Do Hardwood Floors Get Darker Over Time?

by Charlie
Do Hardwood Floors Get Darker Over Time

Choosing the color for your hardwood floors is an exciting and enjoyable process for most people, but it’s also something that you need to think about carefully if you want it to go well. You want the perfect hue to match every other color in your home. Because hardwood floors last for such a long time, you need to really love the floor you pick.

However, it’s important to think about how that floor is going to age, too. No floor stays the same as time passes, and it can make a big difference to the overall aesthetic. A lot of floors get lighter because they are exposed to sunlight, cleaning, and general wear and tear. Is that also true of hardwood floors?

Do hardwood floors get darker over time? Most hardwood floors get darker as time passes. How long it will take for your floor to darken depends on how much sunlight the floor gets, but it can be a surprisingly quick process, especially in a sunny room. In a room with little sun, it will probably be several months before it darkens.

What Causes Hardwood Floors to Darken?

UV rays are the commonest cause of hardwood floors darkening, although other factors can have an impact too. Wood is extremely photosensitive, and even indirect sunlight will affect how it appears. You should be aware of this when choosing your flooring and also when caring for it.

Hardwood floors darken when they are exposed to three kinds of light – infrared light, visible light, and UV rays. All of these are likely to be present in the room, unless you are installing the floors in a completely dark room. You should therefore expect that the floor’s appearance will change over the months after it has been installed.

It will probably then balance out and stop changing noticeably, although it will likely continue to darken slightly as it ages. Most of the darkening will happen within the first 8 months, and you may not see much change after this point – depending on how much sunlight the room gets.

It’s worth noting that not all hardwood darkens when it’s exposed to light. For example, hickory often gets lighter, and red oak may lighten too. Do some research before laying a hardwood floor to check how your chosen wood is likely to behave, but be aware that most kinds of hardwood will get darker.

A few other things can affect the color of the floor, such as rugs, furniture, and your cleaning approach – but light is the commonest cause of changes.

Can You Stop Your Wooden Floor from Darkening?

If you’ve picked a color you love, you probably don’t want it to get darker in unpredictable ways. However, this is something you should be prepared for, because there is not a huge amount that you can do to prevent it, especially in the long term. You can slow it down, but unless you can keep the wood away from all light, it will darken gradually.

There are quite a few things that you can do to protect your floor. The first is to talk to your flooring installers about whether you can add a UV finish to your chosen floor.

This will slow down the oxidizing process and make the color change more gradual, although it won’t stop it entirely. Not all flooring types will take this kind of finish, so talk to an expert about it.

Next, you should make efforts to stop direct sunlight from falling on the floor. Direct sunlight is the most damaging and will significantly and quickly alter the color of the wood. Keeping curtains and blinds closed, putting up light screens, or otherwise blocking out the fiercest sun’s rays will protect your floor.

It’s also a good idea to regularly move furniture and rugs around if you are able to, so that different parts of the floor get exposed. If one part of the floor is permanently exposed to the sun, it will become much darker than the parts that are covered up.

Many people use a stain on their hardwood floors to get the color to match their preferred shade. You can stain your floor when it first arrives, or wait and add the stain if you find that it darkens to a hue that you don’t like. It’s difficult to stain wood to a lighter color, however, so bear this in mind.

The floor will also need to be resealed after being stained, which is an additional cost and time investment. It may therefore be best to stain the floor before it is laid.

Should You Choose a Lighter Color?

A lot of people opt for a slightly lighter colored wood than they want because of the way the wood will change. Doing this can ensure that you achieve the hue you really like, but it’s a frustrating process because it involves some guesswork about how the wood will behave, and means you don’t get the floor you want from the start.

One of the payoffs of natural wood is that you can’t control the color perfectly, and you are likely to end up with some variations in it. This is simply the nature of the material. However, it does make sense to ensure you don’t choose a floor that is darker than you like – because it is only going to get darker still.

On the whole, opting for a shade that’s a few steps up from your favorite color often makes sense, because this means the wood will shift in your preferred direction. However, it’s best to accept that you can’t exactly control the appearance of your wooden floor, and it will change as time passes.

Final Thoughts

Hardwood floors do generally get darker as time passes, because the tannins in the wood oxidize and the wood reacts to the light. You should be aware of this when you are deciding what color to install in your home, and never select a color that is darker than you like. Instead, opt for a couple of shades up to compensate for the darkening process.

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