One of the great things about hardwood floors is how unique they are. Real hardwood installed in your home will have a unique grain, unique stain and age over time uniquely but that uniqueness also makes it a little hard to find the same wood when it’s time to replace part of it or when you want to add new flooring to another part of your home. However, with a little professional help, you should be able to get a consistent look throughout your home.
Evaluate your flooring
It may seem obvious, but you first have to look at the type of wood flooring you already have in your home. To effectively match your flooring, you’ll have to consider a number of factors, including age, species, stain, length, width, grain, and thickness.
All wood and stains age differently; traffic, sunlight, moisture and the type of wood will determine how the color lasts over time. If your floor is newer, it will be easier to match — the stain will not have aged as much, and if the floor is pre-finished, you may be able to just order more of the same type of flooring and have it installed. But even with prefinished wood flooring, there can be differences between batches, so it may not match exactly.
Older floors have different challenges. The likelihood of finding a new wood of the same species, even if it’s stained the same color, may be low, so it’s likely that you’ll have to plan for some sanding and refinishing if you want the new and old planks to match perfectly. You can take the length and width measurements at home, but a professional can also help you take measurements, identify species, grain, thickness, and stain and offer advice about how best to go about your project.
Working on a home with flooring that dates back to the 19th or early 20th century can have its own challenges. Many boards were sawn using a different method, making the grain harder to match with modern woods and the stain may have been absorbed at different rates, depending on which part of the grain was exposed.
Connecting the new section of flooring with the old can present a little challenge. There are a few ways to do it:
T-moldings are essentially a strip of wood that helps ease the transition between areas of flooring. They are inserted between the old and new sections with a tongue down between the boards and a convex top. They help mask mismatches and can be quite subtle. There are flush strips as well, which fit between the outside boards and become part of the pattern of the floor.
The other option is to “weave in” the new boards. This lace in technique is typically more expensive and more difficult but produces beautiful effects. The match of species, cut, width and length has to be as close as possible for this technique, as the goal is to produce a seamless look. The seam at the end of the old board will have to be cut and the longer boards laid there, stretching out the space toward the new section of flooring.
The odds of finding a perfect stain to match the old boards are pretty low, too, due to aging differences and environmental damage. A professional could help mix a custom stain for you designed to look and age similarly to the old floor. New wood will age alongside the old wood, and if it is the same species with a similar exposure to light, it will likely end up aging similarly to the old wood, and you’ll have a consistent look in time.
To match or not to match
Matching the color of your wood floors exactly can be a headache. While matching criteria like species can be important because of moisture content and temperature and humidity tolerance, the color is more about aesthetics. But in some cases, you may want to consider either choosing a contrasting floor color or sanding and refinishing the whole thing.
Contrasting wood colors has its benefits. In a south-facing or large room, a dark color might work better, while a bedroom might be more appealing with a lighter wood. Being able to choose multiple types of wood for a home creates more flexibility, but then the question arises of how to combine them into a consistent look.
If you choose to contrast wood floors, though, choose two very different colors — juxtaposing two stains that are too similar may just look like a mistake. Similarly, try to keep the two colors consistent in different areas of the home so there is a color theme, rather than a variety of different colors. T-moldings are a great transitioning option for these floors as well.
Staining and refinishing is the surefire way to get a clean start and matching color across your floors, so long as you match the new boards to the old boards’ species, width, grain and thickness. A professional flooring company can ensure that the milling of your new wood flooring is correct and can help choose a stain before preparing to sand, stain and finish, a process which can take multiple days.
It may seem like an overwhelming process to expand the hardwood flooring in your home, but with a little research and advice, it’s attainable for anyone!