Answers to Your Toughest Bungalow Questions

Small Home Gazette, Fall 2002

Q: My hardwood floors need to be stripped and refinished. What color should they be stained? The other woodwork in my house has the original finish and is fairly dark. Should the floors be as dark? Do I need to put any stain on them at all?

A: Your instincts are correct. A very dark floor might be a bit too much dark woodwork; a very light floor will look disconnected from the rest of the interior-too contemporary.

We spoke with Jackie at Dave’s Floor Sanding and Installation, Inc. (763-784-3000) who said that in an old house, the floors should be “25 to 50 percent lighter than the woodwork.”

Jackie says that when a customer’s floors are ready to be refinished, workers will spot sand an area, then mix a variety of test stain combinations right on the raw wood surface. That way, people can see how the floor color will work with the rest of the home’s elements.

“The color we end up with is often a combination of four or five stains,” says Jackie. “The stains have names like Nutmeg, Rosewood, Spice, Coffee and Ebony.”

But is this the way people did it when bungalows were first built? Says Jackie, “they’ve been doing it that way forever.”

Q: We recently pulled up old layers of linoleum and vinyl flooring on our front porch and found wide fir planks with remnants of gray paint on them. Would the wood have been painted originally? Is gray an historically appropriate color for porch floors?

A: Good questions. We posed them to Steve Heisler of Abbott Paint and Carpet who told us that gray paint is, indeed, a traditional porch floor paint color, though he is unsure of the origins of the practice.

We weren’t able to come up with a definitive history either, but one apocryphal tale is that the practice began after World War II when supplies of “battleship gray” paint was plentiful and cheap, not to mention tough enough to hold up on high-traffic surfaces. Sounds like a reasonable story to us.

Steve says that the Benjamin Moore brand makes a number of “porch and floor” paints that come in several historically accurate shades of gray as well as green and a couple of reds. Other paint manufacturers also offer a line of porch and floor paints.