Time to Choose a Stain Color for White Oak Flooring

I haven’t written about my home renovation as much as I originally intended. Work picked up and it was hard enough juggling that while simultaneously following up on the house, making micro decisions on a daily basis, let alone blog about it.

My general contractor and I get along really well but he’ll be the first to tell you that I am NOT an easy customer to deal with. He says I’m very “detail-oriented,” which is just a nice way of saying neurotic-perfectionist.

Overall, the renovation has been going pretty smoothly. The only minor hiccup was some issues that arose with the bathroom tiling. I may have spent a good 30 minutes yelling at my GC. Something along the lines of: “You know how I am by now, how could you let this happen?!”

Poor guy kept repeating, “We’re going to fix it. I didn’t say we won’t fix it right? We’ll fix it!”

I digress, this post is supposed to be about the flooring.

We purchased a split-level ranch so the original floors were part of the 1950’s build – your typical 2 1/4″ red oak planks. The floors were left unstained with an oil-based polyurethane finish that gave it a deep, orangish hue.

A bit dated looking, to say the least.

The original floors might have been salvageable, if not for the gapping. I really, really hate gaps in hardwood floors.

Back when I was in law school, my husband rented a small apartment that had old, squeaky floors with large gaps. When we were potty-training our dog, Mochi, she had numerous accidents that would get rubbed into the cracks, never to be seen again.

I’m still traumatized.

That’s how I ended up choosing white oak for the flooring. White oak is very moisture-resistant (commonly used for boats or outdoor furniture) and the rift and quarter sawn cut has superior stability (less prone to movement, a.k.a., gaps!)

I originally envisioned dark-stained floors because, well, everyone I know has dark-stained floors and I always loved that look.

But, now that the floors are down, I’ve fallen in love with the creamy, light floors. The white oak really brightens up the house and gives off an airy and cheerful feeling.

Even the floor guys were raving about the floors. It turns out that because I placed a special order for 4 1/4″ rift and quarter sawn, 4′-12′ lengths, my planks had to be custom-milled. As a result, they were especially uniform in quality and easy to lay down.

I totally forgot to take pictures of the floor so this is the best picture I have of it… This picture is supposed to be of the archway which was getting framed.

The floors are currently being sanded and it’s time to choose a stain color! (Things like this are my favorite parts of the home renovation process.) 🙂

I have to pick one of the Bona DriFast stain colors. (The floor guys prefer to use the same brand of stain as the finish and I will be finishing the floors with a waterborne polyurethane, specifically, the Bona Traffic HD in satin.)

See color chart below:

I was trying to go light/natural so I asked my GC to swatch a few of the colors from the “naturals” line and to throw in a dark brown, just in case.

Clockwise from top left: 1) white, 2) driftwood, 3) Bona Traffic w/o sealer, 4) BonaSeal w/o stain, 5) 25% white and 75% birch, 6) birch, and 7) sand dune

The four large rectangular swatches on the left are the stains I originally requested. I wasn’t sure about the colors so we played around with a few other options.

White is definitely out as it does not look AT ALL like the color chart.

I think driftwood (a dark, grayish brown) looks beautiful on the floors – the stain brings out the medullary rays and flecks of the rift and quarter sawn white oak. Almost like tiger stripes (or stretch marks!) If I was going with a dark color, this would be it.


The problem is, I can’t decide between what I originally wanted (dark) vs. what I’ve fallen in love with (light).

I think I know what I’m leaning towards but I’d love to hear opinions… which stain color is your favorite?

UPDATE: I have since found the PERFECT SOLUTION for natural white oak floors.

Best Finish for the Most Natural-Looking White Oak Floors
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