Choosing a Stain Color For Hardwood Floors

Are you looking to refresh or refinish the hardwood floors in your home to update the decor or for the home’s resale value? If so, I am in the process of having the floor in my kitchen and living room refinished and am sharing ideas and tips that will help make choosing the wood stain color and finish easier.

This is Part 1 in a 3 Part Refinishing Hardwood Flooring Series

Bona Flooring Grey Stained floor in kitchen.

Over the past 3 weeks, my house has been undergoing two “big home improvement projects”.  My usual modus operandi is to go back and forth between larger projects and smaller ones, but these two projects just hit at the same time and have been taking all my time and attention.

Both projects have involved the process of having to choose a color. The first is for the exterior of my house and the second a new color for the hardwood floor that is getting refinished in my kitchen and living room.

I am very excited about both projects and how they are turning out, but the process of choosing the right color with so many hues and variations can be a little stressful.

I hope by posting about the process will help you make the best decision when it comes to picking wood floor stain colors for your home.

Kitchen with herringbone hardwood floor that has turned orange with age.

Usually my husband and I DIY our home improvement projects, but for both of these big projects we felt is was better to call in the pros.

My kitchen and living room have herringbone patterned oak floors. To get the project started I needed to figure out what stain color I wanted the floor to be.

Living room showing hardwood floor that has turned amber orange over time

Since the first day we moved into the house I have wanted to get the hardwood floor in the kitchen and living room refinished.

I love the unique herringbone pattern on the floor, but not the shade of orange.

Different shades of wood flooring in a home.

Once upon a time the floor probably had a more natural wood color, but the oil-based polyurethane that sealed it, yellowed with age and for my floor – took on an amber orange tone. For my design style – this is not a color I like to use in my decorating, except maybe for a few weeks in the fall.

In my previous house, we had the wood floor in the kitchen and mudroom refinished in a color called Gunstock.

It came out fine, but the process of sanding made a mess and the poly smell as it was applied and dried was pretty intense, which made it hard to stay in the house for a few days.

I knew I didn’t want to go through that process again and started doing research about hardwood floor refinishing.

When at a home decorating conference last summer, I found out something I didn’t know.  You know Bona, the company that makes wood floor mops and floor cleaning products? Well the company does a whole lot more.

hardwood floor in a kitchen that has turned orange with age.

Bona also has wood floor refinishing services where they hand-pick and fully train floor refinishing contractors to learn The Bona System.

These contractors become Bona Certified Craftsmen and know how to protect your hardwood floors and bring out their natural beauty. They use a Dustless Sanding System and water-based, low VOC products that have little to no smell and dry fast.

The Bona System offers three services that will bring out the beauty in a hardwood floor, REVIVE, RESTORE or REFINISH.

The REVIVE treatment is called a spa day for your wood floors. The RESTORE treatment brings out the beauty in a lackluster floor.  My floor needed the REFINISH-ING treatment which is a total makeover.

To get the wood floor refinishing project underway, I found a local Bona Certified Craftsman in my area on the Bona website.

Greg Martin of Martin’s Floor Refinishing is who is refinishing my floor. To start the process he came to check out the floor in my living room and kitchen. While visiting, he helped me to choose the best color and finish for the floor and my decorating color scheme.

How to Choose Wood Floor Stain Color and Finish

There are many different hardwood floor stain colors for so it’s important to think about the overall look and feel you want to have in your home. For example, dark hardwood stains on floors can add drama and sophistication, while lighter stains can help make a room feel larger and more airy.

When it came down to choosing the perfect stain color and finish for my wood floor, I knew I didn’t want a stain with red or amber orange tones like golden oak or chestnut. I also didn’t want too dark of a color like espresso or dark walnut.

Floor variations in a home from hardwood to brick to laminate.

I wanted something lighter, but that would still make a nice color transition between the various rooms on the first floor of my home that each have a different type of wood flooring and one has stained brick.

What are the Bona Hardwood Stain Colors

Bona DriFast Wood Floor Stain Color Chart

Above is the Bona DriFast Stain Color Chart that I looked at to choose a few colors to sample on my floor.

The different stain colors range from dark ebony to golden browns.

Just like everything in home decor, flooring colors follow color trends. One year grey might be the most popular color. The next may be light and natural. If you can’t decide which way to go and don’t want to get caught up on whats popular. Go with a classic medium brown color. It will always be in style.

Sampling Different Colors of Hardwood Stain on My Actual Floor

Most popular wood stain colors being tested on a just sanded hardwood floor to be refinished

Bona DriFast Stain colors from left to right: Grey, White, Provincial, 1/2 Grey + 1/2 Provincial, Sand Dune, 1/2 Grey + 1/2 Antique Brown, Natural, Antique Brown

Greg, the Bona Certified Craftsman who is refinishing my floors did a sampling of colors on a small area of the floor that I told him I was interested in. Doing this helped me make my wood stain color decision.

  • Every piece and type of wood will accept color differently – humidity levels, species of wood, type of stain, and what grade of sanding you did during preparations will all affect the finish. So always do lots of testing to make sure you like how the color looks on your wood floor.

He sanded an area of the floor and taped off boxes with painter’s tape. In each box he applied different colors of Bona stains I asked to see.

Sampling hardwood floor stain colors on actual floor
Sampling and choosing just the right stain color.

Wood Floor Color Stain TIP: When choosing a wood floor stain color, you can mix stains to come up with a custom color to fit your decor perfectly. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Greg did this for me. He mixed a combo of Grey with Antique Brown and also Grey with Provincial.

Orange toned wood floor with oil-based polyurethane before getting refinished with the Bona Hardwood Floor Refinishing System

Seeing all the colors on the actual wood made it easier for me to choose which color I liked best.

What Color Wood Stain Did I Choose for My Floor?

I went with a classic grey stain that made the natural state of my hardwood floor look like driftwood.

After choosing the stain color, I still had another decision to make. I needed to pick a finish.

How To Choose a Hardwood Floor Finish

When choosing a wood floor finish there are a few protective finishes to choose from. Durability is the number one feature you want when the floor will get lots of foot traffic, especially from kids and pets. But design-wise how shiny do you want the protective finish to be?

I had to decide if I wanted a shiny, satin, or a matte finish on my grey stained floor?

The type of polyurethane used (oil vs water-based polyurethane) can have a big impact on the color, especially for a very light floor.

  • Oil-based polyurethane will be a bit darker and more amber. 
  • Since I am trying to move away from this yellow/orange tone and opting for a lighter and more natural look, I am going with Bona’s water-based finish called Bona Traffic HD in a matte finish.
kitchen island on hardwood floor

Kitchen floor BEFORE getting the Bona REFINISH Treatment

I chose a matte finish for the reason that I didn’t want the sheen to hide the grain of the wood. A matte finish will also bring out the beauty of the herringbone pattern.

Paintable Textured Wallpaper in Kitchen

So goodbye amber-orange toned floor.

Brick floor where it meets wood floor

I can’t wait to see how nicely the new grey stain with the water-based matte finish will look with the brick floor in my foyer and the luxury vinyl plank in the” hallway of darkness” and my Studioffice. 

Bona Certified Craftsman sanding a hardwood floor

If other Bona Certified Craftsmen are as knowledgeable and professional as Greg – you will get the best of the best when it is time to REVIVE, RESTORE or REFINISH the hardwood flooring in your home.

Inspired to do amazing things with your hardwood floors?

Check out Bona’s flooring inspiration site and for even more hardwood floor ideas head on over to their Pinterest boards. 

Locate a Bona Certified Craftsman near you and rest easy knowing that your family and your floors will be in good hands.

Continue Reading to See How My Newly Stained and Finished Hardwood Floors Turned Out

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  1. Thank you for sharing your experiance. It will / is very helpful to me. Being am only in the begining of my own flooring project. You’ve already showed me some insight and thoughts have not yet considered.

  2. Derek Campbell says:

    Great choice of colors, Diane! thanks for these helpful tips.

  3. Mike Almahdi says:


    Choosing a wood floor stain color can be one of the toughest decisions you’ll have to make when it comes to refinishing your hardwood floors.

  4. Tina Irick says:

    Good morning Diane:

    Such great tips and information today. I am so glad to learn about the Bona floor people. I live in Orangeburg, SC (about 55-60 miles away) so when I saw Lake Murray I was intrigued.

    I have a problem with all my kitchen and bathroom fixtures becoming corroded. I update most of my faucets through out my with dark bronze/brown fixtures. It looked great for a while but now my hard water is taking the finish off.
    Any idea other than replacing? I have well water, super terrific for watering grass and drinking, residue NOT

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Tina – I know that you can paint fixtures with spray paint. It does work if you sand the metal, clean well, let dry and use a fe light coats of dark bronze Rustoleum spray paint. It may not last forever, but will make your fixtures look better. If you want to read a few posts about the process. Google “How to paint a faucet” or “bathroom fixtures”. Also read my spray painting tips. Knowing these will help ensure you get a smooth and lasting finish.

  5. Clean Home says:

    I remember when I picked my tile color for floor and was very unhappy when we came home. Much more when it’s already been installed. It has printed light colors w/c got messy immediately and to think I really hate moping floors. You had a great choice of floor. Nice job!

  6. preeti singh says:

    What is the best wood for hardwood floors?

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Oak is the best or any hardwood like maple of cherry.

  7. Can’t wait to see the finished project. I’m doing the same thing in my house in 2 weeks and they will put different colors down like you did. :)

  8. Kari at Me and My Captain says:

    Looks good Diane…I can’t wait to see it after it is completed. I am wanting to replace “huge Florida tiles” for a wood floor in my kitchen/living room/hall/dining room. A big project for sure. We have lots of humidity in Florida so I have to take that into consideration too.

  9. Carol Heartfelt Whimsies says:

    Diane—How excited you must be!
    The transformation is going to be amazing! I think redoing the floors in my home was the SINGLE biggest positive change we have made!
    I can’t wait to see!!!

  10. Oh my goodness I can’t wait to see it!! I would like to do our floors as well one day, they are orangey too. Thanks for explaining the process of picking out the color & sheen. I thought you may choose dark, and I’m excited you chose the grey! Also I love that they offer a dust free system, that’s pretty amazing.
    My daughter once redid her bedroom with dark, shiny laminate and we could never keep the floors looking clean!

  11. Oh my goodness… that is going to look amazing!

  12. Can’t wait to see them finished. After seeing all that oak -y orange-y color in your kitchen/living room for so long, I can’t imagine what it will look like Gray and matte finish. What a reveal this will be!!!. And then – you’ll have another major reveal when the outside of your house is painted. You’re keeping all of us in suspense.

  13. I can’t wait to see the final result! I like that Bona trains the contractors directly so you can really feel like what they are advertising is what you will get. How exciting, Diane! Thanks for all the details- totally pinworthy!