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How To (and how not to) Pick a Wood Floor Color

How To Get The Right Wood Floor ColorWhether remodeling an existing home or enjoying the fun of new home construction, picking the right floor color can be a daunting task. Selecting a wood floor for a home can be stressful or not. Wood isn’t cheap and ripping out the floor in five years because the color is all wrong usually isn’t an option. Here is how I help clients struggle through this perplexing question of what color should a wood floor be. Let the following guide you on how to and how not to pick a wood floor color.

Start with how long do you plan on living in the home. This can help you determine what type of wood floor, solid or engineered, to begin looking at.

Types of Wood Floors

how to choose between Solid and engineered wood floorSolid Wood

  • One piece of wood all the way through
  • Different thicknesses available
  • May or may not be pre-finished
  • Easy to refinish
  • Prone to expanding and contracting
  • Nailed or stapled installation
  • Can’t be installed in all locations (not below grade)

Engineered Wood

  • Solid hardwood wear layer over multiple multi-directional ply layers (different manufacturers have their own proprietary lay-up)
  • More dimensionally stable than solid hardwood flooring
  • Different thicknesses available
  • Pre-finished
  • Can be installed over radiant heat
  • Thicker wear layer may allow one refinish or slight color change but not all, check with manufacturer
  • Floating, stapled or glued down installation
  • May be installed over concrete and below grade
  • If covering concrete, moisture content may require floating installationTongue and groove vs locking engineered wood floor
  • Connecting mechanisms matter, when floating thicker is better and a locking connection should be more than just straight tongue and groove

Once you’ve determined which wood flooring now you are ready for color. If you are going to live in your home for many years or are determined to select the latest trendy wood floor color, select a product which will allow for re-finishing. But know a super dark color cannot always be changed to a super light color.

The shorter your time span in the home the more generic your color choice should be.

Wood floors don't match everything elseStudio McGee

When picking a wood floor color it’s vital to know what not to focus on. These are the items which give people fits and in the end really don’t matter so much.

Wood Floor Color Don’ts

  1. Be careful not to select wood colors or species which date to a period in time.
  2. Don’t try to match a new wood floor to existing furniture.
  3. Don’t pick a color or style older than the period of the home.
  4. Don’t attempt to match existing cabinetry with new wood floor, coordinate or contrast, no matching.
  5. Don’t solicit advice of those who do not not know the final interior plan. Who cares what color the floor salesman likes or your sister in Topeka? Not you.
woods used in dining roomContemporist
white kitchen with wood floorsThe Every Girl

Wood Floor Color Do’s

  1. Do consider the wood floor a great big neutral in a room.
  2. Do be aware of current trends in wood floor colors as a guide. What was cool in 1970, is likely not cool today.
  3. Study new homes in your area, these will be your competition when and if you sell your home, align with your market and architecture.
  4. Do consider the size of the room and amount of light the room gets.
  5. Do take samples to the space and test what the color looks like (lighter, darker, redder, yellower, etc.) at different times of the day. Bring samples a shade lighter and darker of what you think you like in the showroom, you may be very surprised.
  6. Know what the end result will be, dark floors can show every speck of dust, though if you have dark haired pets which shed the opposite could be true. 🙂

Quality Matters

Wood floors are an investment. Cheap or unbranded wood floors are not. A wood floor is not the place to skimp. Lesser quality can lead to problems later. Avoid nameless private label products which you can’t find any information on from your own online research. If a problem occurs five years down the line, you’ll want to know who to contact! Solid hardwood is not always a better product than engineered, some engineered products can be far superior.

Color Trends

Modern wood floor color optionsDark was hot, dark is over. Easy neutrals, light oaks, soft colored walnut, colors which are easy on the eye and almost fade into the background are the current trend in wood floors. We were steeped in brown and beige, grays have seen a resurgence however, you are better to stick with the less intense tones for lasting appeal.


Tongue and groove and locking engineered flooring illustration based on Mirage Floors.

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