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Choosing Wood Floor Colors: The 2020 Guide

July 31, 2020

If you’re reading up on wood floor colors, you’ve most likely narrowed your search down one or two types of wood flooring for your home. And that’s good—because when it comes to hardwood floors, there are a lot of things to consider. 

That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive 2020 guide to wood floor colors: we want to make your life easier, friend! 

Below, we’ll explain exactly what you need to consider when choosing a floor color; we’ll debate the pros and cons of trendy colors vs. timeless styles; we’ll talk about the most popular wood floor colors of 2020; we’ll even clarify the difference between staining, finishing, and painting!

But of course, picking a wood floor color is more art than science. What you think looks great might not be someone else’s cup of tea—and the color that your neighbor chose for their floors might not be ideal for yours (they have terrible taste, anyway). 

So keep reading to learn how to choose wood floor colors that match your home, lifestyle, and personality! 

What to Consider When Choosing Wood Floor Colors

You may be debating between carpet or hardwood in the bedroom, or you might have decided to install wood floors throughout your home. Either way, you’ll most likely want to stick to one color of wood, two at very most. And one style of carpet, if you want it.

The goal is to give your home a cohesive look—not a random selection of floor choices, colors, and styles that change from room to room. Here’s what you need to consider:

Choose a style that works with your existing aesthetics and color palette

interior with wood floor

It goes without saying that the color of your wood floors should match your home’s existing aesthetics and color palette. That includes your wall and trim colors, cabinet colors, appliance colors, etc.—plus any furniture, rugs, or other types of flooring that you plan to keep. 

For instance, if you happen to have dark cabinets, you’ll probably want to choose a wood floor color that contrasts yet complements the existing hues. The same can be said for furniture, countertops, and any other decor that you don’t want to change. 

But you don’t always want an exact color match!

You might think it’s a great idea to match your floor’s color to your trim or cabinet color. But this can backfire and make a room feel boring, flat, and like you have too much of the same material in one space. Instead, opt for something complementary rather than identical!

Remember: dark wood floors can make small rooms look smaller

You probably know that painting a small room a dark color can make it look even smaller. This is also true for small rooms with dark-colored wood floors! But there are some exceptions to this rule. 

Using dark floors in a small room might not be a terrible choice if the area has a lot of natural light or light wall colors. Additionally, opting for wider planks or using other wood floor patterns can help minimize the shrinking effects of dark wood floors in small rooms. 

Pick complementary colors for rooms that can’t accommodate hardwood

If you find yourself with certain rooms (like the kitchen or a bathroom) that can’t accommodate hardwood floors, pick a wood floor color that can easily be matched with other materials—different types of tile, vinyl plank, laminate, etc. 

There are tons of great hardwood floor alternatives, and it’s important that you choose ones that complement your wood floors (and vice-versa). Insider tip: some of the best hardwood floor brands also make fake wood flooring—meaning you can occasionally find identical finishes across different materials!

Consider your lifestyle before picking a wood floor color

Dark wood floors tend to show scratches a bit more than their lighter counterparts. On the other hand, light wood floors might make you feel as though you constantly have to vacuum because they show dirt. Are you a regular cleaner? If so, a light floor might work great for you. Have children or dogs? Maybe a dark floor would be better for your lifestyle.

And think about your wood type as well

The most durable wood flooring options don’t scratch or dent as easily as, say, pine does (if you’ve looked into the pros and cons of pine flooring, you’ll know it’s quite soft). That means you won’t need a light finish to hide damage; you can go dark with comfort! The same is true for most types of scratch-resistant flooring

But on the other hand, pets and kids can drag in a lot of dirt and debris from outside. After all, the best wood flooring for dogs isn‘t just durable—it’s also able to hide imperfections and damage. And for that, lighter colors are ideal.

Think of it this way: if Fluffy the Cat is midnight black, you’ll be able to see her fur all over your light-colored floors. If you live in a rainy area, wet, muddy shoe prints will show up more often on dark surfaces, whether they’re made of water-resistant wood flooring or not. It’s all about balance!

The Pros and Cons of Trendy Colors vs. Timeless Styles

Whether you’re paying a professional to install the best engineered wood flooring you can buy, having your handyman pour concrete flooring that looks like wood, or if installing DIY wood floors on your own, your color and style choices are going to affect your floor’s immediate price and its resale value.

You might prefer a wood floor color that’s classic and timeless, or you might want flooring that’s trendy and modern. There are pros and cons to each style choice, but with a little research, you might find a wood floor color that’s a perfect compromise!

Trendy colors will help sell a home in the near future

very dark to almost-black wood floor living room

Some people choose to install wood flooring as a way to update their home before they put it on the market. If this sounds like your plan, you might want to learn how to install hardwood floors to help increase your total ROI—and you also should consider choosing a trendy wood floor color. 

Currently, popular wood floor colors include

  • Dark charcoal to almost-black stains—super dark or light-colored wood floor can help your home feel quite modern.
  • Natural-looking wood that’s finished with a strong lacquer.
  • Mixed beige and grey tones. These colors, when paired with white/off-white cabinets and trim can help your home feel rustic while still remaining on-trend. 

We’ll talk about these in more detail below, however.

Classic looks can be an advantage for long-term resale value

earthy wood floor kitchen

It’s hard to predict what styles and wood floor colors will be popular in years to come. With this in mind, you might avoid hot trends and stick to the timeless look of warm, neutral browns. 

Almost all types of wood flooring will look great when you choose to stick with a shade of brown. You can also trust that it’ll match your interior and not be a turn-off to potential buyers if and when you decide to sell.

After all, the cost to replace carpet with hardwood—or simply put in a different wood floor—can be relatively high. Even the cost to install engineered hardwood floors is nothing to sneer at. The last thing you want to do is make an investment that doesn’t pay off when you put your house on the market.

Some types of wood offer a happy medium

Buying hardwood floors doesn’t mean that you have to choose between a trendy look or a classic one—you can usually find a color scheme that is perfectly in the middle. 

One example is teak flooring. Teak wood is naturally gorgeous and doesn’t require any staining—which lends itself to a trendier, more modern look. At the same time, teak wood offers warm, honey-like hues, giving these floors a timeless feel. 

The Most Popular Wood Floor Colors of 2020

As we mentioned before, this year’s most popular colors range from near-black all the way to natural, unstained, lacquer. Along with the dark charcoal and near-black we talked about earlier, here are a few of the most popular 2020 wood floor color trends:

50 Shades of Grey—the wood floors edition

grey hues have become very popular wood floor colors

Grey is in, and not just on your bookshelf. These days, grey wood floors are more popular than ever. Plus, there’s a shade of grey to match almost any color scheme, decor, or personal preference: 

  • Vintage Driftwood, jasper grey, and cashmere grey are all light greys with cool undertones.
  • Smoke grey, carbon grey, or a mixture of ebony and walnut stains are all excellent choices for dark grey wood floors with (mostly) cool undertones.
  • You can choose to add a bit of brown stain to any grey stain to warm it up if that’s your preference.

There’s really no limit on the number of colors and stain mixtures you can come up with—you’re only limited by your imagination! 

Warm, earthy, and comforting

golden floor finish living room

Warm, earthy colors are a go-to for many people when it comes to their wood floors because they offer a classic look that won’t go out of style. And these days, the earthier, the better when it comes to popularity.

  • Any stain labeled ‘Golden’ will offer a light, yet warmer tone for your floors.
  • Stains that include wood species names are usually warm and earthy. Look for names that include species like pecan, oak, mahogany, chestnut, and cherry for gorgeous, natural-looking color options.
  • Don’t avoid stains with the color red—they won’t be fire engine red, but instead will look more like an auburn hue.

Choosing an earthier color will look great in a home that already has a warmer color scheme. These colors also look fantastic when paired with stark white walls or when installed using intricate wood floor designs.

Au natural wood flooring is becoming popular as well

natural wood living room

If you’re not a huge fan of super-dark floors, grey tones, or warm earthy neutrals, natural wood floors could be your answer. After all, you can always opt to let your wood’s natural beauty show, adding only a clear finish for protection. And of course, this is a great option for almost all types of wood flooring

Staining, Finishing, & Painting: What’s the Difference?

As you search for hardwood floors, you’ll find that most come pre-finished. However, if you choose to install unfinished wood floors, staining, finishing, and painting may quickly become part of your vocabulary. While many people use these words interchangeably, here’s what they generally mean:

Staining changes a wood floor’s color—and it’s quite common

Most of the time, people choose to stain their hardwood floors in any of the color choices we mentioned above. Staining allows you to put pigment on your floors and mimic any type of wood you’d like, without spending huge sums on exotic woods.

Additionally, choosing to stain your wood floors allows you some flexibility when it comes to the overall aesthetic of your home. These days, many wood floors come pre-stained.

Finishing a floor helps to seal and protect it

Whether or not you choose to stain your floors, you’ll want to use some type of finish on them. A wood finish can help protect your wood from any scratches, dings, and dents; it can also give your floors a glossy or matte appearance.

You’ll find that finished wood floors are far more resistant to water damage—making them better-suited for mudroom flooring, sunroom flooring, or other high-traffic areas.

Just remember that engineered wood flooring almost always comes pre-finished. We wouldn’t necessarily put that on the list of engineered wood disadvantages, but it can be annoying if you’re keen on finishing your own floors. 

That said, engineered wood often comes as a click-together floating floor—making it one of the easiest types of flooring to install (just behind peel and stick carpet tiles). Again: there might be disadvantages of floating floors, but installation is not one of them.

Painting wood floors may hide imperfections (but can also hide the grain)

There’s one more option when it comes to wood floor color choices and it’s a simple one: paint! 

Painting wood floors can be ideal to cover old, worn stain. It can also be perfect if you happen to want a color that’s outside of grey, brown, or natural-looking wood (think blues, greens, or purples!)

Keep in mind that choosing to paint your wood floor can help hide any imperfections but it will also hide most of the grain that gives it character. And of course, if worst comes to worst, you can always bleach wood floors to get out any particularly tough stains.

Just Remember: the Only Person Who Needs to Love Your Wood Floor Colors Is You!

The biggest thing to remember about wood floor colors is that your choice should ultimately make you happy! Yes, you can choose something that is on-trend, popular, or will retain your resale value, but if you hate the overall look, why bother?

So whether you’re choosing colors for a wood floor bathroom or doing your whole house at once, you are the only one your wood floors have to please! 

Our advice: whenever you’re ready to start shopping in earnest, skip the box store BS and go straight to the source: a reputable, knowledgeable flooring store in your area. They can answer all your questions, help you find products you love, and show you how to find the best wood floor colors for your home.

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About The Author

Sarah Fogle

Sarah is a full-time freelance writer and dog mom with a slight travel addiction. When she's not writing or removing fur from all surfaces, she can be found helping "supervise" her husband's retail store, planning adventures, taking naps, or adding to her already large makeup & skincare product collection.

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