Q: I loved your recent column about improving hardwood floors without refinishing them. I have a similar issue: My floors don’t “need” refinishing, but I sure wish they were lighter. They’re engineered wood in dark-brown cherry color with the hand-scraped look. I’ve been able to lighten most everything else in the house easily enough with paint, but not the floors. What can I do to freshen the dark wood floors?
A: There is so much information on living with, cleaning, and refinishing wood floors that it’s impossible to contain it all in one or two columns! For your situation, it will depend on what type of engineered flooring you have, your budget, and the exact look you want. The thickness of the top layer of your floor is what matters. Some engineered flooring products may have a thick hardwood veneer that can be carefully refinished, similar to solid hardwood flooring. Laminate, vinyl planks, and even ceramic tile in plank shapes are other flooring products sometimes mistakenly referred to as engineered flooring. The top layer of laminates is not actually wood at all, and gives you a wide variety of great-looking choices. If your floor is any of these types, it’s probably not possible to refinish, so replacing your floor might be the way to go. You’ll get exactly the look you want for a lot less than traditional hardwoods. With the proper prep work, it’s also possible to add vinyl plank flooring or tile over your old floor. Have a flooring contractor look at your floors for more specific information.
If replacing or refinishing your flooring isn’t an option, you can still get a lighter look, if not a lighter wood look, for your entire house, with area rugs. Shop for large individual rugs, or for a more cohesive look, have a carpet store make room-size rugs out of a durable, low pile or loop carpet that will fit your house (and your lifestyle) perfectly. Have a store representative or a designer measure for you, and leave 2 to 4 feet of wood showing around the edges. The larger your rooms, the larger the border. You’ll still have wood around the perimeter of your rooms for contrast, and the overall lightness you want. Good luck and tell me how it goes.