Red Oak Floor Stains – Photo Guide

hardwood floor stains - Decor Hint

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I thought choosing an exterior paint color was hard.  I was wrong.  Choosing a stain color for our red oak hardwood floors was MUCH harder and more stressful than anything, in my opinion. I put together this post on our process if you need help with your red oak floor stains.

First of all, there are so many stain choices.  Yikes! 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.  

Hardwood Floor Stains Red Oak
Special Walnut Stain by Minwax

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.   

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.

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6 Tips to Know Before 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. Definitely know what type of floor you are working with! If you are unsure, ask a flooring expert.

3. You can Mix stains

If you like a stain but something still feels off, did you know you can mix it with other stains to get the right look?  That’s what we ended up doing (more on that below).

4. Don’t Forget about Topcoats

Ask your flooring contractor about the topcoat floor gloss. My husband and I are partial to a matte floor. We 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.  

5. Don’t Rush to Make a Decision

I will explain this more in detail but it’s best to sleep on it. You want to see the floor stains at every time of the day, including at night.

6. Build a “Faux Floor”

Expert Tip: Ask your flooring professional/contractor to build you a “faux floor” for stain testing purposes.

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. This is the same faux floor in two different locations in our kitchen – one was much sunnier than the other.

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. 

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.

Floor Stain Color Choices

These are Duraseal Stain colors…

duraseal stains - Decor Hint

This is ZAR ….

zar colors - Decor Hint

And this is Minwax ….

minwax stains - Decor Hint

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 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 live in Seattle and don’t have a ton of sun and natural light. If you live somewhere with more sun (you lucky dog, you!), you may have different results. All the stains are beautiful in their own way.  It just depends on what look you are going for. 

Hardwood Floor Stains on Red Oak

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). 

Rosewood floor stain and neutral on red oak floors

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! We then 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.

Hardwood Floor Stains on Red Oak

The Final Result

So, what did we end up going with?

Red Oak Floor Stains

The winner is one part rosewood and one part neutral. 

Are we happy? Yes. Did we make a mistake? Also yes. We made this decision in only one day in about an hour.  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.

rosewood stain on red oak flooring - close up

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.

rosewood stain on red oak flooring - close up

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.

rosewood stain on red oak flooring - close up

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.  🙂

rosewood stain on red oak flooring - close up

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.

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