Updated: Mar 26
There’s no denying the beauty of dark woods and dark stains. Especially with younger generations and those seeking an upscale, sophisticated look, darker flooring like Brazilian Cherry, Mahogany, and dark-stained Oak or Walnut hold a strong appeal. But there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding on a darker wood. They can require a bit more maintenance than more forgiving mid-tone woods, a reality that dark wood fans need to be prepared to live with.
Dark wood or dark stain?
A medium tone wood with a darker stain, will likely be less costly than a naturally dark species.
If you’re looking for a darker hardwood flooring, deciding whether to go with a darker species or a dark stain can be difficult. In most cases, darker woods tend to be less abundant and therefore more costly. Darker planks generally come from heartwood, which represents a smaller portion of the tree than lighter sapwood. Moreover, species that produce truly dark heartwood are not as common as those that produce more medium shades. Consequently, these woods can cost as much as twice what you might pay for a more common wood with a darker stain.
On the other hand, a lighter wood with a darker stain is far more likely to show scratches and dents, since these remove the dark stain from the damaged area revealing the much lighter wood beneath and causing a starker contrast than you would get with a darker species. Similarly, while a very uniform super dark floor certainly creates a striking and beautiful effect, variation will always be more forgiving when comes to dents, scratches, or other damage.
Regardless of whether you decide to go with a stain or a naturally dark wood, the finish you choose will make a big difference both in how well your floor hides damage and how much it shows dust and other undesirables. Dark wood owners commonly complain of two things: dust and footprints. While a regular cleaning schedule will certainly help to keep this under control, the finish you choose can be your greatest ally in keeping your dark floors looking beautiful all the time.
High gloss finishes are typically a no-no with dark hardwood floors unless you intend to clean them several times a day and they get virtually no foot traffic (from people or pets). Dark, glossy hardwood floors will display every speck of dust that lands on it, along with oils from bare feet, pet hair of any kind, shoe prints, and even streaks from floor cleaners. The best way to avoid this is to go with a finish no shinier than semi-gloss. The most satisfied dark wood floor owners tend to be those who go with a satin or a matte finish.
Darker hardwood floors look great against the contrast of pale furniture and walls.
Another thing to consider when deciding how dark your hardwood floors will be is the lighting in the room or rooms you are considering. Bright natural light is by far the most unforgiving when it comes to darker floors. If your home has a lot of large windows, you might want to go in another direction. Low-light rooms will hide dust best, but of course a dark room will be made even darker by a dark floor. Fortunately, dark hardwood floors do best with contrasting room features, so the lack of light can be easily countered with pale furniture and cabinetry and contrasting walls and rugs. This will also serve to enhance the striking, sophisticated look that dark floors serve best.
The key to keeping your dark wood floor looking right is regular cleaning. If possible, try to run a dust mop over the floor at least once a day. This does not need to be a proper cleaning—a dry dust mop will do just fine.
In addition to daily dust-mopping or vacuuming, you will also want to clean your hardwood floors with a cleaner recommended by the manufacturer. With dark floors, it is especially important to use the right cleaner, as solutions not recommended for the purpose can leave streaks and dull spots, which show up starkly on darker floors.
A word of caution: Though much advice on cleaning hardwood floors can be found on the Internet, recommendations found in forums and similar places often fail to take into account long-term effects. Two examples that recur frequently in this context are steam mopping and vinegar solutions. Though the immediate results of these may seem satisfying, repeatedly exposing wood to steam will eventually cause the finish to darken and get cloudy just like water damage, which it is, while long-term use of vinegar solutions often results in the gradual dulling of the finish of your floors. It is for reasons such as these that it is generally best to consult us before trying a new product or method on your floors.