Why are my wood floors changing color and what can I do?

Most wood floors are photosensitive and will change color over time. Being a natural product, they will change with the environment. The most common way they change is their color. Let’s break down each species that are most common in the Cleveland, Ohio area.

Red oak- The oak family tends to change color the least, but it will slightly amber a bit over the years, usually taking about 2-5 years to achieve. This is most noticeable if the floor is unstained or lighter in color. The darker stained red oak floors will darken slightly, but most often, not enough for our clients to notice. A lot of pre-finished red oak floors tend to fade quite dramatically when exposed to daily sun, the site finished floors do not fade as much.

White oak- Similar to red oak, white oak will slightly amber over time, although this is rarely an issue or a complaint that we hear about, as it happens slow and the color change is minimal, again, more noticeable with unstained, natural floors, with only a polyurethane coating. A lot of pre-finished white oak floors tend to fade quite dramatically when exposed to daily sun, the site finished floors do not fade as much.

Maple- Maple will start out, very blonde in color with very little variation. As it ages, it gets quite yellow, so much as when we are installing new maple, next to old maple, we will have a conversation, with our clients, as to set the proper expectations. We also try to keep a decent supply of older, reclaimed maple flooring when doing repairs, so the patina matches.

Cherry- This may be the fastest and most noticeable changing wood species as far as color, that we see. Some clients notice within a few weeks after completing their project, that the wood is oxidizing and darkening up. Most of this color change happens within the first 8-12 months. This makes installing new cherry next to old cherry floors challenging if you want the color to match perfectly. Some clients want us to darken up the new cherry floors, so they match immediately. We do not recommend this, as they will naturally blend and “catch up” over time. They question is do you want them to match for the first handful of months, or do you want them to match over the life of the floor?

Beech- Beech ranges in color from light cream to medium brown, sometimes with pink or orange tones as well. Over time, you may see a slight muting of the orange colors and overall ambering over time.

Birch- Although we do not see a lot of birch in the Cleveland area, some older homes may have birch stair treads and this wood is still available for new installs. Birch, often confused with maple, will start off, a creamy/blonde color and as it ages, it will turn more of a reddish tone as it ages.

Ash- The sapwood is almost white and the heartwood ranges from grey through light brown to light yellow with brown streaks. Ash undergoes a medium degree of change over time from a lighter, freshly sanded tone to a straw/tan color.

Walnut- Walnut is one of the only woods, that actually get lighter (as opposed to darker) over time. This will be very noticeable under area rugs in a dining room that gets a decent amount of light. There will be a distinct picture framing affect once the rugs are pulled up, but don’t worry, this usually is not permanent.

How do you help slow down or stop this process?

First, move your rugs and furniture around as often as you can. The more even distribution of light your floors get, the less likely you will see this discoloration.

Second, use light filtering blinds/ window treatments and/or tint your windows in the rooms that have the most amount of sunlight. This will minimize the degree of discoloration as well.