25 Pros & Cons of Dark vs Light Hardwood Floors: The Ultimate List!

Without a doubt, hardwood floors are one of the most popular flooring options we get asked about!

But once you’ve decided you want to go with them, how do you choose between dark vs light hardwood floors?

So we’ve created the ultimate list—our 25 unique pros & cons of dark vs light hardwood floors!

BONUS: We’ll also answer questions like

  1. “What color hardwood floor is best for resale?”
  2. “Do dark wood floors make a room look smaller?”
  3. “What’s the deal with dark vs light wood absorbing light?”
  4. “Are dark hardwood floors going out of style?”
  5. “What color wood floor to do with dark furniture?”
  6. “Should I do light or dark wood floors with white cabinets?”
  7. “Do dark hardwood floors show more dirt?”
  8. “Are light wood floors in style?”
  9. “Is dark wood flooring a good idea?”
  10. “Are dark or light hardwood floors better?”
view of dark hardwood floors instead of light hardwood floors from kitchen to living room
Click for our FREE Interior Design Guide!

However, before you get into it, you may want to first check out our post on “7 Strategies for Choosing Interior Colors”, which applies to both paint as well as flooring.

Once you’re up to speed on those principles, read on for our list!

Disclaimer: Not all hardwoods can be neatly divided into “dark vs light” hardwood floors, so please keep that in mind as you decide on your own style and color of flooring. The below are general principles intended to help you see the pluses and minuses of lighter and darker stains as you consider your options!

➜ Need kitchen design help? You can download our Kitchen Design Bundle! (3-in-1!)

Dark Wood Floors vs Light

Light Hardwood Floors: The Pros!

#1: Natural look: Depending on your stain and type of wood, lighter hardwood floors can give a more natural, organic look to your space.

#2: Hides dirt & light-colored debris better: Depending on the color hair your pets have, or any other type of debris you find on your floor, light hardwood floors will hide light-colored debris better than dark.

#3: Can make a space feel larger: Because light hardwood floors bounce more light around the room than dark floors, spaces with light hardwood floors can make your rooms feel bigger!

#4: Casual, light feel: Light-colored hardwood floors tend to have a lighter, more casual look to them. If that’s more the style you’re going for, you’ll love them!

#5: Flexible style: Light hardwood floors can go with a number of different design styles. Traditional, modern, rustic…name it and there’s a stain and/or finish for light hardwood floors that’ll achieve your vibe!

#6: Goes well with dark furniture. If you have a lot of dark-colored furniture, lighter wood floors can help balance that visually.

Dark Wood Floors vs Light

Light Hardwood Floors: The Cons.

#1: Shows dark-colored debris more. Depending on the style you choose, light hardwood floors can show more dark-colored debris. And if you have pets with darker-colored hair, you may not be 100% happy with light-colored floors.

#2: Knots, water stains, and gaps can stand out more with light wood floors.

#3: Fades faster. At first I was surprised by this one, but I’ve read it in several places so it must be mentioned: light hardwood floors are more prone to fade than darker hardwood floors! This is said to be because the dark color absorbs more light, so this would be of importance in spaces near large glass doors, windows, or skylights.

#4: Washed-out look: In a large, expansive room with lots of natural light, light wood floors can almost create a washed-out look or glaring effect when all that light bounces off them. You may not want that (unless, of course, you’re one of those people who likes to wear sunglasses inside).

#5: Don’t always look great with light-colored cabinets. If you have your heart set on light wood cabinets (instead of white cabinets with hardwood floors), then light wood floors can be tough to choose. Or vice versa. Getting the two light woods not to clash, and to look like they pair well together, is a challenge. (Made easier if you hire a good designer—check out our Design Services.)

#6: Hides dirt. Yes, one of the pros of light hardwood floors is also a con, in my opinion. I prefer to know when my hardwood floors are dirty and need a good clean! Maybe it’s just me and my personality, but if my floors didn’t appear dirty, they could go XYZ amount of time before I gave them any attention! (But I don’t have a house cleaner, and I’ve found I don’t like sticking to a strict housecleaning schedule. With everything we have going on in our lives, I’ve found I do so much better and enjoy cleaning so much more when I do it either as-needed, or as-when-it-bugs-me!? I’m visual, and so I like visual reminders.)

Sanded hardwood floors to showing light color before staining dark

Here’s what our sanded-down, original hardwood floors in our master bedroom and sitting area look like. We decided to stain them darker (you can read about it here!), and we decided that very intentionally! Our goal was to hide the round pegs since they didn’t go with our design plan for the space. Many times, your floor color needs to be determined strategically!

Dark vs Light Hardwood Floors

Dark Hardwood Floors: The Pros!

#1: Gives depth & contrast. There’s no doubt about it: dark hardwood floors give a level of richness and contrast to a room that lighter-colored wood floors just can’t quite achieve. If you’ve chosen light colors for your interior walls, cabinetry, or furnishings, dark hardwood floors will give you that “pop” of contrast your room might desperately need.

#2: Help your home’s resale value. In answer to the question, “What color hardwood floor is best for resale?” some studies have suggested that homes with dark wood floors sell for more money. (Hot diggity!😆)

#3: Hides dark-colored debris better: If you have dark-haired pets or tend to have more dark-colored debris on your floors, dark hardwood floors will hide it better than light hardwoods.

(See why we ripped out our new kitchen HERE!)

#4: Looks better for longer: As mentioned earlier, dark hardwood floors are less prone to fade than lighter hardwood floors. (See how our dark hardwood floors look here and here.)

#5: Ground big spaces: In an especially large or expansive room, dark floors can help ground it and make it feel less cavernous.

#6: Flexible style: Dark hardwood floors can be used in a variety of design styles. Modern, traditional, transitional, you name it—there’s most likely a dark stain and/or finish for dark hardwood floors that’ll get you the look you want.

#7: Can give an elegant and/or cozy feel to a room. Depending on the style you choose, a dark hardwood floor can give a warm and comforting (and/or sophisticated and elegant) look to a room. It’s all in how you make your design choices. Dark hardwoods often give a bit more of a luxurious look to the room, as opposed to the natural, lighter wood colors.

#8: Work well with light-color furnishings. Dark hardwood floors look amazing with lighter-colored rugs and furniture. It gives a balanced look to a room that might otherwise be filled with light items everywhere.

#9: Easier to touch up: I’ve had both light and dark hardwood floors. I’ve found from experience that having dark hardwood floors are approximately 127% easier to touch up than light ones. The few spots they’ve gotten slightly dinged on, I simply grab my Sharpie, and they look good as new! (Yep, my trusty Sharpie rides again! Matt and I both tried the “special stain marker for hardwood floors” given to us by the manufacturer, and it was useless. It looked good until I mopped my floors, then it would come off. No gracias.

dark hardwood floors in kitchen looking to living room with painted white stone fireplace

See photos of our living room’s Pinterest-famous DIY ottoman, or what our fireplace USED to look like!

Because let’s face it, life happens. Someone will inevitably drop something on your hardwood floors—whether they’re light or dark—and they will dent. I’ve found our current dark hardwoods much more forgiving here, in comparison to our lighter hardwoods of the past.

However, the ease of touchup is also dependent on the grain and style of your hardwood floors. With the right style, lighter hardwoods could also be easy to touch up if needed.

Click here to see full photos of our kitchen with its dark wood floors.

Dark vs Light Hardwood Floors

Dark Hardwood Floors: The Cons.

#1: Shows light-colored debris more. If you have a white indoor pet, for example.

#2: May not look great with dark-colored cabinets. Depending on the style you choose, if you have your heart set on dark-colored cabinets (and you’ve determined whether your home can get away with having dark-colored cabinets), then dark hardwood floors may not be the best choice for you.

#3: Can make a space feel smaller. If you have an already-small room, dark hardwoods could make it look smaller. (Again, check out my list on light or dark interior colors in a room! This includes flooring!)

#4: Doesn’t hide light-colored debris. Personally, I don’t think this is a con, but you’ve already read my perspective on that above. If your heart is set on dark hardwood floors, no problem mon! Get a robotic sweeper (like we did) and set it to automatically run at certain times of the day you want it clean (or to run when you’re out of the house and want to come home to spic-and-span floors).

Dark Wood Floors vs Light

“Are dark hardwood floors going out of style?”

I can’t help but smile at this question. For several reasons.

For one, please don’t ever make your home decor decisions based on what’s trendy (unless you’re preparing to sell it soon and trust that your buyers will want trendy instead of timeless). Make your decisions based on

  1. What you like.
  2. What looks good in your unique space.
  3. What achieves your goals.

If you love certain home trends, then by all means go for it!

But keep in mind that some home trends like flooring and cabinet styles are much harder to change later on! I highly recommend not riding The Trend Wave on those big-ticket items. Instead, I’d encourage you to feel free to ride that wave on less pricey items that are more easily changeable later on.

I also look back at old, historic homes and see a plethora (yep, plethora!) of darker hardwood floors that have stood the test of time. Same with lighter hardwood floors. It’s all in how it’s done.

Fads go in and fads go out, but classifying something so black and white (no pun intended) as “dark vs light hardwoods” is difficult. (Even I have had to make generalities in my lists above.) I encourage you to go deeper! Look more at the quality of the hardwoods, the grain of the hardwoods, and the stain used.

upholstered bed in bedroom with dark vs light hardwood floors

See photos of our bedroom + sitting area with fireplace here, or see how we made our DIY upholstered bed ourselves!

Light vs Dark Hardwood Floors

“So, are dark or light hardwood floors better?”

Neither is inherently “better.” They’re just different!

After reading the above pros & cons, ask yourself a few questions.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Forget Pinterest, your mother-in-law, and your neighbor. Which do YOU prefer?
  • What’s the style of your home?
  • What color debris do you usually find on your floors?
  • How often do you want to clean?
  • Do you care if your floors are dirty if they don’t actually show it? Or do you always want to have clean floors?
  • What’s your decor style? More casual, more elegant, or a mix of both?
  • Do you have kids? Pets? How much do you entertain and have people come into your home?
  • Are you a shoes-on or shoes-off kinda household?
  • What color are your kitchen cabinets, bath vanities, or built-in bookcases?
  • What goes best with your furniture?

For more help, see my post here about 7 Strategies for Choosing Interior Colors. (This isn’t just about paint; floors are included as an interior color!)

We clean our floors with this natural, healthy cleaner and love it! It’s gentle and doesn’t smell like you’re going to inhale so many toxins that you can feel it giving you cancer as you breathe. (I have a sensitive nose, as has already been established, so these are the things I used to think about when I used the traditional cleaners years ago. My health has improved too!)

Light vs Dark Hardwood Floors

“What if I like a bit of both?”

Question: What if you have some rooms where you want dark and other rooms where you want light?

(Welcome to my world, sister! I like a bit of both too!)

My answer? RUGS!

Let’s look at the before & after of our master bedroom sitting area…

light hardwood floors in bedroom sitting area before being sanded and stained dark


bedroom sitting area with dark instead of light hardwood floors

If you’ve read our post about why we mercilessly ripped out that railing, you’ll understand fully why we did dark hardwoods in here.

And while I love the dark hardwoods we have throughout our home, there are times I want to break it up with a bit of lightness, for a variety of reasons too detailed to get into now (but which I’d love to write about soon).

I also can’t get enough of rugs and the plush feel they can give in homes full of hardwood floors and tile. Here you can see how we get the best of both worlds!

bedroom sitting area with dark hardwood floors and light rugs

Another example of where I’ve used rugs both to create a cozy feel as well as lighten up a space is in our living room (with the stone fireplace).

living room with dark hardwood floors and light rugs
Our ottoman coffee table. I bet you can’t guess what we made it out of!

Like I said earlier, we feel like we get the best of both worlds! In rooms where we want the sharp contrast or a bit more of the elegant look, we can leave the dark hardwoods completely exposed.

Such as in our kitchen…

dark hardwood floors in kitchen

To see full photos of our kitchen, click HERE.

➜ I talk about kitchen flooring in our downloadable Kitchen Design Bundle! (3-in-1!)

Dark Wood Floors vs Light:

How to choose?

In the end, it comes down to

  1. your priorities and
  2. your personal preferences.

First, determine your priorities. Read this article on how to choose your interior colors (it applies to floors too!). Then get some samples and see how they look in your room at different times of day.

And for goodness sake, buy the best-quality hardwood floors you can afford. You don’t want to rip out XYZ-square-feet of hardwood floors again in your lifetime, do you? Nope!

Next, see whether we’d do wood floors in our kitchen again or our ridiculously crazy-popular bathroom remodel (including how we did our flooring for almost-free!).

We’re also sharing

  1. 5 brilliant kitchen organization ideas that make life easier!
  2. Why we did 100% drawers instead of cabinets.
  3. The 3 genius cabinet storage ideas every kitchen needs.

➜ Our complete list of every single home project is viewable HERE!

*This post contains affiliate links, which are no extra cost to you but help us keep this site alive!

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Cathy

    Thank you for creating such a helpful and informative blog post about dark vs light hardwood floors. Your dedication is admirable, and I can’t wait to see what other topics you’ll explore in the future! Your blog post was a breath of fresh air.

  2. Bes

    I would like to read more topics about dark vs lioghtwood hardwood floors pros and cons. This one really piqued my interest. Keep writing.

  3. Crag

    Your blog post about floors pros and cons was a true masterpiece! Thank you for sharing your insights and tips with us. Your generosity and passion are truly inspiring.

  4. Cho

    Just read this article and I can say these are awesome great tips on Hardwoods. I will be using this tips for my own clients!

    1. Jess

      Thanks for sharing, Cho!

  5. Trish

    When I built my house I made the mistake of putting light color laminate flooring through out the house. Looks great, but dirt gets in the fine grooves. It is impossible to keep clean unless I use a scrub brush! Really! I have a floor machine that helps but doesn’t do as good as me on my hands and knees! I’m too old for the process plus it’s time consuming! Thinking of replacing first floor with laminate when I get the money. What an expensive mistake and disappointment. Found your article very informative. Wish I read it sooner. Thanks. Trish

    1. Jess

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Trish!

  6. Tiff :)

    Can you please share the exact company hardwood and color that you are used because it is gorgeous… Thank you 😉

  7. Tiff :)

    Hiii! So we are about to pull the trigger on dark hardwoods for our entire downstairs…could you please share what exact hardwood and color you all chose because it is gorgeous! Thank you so much 😉

    1. Matt

      Hi Tiff, We used a wire brushed white oak engineered hardwood with a dark walnut/ebony finish.

  8. Henry Killingsworth

    I want to install light hardwood flooring in my kitchen. It was helpful when you mentioned that lighter hardwoods create a more natural look. I will have to find a flooring contractor that can help me pick the right type of light wood.

  9. Adana Jimenez

    This post is awesome! I made the mistake to keep mopping my beautiful black wood floors with lots of water and soap [is a Latina thing… LOL ] and kinda damage the paint so much after 3 years. When I redo them I will make sure to be more gentle!! Wondering if I should request a double “seal” protection of some sort… uhmmmm

    1. Jess

      Thanks Adana! Yes, if your floors are wearing down, sounds like a good idea to add more protection! 🙂

  10. Aisha

    This post was incredibly helpful! Thank you for sharing! I truly appreciate it.

    1. Jess

      Thank you for your feedback, Aisha! We love hearing it was helpful to you! 🙂

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