Changing the Color of Your Hardwood Floors

Many consumers don’t realize they have the option to completely change the color of their solid hardwood floors. In fact, once sanded, wood can be refinished in a myriad of colors and finishes.

The first question to ask is whether your hardwood is solid or engineered. Solid hardwood can generally be sanded and refinished many, many times throughout its life; engineered wood, however, has only a thin layer of hardwood veneer on top, and may or may not be suited to sanding and refinishing.

After all the old finish has been sanded off and the floor is read for new finish, choose a stain. There are dozens of options and you can generally go either lighter or darker than your original finish without adverse effects! It’s best to test several stains on the floor itself; different species of woods will accept stains differently, and you’ll never know how your wood will accept a particular stain until you’ve tested it.

The final step is polyurethane to protect your newly stained floors. An oil-based polyurethane will take 24 hours to dry between coats; you’ll want to use 2-3 coats, and screen (or buff) the floors between coats. Polyurethane comes in many different finishes, from glossy to matte. Bear in mind that the glossier the finish, the more your floor will show flaws and scratches (the light reflects off of glossy floors and magnifies these blemishes). Matte and satin finishes are more durable and forgiving.

Some Things to Remember

  • While you can certainly strip a dark finish and add a lighter, finish, you won’t be able to go any lighter than the wood’s natural color. So white oak will always be a bit darker than red oak, and maple will be lighter than pine. Walnut will always be darker because it’s a dark wood.
  • You must always sand floors in order to change their color; adding stain or paint on top of finished floors is not an option.
  • If you’re working with customers who aren’t happy with their hardwood floors, be sure to offer a “color change” option as an alternative to ripping up a perfectly good floor and replacing it.