Red Oak Floor Stains

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Get some ideas and advice for selecting red oak floor stains. See the before and after of our red oak hardwood floor staining project.

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

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.

First of all, there are so many stain choices!  

Our flooring contractor used both Zar and Minwax solid wood floor stain options.  We did know we wanted a medium brown with no yellow undertones and very little red to no red in them.  Basically, we wanted neutral brown hardwood floors that would warm up the space 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.  And I will definitely get to that in a bit.  

But here’s the funny thing.

We went with a completely different floor stain! One I didn’t even consider but ended up really liking on the sample.

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 and I will get to that in a minute.
  4. Ask your flooring contractor about the top coat floor gloss. My hubs 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.  I will tell you the coat option we went with in Part II.  Yes, there is a part II.
  5. Don’t rush to make a decision.  I will explain this more in detail but it’s best to sleep on it!

Ok, lets get to it!

Red Oak Stain Colors

I will start off by saying that there are different stain companies out there and they all have their own versions of stains.  Our flooring contracter 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 the same.  Minwax is the one that most DIY bloggers use.  Duraseal is more widely used by flooring professionals.  Duraseal does offer more stain options.  And according to their website – the stain dries very fast on the floor.

I had never heard of Zar before this, to be honest.  But it does have good reviews via Amazon.

These are Duraseal Stain colors…

This is ZAR ….

And this is Minwax ….

Our contractor built us a “faux floor”.  This was really helpful because we could move it around against different walls and see how different amounts of natural light affected the color. 

Here is our faux floor sitting on top of our real red oak floors. 

I added the oak stain names for your reference.

Hardwood Floor Stains on Red Oak

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 …

Hardwood Floor Stains on Red Oak

I was ALL ABOUT Special Walnut Minwax (very top stain in the picture above).  That is before I actually saw the stains on the floor.  Doesn’t it look really dark here?  I mean yes it was tucked in the corner so the light isn’t great but in person, it just looked kind of cold and dark on our floors. 

Frankly, all the stains are beautiful in their own way.  It just depends on what look you are going for.  We wanted something a bit warmer.  Perhaps a bit more rustic.  Our walls and kitchen cabinets are going to be white and our furniture is neutral so I didn’t want it to look too cold.

Hardwood Floor Stains on Red Oak

What caught my attention was this rosewood color.  To my shock!  Because I 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 just looked very warm and pretty to me!  It also showed those beautiful grains in the wood.  It was just a bit dark.  So we really focused on a color in between rosewood and rosewood mixed with neutral.

Rosewood floor stain and neutral on red oak floors

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

Hardwood Floor Stains on Red Oak

So, what did we end up going with?

Here is the winner …

Red Oak Floor Stains

This is one part rosewood and one part neutral.  Now – we made this decision in one day in about an hour.  So remember where I said you should really sleep on it? 


I think we felt a bit rushed.  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.  My husband was never 100% on this color but I felt confident it would look good.  It is such a big decision to pick a floor stain that its best not to rush it.  Unless you are Taylor Swift and can afford to re-sand the floors down and start over.  🙂

UPDATE: See our whole floor completed

AND HERE TOO: Galley Kitchen Reveal

AND HERE: Kitchen Counter Decorating Ideas you’ll love

xo Karen

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