Hey friends! Today I’m finally sitting down to explain the stain mixture that we used on our red oak floors!
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Deciding on a stain for these 100 year old oak floors was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve EVER done design wise.
When you pick a stain for a dresser or small side table – that’s one thing. But when you’re deciding on a stain for your hardwood oak floors throughout the entire main level of your home?
Let’s just say I’m glad this part is behind me, haha!
I tried SO many stain combinations, guys. SO. MANY.
No matter what stain combination I came up with, we ran into the same problem.
Pink-y orange floors.
The red oak floor sanded raw was stunning, but almost every stain that I tried brought out way too many warm tones that got me right back to the orange color it was before.
I wanted a rustic, beige toned color with gray undertones. Was that too much to ask?!
Apparently it is, if you’ve got red oak flooring.
My Mom and I kept trying different samples, though, and we finally found one that was perfect. Before I share the stain that I went with, here’s a few tips I discovered during the sampling process…
Stain Samples for Our Oak Floors – A Few Tips
First off, try the stain in a few different areas. There were some combinations that I LOVED in one corner of my home.
You can see in the photo below how beautiful that center square is – light and neutral, the perfect warmth.
But when I tried that SAME stain in another area? It turned pink/orange immediately.
Obviously every board will look and react different to stain, so try your sample in a few different areas to make sure you really love it everywhere.
Secondly, don’t choose your stain color based off of photos you’ve found on Pinterest or even friends who have the same flooring as you.
A sweet friend of mine chose a lovely stain for her red oak floors, and I was SO excited because it looked exactly like what I wanted.
Turns out, her flooring had way less red/pink boards than mine did. What looked stunning on her hardwoods looked way too orange on mine.
Choosing a Stain for Our Oak Floors
Just a side note – I purposely did not edit these photos to show you the true color of these stains on our floors.
I was feeling pretty frustrated at this point and a little discouraged, but my Mom kept doing research and told me that I needed to choose a stain that had green undertones to balance out the red.
Green is the opposite of red on the color wheel, so apparently when applied to red oak flooring, it theoretically should neutralize the pink/orange tones and leave you with a beautiful brown rather than enhancing the red.
It seemed kinda crazy – obviously I didn’t want green floors. But when we stopped in at a Sherwin Williams store and spoke to a paint expert, he immediately told me the SAME thing.
To look for a stain that had green in it!
I then asked the expert – “how do you find a stain that has green it it?”
“Well you can tell just by looking at it.”
Great. That helps a lot. Haha!
But that’s what we did. We picked up a few more samples by Minwax, then we took a trip to Menards.
It was there that I discovered a stain called “Aged Wheat” by Varathane.
The color caught my eye immediately because against all the other color samples, it looked GREEN!
When we got home and opened the can, it was almost scary. It legitimately looked like straight up green stain and I was a little nervous about trying it on our floors, but I was desperate.
We tested a small spot, and my husband and I stood there staring at it. He spoke up first.
“I kinda like that.”
I did too, but I was trying not to get excited. We tried it in four different spots, and it consistently stayed the same.
The only issue was that it seemed a little dark for me.
That’s when I remembered something else that the paint expert at the Sherwin Williams store had told me.
He said that if I liked a stain but it was too dark, that I could simply mix it with mineral spirits to lighten it.
I had never heard of that before, but a quick Google search showed me that it was a thing, and that other people had done it before successfully.
I asked my Dad to grab some mineral spirits from the hardware store, and this is what he grabbed –
Odorless would have been SO much better, but this was all they had. I mixed it with the stain 50/50, and the color was PERFECT.
Not too dark, but still warm enough to enhance the beauty of our hardwoods.
We bought a few more cans of stain (I could only find it in quarts, but since we were mixing it with mineral spirits anyway we didn’t think we would need as much).
In order to cut down on fumes, we bought a bunch of odorless mineral spirits and tried the stain with that first, instead.
Sadly, the odorless didn’t lighten the stain as much as the low odor mineral spirits did.
I could have kept messing with the concoction (and probably should have) to make the odorless work, but we decided to just go with the low odor option and get the floors done.
Also – one thing I should mention about the mineral spirits.
It goes on darker because the stain has been thinned out, but it dries much lighter – so don’t be afraid haha!
Staining Our Oak Floors
We used staining rags (also purchased at our local hardware) to apply the stain. My husband applied the stain and I followed behind, rubbing it in with another rag.
The next morning, this is what the stain looked like –
It was so beautiful, exactly what I had imagined in my head.
Eventually my husband and I both decided to stain to keep things moving faster. One rag to stain, one to rub it in.
Sealing the Oak Floors
The next day (Sunday) we stopped by after church to check on the floors. They were beautiful, and I was so pleased.
We decided to seal the floors with a water based poly in a flat finish. This is what we used, only because it was what was available at our local hardware. I think any water based poly will do – I wanted to avoid anything oil based because of the way it ambers over time and turns orange.
Personally, I feel like the poly warmed up my floors a bit. My husband thinks I’m crazy, but I swear it did. Not in a bad way…they are still beautiful.
But even though the poly dried clear and flat, that soft sheen just ever so slightly warmed up the gray/brown tones.
It scared me so much that I told my husband no more poly…even though every blog I’ve ever read recommends three coats for protection.
I’ll probably regret that choice, and I’ll have to follow this post up with another to let you know how the floors are holding up.
Since our home is small and rugs cover so much of our floors, I think it’ll be ok, but we may end up going over the high traffic areas with a few more coats for more protection.
I’ve also put felt pads on the bottoms of all my furniture to avoid any scratching.
We are waiting two weeks to put area rugs down, and we waited a week before moving any furniture back on to the floors.
PS – we didn’t even use 2 quarts of the stain for our main level (which is about 600 square feet of hardwoods). Only about 1.5 quarts of both the stain and the mineral spirits did the job! The coverage was great and went really far.
Here’s a few before and after photos to show you just how beautiful this stain is –
Now remember – we chose not to do the bedrooms downstairs. We plan to in the future, but here’s a few shots of the new floor vs. the old as you enter those rooms…
So there you have it! My novel, all about our stain choice haha!
I hope this post sharing all the details of our stain choice for our oak floors was a help to you, friends. I am still putting the house back together, and I can’t wait to share a few more up dates that I’ve made with you very soon!