Selecting stain color of stair handrail before floors?

Mom23EsSeptember 26, 2012

Yesterday our builder asked us to select a stain color for the main staircase handrail and balusters. We will have painted white spindles and the large posts and handrail will be stained. I want the stain to match the color of our hardwood floors. Our floors are site finished hardwood, and we haven't selected our stain color yet. I don't want to end up in a situation where I have to match the floors to a handrail. I feel like it should be the other way around.

Does this seem backwards to select the handrail stain first? Am I being unreasonable to have the builder get the flooring people out to give me stain samples first? I know that the flooring people won't actually stain anything until the painters are done (very good idea), and the painters are responsible for staining the staircase stuff- rails, posts, and treads.

What's your experience been like?

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You are not being unreasonable.

Tell him exactly what you told us. This makes perfect sense.

Reading about your granite debacle on the kitchen forum, I sensed that you are being a little timid about standing up for yourself. This is your house. You only get one chance to do it right.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 10:39AM
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Red_lover- thanks. Yes, in general I am too timid. Then I get pushed too far and tend to go a little crazy. I guess my builder (who I generally really like) is about to get a whole lotta crazy. ;-) lol!

The builder and painter made it sound like I was asking for something unreasonable. I didn't think I was, but there's a bunch of stuff about building a house that I don't understand. My gut tells me that the builder is trying to make up for lost time when he was busy with other closings- we are behind schedule. He just wants to skip ahead to do what's easiest for him rather than what's best for our house. He really has been better than this throughout the process so I am disappointed.

In case I wasn't clear on my explanation, here's an example of what we're trying to accomplish. (Although not with the cool square trim detail.)

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 11:38AM
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No, I think I understand. You want the dark parts of the stairway and the floor to match. And as long as its the same species of wood, the same stain should easily accomplish this.

Do you want to go that dark? You will be running your Swiffer every day.

BTW, I love your granite. What is it?

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 11:59AM
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Update- my builder called a bit ago and said the flooring guy can meet me out there this afternoon. I guess I'm making a decision today. How in the world do people build a house when they work full time or live far away?!?!? I'm always running over to the house to do something.

We are so conflicted about stain color. We love the dark, but we've been told by everyone that it's hard to maintain. I think we'll go a bit lighter but try to keep the same feel. Nini and cbusmom had floor colors I like- 75% Jacobean and 25% black walnut or black mahagony.

The granite supplier called it white fantasy. The fabricator calls it Vermont white. Gardenwebbers call it super white quartzite. Lol.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 1:35PM
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You should consider that the wood species for your flooring and the species for the stair treds and handrail/balusters may not be the same speciies of wood! Even if they are, they may be sawn and/or milled differently. In other words, using the same exact stain may not obtain the same exact finish. This potential difference is accentuated by using two different trades groups to do the work. One may brush and the other may hand rub!

This may be a case where "close" is really close enough. Only you know, but you should be prepared to not have an EXACT match! Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 4:45PM
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Virgil- Thanks for your advice. The woods are different and I know they will not match exactly. However, I do want to get as close as possible. We need to start someplace though. The builder originally proposed selecting a stain for the handrail and posts (poplar), then matching the exposed stair treads (oak) to the handrail, then matching the floor (also oak) to the treads. It just seems to me that stain selection should be done in the exact opposite order. Our house has about 2000sq ft of hardwood flooring- we definitely don't want to mess up that color selection! So nervous about that decision!!!!

The flooring guy canceled at the last minute so I didn't make any progress. Maybe tomorrow?

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 5:05PM
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We used Duraseal Coffee Brown. It is the third house I have used it in and I love it. It is a good dark brown, not ebony, with no red or green. Worth looking at. . .

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 7:13PM
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Mom, you are right: this is your house and it should be built the way you want it to be. A good contractor will understand and support you in this, although you may have to have a "heart to heart" talk with him in order for him to understand how important this is to you at this point.

Just ask your contractor for brush or rubbed samples of everything, with the goal that it all matches.

Best wishes!

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 7:18PM
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Athensmom- do you have pics of your floor or railings? I did a bit of searching and didn't find any. I'd love to see pics of the color. Plus, the in progress pics I did find were gorgeous! I'd love to see how things turned out. :-)

    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 8:37PM
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Here is a picture of our front staircase and floor. There is more variation on this floor because it is herringbone.

Here is the floor in the kitchen - 5" wide oak. There is less variation here but still a little . . .

Not sure how accurate these colors are on screen, but we are really happy with them!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 11:30AM
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I picked my stair/handrail stain before our floors. I was so nervous too. I tried to match them, but because they are different wood species, they're off a bit. I actually think I like the difference because it adds a little depth.

Below is the best picture I could get. The floors are actually a little lighter than in this picture and excuse the rats...testing creepy decorations for our big Halloween party!

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 8:50PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

You can always go to a flooring store to just look at wood samples in various colors and get started there, so you have an idea in mind of what color you are going for. Then it will be up to the flooring guy and the staining guy to get as close to that color as they can to what you have in mind.

I started with the flooring first (which wasn't stained as it's vinyl) which gave me a lot to work with as there is a lot of variation in the flooring color, and then I ended up picking out the stain for the kitchen cabinets to blend with the flooring color, and I liked it so much that we used the same stain for the stained woodwork, including the handrail.

Don't push your desires aside and then get angry or wait too long and be miserable. That is not the best way to get what you want. Rather, learn to be calm they can either explain to you why what you want isn't going to work and it explain it to your satisfaction....or if they can't, insist that you want it done your way. You are footing the bill and you have to live with the choices that are made...they don't. They have other objectives.

I remember when dealing with the trades, it was difficult as they each would insist on something but they'd be conflicting. It was because each trade saw it from their perspective and their ability to get their part of the job done in the easiest way. But I had to make sure I got MY way as I had to live with the result...they didn't.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 7:39AM
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Beautiful floors! Thanks for sharing more pics. I'm waiting for a phone call to go meet the floor guy so I can pick a stain. I think we might be able to do the handrail anyway because similar to what Annie described, we found a color we like- on our current entryway mirror! Lol. We took it over, laid it so the full wood back was showing and loved it. We are no good at telling wood species apart so I have no idea how close we can even get. It will be close enough I'm sure.

I'm so nervous about picking the right floor stain. It's our ENTIRE main floor (minus the mudroom), the stairs, and the upstairs hall. It's a huge part of our house.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 2:44PM
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You'll do fine picking a stain! Just ave them put lots of samples down and I know the right one will jump out at you. You know, we had a handrail issue in that our floors are white oak, but for some reason, to get the handrail in white oak instead of red oak would have been a significant price increase. I finally decided to paint it black...which I also like very much and would have been historically accurate.

Well, lo and behold, I showed up at the house one day, and the painting crew had stained it. And it looks perfectly fine. So don't worry too much

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 3:48PM
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