Asked on Aug 14, 2015

How to match hardwood stairs and flooring

Julie Connell
by Julie Connell
Help! I contracted to have the old carpet runner removed and my 14-step stairs sanded and stained but the color of stain used (under 2 coats of water-based polyurethane) does NOT match the red oak hardwood flooring on my first and second floors. It is more of a brown walnut-color. I was told by the contractor that the different wood used on the stairs is the culprit. Is there anything I can do to correct the problem other than resanding and restaining? Any suggestions for how to better match the existing flooring?
  8 answers
  • Michelle Frederick Michelle Frederick on Aug 15, 2015
    In my experience, different woods respond differently to stains, so your contractor may have a point. The red oak stain that I have been using lately is made by Varthane. I am not sure if redoing the floors will make a difference as wear and usage ages the color as well over time. Best of wishes in getting the results you desire for your floors.
  • Emi Harr Emi Harr on Aug 15, 2015
    It would be a nightmare to try to remove the finish that has been applied. You could take a bare board, and do the same finish on it. Then experiment with that, and using an oil based stain, try to mix shades to match, then apply it to part of the board. ( If you treat both sides of the board, you will have quite a few tries, maybe 3 on each side if you try it on 1/3 of the length of the board when you think you have it.) You would, in fact, be trying to apply a faux finish by applying a thin layer of oil based stain over the water based polyurethane. Allow it to dry completely, then lay it over the floor you are trying to match. I did my stairs, they were awful, atrocious, contractor stairs, not at all intended to ever be exposed... not what you are doing... but it may give you some ideas. The video is here on Hometalk:
  • Julie Connell Julie Connell on Aug 15, 2015
    Thank you very much for the suggestion, Emi, and for the video. I'm meeting again with my contractor to look at the stairs to discuss a solution and I'll definitely run this by him.
  • Gwen Barham Loftus Gwen Barham Loftus on Aug 15, 2015
    You could replace tops of steps with a type of wood that you tested. The underneath part of the step could be painted with a color of your choice to add contrast. Of course, you could redo steps with a matching laminate or cover them with a nice carpet. Lots of options to reverse an epic fail.
  • Helene234 Helene234 on Aug 15, 2015
    why do they have to match the floor, why not paint them white or black for the steps and white for the riserfs
  • Julie Connell Julie Connell on Aug 15, 2015
    All very good suggestions, Gwen -I like the idea of painting the underside white - that's a brilliant idea - thanks again.
  • Julie Connell Julie Connell on Aug 15, 2015
    I received a similar suggestion - and am seriously considering painting the underside white and trying to see if I can just restrain the top of the steps - thanks very much for your comment!
  • Mary  Heery Mary Heery on Aug 15, 2015
    I think what I'd do in this case is mark a thin border (style of your choice) around each step or riser -- but not both -- using the oil stain previously advised you. Maybe use a red mahogany on top of the walnut -- something to give a red tint to the walnut. Maybe there's another red that'll give even better red highlights on top of the walnut. You'd have to check, but this way, you have 3 different tones that'll hopefully come together. I believe in mixing and matching. I definitely wouldn't redo the job, or paint the stairs after going to this expense. Good luck!
    • See 2 previous
    • Mary  Heery Mary Heery on Aug 17, 2015
      Actually, Julie, shouldn't the contractor u hired have matched up the stains before performing the job? Or did he? You might have recourse.