Monday, August 18, 2014

Choosing a Wood Stain for Chicago Red Oak

Our house has original hardwood floors made out of red oak, like many other similar era Chicago homes. We also have maple in the kitchen. To make the floors blend as well as possible,  we were advised to test several stains. We chose Minwax stains to test: "Special Walnut" , "English Chestnut" and "Early American". Below is a picture of each, in that order, top to bottom.  Left board is oak, right board is maple.
Minwax Special Walnut on top, Minwax English Chestnut center, and Minwax Early American on Chicago red oak and maple
Isn't this a GREAT picture??

They do all look reasonably similar, but here are the differences I noticed.  Both "Special Walnut" on the top and "Early American" on the bottom pick out the grain by making it darker.  In the walnut, the grain is almost black.  This immediately steered me in the direction of the middle color, because oak wood has a much more defined grain than maple.  If I'm trying to match the two, I want the grain to be as subdued as possible.  

I did not at all like the color of the "Early American" on the bottom, it was an yellowy-brown that was very rustic-looking.  So I immediately ruled it out.  While I liked the color of the Special Walnut on the oak, I didn't like how black the grain became.  

So the middle option it is - "English Chestnut".  This color has just the slightest bit of red in it, though it's still definitely in the brown spectrum.  It looks really great in the evening.  Also, it's pretty similar to the existing stain that is currently on the original hardwood (from what I can tell from the beat-up. paint-spattered, pre-sanding floor).  I think it does a great job of matching the oak and maple, and I think it will look really nice with our light grey kitchen cabinets.

This weekend was a blur of putting up walls-- we are so close to having all the holes patched!  We will probably be finished tonight and then it's on to plaster- which is much nicer than demo and cutting and patching.  I tried to make nice food to keep us going, I made steak and caprese for lunch one day, and Jamaican chicken with peach salsa for dinner the next.  Also, the weather was unseasonably cool, which made it nice for working.

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