Advice for refinishing floors gray or whitewashe
Over the last 5 or 6 years, gray stained hardwood floors have been on the rise. This has been followed by a steep increase in whitewashed floors, and now over the last couple of years, more and more are looking to do a combo of gray and brown floors.
These colors are super stylish and of course trendy. If you have solid hardwood flooring, the "trendy" aspect isn't a real concern (unless you're about to sell your house) as by the time these go out of style, it will be time to refinish your hardwood floors anyway.
But, the trickier part is getting the colors correct. For years, I've gotten calls from frantic customers across the country who can't seem to get the colors correct or they don't know the right products to use. And, as it turns out, most of the installers don't know the right products either.
Some of them tell me the floors look pinkish, some tell me they look bluish and some greenish. Yes, it's true!
So I wanted to provide some advice to help consumers find the right products and colors to use.
First, I'm going to start with the last step in the process because it applies to all of these colors and all wood species. You need to use a water borne polyurethane. If you use an oil based poly, your floors will turn yellow...and that looks pretty bad when you are going for a whitewashed or gray stained floor. I'd specifically recommend Bona Traffic HD as it's the most durable and looks the best. You can read more about the best polyurethane for floors to read about why I recommend this specific product.
Second, you need to look at the species of wood you have. The best species for white washed and gray floors are white oak and maple flooring. But, if you have red oak floors (which is much more common), you need to understand that red oak will have pink undertones in it. So, you have 2 choices: either do a dark enough gray to cover this up or bleach your floors first. Both of these options will drown out the pinkish undertones.
Third, be prepared to test a lot of samples to get your desired look. Note: you should only be doing 1 coat of stain, not 2. This is important for the durability of the floors. So test the stains/blends until you have a look you like.
In our experience, the premixed Minwax and Duraseal whitewashes and grays are too watery. Hence, most customers do not like the look of them as they are too thin. Because of that, the colors of wood show through too much, and hence the pinkish, greenish, bluish undertones...unless you usebleach first.
We generally use Bona White (rather than Duraseal or Mixwax whites) as it's thicker an more opaque, and then we mix it with Duraseal ebony until we get the desired gray (whether it's darker or lighter gray). If we are mixing in browns, we will then test mixes of this with Duraseal special walnut, antique brown or dark walnut pending on how dark or light the customer desires and how brown vs how gray. Yes, this takes a lot of patience.
This is really why it's a great idea to work with an installer who is very familiar with refinishing floors with grays and/or white washes. Otherwise, it can be very frustrating (and at times stressful).
I get a lot of calls about this, even from people outside my area, and I try to coach them on the right stain colors and poly to use. I have a hunch that in 5 years or so, more installers will know how to do this and do it better. Some installers will avoid these sort of stains as they are more challenging and they take more time to find the right blend that will make their customers happy.
It's important to make sure you installer knows how to do these floors and feels very comfortable with them. If they don't, then either choose a different installer, or do a more traditional stain. Otherwise, you won't be happy with the results...or worse...you may need to start over and sand and refinish again.
Debbie Gartner aka The Flooring Girl