Hard Decisions about Hardwood Floors

Some advice: If you’re scheduled to have your hardwood floors refinished, start thinking about what stain you want before the very day you have to choose. Since we are leaving the hardwoods to the pros this time, I didn’t think too much about what I wanted the end result to be. We have been super happy with the dark walnut stain we chose for our first house, but we both wondered if we should explore a different direction with the new house. I didn’t do my due diligence gathering inspiration photos, pinning, and researching on blogs. I suddenly felt the grip of panic.

So – the morning I was scheduled to meet the hardwood floor guys and choose a stain color, I took to the Internet! And thus ensued a frantic text exchange with Alex, tossing back and forth inspiration photos and galleries of stained hardwood. It was kind of fruitless, but at least we agreed that we didn’t want anything orange/red/yellow. A medium brown one that looked period-appropriate was the look we were going for. To me, nothing tops floors that have aged well over decades, but we just don’t have that kinda time!

The below image shows, left to right: plain poly, Special Walnut, Early American, Provincial, and English Chestnut. FYI, we have White Oak floors, these swatches all have poly over them, and the floors at this point are only sanded to 60 grit. So colors will be a little lighter once they are sanded finely. I thought I would have liked Special Walnut, but out of this group my favorite was Provincial. But I wasn’t satisfied! These colors conjure the ugly oak bedroom suites of the 90’s for me. I offered to run and get more samples.


At the nearby Benjamin Moore store (The Painted Horse), the staff was super sweet and took a lot of time to ponder colors with me. I bought my paint at this store as well, and the people there are just awesome. These are the Duraseal swatches they have on hand. Unfortunately I don’t think the wood it’s on is oak, but it’s a good start. I decided I wanted to take home Antique Brown and Dark Walnut. They were kind enough to pour quarts for me out of the gallon cans so I didn’t have to pay $80+ to get these home. There is a third Duraseal color that Alex and I were interested in (Medium Brown), but they didn’t carry it, so I let it go.

The name of the stain is below the swatch in this photo, FYI. The right side has poly on it.


Once back at the house, we tested it on the floor. The left is Dark Walnut, and the right is Antique Brown.

Drumroll… I chose Dark Walnut.

It’s just a hair lighter and less red than Antique Brown. Both colors are gorgeous. The floor guys said they do almost every house these days in Dark Walnut – that’s why they were out of the stain to begin with. So – my floors are going to be basic but at least they are pretty!


And that is that. Hope we like em!

If you’re reading this because you’re frantically googling hardwood stain colors, my advice to you is have an end goal, but don’t even try to make a decision until the color is on the floor. These photos are never going to be true to life!


UPDATE 5/9/16:

They look AMAZING! This is a quick snap after the first coat of poly had dried. They are exactly what we hoped they would be!

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