trees have different characteristics. Pine trees grow tall, with needles remaining intact all year long. A maple has a distinctive shape with large leaves that turn brilliant colors in the fall.
No one would argue that all trees are alike – they each have distinctive looks as they grow.
It’s the same when they are harvested. Every wood produces different characteristics as plank wood you install in your home.
With so many different types of trees, it’s no wonder there are equally as impressive amounts of options when you visit your hardwood flooring dealer.
Red elm will naturally be darker than red oak. White pine will be lighter than white oak. Want darker? Go with a mahogany. Want close to black? A Brazillian ebony may just do the trick.
These different hardwoods naturally take on different shades and tones. They absorb finish and stain differently and will ultimately give you different results, depending on your final choice.
But there’s another variable too. Grain patterns allow each hardwood type to accept surface treatments differently. They absorb stain in unique ways, and provide final patterns based on its core design elements. You can work harder to change the color, but why not let that natural beauty shine through!
Let undertones shine through
Have you ever stood in front of a paint selection in a big box store mesmerized by the varying colors of paint? Want white paint – it’s not that easy. Do you want grey undertones? Or how about a shade of red? Maybe yellow to warm up the place, or blue undertones to create a sense of coolness.
Hardwood works in the same manner. You can change the look of the hardwood based on the type of stain and finish you apply. Designers will often warn you to stay away from drastic color tones. If you apply a wood finish that moves too far into the orange or red tones, for example, it can feel dated over time.
But that doesn’t take into account your preferences, your aesthetics, or your decor. Trends should always take a backseat to your design style. Ever walked into a home that breaks all the rules … and it works? That’s because the homeowner has a strong sense of personality and designs around things they love.
If you’re drawn to a specific tonal quality, go for it. Just be sure it works with your furnishings, and it fits your personality for years to come.
And then there’s upkeep
There are two factors that matter in upkeep:
- The hardness of the wood
- The color of the wood
Where are you installing hardwood? In the bedroom? Throughout your home? Will it be in entryways and hallways? In an area where you frequently throw parties?
Harder woods do better in high traffic situations where they will face a daily barrage of activity. Oak, for example, is a common addition to homes because it handles well in many different situations. That’s also why you’ll find hardwood like walnut in home office space and bedrooms, because it’s better suited for lower traffic situations.
We also receive a lot of questions about installing a dark hardwood. “Will it be difficult to keep clean?” Dark flooring will be less forgiving with the spills your family creates. And as your dog sheds, you’ll be more likely to see those little furballs accumulate in the corners.
But don’t think the Scandinavian-style light wood floors are easier. It, too, will showcase more of the messes your family creates. You’ll have a more regular schedule for sweeping up the messes and scrubbing those little mistakes off the floor. But if a few minutes of cleaning every day isn’t a bother for you, then these light-colored floors may be the perfect installation for your needs.
Think about your needs
Before you commit to anything, bring home samples and swatches and see how it lights up your room. Lay those samples down in the middle of your room and watch them for several days. How does it look in the morning light? How about in the evening? What does natural light do for the color? How does it look when you switch on your lamps?
You can also see how each sample plays out with your decor. Do you prefer an undertone of red, or do you prefer the cooler tones of blue? If you’ve already selected your wall paint, be sure you match the tone with your hardwood flooring selection. Your home will feel “off” if one has warm undertones, while the other has cool.
Need a little help? That’s what we’re here for. While you won’t find decorating help at your local big box store, when you visit our flooring experts here, we can help answer every question you have about installing your new hardwood floors.
What questions do you have about choosing the right color hardwood floors?