Thinking of Staining Your Hardwood Floors a Dark Color?

Lately we’ve been getting a lot of requests about dark stained hardwood floors. Seems like deep, rich, dark colored floors are as popular as ever. We’ve been doing 3 to 5 of them a month lately. Good thing we love doing them!

So this month we thought we’d put together a blog post to answer the most common questions we are asked about choosing, applying and living with dark stained floors. Let’s go through them one by one…

Can my Floors be Stained Dark? Does it Make a Difference What Kind of Wood I Have?

If you have red or white oak (which makes up the majority of Naperville homes) then there is no problem at all. Oak takes a stain very well and we can stain from a light color all the way up to dark ebony.

But if you have an exotic wood floor like Ipe or Jatoba, then we will strongly suggest that they should not be stained for two reasons… 1) they already look nice and dark naturally – these are the woods people try to emulate when they stain oak – so why mess with mother nature, and 2) they have natural oils in them that can make them extremely hard to get a consistent, even look.

How Dark can I Go?

Pretty much as dark as you want really.

It’s possible to make your hardwood floors solid black if you really want them to be that dark, but a lighter black or Jacobean or Coffee brown might look better in your setting. We’ll make up some large sample boards for you to view in your home setting to compare with each other so you can see for yourself how dark you can handle.

In order to get a more even color, plus a few shades darker, we go through a process called water popping. You can read a previous blog post about this process here: http://napervillehardwood.com/blog/what-is-water-popping/

What Dark Stain Colors and Mixes Are the Most Popular Right Now?

Lately we have been doing a lot of Ebony with Jacobean and Ebony with Sedona Red. Both of those mixes look really nice. There are also a lot of clients sticking with 100% Ebony. We have samples of each that we can show you in person.

How Easy Are They To Maintain?

A lot of this comes down to the finish system you put on top of the stain not so much the color of the stain itself. The stain color will be covered by at least 3 coats of finish. Many of our clients love OSMO Polyx Oil (you can read about this finish here) which is very easy to maintain as is our extremely durable high quality water based finish system.

Will Dark Stained Floors Scratch Easy?

This also depends greatly on the quality of the finish system used.

If a cheap finish is applied then it will scratch as easy as a light colored floor with a cheap finish. The only difference is the scratch in the dark colored floor will show through more noticeably as the color of the natural wood underneath is lighter. It’s because of cheap, poor quality finishes that dark stained floors have this reputation of showing scratches easily.

If you use a high-end professional grade finish system like we do at Tadas Wood Flooring, then you won’t have this issue to worry about.

Will They Show Dirt More Than Lighter Colored Floors?

Yes, unfortunately this is true. Dark floors are a lot more maintenance than medium or light colored wood floors.

It’s just like how dark colored cars look dirtier quicker than beige cars… not that they are dirtier, but they look dirtier faster because you can see every light colored speck on them easier with the dark background. Hardwood floors are the same.

Every single speck of dust, every single strand of dog hair and every tiny piece of lint will be much more noticeable on a dark surface.

So… if you have a full house of kids running through, scuffing things up, tracking in dirt and dust and you don’t want the stress of continually cleaning up, you may want to consider a lighter color. If you have a white haired dog or cat that sheds a lot of hair and you don’t like to sweep up after them other than on weekends, then dark floors may not be for you.

You need to be prepared to sweep your floors at least every other day to have them show off their beauty. But at the same time, if you’ve invested so much into such a beautiful hardwood floor, you should be looking after it and caring for it properly… so you wouldn’t let it get too dirty anyways right :)

Will It Make My Room Look Too Dark?

Again our answer for this is – it depends. Especially on the look and style you’re going for in your place.

Most people that ask us this are looking for a more open, light feel. It’s pretty obvious that lighter floors will brighten up small dark rooms and make them look bigger because they reflect light. On the other hand, dark floors will absorb light and have the opposite effect in a small room.

If you have bigger, more open rooms then it’s not as big an issue unless you have dark maroon or chocolate brown walls. But then again, walls can be easily painted to something lighter if need be.

Dark stained floors will help anchor a room and give you the freedom to put light, bright colors on the walls – or even just white – that will add brightness to the room. We love this look and so do most designers we work with. It’s a very glamorous, classic look that will go with a lot of different furniture styles.

In Conclusion…

Choices, choices, choices!

We know this is one of the hardest decisions you’ll need to make when it comes to having your hardwood floors sanded and refinished.

It’s even harder when you’re surfing the web trying to compare colors that don’t seem to match from one photo to the next. Our advice… don’t bother. The color will depend on the camera, the lighting, time of day, if the picture was photo shopped or not and a bunch of other factors.

The best thing to do is have your professional hardwood floor refinisher come over with real samples that are a sufficient size (like you see below) to allow you to make a good decision. Put them in every room and live with them for a few days seeing how they look in different light and at different times of the day.

It’s a big decision so you may as well take your time and get it right, it’s not easily reversible.

In the end, staining hardwood floors is going to come down to personal choice just like a car color. Some people know that black cars are harder to keep clean but they love the look of them so much that they buy one anyways.

That’s a personal decision you’ll need to make.

When you do, if you live in Naperville or the surrounding area, we’ll be here to help transform those beautiful hardwood floors into the perfect shade of stain you’ve been dreaming about.



  1. jeff says:


    I really hope that you can answer this soon, but in the 2nd to last pic with Ebony and Sedona Red, what are the mix ratios you have there?

    And how will an Ebony and Royal Mahogany mix look? thanks!

    • Hi Jeff,

      It’s a mix of half and half.

      Ebony and Royal Mahogany looks great too. It’s a darker and richer color than Sedona Red and Ebony, a very nice blend.

      Good luck – Tadas

  2. Jeff says:

    Thank you for the quick response! What ratio of royal mahogany and ebony would achieve a very dark wood look with a slight tinge of red in it?

    I have a can of Dura seal ebony, royal mahogany, and Sedona red. Gonna start experimenting with mixes soon

    • I’d start with 3/4 Ebony to 1/4 Mahogany and take it from there. Just mix small amounts so you have plenty to experiment with. Hope you find a blend you love!


    • Jeff says:

      Hi Tadas-

      This is an update from my original post on 11-6-2013.

      I wanted to thank you on your informative website blog as well as your recommendation of 3/4 Ebony to 1/4 Royal Mahogany. I did just that to my white oak floors. 2 coats of it followed by a semi-gloss finish. The results are perfect. I love cleaning and admiring the hardwood floors of my very first home purchase. If I can figure out a way to post a pic here, I would.

      For what it’s worth, THANK YOU!


    • Hi Jeff,

      That’s great to hear! Thank you for coming back to let me know :)


  3. tia sillers says:

    Hi there, I live in Estes Park, Colorado and I’m trying to convince the floor guy that I want a darker finish on my 80 year old red oak floors. I need the floors to be “cooler” in color so, not as yellow or red as a natural oak. If I can’t go as dark as Ebony, I I’m wondering what the color of the floor is in the last picture on this web-site. It is the one with the six floor samples. That seems like a happy medium!!

    • Hi Tia,

      You shouldn’t have to “convince your floor guy”, he should be doing the color you want, they’re your floors after all :)

      Dark floors can be a challenge though which is why some guys shy away from them.

      That floor you asked about is my living room floor – it’s 25% Ebony/ 75% Natural on water popped red oak with an oil based polyurethane applied.

      Hope you end up with a color you love.


  4. katrina says:


    we live in the uk!
    great blog thankyou!

    i wanted to ask, we wanted to do darker floors in our place, and we wanted to use the osmo polyx oil, but no one around us sells the osmo polyx tints…..so…..do you think it would be ok to use the clear polyx oil, over a different brand wood stain?

    if so, what should we look for in a stain to make sure it is compatible with the polyx oil???


    • Hi Katrina from the UK,

      Pretty much all of the floors we finish with OSMO we stain first with a different brand of stain. You can see pictures of a few of those jobs on our photos page here if you scroll down a bit:


      Just make sure the stain is dry before applying the OSMO oil. We have used Duraseal and Minwax stains so you should have no trouble with either of those. If you’re concerned about compatibility always do a test sample to make sure.

      Good luck Katrina


  5. Ivy says:

    I’m trying to find a stain for my family room colums and mantle that will match my dark cherry cabinets. Would you use the same color on the wood floors as the columns? We have been looking at the Minwax colors. The color appears so much lighter on wood samples. Need some advice.


  6. Ben says:

    I love the ebony/Jacobean mix. What is the ratio?

  7. Tom says:

    Do you recommend Sherwin Williams or Minwax for an Ebony stain?


  8. Gabija says:

    Hi Tadas,
    We love reading your articles, extremely helpful and interesting! Great work you are doing here in Chicago!

    We decided to go with Ebony color (DuraSeal) on red oak floors. Still can’t decide on the finish. We are thinking to go with oil based polyurethane. In your last picture on this website, what is the finish type: Matte or Satin?

    Thank you for your help in advance :)

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