Our White Oak Floors: The Natural Finish/Stain Decision
In case you missed it, I shared all about the reason why we chose to install new flooring, how we landed on White Oak, and, some initial details of the project here.
We started the project on a Friday, and the install was complete within just a few days – making it pretty easy to live and work through it all. The crew’s level of detail was fascinating to peep in on – from their process to precision. We were able to install them over the existing flooring by cutting the existing trim and sliding the wood under. They took a nail and glue approach to guarantee that the boards are not going anywhere!
Sharing a quick video here to show the value in working with a skilled crew and investing in real wood floors:
We were able to line up our stair master contractor at the same time, so they began on the tread and railing replacement as soon as the flooring install was complete. More on that project when it’s done, but sharing as I highly highly recommend syncing these projects to speed up your overall timeline!
The following week, finishing began. Another talented crew came through for very meticulous filling and sanding days to allow for a maximized finish. We then received samples, and this is when the pressure hit! From the start, we wanted a neutral and natural look. Not too red, not too yellow, and, not too gray. I had shared inspiration photos with my contractor and got a first round of samples. They didn’t quite give us a confident feeling, so we asked to see some sealers and stains. Check them all out, unfiltered, below:
From top to bottom, left to right, here are the names if you are exploring future seal or stain options:
- Pall-x Clear Seal
- Arboritec Genuine 5 Seal
- Bona Amber Seal
- Bona Nordic Seal
- Bona Intense Seal
- Bona Classic Seal
- Bona Neutral Seal
- DuraSeal Weathered Oak Stain
- DuraSeal Silvered Gray Stain
- Bona Drifast Stain
The Finish We Chose
You may not be aware of the fact that white oak floors do not need to be stained. The stain alone does not protect the floors, just adds color. The seal is what protects your floors from traffic and spills. The choice of going with a stain is a choice based on preference, typically wanting to significantly alter a tone or darkness. Even sealers slightly alter the color of the floor, but they do finish them while maintaining their natural look.
It was the first time we really felt pressure and a second-guessing feeling during the project given that its an expensive, permanent decision. After many back and forth conversations and viewing from every angle, we kept coming back to Bona Classic Seal. It was the most muted in terms of undertones and didn’t pull the pink as much in some of the boards. It could get us the look we love in bright morning light to the evening glow we enjoy. You can see that for example, Weathered Oak was too gray and Amber Seal was pulling too yellow.
Lastly, the benefit of seal over stain is that it dries in just hours with little smell, so we were really pulling for a seal to be the winner!
Here is how it was applied and finished:
- Floors were sanded to 100 grit and super flat
- 1 Coat Bona Classic Seal
- 2 Coats of Arboritec Classic 5
The last step is a protectant finish that is water based, so it won’t yellow the floors the way an oil based finish does. With research and recommendation from my contractor, a high quality water based poly will amber significantly less and this particular one holds up well to high traffic and pets. All wood floors will scratch, but this option gives us the best chance against UV ray exposure, traffic and nails from dogs.
To be honest with you, I very much had initial shock and wasn’t sure if the tone of the seal fit my vision. I had nailed down two photos and with all the research that I had done, I knew exactly what I wanted. When I saw it everywhere, I felt it was too light and yellow. However, it was a cloudy end of day lighting condition. My contractor was a total champ and came right over the next morning to talk it through and made me feel better about the situation.
Essentially, all of these natural sealed floors look different in ALL lighting conditions and even day by day. I knew this, but not to the extent. We went over photos of people’s homes at different angles and times of day, and it looked like entirely different finishes. Now that I’ve had a few days to live with it and see all the lighting conditions, they are truly perfect for our home. I wouldn’t change what we did throughout the process, but this is a reminder to always speak up about how you’re feeling. As long as you are respectful, your contractor should help you navigate it as they want you to be happy!
We have a long to do – updating all of the trim work and painting walls, so this isn’t a stunning before and after (yet!) but here are some of the spaces to see just how far we have come already! Trust the process and my vision 🙂
You can see here that they add shoe moulding to finish off where the floor is placed under the existing trim. Once all of this is painted, it will all come together!
Here is an iPhone shot to really capture true coloring, but even so doesn’t quite align with real-life. The beauty of these floors!
I tried to keep this brief, while providing enough detail for someone going through the process. It can definitely be overwhelming, but 100% know this was best for us over LVP. You immediately feel and see the difference as soon as you step into a room, and I know this is the start of making our home complete.
If you have any questions at all, or, are local – I am happy to pass on who we used!
Painting the first floor to begin furnishings will be key! We’ll be selecting samples over the next week and identifying contractors to help spray our plantation shutters. Update – you can view all of our latest projects on this summarized post: One Year in Our Home ! Let me know if you have any questions via comments, email or Instagram DM.
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Mary and Ted Hassler
This is great article. What grade of wood flooring did you use please.
MegMary and Ted Hassler
Hi there! We used better grade. Have a great day!
Was this plain sliced? And I saw in your response it was better grade. Were you happy with the quality of the boards? We are in this process now and having a really hard time picking a cut and grade, it’s hard to know what it will look like when it’s larger than a small sample.
Also is there a reason you didn’t use a Bona sealer? Thanks!
Hi there! Unfortunately, I don’t know these details. My contractor sources from a yard and I trust his expertise so did not get into the weeds. I wouldn’t really go off of a sample as raw, real wood differs regardless as every tree has its own character. The beauty of going with real wood is the differences in pieces and the character, so if you are looking for something that is 1:1 and with a sample, you may want to go with LVP. You sort of have to trust the process with real wood, as even the seal/stain varies on each board! As for the sealer, this was their best recommendation for long term protection. Best of luck!