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Can You Stain Oak Floor Grey? How?

Zoom in photo of a grey oak flooe wood texture.

Gray hardwood floors have been a hot trend for over 5 years. At first, many experts thought the trend was only temporary. Most hardwood floor trends have a shelf life of 5 years, and then a new trend takes over. 

When it comes to gray, however, some experts say it’s here to stay. In addition to standard gray, greige is very hot right now. Greige is a blend of gray and beige. 

If you want to get in on the trend, you may be wondering if you can stain oak floor gray, and how to do so. 

Can You Stain Oak Floor Gray?

The short answer is, yes. You can stain the oak floor gray. However, there are some things to know before you get started. 

Getting Gray  

Staining refinished oak floors gray is difficult for a few reasons. Gray is an easy color to get with maple or birch flooring because they are closed-pored. A dark brown stain can also appear gray, because of the way the stain is absorbed. 

Oak, however, is open-pored. It will take stain differently than other woods. This means that the dark brown that would appear gray on a maple floor will look brown on an oak floor. 

White Oak is the Best

Zoom in photo of a white oak floor wood texture.

White oak is a pale wood, also known as a blonde. However, it’s not only the light color that makes it the best option for gray flooring.

Red oak, as the name suggests, has red undertones. The red tone will change the way the gray looks. You can combat this with a darker shade of gray. 

Stain Options for Gray Floors 

There are three basic options for staining a wood floor gray. These include a professionally blended stain, a premade gray stain, and a homemade gray stain. 

Professionally Blended Gray Stain 

Professionals typically recommend a process that uses ebony and whitewash, to get the exact color you are looking for. 

This costs more than typical staining because it’s more time-consuming. The ebony and whitewash are mixed together and then tested. They may use scrap wood or test an inconspicuous part of your wood flooring.

Often, they will begin with scrap wood. Then, they will test it on your floor to show you the exact color. The ratio of ebony to whitewash is adjusted based on your preferences until the desired color is achieved.  

 Purchasing Gray Stain

Close up photo of a Grey wood stain wood texture.

You can also purchase gray wood stains. There are many different gray stains on the market today, so you still have plenty of choices. Premade gray stain is also much more user-friendly than blending your own. 

Homemade Stain 

There are a few reasons you may want to make your own stain. It doesn’t contain VOCs ( volatile organic chemicals), which have been linked to health concerns. 

It’s better for the environment than manufactured stains as well. When you look at your floors, you’ll know that you made the color, which can give you a sense of pride. 

This method is best for white oak floors.  

You’ll mix white vinegar with steel wool, or nuts and bolts. Allow the mixture to sit for 3 days. This creates iron acetate, which is what will stain your floor. When you are ready to stain, you’ll strain the mixture several times, and then apply it as you would any other stain. 

It’s very important to test the stain in an inconspicuous area before applying it to your floor. 

The results will vary based on how much iron acetate is in the mixture, which is determined by the vinegar-to-metal ratio. Generally, the more metal you use, the darker the stain will be. 

Refinishing Oak Floors 

If you want to refinish your existing oak floor, there are a few steps to follow. Keep in mind that it does take considerable effort, and some basic experience applying stain. However, it’s something that nearly anyone can do, with a little practice. 


A man sanding the floor with a cleaning sanding machine.

The first step is to sand the floor. This will remove the current stain and any finish that was applied to it. A random orbital sander is the best choice. 

You won’t want to sand the floors by hand, because it would take a huge amount of time and effort. If you don’t have a sander, invest in one. A sander is much less expensive than replacing your floors or hiring a contractor. 

You can also rent a floor sander. This is a good option if you are planning on redoing the floor in several rooms, or if you have a large room. 

Sand with the grain, and keep the sander moving to avoid damaging the floor. Begin sanding with coarse 30-40 grit sandpaper. Then, switch to medium 50-60 grit sandpaper,  and 80-100 grit for the final pass. 

You’ll need to clean the dust between sandings. The best way to do this is with a shop vac, but a broom will do in a pinch. 

Applying the Stain 

The first step is to prep the floor. Vacuum or sweep the dust away. Then mop the floor to remove any remaining dust or dirt. You may need to do this a few times to ensure the floor is completely clean. 

Now you are ready to apply the stain. You can apply a wood conditioner first. This helps the stain soak into the wood more evenly and is recommended. 

Wait 15 minutes after the conditioner is applied, and use a clean cloth to remove any excess. Now you are ready to stain. Staining should be done within 2 hours of applying the wood conditioner. 

Stir the stain before using. Apply the stain with a clean cloth, or a foam brush. Cloths offer more control, but a foam brush will apply more stain for a darker effect. 

You can apply 2 to 3 coats if you want a darker effect. Allow it to dry between coats, which typically takes a few hours. It’s best to stain in 2 square feet sections. 

Learning to Stain

A varnish and a brush used for staining any wooden floor.

If you’ve never stained before, your floors may seem very intimidating. However, you can learn how to do it right. First, you’ll need to do research. Youtube is a great resource for videos on staining and shows you the process step by step. You can also ask a  friend or family member that knows how to do it. 

Next, you’ll need to practice. This is incredibly important. You can choose to refinish some inexpensive furniture if you have it available. The other option is to pick up scrap wood. Use wood that’s the same as your floor, so you can also test the color while you practice. 

Finish the Floor 

After you’ve finished your gray-stained floor, you’ll need to apply a finish. Polyurethane finish is the best choice for floors because it’s very durable. 

You can apply the finish with a roller, foam brush, or a cloth. You may want to use a roller for the floor, and use a foam brush or cloth for hard-to-reach areas.

Polyurethane stain typically takes 24 to 48 hours to dry. You’ll need to apply at least 2 coats of sealer. After it’s completed, you may need to allow it dry for a few extra days. This is called curing. 

Staining New Oak Floor Gray 

If you have new unfinished hardwood floors, you can stain them gray as well. The process is very similar to refinishing a floor. However, there are some differences you should be aware of. 

You’ll need to start with sanding. This process is essentially the same as it is for refinishing. Sanding isn’t just for removing stains. It also prepares the surface by making it smooth. 

Start with medium grit sandpaper, and then move to fine. Don’t forget to vacuum between sandings. 

After you’ve sanded the floor, you will apply the stain and topcoat, just as you would when refinishing. Wood conditioner before staining is a great idea for the unfinished wood. 

Can You Stain Oak Floor Gray FAQs

A mansion's living room interior with smoke gray oak floor with white ceiling and gray brick wall.

How do you update oak floors?

Refinishing is a great way to update your oak floors, but it’s not the only way. You can also update your floor by updating other aspects of your decor. Consider adding a rug to soften and update your floors, or choose a new wall or accent color to update your home.  

What colors go with gray? 

There are many colors that work well with gray floors.  Blue, particularly gray blues, is a great choice. Navy blue works as well. White is classic and brightens up gray floors. You can also choose a gray-green color. 

Do gray floors show dirt? 

It depends on the shade of gray. Light gray floors make dirt and other debris less visible. It also makes a small room look larger. Dark gray floors will show dirt more readily. They make a room look smaller, so they aren’t a good choice for smaller rooms. 

What other floor colors should I consider? 

In addition to gray, whitewash is very popular right now. White is bright and airy, making it a great choice for floors. Dark colors are also popular. They offer warmth and a touch of luxury. 

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