Staining Your Hardwood Floors and Choosing the Right Stain

By Cezar

A new coat of stain on your floors can add vitality and warmth to your home. Undertaking the work isn’t always the best option, though. In fact, in some cases it can be destructive.

On this page we’ll explain how to decide if you should stain at all. In the case that you do decide that you want to stain your floors, we’ll help you sort out which brand might be right for you.

Can I And Should I Stain My Floors?

Well, assuming you own your home, you can do pretty much anything you want to your floors. Whether or not you should is another story.

First off, let’s address why anyone would want to consider this in the first place. The answer is mostly (or entirely aesthetic). An old, worn hardwood floor can look drab and unappealing, which lowers the energy in the whole room. A new coat of stain can bring life back to a hardwood floor.

Not every hardwood floor is actually well-suited to stain, though. We discuss this in more detail in the “What Type of Wood Floors Do I Have?” section below.

Assuming you have a wood receptive to stain, a couple situations are well-suited to staining. We discuss those in more detail in the “Is There Any Water or Pet Damage?” section below.

If you have a proper variety of hardwood floor and if your floors are suffering from relatively minor wear and damage, a new coat of stain can drastically improve your floors. Do keep in mind that a simple stain is really only appropriate for damage and wear that is more superficial. Serious damage to a hardwood floor would likely require more extensive work like a full a hardwood floor refinishing.

The advantage of hardwood refinishing is that it can solve more severe wear and damage. The disadvantage is that it can be expensive, time-consuming, disruptive, and difficult.

What Type Of Wood Floors Do I Have?

There are many types of wood floors, but determining whether yours is well-suited to stain breaks down to two broad categories:

  • Tight-grained, small-pored woods, typically exotic varieties such as maple, mahogany, or pine, do not do well with staining and are usually better left alone. The composition of their grains makes them very difficult so evenly stain.
  • Commoner woods like beech or white or red oak are well-suited to staining and can gain a lot of value from the process. They take well to stain and can gain an attractive appearance from the process.

Now, determining the wood that makes up your floors may be a bit trickier if you didn’t build the house yourself. Still, there are plenty of resources on the internet to figure this out, or you could ask to consult a professional to help you categorize your hardwood floor.

What Level Of Damage Is There?

Once you’ve determined your floors are made of a wood that is good for stain, you’ll want to assess the damage. A simple coat of stain is good for:

  • Simple fading and wear from the passing of time.
  • Unappealing coloration left by previous coats of finish. Maybe you bought a used house, and the previous owners applied an unfortunate finish to your floors. Or maybe you yourself made a goof in that department. Either way, a poor finish can leave a hardwood floor looking lackluster.
  • Damage to your floors from pets, water, plant pots, or just about anything else.

Damage that is more serious than that might require more extensive work, such as a full refinishing. The advantage of hardwood refinishing is that it can take care of damage and wear that is much more extensive than that suitable to simple staining.

What If I Can’t Decide Between Two Or Three Colors?

Homeowners often struggle to choose the right stain for hardwood floors. This is understandable, because the choice you make will be very difficult to undo and will be something you’ll have to live with for a long time. The fact is that the right stain for hardwood floors depends not only on the hardwood floor itself but also for the surrounding room and the tastes of the homeowner.

The safest approach is to ask a flooring professional to show you samples. Perhaps you can even have the professional come to your home or allow you take the samples home to set them against your actual floor.

You can also use an image-based site such as Pinterest to find some good visual assistance. Or, perhaps look at some flooring-professional websites and use their images for context and comparison. With the internet, there are many free resources. Of course, they can’t compare to talking to an actual professional who can counsel you on your specific room and needs, but they can help.

One factor to consider is your vision for the room as a whole. The floor is only part of that room, and you’ll want it to complement the overall design, right down to the furniture choices. The floors are a major component of the overall design, for sure, but they are not the room in its entirety.


Assuming your hardwood floors are a variety receptive to the product, a new stain can bring life and color back into your home. There are multiple factors to consider first, though, and there are times when stain isn’t the right choice. A full refinishing or no work at all might be preferable.

There are qualified professionals that can help you sort this out, including the all-important stain selection, but you may also choose to do it yourself. We hope this page helped you decide which approach was right for you.

There is no “one size fits all” solution here! Each wood floor and its condition are unique. We will provide you with the best and most cost-efficient solution for your floors.

Get a Free In-Home Consultation & Estimation from one of our flooring experts

As a general rule, professionally refinished hardwood floors last 5 times longer vs DIY.