Winning the Stain Game: Your Options for Staining Your Hardwood Floor

What was it about your home that first made you fall in love with it? Was it the lighting fixtures? The size of the bedrooms? The crown molding? Not likely. These are mere components of what made you sign the deed; pieces of the puzzle that your realtor drew your attention to in an attempt to sweeten the pot.

No, you fell in love with the vision of what your home could become.

Your house - your home - is a physical reflection of who you are. It is the ultimate expression of your personality, which makes the process of decorating and making the changes you desire so exciting. Some people go crazy with accent pillows, some with paint, and others with the latest technological advances for their TV. For today, however, we're going to focus on one of our favorite ways to personalize the house you love: your hardwood floors!

Wood staining is no great secret that flooring companies have been hiding away for centuries, but with everything that is involved with choosing and applying a good stain, staining doesn't always make it to the top of a homeowner's to-do list. But staining your floor is a great way to set the tone for any given room and creates a unique focal point for guests to look at. Plus, your floor is going to be a part of your decor right along with every wall hanging and special-ordered lamp, so you might as well make it work for you.

So, what are your options? Well, that's first going to depend on what kind of wood your floor is made of. The fact of the matter is, there are some floors where a stain is just not a good idea at all. Floors made of maple, coniferous woods (pine, fir, etc.), and birch simply won't stain evenly due to a variation in the number of pores throughout the wood. There's also the issue of resin (sap) appearing in some of these woods and the time of year that they're cut which can cause a difference in the way that they respond to the stain. Lastly, some engineered hardwood floors have too thin a layer of wood to be refinished, so stain is out of the question for them as well.

If your floor is not made of one of these species, you're good to go! Now it really comes down to the color you want your floor to be. Do you want a daring, dark stain to create contrast in your room, or do you want to brighten things up and make your space feel bigger with something a bit lighter? Are you going for a natural look, or is unconventional more your style? Would you even consider using more than one stain color to create a pattern in your floor? The good news is that you have choices. There are dark stains, light stains, grey stains, white stains! Red stains, black stains...okay, we're going to quit our nod to Dr. Seuss before we get too carried away.

If done correctly, you can even stain your floor with a shade that is darker OR lighter than the wood's natural color.

Yes, you did read that correctly.

Wait a minute! Don't head to Home Depot just yet. Before you begin the staining process you will want to test your new look on a small area of your floor. Stains will look different depending on the type of wood they are applied to, the age of the wood, and the grain. Seeing a sample on a wood chip or separate plank made of the same species as your floor won't even give you a perfect idea of what the stain will look like in your home. You have to try it on for size, and you have to do so on your own hardwood floor.

*Please note: If you don't end up liking any of the stains you come across at the store, you can have a custom color mixed to your liking.

You'll also have to consider the process in which you will go about staining your floor depending on the color you want and the overall look of the wood. If, for instance, you want to turn a darker wood lighter, you may have to bleach your wood. Grey and whitewash stains can be tricky too if you want to avoid yellowing on your floor. For those of you who love the distressed wood look, the process of wire-brushing your floor will create a beautiful effect, but takes more time. It all comes down to how much time and/or money you want to invest into the overall look of your home.

Now, if a "natural wood" color is too droll for your taste, you can turn to color-washing for a more bold statement. This is a technique that uses diluted paint of any color to stain one's floor. Possibly an unwise choice if you are looking to sell your home in the near future (not everyone will appreciate chartreuse-colored flooring the way you do), but perfect for the long-term, individualistic resident.

We love that there are so many options out there for you and your hardwood floors. Do remember, however, that not staining your floors at all is an option too. As beautiful as stains can be, they show scratches and mistakes very easily, and bleedback (when excess stainer works its way up to the surface of your floor and creates dark droplets in the cracks) can present itself as a problem. Plus, if you stain your floor it will take a week or two before you can use your room again. Sometimes leaving one's floor au naturale is the best option at the end of the day, and an attractive one at that.

Whatever you decide for your floor, know that it is the perfect choice because it is your choice. As long as you're comfortable in your home and still loving the way you feel when you walk through the door, you have made the right decision. So go on and own that cherrywood finish you've always adored! Give yourself permission to turn your floor purple! We're behind you 100%.

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