Dark Wood Floors vs Light Wood Floors


Dark wood floors vs light wood floors – Which will work best for you?

Walnut FlooringEven though many homeowners choose to lay light wood floors, dark wood floors are favored all over the world. The rich brown appeal and the warmth of a dark brown hardwood floor seem to attract homeowners and it never goes out of style. However, when it comes to choosing the right color of wood for your floor, you should consider a few important points. After all, once your flooring is complete you don’t want to go through the process of refinishing it for a long time to come. Here are some factors to consider when choosing the color of your wood floors:

  • How heavy is the traffic on your floor?
  • What do you prefer – dark wood or light wood?
  • What is the style of your décor?
  • What is your maintenance schedule? How often do you clean it?
  • Do you have pets?
  • What is the size of the area where you want the wood floor?
  • What is the color of your cabinets and which color will go with your furniture?

There are more points than this and you should list them all before making a decision. You can never cater to all those points, but try to be as close as possible.

As we stated earlier, dark wood floors are more popular than light wood floors, but it doesn’t mean that dark is the best choice for you. You should choose what suits you. Check out the pros and cons of dark wood floors vs light wood floors here amongst other factors.

Ease of maintenance

Dark wood floors come with their drawbacks. People have different preferences as far as cleaning their floor is concerned. Some people like to clean it on a daily basis while others clean it on a weekly basis. Homes with children, pets or numerous adults will see more dirt and grime owing to the heavier traffic, and the floor will need more regular maintenance. You can read more on how to choose hardwood floors for dogs here. If you have dogs it makes sense to have light wood floors as they show fewer scratches.

However, over time wood floors will get dents, scratches or scuff marks. This is bound to happen no matter what preventive measures you take. The good news is that there is a great hardwood floor cleaner that you can use to clean: Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner.

If you really want dark wood floors, choose satin finish over matte finish as this kind of finish hides imperfections more easily, regardless of stain color.

Scratches and scuff marks show prominently on dark wood floors. This is because when the wood is scratched through the dark color stain, its underlying light color starts showing and this will show a contrast with the wood floor around it and the wood underneath.

Light wood floors, on the other hand, do not show these imperfections so much, but if you have softwoods like pine orlight wood floors Douglas fir with a Janka rating of 650+, then you should know that these are not resistant to scratching or other damage.

Choose a dark hardwood for flooring that has a high Janka hardness rating. The higher the rating, the harder it is to scratch it. For this reason, red oak flooring is preferred by many homeowners, as, with a rating of 1290, it will not scratch under the normal wear and tear of foot traffic or by sliding a dining chair over it. Hickory wood has a higher rating at 1820 and Brazilian walnut stands at 3680. This means that they will not get scratched if you slide a heavy dining table over them.

Where not to use dark or light wood floors

Dark wood floors are not recommended for small rooms, as they make it look smaller. They shouldn’t be used in high traffic areas such as the kitchen. However, you cannot go against the scheme of your wood flooring and if you have to use it in your kitchen you should use wood with high Janka rating.

Another area you need to consider is the area near dark colored cabinets. If you have dark colored cabinets, it is better to use a dark wood stain for flooring. Having lightwood for floors will create an aesthetic challenge for you.

Light floors make the space look bigger. So you have to use a combination of the two in order to present the impression that you have plenty of space. Dark wood floors are great for large open plan homes.

How dark is really dark?

While this is matter of personal choice, mentioned below are a few options.

The darkest you can go for is ebony. It can be further darkened by dying it with aniline dye. The top picks are ebony and Jacobean stain colors. These stain colors give a rich dark brown look. Ebony is darker than Jacobean.

Mahogany is prized for its beauty and rich color. It is very durable and water-resistant if installed as flooring. You could go for cherry; it darkens as it ages, gives a lovely finish and is easy to maintain. But cherry can be also be easily scratched. so use it if there is less traffic in your home. Brazilian cherry is a very hard wood, with a rich burgundy color It is also called Jatoba. You should hire professionals to install Brazilian cherry. Walnut is yet another dark colored wood that will enhance your home. Although it is expensive, it is very strong and durable. This dark chocolate brown colored flooring is very popular amongst homeowners and adds value to a property. If you want to go slightly exotic, you can use rosewood. Colors range from light yellow to purple, and this one is a very hard wood. It does not scratch or dent easily, but it does have a substantial price tag. For those who are adding new oak floors, choose white oak over red oak as it gives a slightly darker color when stained.

dark wood floorsStaining the wood also affects the color of the floor. Depending upon the wood species, the stain colors will vary. So you must talk to your local shop manager before buying a stain for your wood. Test various types of stains on your floor if you are not sure before going for the same stain color for the entire flooring. Since there is a color variation even in the planks of wood, you should see how the stain has worked over a large number of planks.

If you are unsure about the wood species and the stain color, then consider buying prefinished wood flooring. Make sure that it has an easy touch up process. Homeowners may also choose site finished floors over prefinished floors as they have smoother edges and are easier to clean. Site finished floors are better sealed, so they are great for areas like kitchens.

If you are going for light colored floors, how light should they be?

This is again a matter of personal choice. Many homeowners select natural wood, as it tends to hold the stain nicely. Light wood floors like maple and oak are very popular. Oak is highly resistant to dents and scratches, making it a preferred choice amongst homeowners who want to avoid area rugs. Maple looks beautiful with its curly grain, and it is so hard that it is often used in bowling alleys. Lyptus is another light colored wood that is harder than oak. The best part about this floor is that although it looks like mahogany it is less expensive. Ash is an inexpensive light colored hardwood floor that has a high hardness rating. Hickory is a very common light wood floor and suitable for high traffic areas.

Which color wood best matches your furniture? 

Wood floors of any color look beautiful and go with most furniture. So, whatever color you choose you will not feel that it is out of place. However, you have to be careful when you have red toned or mahogany furniture. You may want to choose light wood floors to harmonize with them. Area rugs should be used to break the monotony of wood floors and can make furniture look cohesive with the aesthetics of the room.

Which color is best for your kitchen?

If you have kitchen cabinets made from dark wood, you should go for pale wood floors. Alternatively, light colored kitchen cabinets or cabinets with glass doors can be paired with a dark wood floor. Black cabinets with black trim will go with dark stained wood floors if your kitchen is open plan. Generally, dark floors look good with lighter kitchen cabinets and countertops, whereas light colored floors go well with darker cabinets.

Which one has a higher resale value?

Many realtors suggest that you should not try and match the stain color of the floor with the cabinets and trim as then the house looks monochromatic and buyers lose interest. The floors should be in contrast with the cabinets, according to many interior designers and builders. If your house has enough light you should choose dark wood floors. Many buyers pass on houses that have light wood floors. Dark colored floors make everything pop out. They are dramatic and sophisticated at the same time. Pairing these with light furniture will create a trendy look.

Pros and cons of dark wood floors


  • The grains of wood are enhanced with a dark stain
  • These wood floors do not fade easily as they absorb the sunlight
  • Dark wood floors like Brazilian cherry floor, walnut floor and mahogany exude a warm, rich, luxurious effect
  • They add to the resale value


  • Dark maple wood floors don’t take stains well and instead of refinishing them, you might want to install new
  • Dark wood shows dust and grime
  • Dents, scratches and abrasions show more

Overall you must choose what is best for your home. Which is the most used wood color in your home? A wrong choice will result in terrible aesthetics even it is a beautiful color. Most importantly, the quality of the flooring should be of high priority. Very dark, bleached or grey are the hot trends at the moment.

Author: John Clax

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