There are many factors that are involved in making a good decision about whether to use dark or light stain on your hardwood flooring. Your wall color, your furniture, your children and pets, the amount of natural light and a number of other things can all influence how a light or dark stained floor will look in your home.

How do I choose a stain color for my hardwood floors?

Overall, it comes down to educating yourself on the pros and cons of light and dark stained hardwood flooring. Once you have the facts, you can make an informed decision, taking into account your own personal preference. After all, it is your home and the one person who should be exceedingly pleased with your floor stain choice is you!

If you like staying up-to-date with trends, dark stained floors are popular right now, followed by very light, natural floor stain.1 Dark woods provide an overall rich and luxurious look. Choosing dark wood such as mahogany, walnut or African Jatoba creates an overall luxurious feel to your home.2

Reasons for a Dark Stain

Dark stained floors can provide the perfect backdrop for your light colored walls, furniture or cabinetry. If you have a lot of light coming into a room from outside via skylights or windows, dark stained floor are less prone to fading, which means that you won’t have to refinish your floor as often if you choose dark stain.

It’s no secret that a major drawback of dark stained floors is that they show dirt, especially light colored pet hair, more than light-stained floors. This major issue can be minimized by choosing a dark color that is slightly lighter, such as Jacobean, rather than ebony or dark walnut.3

The finish you put on the floor also can play a part in hiding dirt. Choose a satin finish, rather than a matte finish, to minimize the appearance of dirt, scratches, dents and imperfections, regardless of stain color.4 The reason that dark stained floors show scratches is that the scratch often permeates to the underlying light color of the wood, which then shows through and stands out on the dark stain. By choosing a dark hardwood with a high Janka rating you can minimize this issue.

Floor Hardness is a Factor

All hardwoods have a Janka hardness rating and hardwood flooring, like red oak, with a rating of 1290, will not scratch under normal wear and tear of foot traffic or by sliding a dining chair over it and woods like hickory, rated at 1820, or Brazilian walnut, at 3680, won’t scratch even if a heavy dining table is slid over them.5 Two simple tips to keeping your dark hardwood floors looking good is to touch up scratches with a stain marker for wood finishes, such as the ones made by Minwax and available in most hardware stores, and to add an extra coat of polyurethane so they last longer.

Reasons for a Light Stain

One of the biggest advantages of light stained hardwood floors is that they tend to look cleaner, showing less dirt, crumbs and pet hair than a dark colored hardwood floor would show. Scratches and dents are also less prominent on light stained hardwood floor, so if you have a dog, or your children tend to be hard on your flooring, consider going with a light-stained hardwood floor.

Light stained floors generally make a room appear more spacious than dark stained floors. If you have a smaller home or condominium, especially one that doesn’t have a lot of natural light coming into all the rooms, then a lighter floor would be best. Light colored floors work with most wall colors and furniture styles, so you don’t have to be an interior designer to get the “right” look.

Finally, one significant advantage of a light floor that many people don’t often consider is the visual clarity offered to those with vision impairment, especially seniors. Trip and fall hazards, such as area rugs, tend to stand out on light colored floors and to blend in on dark colored floors. Light colored floors teamed up with light colored walls and furniture can make a room look monochromatic, or put more simply, the room can appear boring. You also need to stay away from light-colored woods that are soft on the Janka hardness scale. Some of these include light-colored Douglas fir, birch and pine as they are prone to denting and scratching.6 Very light flooring pairs well with bright colors and darker details.7

You Can’t Go Wrong

If you are concerned about your furniture looking good, rest assured that whether you choose light or dark stain, wood is neutral, so it will go with whatever stain color you choose. Kitchen cabinets look best when they contrast with the floor. So, if you have lighter wood cabinets, go with a darker floor. If you have darker wood cabinets, go with a lighter floor. If you have white cabinets, either dark or light will work.

Before making a final decision on light or dark stain, it is best to get the advice of a hardwood flooring professional and to put samples of your choice in several rooms of your home, at various times of the day, so you can better evaluate how your flooring color choice will work in your personal space.

If you need help picking the perfect hardwood flooring for your home or business, Cameron the Sandman is the perfect place to start. Experts in the flooring industry, we have been providing hardwood flooring services to Michigan residents for over 80 years! Our services include sales and installation, refinishing hardwood, restoring wood floors and more! We manage each project from start to finish. If you are ready to fulfill your hardwood floor dreams call us to learn more!