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Get some ideas and advice for selecting red oak floor stains.


Oh.my.word.

I thought choosing an exterior paint color was hard.  

Scratch that.  

Choosing a stain color for our red oak hardwood floors was MUCH harder and more stressful than anything, in my opinion.

Hardwood Floor Stains Red Oak
Red Oak Flooring with Minwax “Special Walnut” stain. Via Houzz.

First of all, there are so many stain choices.  

Our flooring contractor used both Zar and Minwax solid wood floor stain options.  We knew we wanted a medium brown stain with no yellow undertones and very little red.  

Basically, we just wanted neutral brown hardwood floors that would warm up our living spaces for us. 

And we wanted to see those gorgeous grains in the wood. 

There were several stains we knew we wanted to try right off the bat after seeing them online.  

But guess what?

We went with a completely different floor stain!

One I didn’t even consider but ended up really liking on the sample. I also want to share with you a mistake we made in this process that we will NEVER do again.

So before I get into the oak stain colors and results, I thought it would be helpful to provide a few tips on choosing a hardwood floor stain.

Tips for choosing Red Oak Floor Stains

  • Test every stain! Well, I mean test every dark stain if you want dark floors and every light stain if you want light floors.  Even if you don’t think you would like it – test it in your home on your floors.  It’s funny how different stains can look once applied to your floor.  Everyone has different natural lighting and that makes a huge difference in the end result.
  • Know your floors.  White oak and red oak will look different when the same stains are applied to them.  That’s just the nature of wood. Definitely know what type of floor you are working with!
  • If you like a stain but something still feels off, you can mix it with other stains to get the right look.  That’s what we ended up doing (more on that below).
  • Ask your flooring contractor about the topcoat floor gloss. My husband and I are partial to a matte floor – I don’t really want any gloss or shine at all.  I hate those bare feet marks! So it’s important to be on the same page with your flooring contractor about this because it’s important.  
  • Don’t rush to make a decision.  I will explain this more in detail but it’s best to sleep on it!

Ok, let’s get to it!

Red Oak Stain Colors

I will start off by saying that there are many different stain companies out there and they all have their own versions of stains. 

Our flooring contractor was using ZAR and Minwax. 

Duraseal and Minwax are owned by the same company – Minwax.  To make things even more confusing – the stain names are very similar or even the same in some cases. 

Minwax is the stain choice that most DIY bloggers use. 

Duraseal is more widely used by flooring professionals.  Duraseal offers more stain options. 

And according to their website – the stain dries very fast on the floor.

I had never heard of Zar before our renovation.  But it does have good reviews via Amazon.

Let’s look at these color choices.

These are Duraseal Stain colors…

This is ZAR ….

And this is Minwax ….

Here’s a helpful tip. Ask your flooring professional/contractor to build you a “faux floor.”

The faux floor was awesome because we could move it around against different walls and see how the colors changed under different light circumstances. 

Here is our faux floor sitting on top of our real red oak floors.  I added the oak stain names for your reference.

Same faux floor moved against a different wall …

Hardwood Floor Stains on Red Oak

And here are some additional stains that they put down on our real floor for us …

I was ALL ABOUT Special Walnut by Minwax (very top stain in the picture above). 

That is — before I actually saw the stains on the floor.  In-person, special walnut ended up being too cold and dark. It was missing that warm and rustic tone we wanted. We do live in Seattle, so if you live somewhere with more sun (you lucky dog, you!), you may have different results.

Again, this is why a faux floor is so helpful.

All the stains are beautiful in their own way.  It just depends on what look you are going for. 

What caught our attention was this rosewood color.  To my surprise! 

Because we really didn’t want any red or yellow undertones.  But rosewood does have a hint of red in it.   

Here it is up against the other stains on our floor (rosewood and rosewood/neutral are the two stains bottom right). 

It looked very warm and pretty but still had enough dark in it to make our white kitchen pop.  It also showed those beautiful grains in the wood. 

The only problem?

It was just a bit too dark.  We were getting closer to a winner though!

So we really focused on a color in between rosewood and rosewood mixed with neutral. To my first point – test every stain! You just never know when you will find “the one”.

When you mix rosewood with neutral – it lightens it.  The difference here is so slight.   It was hard to capture through an iPhone photo.

The Final Result + the Mistake we Made

So, what did we end up going with?

The winner is one part rosewood and one part neutral. 

Are we happy?

Yes.

Did we make a mistake?

Yes.

We made this decision in only one day in about an hour.  So remember where I said you should really sleep on it? 

That was our mistake. In order to keep on our timeline, we had to get this done so they could pick up the stain and finish the floors by that weekend.  If we had more time, I’m not sure this would have been the final stain choice for us.

That next morning when we walked into our kitchen after the floors were completed – we panicked.

The floors looked so much REDDER than we anticipated. There was nothing we could do at that point.

The floors and our brains have since ‘calmed down’. They don’t look as red to us anymore. And don’t get me wrong – we do like the floors. But rushing that decision was not a good idea.

So – my ultimate advice to you is to try as many stains on a fake floor as possible and sleep on your decisions!! Go back several times throughout the day to see how the stain looks.

It is such a big decision that its best not to rush it.  Unless you’re Taylor Swift and can afford to re-sand the floors down and start over.  🙂

Hardwood Floors - Red Oak Floor Stains
Red Oak Stain Colors
Red Oak Floor Stains - What we Chose and What We will NEVER do Again - Get some ideas and advice for selecting red oak floor stains.
Red Oak Floor Stains

Here is our floor today. The redness has toned down a lot, actually. It does look a little more brown in color now.

Overall, I’m happy with what we chose. The floors are beautiful. And people give us compliments all the time when they come to visit.

I hope this helped give you some insight into picking red oak hardwood floor stains. To see more of our hardwood floors, check out these posts:

Hardwood Floors - Red Oak Floor Stains

xo Karen