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Is it time to stop using dark wood flooring in houses?

traditional living room with dark wood flooring

I’m ready to break-up with my dark wood floors. There, I said it. The gorgeous espresso bamboo flooring installed just a few short years ago now holds less appeal than even those chevron prints that were once all the rage on pillows, curtains, walls, and well, everywhere.

Yesterday I said to my neighbor, “I will never live in a home with dark wood flooring ever again.” Her eyes widened in surprise. “But it’s so pretty! I see it on TV all the time.”

She’s right. Scroll through the gallery at HGTV and there are 427 photos of dark hardwood floors. Why? Because people love those dark floors. Recently, a survey conducted by the National Wood Flooring Association revealed the demand for dark colors in flooring continues to increase. My espresso bamboo floors are a trend that looks to have some staying power. Fabulous.

Dark wood flooring is as hot as shag carpeting once was. And shag carpet once was “super groovy, man”. It was everywhere for more than a decade and even managed a comeback a few years ago—retro was “in” and the shag was back.

Okay, true confession time.

My home office does have an area rug that’s a modern version of the shag carpet. But in my defense it’s a “trendy” chartreuse color with loose weave that reminds me of a tranquil grassy plain, the perfect accent for a mellow space conducive to creativity. And it really is a bit groovy.

Was I influenced by trendy design pictures online? Maybe. The truth is, it’s there because it covers the, . . . wait for it, . . . dark wood flooring.

Here’s the thing, if I could travel back in time five years, I would choose a different color of hardwood for our floors. I’d go with a lighter shade, something that would keep our black cat from blending in and becoming almost camouflaged against the dark wood.

Related: Types of Ebony Wood | Types of Hardwood Flooring | Best Way to Clean Hardwood Floor | Hardwood Flooring Cost | Kitchens with Dark Wood Flooring | Living Rooms with Light Wood Flooring

living room with dark hardwood flooring

Beyond the ability to help black cats up their stealth game, there are other reasons why it’s time to stop using dark wood flooring in houses. In fact, there may be as many reasons to say goodbye to dark wood floors as there are to ditch the white couch when kids come along. Whether it’s genuine hardwood or engineered flooring, dark wood has almost as many issues as the last season of Game of Thrones.

Dark Wood Floors Show Every Speck

If a real estate agent, interior designer, or even your best friend says dark wood floors don’t show dust or dirt, it’s a lie worthy of Littlefinger (to use one more Game of Thrones reference.) The reality is, the darker the flooring, the more dust, dander, pet hair, crumbs, and general grit it shows. It’s particularly noticeable on sunny days when natural light beams into the room.

Close up photo of dust on dark hardwood floor

The handy robot vacuum cleaner helps keep it clean. If expecting company, the drill is to robot vac, then run the regular vacuum to spot clean about an hour before guests arrive, and keep a dust mop on stand-by for a quick swipe before the doorbell rings. This may seem like overkill (overcleaning?) but it’s not, because these dark floors don’t hide the dust like a lighter floor or carpet does.

robotic vacuum cleaning dark hardwood foor


Scratches show up on dark wood like an uninvited guest. Even hardwood floors in low-traffic areas are susceptible to scratches and unfortunately, dark wood shows it all. Often, the actual wood is a lighter shade than its stain. When the plank is scratched, the lighter wood becomes exposed. These scratches stand out more because of the contrast. A scratch-proof finish can help reduce scratches. With genuine hardwood, it’s also possible to remove some scratches by sanding and refinishing.

Dark wood floor with sun shining on it

Tip: Kick off your shoes. Socks and bare feet only on the wood floors. Tiny rocks and other debris embed into shoe soles and can scratch the flooring surface.

If You Want the Room to Feel Smaller, Darker, and Warmer . . .

Dark colors absorb light, while lighter colors reflect it. This is why any smaller space painted in darker colors and/or with dark flooring feels even smaller than its actual size. Designers often recommend light colors for small spaces for this exact reason.

In addition, dark colors also absorb and retain heat from sunlight more readily. It’s actual science. “Darker colored objects heat up faster in the sun than light colored ones, which is why running across asphalt in bare feet can feel much hotter than walking across light-colored concrete.” (via Sciencing) So, dark wood floors + abundant sunlight = warmer.

Footprints, Footprints, Footprints

An average day of traffic through a room with dark wood floors can leave enough footprints to look like you just hosted an open house. Or the cast of So You Think You Can Dance. If you don’t want a criss-cross of footprints on your hardwood floors, opt for a lighter color.

Installation Woes

My husband is a talented DIYer and over the years has installed miles of flooring, both laminate and hardwood in three of our homes. He installed our dark espresso bamboo flooring as well. This was the first time working with a dark wood and the challenge came with staggering the boards for color variation. There were fewer variations in the color patterns of the planks with the espresso bamboo. Less color variation made it more difficult when attempting to create a natural pattern versus the lighter shades he’d installed previously.

Am I saying we should rip out every square inch of dark wood flooring found in homes throughout the country? Of course not. That’s silly and way too time-consuming anyhow. Think of all the free time we’d lose, time better spent with our families or looking at cute kitty memes or even choosing the right flooring for our personal space.

To be fair, it’s important to take a look at the other side of the story or the pros of having dark wood floors in a house.

Dark Wood Flooring is Gorgeous

Open concept kitchen and living room with dark hardwood flooring

Here’s something to think about: The National Wood Flooring Association surveyed real estate agents across the United States and 82% said that homes with hardwood floors sell faster than homes without. Hardwood floors can increase the value of a home.

If you’re looking to add wood floors to increase the value of a home, dark wood can be transformative. It looks elegant, modern, and sophisticated. Dark hardwood flooring has the power to be the focal point for the room, taking the space from just okay to wow. Also, it tends to fade less, which keeps it looking its best longer.

Offers Dramatic Contrast

Dark wood flooring with lighter walls offers a dramatic contrast in a room’s aesthetic. It’s bold yet as classically modern as Edison lights, brass accents, and hand-crafted furniture. Bottom line—it’s trend that’s not going away any time soon.

At the end of the day, it’s your house. If you love a dark hardwood floor, embrace the trend. I tried. The cons outweigh the pros for me. Go ahead and choose the dark wood flooring, but remember when it comes time for resale, there will be buyers that love it and those like me that have uttered the words, “I’ll never live in a home with dark wood floors again.”

Related: 22 Types of Hardwood Flooring for Your Home