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Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

Posted by auburnfan (My Page) on
Fri, Nov 2, 07 at 14:21

Hi everyone. I'm building a new home and the hardwood floors are being stained tomorrow. Unfortunately, I haven't selected a stain color yet! I have to choose one of the minwax colors in the link below.

I had the flooring people put three different stains on for me so that I could pick one. Of course, the samples look nothing like the colors on the minwax brochure. They did Early American, Provincial and Special Walnut. I think they all look too dark. Special Walnut had too much of a green hue, Provincial was much darker than the others (and would show too much cat hair!) and Early American was okay, but not great.

So, today I took some of the leftover wood to Sherwin Williams to try some lighter selections. They did fruitwood, golden pecan and puritan pine. It looked SO different from the samples that the floor guy did that I asked him to also do a stripe of the early american. Well. The stripe of EA was so much prettier than the first sample. I guess the difference was the number of coats of stain?

So, it there a minimum number of coats that have to be done on a hardwood floor? If I like the one coat color much more than the many coats, can they do it like that?

(I know pictures would be nice, but I'm at the office right now and I have to figure this out by this afternoon. Sorry!)

Thank you so much for any info you have on this!

Here is a link that might be useful: Minwax stains


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

This is a long-lasting decision!! so I would not be in a hurry. I have done a lot of staining over the years --- but have no claim to being an expert.
All I know is that stains are different depending on manufacturer - Early American to one is not the same as Early American to another.
All woods take stain differently. Harder woods absorb less stain, softer woods, more. What kind of wood do you have?
I would assume the floor person is going to use one coat of stain. The stain cans will usually say to leave it on for 15 minutes, then wipe the excess. I usually don't do that, but that will usually make for a darker stain. The other thing is that if you are using multiple coats of stain, there is a drying time before applying the next coat (I don't know about water-based stains, I only use oil).
Minwax Provincial has a lot of brown, Early American a lot of red.
My guess is that your difference in the two Early Americans was the manufacturer versus the number of coats of stain.
I have also found that the "color swatches" of stain look nothing like the finished product. They usually show one on oak, (hard wood), one on pine, (soft wood). Also, the store samples may have darkened under the lights.
Depending on the kind of wood, maybe just a natural stain?
I have red oak and have just a natural stain. I love it as I can see all of the wood grains and love the variations in color - just my preference.
Over the years, I have agonized over stains more than I have agonized over paint colors, especially when refinishing a piece.


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

Thank you, no-green-thumb. I went to talk to the floor guy and showed him both samples. He said that there was definitely too much stain on the darker sample that I didn't like, but that the floors would probably come out darker than the second sample - so somewhere in the middle.

Both samples were Minwax EA on scraps of my white oak floor. They're going to do the stain tomorrow and he's going to tell the person doing it to try to get it as close to the second version as possible. We left both there for him to see.

Or, I can call him back this afternoon and change to Minwax Golden Pecan.

You are so right about this being a long-lasting decision. Very anxiety-producing! Thanks again.


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

We also have white oak floors but were lucky enough to have them mix a custom stain for us. We started the process thinking that we would use a natural stain but there wasn't enough contrast with our medium stained cabinets, so we added some nutmeg to the natural stain. We probably could have gone a little darker but I was afraid it would be too dark in our rooms that have less natural light.

You're right to be concerned about going too dark, although dark floors look great. For me they show too much dust and every inevitable scratch. And they will show your cat hair.

You haven't said whether you also have stained cabinetry in your house. If you do, you'll want to make sure that the floor stain looks good with the tone of your cabinets.

Another thing to consider is know how much variation there is from floor board to floor board. Until the stain went on on our floors, I had no idea that some boards were very light and others more much darker, not to mention the variation in grain.

Just wanted to give you more things to think about. Good luck!


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

Thanks, Meg. I'd love to see a picture of your floors if you know how to post them.

The first samples were done when I wasn't there, and they took the easy route and stained 3 different boards each a different color. Like you said, that makes it difficult to compare b/c it doesn't account for the variation in wood color. When I took the boards for the 2nd set of stains, I selected a light, medium and dark plank and had them put each of the stain samples across the three. It was really amazing how different each plank looked. I like the variation though.

My kitchen has white glazed cabs on the perimeter and walnut stained and glazed for the island. I took the samples to the house and almost all of them looked okay with the island. The EA was definitely okay.

I agree that dark wood is so beautiful, but not so practical.


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

We have natural oak and if I could do it over I would go a bit darker. While, I love the dark walnut color, its pretty dark. I tend to like the Provinical the best of the Minwax colors, but its such a personal decision.


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photo of floors

auburnfan,

Here's a photo of our floors in the back of the house, which tends to be darker than the front. Most of our cabinets are on the red side so we wanted to have a similar tone in our floors. Our island is a dark reddish brown, almost mahogany. I wish there had been a way to make the grain darker but not the overall board, if that makes any sense.

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some other thoughts

auburnfan,

I wanted to share some other things about staining hardwood floors that I wish that I had been more aware of earlier in the process. And if you know this already, I apologize for the tutorial.

During our construction, the builder's guys had protected the hardwoods, but apparently not well enough. As a result, we had many areas that were very pitted. Debris had gotten under the protective layer and had been "walked into" the floor for months. Unfortunately, they did not catch all the areas during the sanding phase. Either that, or there were additional indentations made between coats. Either way, we have holes in our floor all over the place. And when they tried to fix some of them after the fact, they oversanded. So now there are areas where the stain, shine and even the grain is different. Hopefully I'm the only one who notices these things but it's still irksome.

Bottom line, go over your floors very carefully and make sure they know where there are holes or other marks that need to be sanded. And then make sure they really protect those floors between coats and when it's done. Good luck!


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oh, and hair too!

Oh, I forgot about the hair. We have about six or seven hairs embedded in the final layer of our floors. I don't know if the floor guys should wear hairnets or not but, yuch! Sorry if this is TMI.


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

Gross. But thanks for the info. Your floors are beautiful, and I like the contrast with the cabinets. I understand what you mean about darker grains. It would probably coordinate the main color with the cabs, but it might also look busy. You are probably the only one who notices the flaws. I'm the same way with my own house, but I never notice things like that in other people's houses.

They are doing the sanding and staining tomorrow. Maybe I should buy some hairnets then just go hang out. ;-) Wouldn't they love me?

Is that an old pic, or are you just now building? Those are some really nice built-ins that you have.


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

Thanks for the nice comments auburnfan!

It's scary to realize that those photos are about ten months old. We closed in late-December but didn't move in until February. We bought a house that was already being built so much of the design decisions had been made but we were able to make some decisions regarding the finishes--including the stain colors.

I hope your build is going well!


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

We used Minwax Early American stain on our newel posts. We love it. We stained them ourselves. However, our neighbors that built down the street also stained theirs Early American, and they are waaaayyyy darker than ours. We did 2 coats of the stain. They must have done 3 or 4 heavy coats.
We used Minwax walnut (not special walnut, just walnut) on our front door. It is a very dark color. Very pretty though!


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

Wish you the very best on choosing color and a big War Eagle to you.


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

Robin, any chance you can post a pic? From the samples I saw today, multiple coats makes a huge difference, no doubt. I'd love to see what your 2 coats looks like.

Thanks, Patricia. War Eagle back at you!


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

auburn
I can agonize w/you - here's a pic of new white oak flooring in kit - butting against 75yo oak - which was done about 1.5yrs ago

I was btwn the provincial & Early american - I ended up w/a toned done provincial which I'm sure your floor guy can do for you - they just add a thinner to the stain if memory serves - We are very pleased w/results - not too dark (which would show lots of scratches, dust bunnies etc) poly is oil based satin finish

Good luck - and get what you want

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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

War Eagle...we're almost done with our house, our floors get a second coat of poly and buffing this weekend...we used Duraseal stain in English Chestnut...this picture may show the color but it'll also show a lot of drywall dust on them! I stained them myself and only put on one coat...we have early american on our home we're trying to sell and I really do like them as well...I had lived with EA for 2 years and wanted a change...so I went darker...I have white oak floors and did not want a red tone in my flooring because my cabinets are stained in English chestnut as well...went with the larger picture because it's the only one that shows the stain so far...but it'll give you an idea of the darker finish...

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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

I used Minwax Early American. Here's a photo of my floors.
I don't find mine to be really red - more of a warm brown and the grain does show a darker brown in most places. Some boards are lighter than others etc...so since it's not a real dark stain, you're going to have alot of variation. We have very dark cabinets and I have found that the grain color is very close to the cabinet color, so they compliment each other well. Plus, they don't show dirt hardly at all and are so comfy to walk on!


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

jejvtr - Very nice. Those look much prettier than the sample that was made for me. I might call early tomorrow and ask about adding a thinner. Thanks for the tip!

lmhall - Girl! You need to clean a patch of those floors so I can see! I love love love your kitchen, but I think I've told you that before, though. The colors are similar to mine - I'll see if I can post some pics. Do you have any pics of the EA from your previous home?

Caroloh - Those are very nice, and they *do* coordinate well with the darker cabinets. Do you know if your wood is red or white oak? I think that makes some difference in how the color turns out. I think a tad lighter version of your color would be perfect for my place. Maybe if I use jejvtr's idea of using thinner...

Thank you so much. These forums are a priceless resource!


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

Auburnfan....I am so hoping the drywall dust will be gone this Sunday! Will post a picture by then but it'll be too late..but maybe you can research Minwax...Duraseal had a statement on their can that said you can "neutralize" a color or essentially lighten it with a specific product they sold...you simply add that product into your stain until you reach the color you like...the trick is mixing it with all the stain you'll be using so that it is uniform....I think I went through 1.5 cans of stain on 1200 sq. feet of flooring....not sure if that will help...but I bet Minwax would have something similar...

Tara


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

If any of you are still out there...

I went by the house this morning. Thank goodness I did because the "flooring guy" (manager type, not the actual person doing the work) didn't explain the situation very well to the actual working guy. Anyway, he said that he did think it would come out darker like the first sample that I didn't like. He also thought that if I didn't want any orange-ish tones coming out I should try something different. He has every other stain available to try except for the golden pecan (of course). But, he thought that one had an orange undertone too. He suggested the fruitwood.

Anyway, I'm supposed to meet him tomorrow at 1:00. He's going to put both stains on the floor for me then sand them off after I pick one. Have any of you seen fruitwood?


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

Fruitwood was the French Provincil furniture from the 60s and 70s, if you can remember that color. It's a very nice color, sort of a medium brown, not too far away from the color I call "gunstock," which I love. My floors are gunstock color on oak, both the parquet and the plank floors.


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

Golden Pecan has orange undertones in it. I used it mixed with Golden oak to match the stain on my new white oak treads to the mellowed natural red oak that was polyed with oil based poly which mellowed very golden. Fruitwood is a nice color, along with Provencial, Walnut and Early American.


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

af..war eagle! Whew an easy game today...Fruitwood is the stain my cabinet maker was going to use on my cabinets before I stained them English Chestnut...I really liked it but they did not go with the wall color I had chosen...if I'm remembering correctly it's a bit more on the golden side and I wanted something more of a true brown...I think you would be happy with Provencial or Walnut or EA...let us know what you choose! :) And don't forget that the top coat can also change the color a bit if you use oil based...it brought my brown color a little bit more on the golden side....if I had used Fruitwood and then put the Fabulon on top, it would have been too golden...if you're using a water based poly, it won't have a color shade to it...oil based is just lightly golden in my opinion...
Tara


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

AU fan, are you out celebrating? Hope you love the color you chose, whatever it is.

Well, I was happy for the win but I was A TIGER fan today for 2 teams. Ramajama.....LSU beat Bama.


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

Tara & Patricia, War Eagle!! I was an LSU fan yesterday as well. I usually don't like LSU (wonder why?), but as DH always says, "I'd root for Russia before I'd root for UA". Hm. Russia's a little outdated, so I guess he's been saying that for a long time. ;-)

Now, back to the floors. You ladies are really messing me up. I want light brown with no orange. Is that too much to ask???

I'm going over there today at 1:00 (hope he changed his clock...) to try some out. That man told me that he thought I would think EA was too orange. The special walnut had too much of a green cast to it, but maybe he has another walnut. I don't want to go too dark though. The provincial was really dark on the sample I saw, but I spent hours looking for photos of floors with that stain yesterday, and none of them looked as dark as the sample they gave me. I'm so confused! If it was just a little foyer, it wouldn't be a big deal, but this floor is in the kitchen, DR, great room, LR, guest bedroom, foyer, stairs and upstairs hallway. That's alot of floor!


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

Hi,
Try diluting the Provincial with pre-stain conditioner. Or just with paint thinner. That will put less stain into the wood per sq ft.
Fruitwood, which I used on my cabinets, has a pronounced greenish cast, at least in the brand I was using (bartley's gel stain). I wanted that, so it was okay.
I'm biased, because provincial is my fave on white oak.
I'm surprised that special walnut looked greenish to you, as it is much warmer than dark walnut. It is a darker stain than provincial, so there's no sense in heading there.
Golden oak mixed with EA, or Prov. may be worth a look. If the mix seems dark, dilute!

Casey


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

Hi Casey,

I'm looking at Minwax stains, so it might be hard to compare stain names between brands.

I was surprised about the SW as well. It didn't look greenish in the brochure, but on the sample they made me, that was the first comment everyone made. Weird. Also, in the brochure, SW was darker than the Prov., but on the samples they did for me, the Prov. was much, much darker. But, like I said earlier, photos of finished floors with the Prov. just don't look as dark to me. I think the person that made the samples screwed up.

The man I met yesterday who is actually doing the work was a sweet old grandpa type. I'm definitely going to ask him about diluting the stain as several have mentioned. He'll probably hate me by the end of the day...


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What to do...

Hi Casey,

I'm looking at Minwax stains, so it might be hard to compare stain names between brands.

I was surprised about the SW as well. It didn't look greenish in the brochure, but on the sample they made me, that was the first comment everyone made. Weird. Also, in the brochure, SW was darker than the Prov., but on the samples they did for me, the Prov. was much, much darker. But, like I said earlier, photos of finished floors with the Prov. just don't look as dark to me. I think the person that made the samples screwed up.

The man I met yesterday who is actually doing the work was a sweet old grandpa type. I'm definitely going to ask him about diluting the stain as several have mentioned. He'll probably hate me by the end of the day...


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

I have Minwax Provencial stain on white oak floors. It really isn't dark. The stain is actually lighter than what I wanted, but it looks good. I agree that special walnut has a green tint to it.


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

CP - I owe a thanks to you. The thread that you started in March is the one where I saw all the pics. They looked beautiful and not at all like the sample I saw.


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The decision...

So, they put provencial, EA, fruitwood and golden oak. I sort of liked the provencial a tad better, but all three of the other people there (all men) thought the fruitwood looked better with the kitchen. I thought so too, but I just usually like floors that are a little darker. The fruitwood is pretty though, and it won. Here's a pic with all the stains and the kitchen in the background. (The island doesn't go where it is int he pic.) Of course, nothing ever looks the same in a picture and the flash made 2 of the stains hard to see.

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From L to R: Golden Oak, Fruitwood, Early American
Bottom: Provencial

Thanks again for everyone who chimed in!


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

My friend used Fruitwood on her floors and I think they're very pretty - not too dark at all - a nice medium brown.


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

Puritan Pine turned out to be the key for us. We have red oak and B. Cherry. I wanted Golden Oak as we had in a previous house, but it didn't look quite as good with our paint choices or the cherry cabinets. PP goes well with all of our wood tones.

From your pictures, it does look like Fruitwood is your best bet. Remember that the poly (hope you are using a satin finish) will make the floors a little darker.


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Forgot to post picture!

BTW - I LOVE your island!

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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket


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RE: Hardwood stain selection - Need help!!

NHB - I saw your floors yesterday when I spent way too long searching these forums. I really like the way yours look. That BC inset is really nice. I love BC. Wish I could have afforded to use it everywhere. I tried the Puritan Pine on my second set of swatches and it was nice. It actually looked similar to the fruitwood on that particular sample.

Oh. I also have major door envy. We have double front doors, and I wanted something exactly like yours. Alas, no more extra funds. All the extra was spent in the kitchen. One day...


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