Choosing stain color and sheen

Choosing Your Stain and Sheen – Get It Right!

Overall, stain color selection more than anything can be the biggest disappointment a customer experiences if they get it wrong. It is by far the most important decision. You should plan to take time to decide and include the style you are prefer, the color palette of your walls, your furniture and wall decor. It is one thing you must be sure of, and while we can give you input its really your decision. We will not be living with it, you are, so be sure.

Some folks are quick to decide and it is done. Others struggle with their choice. If you work with us we prefer that you select your stain color from the stain manufacturer we work with (not something you have found in the box stores or while surfing the web.)

There are about 30-40 stock and custom stain options. Hopefully, that is more than enough to find the right color. The stains we use are a commercial version of those you find at the box stores, often made by Min Wax. The brand we mostly work with is made by Dura Seal, their Quick Coat Line, whose parent company is Min Wax. While its true that most of them have cross over colors in the Dura Seal line, there are several that are not. That is why we suggest you stay away from getting your heart set on a color we can get in the fast curing commercial formulation.

What We Do To Help You Select the Right Color Stain

Once our agreement is firmed up and we begin we will again show you a stain chart to choose from. We prefer you see the stain on your floor, with your wood and your light, during the day and also at night. We will guide you and ask you to narrow it to 3 or so color choices. Next, we will mock them up on your floor. (Choosing the color off a stain chart or stain card can offset the actual color, even by the gloss of the paper. Again, this is a simple task that takes a little time.)

A row of boxes is created using blue painter’s tape. Each box gets a stain you are leaning toward. The can of stain with the color name is placed just outside the box, and the name of the color is clearly written on the blue tape. A picture is taken, and you will be asked to sign off on the color, so there is no question.

Recently We Had A Client Who Struggled with Her Color Choice

A client was excited to see our work nearby and fell in love with the floors we showed her. She liked the color and the sheen and was impressed with the workmanship. So, she contracted with us.

Liking the color, she asked to see 3 other choices. So while we installed her foyer wood we prepared the stain samples as described above. She had no immediate color jump out at her and was really unsure. It was good that there was other contracting being done first, so she had time while the custom trim guy was doing his portion, the front door guy and the painter. Luckily, she had time on her side, which is not only the case.

A few days later she figured out that what was throwing her decision off was the lack of sheen. Once we discussed she has probably narrowed it down to two, we applied sheen on the sample and she immediately reaffirmed it would be one of two colors.

Color choice is for stain color only. And for her it threw her off. Sheen is a separate decision. And if it is helpful, we can apply the sheen, so you get a snapshot of the final product.

Beware- Shoddy Sanding Will Cause Uneven Stain Application

See more about problems when the stain does not look uniform in color when you have your hardwood floors refinished

 Sheen Is the Next Decision

Once you get the stain identified, you next need to decide on the sheen of the floor. The options are a matte finish, satin, semi-gloss, and gloss. The higher the sheen the more the shine. Satin is the most popular, and generally what we recommend. It yields the most benefit while obscuring future problems. The higher the sheen the more pronounced every future blemish will appear.

Sometimes When Folks See the Sheen, They May Change Their Minds

Also, sometimes people have a sheen in mind that might be a slightly different than what the first coat reveals. When this happens on a one-time basis we can increase or decrease the sheen from the first coat to the second and final coat. Typically, once the floor is stained it is then sealed. Then it gets 2 coats of finish applied at full strength.

Semi-gloss has been the popular choice for probably the last 20 years, or since it became the rage where homeowners were tearing out their wall to wall, and refinishing the floors underneath or installing new hardwood floors.

Today the trend is to lessen the sheen slightly to satin. Satin is the most forgiving. It tends not to promote blemishes, rather it marginalizes them. Semi-gloss and gloss however will enhance and make future blemishes stand out. Matte we find to be the least popular. Matte finishes are favored by the younger Millennials, or they are used is super hi end installations that have penetrating finishes (European finishes.)

With that said some folks decide on a satin finish because of its benefits but when applied they feel it has less shine than what they ultimately want. So again, as noted above there is 1 chance (as part of the original contract,) that they can increase or decrease the sheen. Or, if it is still not quite right, they can pay for an additional coat to change the sheen.

Beware – Don’t Get Ripped Off By Refinishers Who Water Down Their Finish Coats- This Will Weaken the Finish, Affect Its Performance and Cause Premature Failure

Unfortunately, it is somewhat common for refinishers to cut corners in the refinishing process, cutting their finishes with acetone or paint thinner is one such trick used to cut their cost.

The finish, holding board replacement aside is the costliest expense when refinishing hardwood floors. Often the unethical refinishers will do this so they can offer a cheaper price. For the consumer shopping solely on price, this could be a short cut that may haunt them in the future.

Finish cut with either of those products is thinned out, so it does not have the full strength to perform according to manufacturer’s specifications. What that means is the finish is weaker and will not stand up as well to common foot traffic and use. In turn that means it easily will be more prone to damage from even a minor issue. It also means that the floor refinishing will show wear and damage sooner than normal.

For these less than honest refinishers this trick and others become commonplace (and against the NWFA Standards,) and are why their prices seem too good to be true.

To read and see more about shortcuts and mistakes in refinishing floors click here