Engineered Flooring Species: To Stain or Not to Stain?

There are plenty of times in the engineered flooring and solid wood flooring markets alike when you will come across what one might refer to as a “hardwood purist.” These folks do not believe in staining, particularly when it comes to exotic species or species more known for their distinctive colors/grains.

For instance, Brazilian Cherry is arguably the most popular exotic hardwood flooring species on the American market. It is well known for its salmon, red, and brown coloring. So why, some might think, would anyone want to stain an already beautiful exotic flooring species that you’ve already paid good money to have imported to the United States?

Well, as you may have guessed, I am not a hardwood purist. I think that any modifications made to a product give consumers a wider range of options to choose from is always welcome. This allows homeowners to more accurately express their own individual tastes and styles, rather than being boxed in by the color palette dictated by mother nature alone.

So let’s take a look at some stained exotics. (Stained just bears a negative connotation anyway, doesn’t it? Obviously wood experts weren’t thinking marketing, or we would definitely be talking about “color enhancement”.) Here are some stained versions of Brazilian Cherry:

Here’s the natural:

Brazilian Cherry Flooring

Now here are swatches of two different stains.

Brazilian Cherry Cafe:

Jatoba Hand Scraped

And now Brazilian Cherry Caramel:

Jatoba Hand Scraped Caramel

So you can see how the stain affects the coloring of the wood. (Additionally, these swatches are “hand scraped,” meaning hand distressed and therefore have more of a “bumpy” texture for a slightly more rustic look.) As you can see, the stains often show the graining off in a different color palette, but nonetheless one can easily see that we are looking at Brazilian Cherry, just through a different color of lens. Obviously, this is what staining is all about, but I feel its important to stress that stains are not opaque (At least a good staining ought not to be.) A good stain should alter the appearance of the wood quite a bit, but not obscure the graining much. A bit of subtlety is involved, and this separates a good stain from a bad one.

What do you think of staining? Abomination or blessing of artistic license?

Engineered Flooring vs. Thin Solid Flooring

When it comes to the age old question of whether to use solid flooring or whether to use engineered flooring, there is the question of thin solid flooring. With solid hardwood flooring available in widths such as 3/8 of an inch, the question becomes more complicated. Solid 3/8″ flooring can be glued down, which is one benefit over usual 3/4″ solid flooring, which is pretty much nail down only. (Depending on who you talk to, naturally, but this is the safest bet.)

Additionally, these thin solids are handy when it comes to tight spaces that can come into play during a renovation. However, the solids will still undergo the same heightened expansions and contractions because it is a solid, natural product. (Expansion and contraction is usually measured by tangential shrinkage/expansion and radial shrinkage/expansion) Engineered flooring is not subject to as a result of its construction of perpendicular plies.

Despite the smaller width, the same balance of pros and cons still applies to these formats: With engineered flooring, you’re getting a wear layer that is probably thinner than the total width of the solid flooring, and therefore cannot be sanded and refinished as many times. However, the engineered flooring will be more dimensionally stable than its prefinished counterpart, and while the smaller width may lesson the effects a bit, the solid flooring will still move in service.