Wood Floor Wars: Light Versus Dark

white paint wall color with dark wood flooring
Last month I had the opportunity to speak with a professional wood floor installer/refinisher. He stopped by to quote a job for us. (We're removing the tile from our front entry and having it replaced with red oak to match the rest of the house.) Whether plumber, landscaper or electrician, when a professional such as this is in my home, I always take the opportunity to engage them in conversation. More specifically, I pick their brains. For the wood guy, I wanted to know about trends. Pre-finished versus not, species of wood, that sort of thing. I also wondered about color. From new floors to refinishing (and staining), he confirmed dark is hot. I nodded. Not surprising, I thought. Then he said something that caught my attention.
"I'd never have them."
"Why's that?" I asked.
"They take too much maintenance. You can see the littlest scratch. And daily upkeep is just as bad. You can see every speck of dust from a mile away."
As I've always had natural red oak wood floors, I can't attest to his statement, but having several pieces of mahogany (and even black) furniture, I know dust shows on them much more than other lighter-stained/painted items around the house. Ultimately, I believe the wood floor guy. 
Of course, the pain of maintenance might be worth it if your aesthetic demands a dark wood floor. Just be warned before you pick that dark species and stain. Ultimately, in the war of trends, dark is on top right now, but in the war of maintenance, light floors win.
So, what do you think? Is the maintenance of dark wood floors worth the trend?

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DeeDee | chasingabetterlife.com on May 25, 2019:

I am researching based on the idea I'll be replacing my floors. I think I am going to do ceramic that looks like wood.

linda on Feb 02, 2016:

Hello I have to agree with the FLOOR GUY!! MAINTANCE ON THE DARK WOOD FLOORS IS A LIVING NIGHTMARE!!!! I moved into a home that had fabulous oak floors .they did not even need refinishing.......BUT SILLY ME AND MY OUTLANDISH DECORATING IDEAS........WENT AND TORE OUT THE ENTIRE FLOORS IN THE LOWER HALF OF THE HOME..i have since lived to regret it......every day of my life......the dirt ,the dust ,the spots....it shows so bad you can never just feel like the home is clean......then the maintance of an engineered floor is beyound belief...so it looks good when i swiffer it,,which is every day...for about 20 minutes DO NOT DO IT.....i am moving ..again....this time i bought a home with real cherry wood floors and I am keeping them.....

meg on Feb 20, 2015:

We have a condo on the beach in Fl. Very bright and sand is not an issue. Our cabinets are light maple, neutral tile and sandy granite counters. Furniture is medium tones, white walls. We want to replace carpet in bedrooms with hardwood. Can we go w wide planks? How dark?

M on Feb 22, 2014:

I put in a gorgeous dark walnut floor that has a lot of variation and pattern in the floor making it more forgiving.  As far as keeping it clean goes,  it's very easy.  I use a Bona Floor Mop and Wood floor clearner and it looks great all the time.  It is what the installers recommended and you can find it at Target.  It only takes a few minutes to push around the dust mop and I am a neat freak!  Oh did I mention I have 3 furry cats?  Even with pets it looks great.  

Anonymous on Jan 16, 2013:

Hi Erika,

Can I ask what kind of and colour was the timber before you stained with the Jacobean?


Teresa Sept 1st '12 on Sep 03, 2012:

How bout cherry/natural satin finish ? I don't know if I want light or dark... I've been steering towards dark, but we have a dark line design on the edge, and light will bring the design out more.... help.....

the floors are old oak around 2inch wide.... and what about the "finish".. ie: satin, shinny ?

Anonymous on Jul 09, 2012:

My wife and I may end up with light color floors. @Kim, Brazilian walnut is great hardwood floor, but it is not the right choice for every home. It is not wise to use it in some parts of the US if you live in an area with high humidity because of the stability issue.

Amy on Jan 31, 2012:

We have had natural stained quarter sawn white oak floors for 20 years. Although dark floors are the current trend, I've been really happy with my light floor- I've never seen a scratch, they don't show dust (I'm a lazy housekeeper) and they're very resilient. Dusting 2400 sq. feet of floor every day does not sound like fun to me.

Leslie on Jan 30, 2012:

Like Erika I also have "Jacobean" floors and love them. I've always preferred dark floors to light. Yes, it does show dust and pet hair; we have a fluffy white dog that is a shedding machine and a mostly white fluffy cat that is the same, so I sweep frequently, but it's not so bad. Light floors would have looked wrong in our house with our decor style, and since our furniture, curtains, and fireplace is light colored it accents everything quite well.

DesigningMom on Jan 30, 2012:

Very good points Josh. Yes, anything you do in your home has to fit your families lifestyle. What works for one family may not work for another As for the steam mops, unless you go over a dried spill a number of times with the steam blasting, there's no little puddles. Steam evaporates almost instantly. At least with my Bissell steam mop. If you don't hold down the steam button constantly there is less moisture. Again, you must do what you feel is best for you.

Josh on Jan 30, 2012:

One other thing: I would test a steam mop on dark hardwood before I used it, and ask the manufacturer about long term effects. Our floor is exotic, distressed dark, and we were warned about what to not use (a steamer was one of them, because the manufacturer would not back warranty if we did). Also, the cleaner from Bona is a very quick drying cleaner that doesn't leave a residue (which others have). This is especially important for distressed wood, which forms valleys and crevices that can hold tiny amounts of water.

I would not change my floors, though. No way. :-)

Josh on Jan 30, 2012:

To those with dogs that shed: yes, the hair will show up on dark floors.

To those who worry about "hiding dust": yes, it will show up and sunlight makes it worse- so do bare feet.

No, it's not a life drain to own these floors... especially at night, when it is so relaxing.

My strategy: 2 - 3 times daily, I run over the floors with a dry mop (I have forgotten the brand, but it's better than Swifter, IMO, and the mop covering is machine-washable). I have a hand-held vac that I use to clean the dry mop covering (once a week, it goes in the washer) and to get along the edges of particularly noticeable corners. Once a week, I vacuum the floors and use the hardwood floor cleaner from Bona (I buy the concentrate and mix my own). Other than accidents, that's it. It takes me five minutes, usually, to go over the floors each time with the dry mop.

In the end, it's a matter of your priorities. You're not going to have an awesome yard with tons of landscaping if you don't want to invest the time (I don't, so we don't have an awesome yard). You don't want tons of windows if cleaning windows drives you nuts. We have 5-year old twins who think bare feet are awesome; we have a dog that sheds; and we have people over frequently. It's just your priorities.

Cindy Redmond on Jan 30, 2012:

In my last house I had a dark cherry/mahogany finished oak floor and a red bone hound dog (golden reddish coat) and it was dreadful. Dust & hair showed up and upkeep was a nightmare- my sister accused me of a floor-sweeping obsession- I always had a dust mop in my hand. Not to mention that I love to pad around barefoot and I left toe prints on it's polished surface (that was using the recommended hardwood floor cleaner). 

I agree with DesigningMom, the best way to clean is using a steam mop- no greasy residue left behind. Preceded with a thorough vacuuming with the central vac. I miss the central vac in that house but not those dark floors. I prefer a lighter, natural hardwood like birch or beech with a low sheen finish or pine floors and embrace the natural wear and age. 



judy on Jan 30, 2012:

I vote for medium wood tone too......furniture is too light for the light wood, and the dark wood swallows up the furniture in my opinion.....ending up to be the focal point of the room!!


Anonymous on Jan 30, 2012:

We have light wood floors which the previous owners left unfinished (pine). Because of the required sanding, etc. what we've done previously was a slight stain in the verathane and black walnut covers over the screw holes, which keeps the screw heads from filling with dirt.  I recommend them, if you have owner-installed (screwed or nailed) floors like we do.

We need to do them over again, which because the floors are pine, means renting a sander, taking it all the way down and treating them as if they'd never been done. I am contemplating painting them, ragging them, or pickling the floors with porch paint (stronger than regular paint) before we verathane them this time. I would never just do verathane again even with the stain added, not ob pine, it wears through too quickly!


Heidi on Jan 30, 2012:

We are in the decision stage of light v dark so your comments are great!  Anyone with dark floors, a dog and a Roomba?  We have a white golden (plenty of shedding) but would love to go with darker wood.  We have a Roomba, but no dark floors so it is hard to tell how well it will do...any insight/comments to help us make the decision??

Anonymous on Jan 30, 2012:

I think dark is worth it.  So you have to take a dry swifter to it a few more times a week.  Dark floors have a way of making the room seem bigger by sort of disappearing.  They ad a lot of rich color too for those that are afraid of putting it on their walls.

DesigningMom on Jan 17, 2012:

We have a happy medium color solid oak flooring and I love it. I clean it with my Bissell steamer and when needed I go over it with a cleaner we picked up from the home show one year. The only thing I found that doesn't leave a greasy residue.

betsy on Jan 10, 2012:

I'm so glad to be reading this as my sweet husband and I are going to be replacing two bedroom floors and hall way in the very near future.  We have kitties, a dog and two teens...(we also have a lot of natural slate in the main part of our house :)  ).  We're going back and forth on the dark vs light -- I love the warmth of dark, but know I'll have to invest in a roomba or something with all our dander-producing family members!


Dorothy on Jan 09, 2012:

I put in wide plank cherry floors in my 100 year old condo and I couldn't be happier. They are a dark reddish=brown color. They are so warm and rich. I never wear shoes in the house which helps keep them clean.  I think the shade of wood you choose should depend a lot on which climate you live in. Lighter floors are beautiful but colder looking. I live in Seattle where it is gray gray gray so I appreciate having the warmer looking floors. Plus, I think the darker is less trendy and will be "in style" forever. Dark wood baby, dark!

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