At Last! Refinished Hardwood Floors

By Kate Riley September 25, 2017

Wow I can’t tell you how happy I am to be waking up each morning to look at at my completely refinished hardwood floors.

I’ve had this inspiration image saved on my desktop for a year. It was EXACTLY how I wanted my floors to look in my home.

tim barber

When we expanded and renovated our house almost ten years ago, we continued the red oak floors throughout the house. A seamless transition from room to room in community spaces has always appealed to me, and since the original house’s footprint had oak hardwood, it made sense to match it and continue it throughout. I opted for a natural finish back in 2008 and it looked great for a few years, but little did I know at the time the oil-based polyurethane that was used to protect them would yellow so dramatically over time. After a few years I began to hate my floors.

I replaced the carpet on my staircase with hardwood several years ago and stained the stairs dark, I shared the experience here. I even expressed that I would refinish my downstairs floors to match the staircase, but it took me SEVEN years to finally hire the crew that could get it done. How’s that for procrastination? :) I was motivated by the replacement of the carpet with engineered hardwood in the master and upstairs hallway and wanted the downstairs to match.

I’ll never again use real wood in a kitchen or bathroom, it’s just too risky with the water damage that can occur. In the Las Vegas houses, I’ve installed more modern products like wood look porcelain tile and luxury vinyl plank. I added the same waterproof vinyl plank in my studio above the garage.

But when it came to the 1300 square feet of hardwood flooring in the downstairs of my home I had to make a decision: either refinish them, replace them, or cover them with something else. Replacing them was cost prohibitive. No matter how great the new luxury vinyl plank wood look products are, covering my existing wood flooring with vinyl seemed a crime, so refinishing them was the best option.

Here’s how they look now that the job is complete:


When it came to the stain choice for the floors, I knew I wanted something in the Walnut or Jacobean family. I was adamant about not having any yellow or red undertones. My refinisher suggested one coat of Ebony which I balked at in the beginning. Black stain? What? But when he brought me a sample of Ebony and Jacobean on red oak floors, I was convinced the Ebony stain would give me what I wanted: a dark stain that masked the red undertones in the oak wood.

He brought me a sample of red oak with Jacobean and Ebony, both were close but the Jacobean had a hint of red to it. Not too noticeable, but he steered me toward the Ebony and I’m glad I went with it.


Above is the image of the stain sample on the bottom step of my staircase. Notice the difference between the bottom floor, the steps and the suggested stains, Jacobean on top and Ebony below. Seeing the difference made me decide to also have the staircase steps redone so that the stain was consistent between the downstairs floor and the hardwood steps to the second floor.

My floors had also suffered some damage over the last ten years, with dents in places and some significant wear and tear near the doors due to traffic, another reason I was anxious to have them refinished.



So here’s the basic process. After the furniture was all moved out, the crew came in with a machine sander and got to work, first with 36 grit, then followed up by a second sanding at 50 grit to removed the old polyurethane that was on the floor and get to the raw wood. Notice how much the oil based polyurethane had yellowed, that’s what was bugging me all these years!



As I mentioned, for consistency I also had the stairs sanded down so that the stain on the downstairs floors would match the stain on the hardwood steps.



After sanding it twice, they added a wood filler to the floor to fill in any dents or damage. Notice that I didn’t have to remove any baseboards! They were able to use the big sander for most of the floors, and hand sanders and scrapers next to the baseboards.



After the wood filler, the guys sanded a third time, this time with 100 grit and again with an orbital sander to make sure it was perfectly smooth.



Before the stain was applied they vacuumed the floors. Just before they applied the stain (with a garden sprayer like tool) they misted the floors with water to open up the pores so it would accept the ebony stain.



These pics were taken by the crew, sorry one is blurry, but it shows the machine with its attached pads that were used to apply a single coat of Ebony stain to the sanded red oak floors.


 mother of the bride dresses


One the stain was dry it was time for the protective coat. They used a water based formula, one that won’t yellow like the one I had before. They applied three coats in a satin finish, buffing with light abrasion between the first and second coats.



There were places where the stain had splashed onto the baseboards, so all of the baseboards and stair risers needed repainted after the crew left, this was a huge chore. Props to Matt for tackling this project and making his way around the house with paintbrush and tape to cover any stain residue on the baseboards.



As I mentioned in the beginning we had the grueling task of completely moving out of the house so the work could be completed. All the furniture went either in the garage or the courtyard. My dining room table spent 10 days covered outside before it could be moved back in. Say hello to Matt about to move it back inside! Nice work sir. :)



As much as I love my new floors, what’s true is the darker stain shows every little thing. I admit the natural wood floors hid more dirt but I wanted dark so I’ve got to keep up with them. To do it, I give the floors a daily quick sweep with a Bona duster with a velcro microfiber cloth attached, it makes keeping the floors clean quick and easy.



The Ebony sheen was the right call, it gave me a rich dark stain on my floors, I also love the satin finish, it’s a very subtle sheen. It changes in depth too, darker in the evening…


… but lighter during the day. :)


You’ll recall I remodeled the powder room just a few weeks ago. Here’s a peek at the space with the new dark stained floors.


I’m not allowed to put any rugs down for two weeks until the protective coat fully cures. We’re slowly moving furniture back in, but with my vow to not have anything come inside that isn’t meaningful. We made a pact, if it’s clutter or simply unimportant, it doesn’t come back into the home. As a result, my garage is filled with a lot of things, and it will take me weeks to donate or sell it all. But I started piecing back together the community spaces, first the family room.


My teal sectional sofa and the trio of mirrors I love, but not the inherited chair that used to sit in the left corner, so I’ll be shopping for a cozy reading chair to replace it. For now, that corner sits empty.


We’re enjoying the barely furnished nature of the house, it feels brand new again. Cozy and comfortable, but also like a breath of fresh air.

I’m inspired to make more changes such as swapping out light fixtures and bringing in some new rugs and art. Stay tuned.


  1. It’s absolutely breathtaking, as all of your decoration decisions.
    I’d like to ask you, why you didn’t want yellow or red undertones on the floor. I’ve heard the same from other interior designers and I don’t understand why. Thank you.

    • Hi Eleni, mostly because red undertones that appear in finishes like cherry or mahogany make it more challenging to decorate with cool tones (I love my blues!) or can clash when you mix in other wood finishes like grayer driftwood or pale natural wood. I love mixing wood tones in spaces, and a pure brown makes that easier.

  2. Beautiful! I’m now desperate to refinish my golden oak floors. Lovely to see your family too! Wishing you all the best

  3. I love them. I hate my red oak floor that now looks yellow/orange after 13 years. I need to refinish mine!

  4. Love it. I’ve wanted to do this forever. Ive heard it’s a huge mess. Can’t imagine moving all of the furniture out. Thanks for sharing!!!

  5. Your floors looks great! I wanted to get your opinion: Do you think it’s possible to install wood look tile that butts up to a real wood floor? We just moved and need to replace the floors in the kitchen. We have a large dog and my husband has similar fears about water in the kitchen.

    • Nora, I replaced all the slate on my first floor with a barnwood look tile last year – we love it! At the same time, I removed the carpet from our stairs and replaced it with white wood risers and dark wood treads (see my post below about safety). The dark wood looks great adjacent to the barnwood-look tile because the tile has multiple colors of brown in it, including the dark brown of the real wood. I wouldn’t try to “match” the two floorings if I were you – I’d look for a tile that complements your real wood.

  6. You said you would never again put hardwood in a kitchen again. What would you recommend? We want to rip out the carpet and laminate on our main floor but I’m afraid of wood in the kitchen. I’d love your opinion.

  7. This post was orgasmic!!!! I love the “new” floors – your color selection was spot on! …deets on the dining room table…?

  8. The floors look great! I, too, have red oak floors that are in dire need of refinishing. I love seeing how your color and finish completely transformed the look of red oak! I did want to offer an opposing view to your comment re wood in a kitchen… I’ve had wood in my kitchen in our last 3 homes. I absolutely love the look and will never ever install tile. IMO it dates too quickly and is just too hard on my feet. Your power room looks beautiful with the new floors, too.

    • I agree it’s SO beautiful! Like a wood countertop, wood floors in a kitchen can be higher maintenance, it just requires more diligence with water drops on the floor.

  9. So while you were in France you had someone else making your home more beautiful? Well played lady!!!!
    Looks great! Thank you so much for providing the details, good and bad.

  10. I would love to know what you plan on doing with your stairs. I had my carpet removed and dark wood installed last year. Within one week, my husband and I and one of our dogs had slipped and fallen from the top stair down to the landing. I now have single carpet treads on each tread (a look I don’t love) and am considering installing a leopard pattern carpet runner. Do you have any safety issues with your wood stairs or are we just clutzy?

    • Ha no you’re not clutzy (I don’t think), wood stairs can be slippery if you’re unaccustomed to them. We had carpet on our stairs when our kids were really little but then replaced with wood and in time they knew that they should put their hand out near or on the railing just in case. We’ve had a few little slips in the beginning, nothing major, I believe it just takes a bit of time to get used to. And yes of course, a runner will always help by providing more grip and they look great too!

  11. Blogs don’t hold my interest for long anymore, but you are consistently good…that took a lot of fortitude and planning to redo your floors! Wow! The result is beautiful! I’d stare at them all day long! Your beautiful PR mirror reflecting the wallpaper and lighting is STUNNING! Well done! You’re a keeper! Love both your decorating style and personal style. You’re an original. Thank you!

  12. I’ve been following your blog off and on for years. It’s always beautiful. I’m wondering where you got this perfect blue couch? It doesn’t look like the teal one you featured a while ago. Thanks!

  13. Gorgeous! I too am dealing with 18 year old “orange-y” hardwoods and areas/sections/rooms of inset carpet on my main level. I am SERIOUSLY considering covering it with a beautiful realistic laminate plank floating floor. I can not tell at all that its not real wood and it wears like iron. My husband thinks I’m crazy but it would be much less expensive, less messy and faster than a complete refinish. I figure that with the floating floor, the hardwoods are still there underneath in case the next owner wants to deal with it. We would keep several extra boxes of the plank laminate in case there is a kitchen leak. Am I crazy for considering this??

  14. Your floors are beautiful and look just like the inspiration photo! Thank you for the info about the ebony stain erasing the red/orange tone. We also have “honey oak” floors, trim and doors and I’ll soon start a rampage to get rid of it. After 13 years! I’ll paint trim and doors white, and eventually we’ll refinish the floors. We have oak floors on two stories throughout the house, so it will be a big job to change it. Other option is to cover it as much as possible with more large area rugs. We have oak in our kitchen and water drips have not been a problem. Though I noticed water drips are a problem in another room, adjacent to the kitchen. I wonder if our home’s previous owners did some type of additional treatment to the kitchen floor to better protect it from water.

  15. Those floors are perfection. I have red toned mahogany floors and while I do love them, they are limiting in decoration. But I have blues, whites and creams and it looks fantastic. They are more “fancy” but the hubs said replacing or restaining is out of the question.

  16. Kate, I’m hoping to undertake the same project at some point, (same color too!) and would love your opinion on something. The floor in my open concept downstairs is all 2-1/4″ hardwood, except the family room which is wall-to-wall carpet. I’d like to replace that with hardwood, but my question is the width of the board: I love the wider planks, but am not sure about two different plank sizes (same color) in adjacent rooms. Would it look too jarring? I’m also wondering about color match; I figure I’d have unfinished wood installed in family room then have that stained at same time the older floors get refinished?
    Also, what about upstairs…did you match all of your bedroom floors the same color?

    • My stairs and downstairs floors are the same, the upstairs is a slightly different color since it’s engineered hardwood, not real wood, but not a noticeable difference. I don’t think having different size planks is a big deal, it might be cool, if they are the same stain.

  17. Hello! You’re wood floors look beautiful!! My husband and I are currently in the process of refinishing our red oak hard wood floors as well! One question i had was, what was the color that you painted your walls (in the picture with the blue sofa)? the color compliments that floor really well!!


  18. Hi Kate, this is exactly the floor finish I want to do with my old floors! It sounds like your refinisher was careful to use just one coat of Ebony stain? And Do you recall what they used to seal it? I’m trying to avoid that glossy finish some seals have and this finish seems to strike that perfect balance

  19. Hi, Kate. Love love love all of this! Would you mind sharing the brand of Ebony stain? I tried a sample of Minwax and it’s looks very black,

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