How to match old and new oak flooring

Written by meg butler
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How to match old and new oak flooring
Staining is one of the most popular ways to match old flooring. (Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

When you're installing a new oak floor or flooring adjacent to older boards, proper matching is the number-one concern. As oak flooring ages, it develops a rich colour and patina developed by years of wear and oxidation. Matching that rich, time-worn colour can be difficult. However, there are a few options that you can use to get as close a match as possible to the old flooring in your home.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Stain

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  1. 1

    Purchase oak floorboards with the same cut as those currently in your home. Oak floorboards are generally cut two ways. The first is "quarter-sawn oak," also known as "tiger oak." This cut features large flakes of grain because the oak boot is first quartered, and then sliced at an angle. The second type is "plain sawn oak." In plain sawn oak, the trunk is cut into parallel sections, resulting in long, wavy grains. Every oak plank will have its own specific grain pattern, much like a fingerprint. When the oak is freshly cut, the grain may not seem consequential. However, as the new floor ages or takes on stain, the grain will become more prominent. The two floors will look more similar if all of the boards were cut the same way.

  2. 2

    Stain the new oak flooring. Staining is one of the most common ways to match the darker, aged look of old oak. However, matching a natural patina with a fresh stain can be difficult. Take a picture of the old oak flooring and bring it with you when you purchase oak stain. Purchase a few of the smallest containers available that seem to match one or more of the various hues in your old oak floor. Next, apply several swatches of the stain to a scrap piece of the flooring you intend to install. While colour samples painted on the can are meant to be as accurate as possible, stain colour is highly variable, and you won't know what you have until you test it out. While sampling, play around with the length of time you leave the stain on, or mix different colours. Keep a record of your application methods --- time left to absorb, ratios of different stains in cups or teaspoons. When you find the closest match, apply it to the new oak flooring.

  3. 3

    Allow nature to take its course. Your old wood floor, if not stained, developed its rich colour over time. If you are willing to be patient, the experts at The Wood Floor Conservancy recommend simply waiting for the wood to age naturally. As long as the cut of the floorboards is the same, your new oak flooring will eventually match the older pieces. Simply apply the finish --- and the stain, if any --- used on the older boards and wait. It takes longer, but time will give you the truest colour match.

  4. 4

    Harvest old, used oak flooring material. When old buildings are demolished, potentially valuable items such as old oak flooring are carefully removed and saved. Look in your local yellow pages for "architectural antiques" or "architectural salvage" to find warehouses or salvage yards that take in old flooring. If your flooring is really old, The Wood Floor Conservancy recommends looking locally. Most of the buildings in the area are likely to have been constructed with wood from the same lumberyard.

Tips and warnings

  • Make sure that your new floorboards are the same thickness as the older ones.
  • Never mix oil-based and water-based stains.
  • When attempting a colour match, keep in mind that wood stain darkens over time.

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