Wood Stain Colors for Floors

Wood stain colors for white oak hardwood floors

It’s official, the stress has gotten to me! Whatever you think your stress level will be during a home renovation, multiply it by two three. I thought I had it all figured out. I knew I wanted a warm, medium stain for our new hardwood floors, but I completely underestimated how difficult that would be. Sure, I could spend all day pinning and dreaming of what the color will look like, but colors vary from brand to brand, different species of wood and even one board to the next. Ugh!

For the last year, I’ve been pinning hardwood floors I love, recognizing that some are pre-finished. I want a classic, timeless and traditional look. Unfortunately, so many colors have red and yellow undertones that it was more difficult than I had imagined. These are the wood stain colors we tested for our floors:

Choosing wood floor stain color on white oak | golden brown and special walnut

We didn’t test Provincial, one I have always loved. I really loved the special walnut {top left} because it was truest to color without undertones and doesn’t highlight the grain as much, but also liked golden brown {bottom left}. The golden brown definitely emphasizes the grain, giving it a slightly more rustic look. What to do? Blend them.

Choosing wood floor stain color on white oak | golden brown and special walnut

Well, we tried. I found that blended they can be a little unpredictable looking far more yellow on the left and picture perfect to the right. {From left to right – blended, golden brown, blended, special walnut}. You can see how when the color is blended exactly the same, it differs from board to board.

Choosing wood floor stain color on white oak | golden brown and special walnut

We’re leaning toward to the golden brown {left}because it’s slightly darker than the special walnut. Unfortunately, it’s rare to see these colors used in larger spaces, especially on the same species of wood. We have white oak, which tends to be grainier, but truer to color.

At the end of the day, I want to be extremely thoughtful about my decisions because they can be very costly and I want to love them 10 years from now. One thing I love about the “Father of the Bride” home is that the finishes are timeless. Heavy white molding, beautiful treads and risers, butcher block counters, I could go on, and on. I’d like to do the same in ours. I have to apologize for these iPhone photos, but I just felt compelled to share!

I might need a few prayers over the next couple weeks, but I can see that our house is coming to fruition and soon, it won’t look or feel the same. It will feel like our home and we can relax and relish in it! Care to weigh in? I always love your thoughts and comments!

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20 Comments

  • Rachel says:

    So happy to see this post, we are getting ready to embark on a huge flooring project and I’m so undecided!!! I also looked at special walnut, but our floors are red oak, so not sure how I will like it. What size boards to do you have? Good luck and can’t wait to see how it all turns out!

    • Julie says:

      I did 3″ boards for a classic approach. My neighbor just did dark walnut on her red oak and they weren’t too dark at all. They are gorgeous!

  • Deb Rabon says:

    Thanks for documenting your decision making process. I am trying to make the same big decision. Provincial or Golden Brown. I told them I decided on Golden Brown but I’m searching blogs tonight for validation. The Golden Brown just looks richer and I hope more classic. We are covered in dust, tired, and wrangling three dogs outside while they work.

    • Julie says:

      That was my hope, too, but it was a little more golden than I liked. If I had to do it over again, I’d do walnut. We ended up doing golden brown, but added in coffee into the clear coat to tone the orange tones down.

  • Christina says:

    We are also in the midst of choosing a stain color for our floors too and they are white oak as well. It is such a hard decision! have been wracking my brain over countless internet pictures, houzz pics, touring model homes, etc. We live in Texas so the hand-scraped hardwoods are a very popular look..whether we scrape With the Grain or Against the Grain is the first decision, then choosing how light or heavy to scrape and then deciding on the stain color–it is a lot to consider! I would like some depth of color that will par with different furniture pieces and am also partial to the Walnut color. I am looking to maybe blend the Special Walnut color with Medium Brown or another close shade. I’ll let you know what we decide!

    • Julie says:

      Keep me posted and share photos! I love special walnut, but it felt really light on white oak. If I had to do it all over again, I’d do walnut, but I’m happy with our floors.

  • There are so many wood stain colors, and I’m impressed you were able to narrow it down! I think I want some sort of gray toned stain, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten in my elimination. I will have to choose a few of my favorites to sample and see how it goes!

    • Julie says:

      It’s so hard, but I’m just happy that solid stain is now an option. You can’t go wrong with grey or greige! I’d go slightly darker than you want because in the sun it appears a lot lighter and brighter.

  • Tosha Merill says:

    Blending them was an interesting idea. I hadn’t thought to blend hardwood flooring stain before. It’s unfortunate that it didn’t workout for you though, at least you didn’t do your entire floor before figuring that out though. Hopefully you are still happy with your choice of golden brown, it looks really pretty with these samples!

  • Salina Bell says:

    These are some really excellent tips on picking out the proper flooring for your home. This will definitely come in handy when we move into a place of our own.

  • Stephanie Nichols says:

    The red oak floor in my grandmother’s old house appears never to have been sanded since the boards were originally laid and later covered with carpet. In the high traffic areas, the stain is completely worn away, but around the perimeter, the stain is a deep orange-red. Before I sand away past stains and paint drips, I decided to test out Old Masters Special Walnut and Dark Walnut. Unfortunately, the red in the oak gave both a strong orange undertone. I would prefer a rich medium brown with the natural wood grain showing through. Since you added coffee to tone down the orange in your floors, how do you think coffee might do as the primary stain color on red oak? Also, may I ask what brand of stain you used? I have not seen any stain colors named Light or Medium Brown, but I would love to look at them!

  • Kate Owens says:

    I think I like the golden brown stain the best. Like you said, it’s slightly darker than the special walnut, which I find appealing. However, in the end it’s your decision; I’m sure the hardwood floors will look great no matter which stain you choose! Thanks for sharing.

  • Gordon says:

    I also looked at special walnut, but our floors are red oak, so not sure how I will like it. What size boards to do you have?

  • Linda says:

    I recently purchased a 1968 house with golden oak kitchen cabinetry, which is in excellent condition, however the wood floors are also golden oak and in poor condition. I would like to replace the wood floors (I can’t afford to re-stain the cabinetry as well), but can’t figure out how to choose a stain color that will compliment the floors and add a nice contrast to the dated golden oak.

  • billy says:

    what colors were the top/bottom right side stains in the first photo??

    • Julie says:

      They’re blends {From left to right – blended, golden brown, blended, special walnut}. You can see how when the color is blended exactly the same, it differs from board to board.

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