Best Red Oak Floor Stains And How To Choose A Color

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Transforming your red oak floors with a new stain color is a great way to modernize and update your home. We recently refinished our dark stained hardwood  floors to lighter white oak look using Bona Nordic Seal and what a huge improvement!

Let’s take a look at the 12 different stain colors we tested on our red oak flooring and talk about which colors will give the look of white oak.

the best red oak stains will not pull a red or green undertone

Best Stains for Red Oak

If you are like me, you may have inherited dark stained red oak floors but desire a lighter look. Purchasing new floors is most likely out of the question because lets be real, ripping out old flooring and installing new hardwood floor is very expensive.

red oak flooring refinished to look like white oak

Related: Visit this post, refinishing red oak floors lighter, to see the exact process of sanding the floors.

My biggest concern once our flooring professional sanded off the dark stain was ending up with “orange floors” once we applied a lighter stain.

If you do not want your raw red oak flooring to turn orange, do not apply a clear oil based sealer. Clear oil based sealer will turn orange over time and will give you that 1990s early 2000s orangey tone hardwood that was all the rage back in the day (I am dating myself but it’s true).

red oak flooring sanded to raw wood
sanding red oak flooring to raw wood

Honestly, darker stain colors for red oak floors are dark stain colors that will not show any pink tones but if you want a lighter look like natural white oak hardwood floors, darker stain colors are not an option.

I did decided to test a small sample of several stain colors simply to appease my “well what if” brain and make sure the lighter white oak look was really what we wanted.

darker stain colors will hide any red oak tone and wood grain

The colors from top to bottom: Bona Natural, Bona Province, Bona Jacoby, Bona Gray

We painted several small samples in various parts of the house to ensure we could see exactly how the floors would look in various lighting situations.

Once the test patches were on the floor, I was fairly certain which colors I liked but I waited until the next day to make a decision because as you know, colors will look different at night with artificial light so just to be sure, wait 24 hours and make sure you love the look before you pick a final color.

Our flooring professional highly recommended the Bona Floor Products as well as Bona Dry Fast for darker stain colors.

If you are not planning to refinish your entire homes floors, be sure to test a hidden area of the wood to try out different stain colors.

How to Make Red Oak Floors Look Modern

Choosing the right stain color and finish is crucial for modernizing red oak floors, helping to achieve a contemporary aesthetic. 

Ultimately, the perfect floor stain for what we wanted to achieve was 1 coat of Bona Nordic Seal and 1 coat of Bona High Traffic HD Satin (as the top/clear coat).

I love how the Bona Nordic Seal white washed our red oak floors and toned down the red

From left to right, the colors are Bona Classic Seal, Bona Natural Seal, Bona Nordic Seal (we picked this one) and Bona Intense Seal.

As you can see in the image above, the Nordic Seal is the most whitewashed color and provided the lightest feel and look.

I also liked the fact that the Bona Nordic Seal was a water based stain which cut down on the smell.

We opted for a satin finish (top coat) as the matte finish looked dull and dirty on our red oak hardwood floors.

Our flooring professional also said the satin would be easier to keep clean but honestly, it’s personal preference.

Bona Nordic Sealer is a great clear stain to get the red out of red oak

The application of Bona Nordic Sealer effectively reduces the red undertones, creating a neutral base. 

You can see above, the Nordic Seal color has a milky tone and very light weight.

I love how our existing furniture complemented are newly stained hardwood flooring and overall, all of the rooms tied together seamlessly.

Refinished Red Oak Floors Before and After

I cannot even begin to tell you how the lighter white oak look is a game changer in our home. 

red oak hardwoods with dark stain color
our red oak flooring with dark stain

The entire house is lighter, brighter and looks beautiful in different lighting scenarios as well.

red oak vs white oak flooring
red oak floors that look like white oak hardwood flooring

How to Tone Down Red Oak Floors

Once you sand down your red oak floors to the raw wood stage, you will notice the grain of the wood is fairly pronounced.

Once you apply a stain color, depending on the variation of your wood grain, you will have a better idea of what color you prefer.

The good news is, the test patches will give you a definitive answer as to how your flooring grain will look so don’t skip this step!

Bona products, according to our flooring professional, is the best option when it comes to getting the pink tone out of red oak and achieving a light look. 

the Bona Nordic Seal has a milky whitewash color which tones down the red

Bona does make a product called “red out” which essentially bleaches out the red tone in red oak flooring but my flooring professional mentioned it was a newer product and he wasn’t familiar with it.

We were refinishing over 4000 square feet of flooring so I wasn’t willing to try the product for fear of it not looking the way I wanted it to. If that makes any sense! 

Personally, I would have loved to try it in a smaller room but that wasn’t an option so we went with what our professional had experience with, which was Bona Nordic Sealer (it whitewashes your floor) and a satin top coat of Bona High Traffic HD.

Can You Leave Red Oak Floors Unstained?

I absolutely loved how our red oak floors looked after the sanding process and I actually asked our flooring professional, can’t we just leave the floors as raw wood? 

He laughed and said absolutely not as they will be destroyed in no time. I guess if we planned to never walk on them, get them dirty or never have our dogs nails touch the floor, that would be an option. haha

bona nordic seal, classic seal and natural seal test sample on red oak flooring

Another issue you will find with staining red oak to a lighter white oak look is you may end up with green undertones depending on the stain color.

We found that the Bona Natural Sealer (it’s a little darker/warmer than the Nordic Sealer as you can see above) did appear more warmer (not orange though) and picked up some small areas of a green undertone. 

dark stain color on red oak in our living room and kitchen
our stained red oak floors were dark and in desperate need of an update

Our flooring professional explained that no red oak flooring will be the exact same and depending on what part of the country the red oak floors came from (red oak wood species will vary from state to state), the grain, undertone and textures will all be different.

grey kitchen cabinets with white countertops
I love how the lighter red oak floors appear to be white oak hardwood flooring thanks to Bona Nordic Seal

You can visit this blog post to see our full kitchen renovation, Grey kitchen cabinets with white countertops.

This is a prime reason why you must test sample colors!

We couldn’t be happier with our beautiful floors and the transformation is exactly what we had hoped for. The Bona Nordic Sealer was the best choice and eliminated 90% of the red tones. 

red oak flooring stained to look like white oak, white boho rug

I would love to hear if you are thinking about our lighter floors and if you too, are desiring a light color in your own home.

Choosing the right stain color and finish is crucial for modernizing red oak floors, helping to achieve a contemporary aesthetic. Visit this post, red oak vs white oak flooring, if you want more details.

The application of Bona Nordic Sealer effectively reduces the red undertones, creating a neutral base. Complementing these updated floors with modern decor and furniture can enhance the overall look, tying the room’s elements together seamlessly.

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Meet Jessica

What started as a hobby, Jessica’s blog now has millions of people visit yearly and while many of the projects and posts look and sound perfect, life hasn’t always been easy. Read Jessica’s story and how overcoming death, divorce and dementia was one of her biggest life lessons to date.

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