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What You Need to Know

Now there are more choices of stains and colors for your hardwood floors than ever. You may want to change the look of your flooring to complement your new granite counter tops, to give your home a more high-end appearance, or to help your home stand out from others in the neighborhood.

To create a dramatic change, you may consider darkening your wood floors. This process is also called “ebonizing” the floor. Before we go any further, remember that it’s best to consult with professionals before doing anything that will cause a chemical reaction in your floor. It’s usually a good rule of thumb to use all stain products as directed. In this blog, we’re talking about experimenting with the look of the wood and how that’s usually done.

Getting a darker floor color

To get a darker color on your floor, you typically use iron acetate. This is a mixture of vinegar and steel wool, which reacts with the tannins in the grain of the wood. How dark the floor will be depends on how open or closed the grain is. Unlike with stains, the iron acetate solution will darken the floor more each time you apply it. So you’ll want to use multiple coats to get it darker.

Which woods work best?

The tannins in the wood vary by species. For example, white oak has more tannins, so it can be most dramatically changed. When iron acetate is applied to white oak, it transforms it to a gray color with brown undertones. If the white oak has fewer tannins because of a tighter grain, you’ll end up with a lighter color. Other tight-grained species of wood include maple and hickory, and the iron acetate method won’t result in much of a color change. So, some have tried coating the wood with black tea first, before applying the iron acetate, to get a darker shade.

The higher the amount of tannins in the wood, the easier it is to ebonize, or darken the color of it. Generally, hardwoods like oak, cherry and walnut are good for this process. Softer woods, like birch and maple, are not as easy to change, but not impossible.

Even different pieces of wood can react differently. So it’s important to experiment to see how to get the results you’re looking for.

Why not just use stains?

You could simply stain the wood, and this is also a good way to go. However, more people are wanting custom effects, with colors and tones not typically found in a showroom. To get a truly different look, it takes a little experimenting. To get even more color variations, some have used food coloring and aniline dye mixed with the iron acetate. But a word of caution: you’ll want to talk to experts before applying dyes to your floor. The species of wood, along with other factors, could create unwanted issues.

How is staining different?

With staining, solvents and pigments are used to change the color of the wood. Iron acetate creates a chemical change inside the wood itself.  The difference is that the dark color is more opaque, unlike after staining, which can sometimes still show the lighter grain underneath.

Remember, you should definitely experiment to see how to get the desired results you want before applying anything to your entire floor. And talk to the professionals at Sequoia Ltd., who will be happy to advise you on the coloring and staining processes for your particular type of flooring.

Sequoia Ltd. is your one-stop shop for purchase, installation and maintenance. Contact us today to get started!