What is the “best” stain color for my hardwood floor?

Lately that is the question that I hear a lot from customers is regarding what color stain that they should use on their floor when refinishing.

My answer in the way past (we are talking 1980 something) would have been to match the color to the color of the trim in the house.  Back then everything matched.  Coming out of the 70’s where everything was a different color it was very relaxing and easy to keep everything the same.  (Can you say boring?)  I even spent hours matching stain on a previous job where people wanted pine windows to be the same color when stained as the oak stained trim.

Over the last few years it would have been to use something slightly darker or lighter than your cabinet and trim color so that it doesn’t all blend in and look the same.  I still believe that this is a wise choice for some customers that want a complement in their home that is timeless.

Here is a picture of a typical refinishing color selection.  The customer knows the color family that they want to use.  They are just unsure of how dark that they want that color to be.  These samples all are bringing out the same color tones, just in different intensities.

Testing stain colors on oak


This next color selection palette is more diverse.  The customer here isn’t sure what color family that they want to use.  They have every color family here…warm golden brown, more natural, gray brown and red brown.  This truly opens up to many possibilities.  You may select something that you were not intending.  These sampling pictures I found courtesy of Pinterest to show the different scenarios.  In this particular choice the customer ending up choosing the one on the left as it was a warmer color that gave more life and coziness to the space.  I also would have chosen this color in my own home personally because I like the variation in color and the warmth of it as well.

testing 4 different stain colors on oak

Early American stain on red oak kitchen

Notice on the previous pictures how light oak wood is when it is sanded?  That is the natural color of the wood.  When finishes like stain or enhancing sealers are applied it brings out the grain and appears to add depth and brings out the natural characteristics of the wood.  That is what Brent loves about refinishing wood.  He is able to reveal the beauty of the wood in many different forms.  It is like a painter with a blank canvas.  He just needs the customer to tell him the color that he should be painting that canvas with.

testing grey stain on wood

How fun would this color be?  With the re-emergence of gray as a neutral color in your home palette…this color would be so interesting and fun!  This is a gray stain on wood that is more rustic.  This look in flooring is all over.  I predict that this will only grow in popularity as more people see the possibilities of what you can do with this fun color.

These days there is a movement where different is back and it is truly interesting to see.  The rules from my interior design schooling have been thrown out and it is to do what makes you happy.  If that is a grey tinge to the floor color with chocolate brown cabinetry and white trim…go for it!  It is all about finding the combination that makes your house feel like your home.  If you like the color combination together then that is what is important.

Don’t be afraid to do something different than your neighbors or friends.  Do what makes YOU happy!  If you have been dreaming about a new look…go for it.  We would be more than happy to help you achieve those dreams of what “could be”.  Call us today for a quote on making your dreams a reality.

Kathy Munson, Interior Designer and Office Manager, Custom Installations LLC

Large Format Tile Installation

Large Format Tile Installation
Kathy Munson, Interior Designer Custom Installations, Inc.

Go into any retail store that sells tile and you will notice a trend that has been around for a while now. This trend is gaining speed and now you will notice that most popular tiles on the market are what are called “large format” tiles. That is that they measure over 15” either in length, width or both. This is causing a change in the way that tile are to be installed.
During the manufacturing process of making these larger tiles the ability to keep them all flat and true is difficult at best. Because of the variation in the tile from the manufacturing process; the way that they are installed is also more difficult.
Side view of Large format tile
As you can see with this side view of an average large format tile; the ability to keep them from bowing up in the middle of the tile is the issue. The yellow area between the straight line at the bottom and the bottom of the tile is the variation that we see with most large format tile. The difference may not even be visible to the naked eye for some people. This is what causes the issue when you set the tiles next to one another. The middle of the tile does not come at the same flatness as the outside edges.
Without proper techniques you can have an issue with “tile ledging”. That is the difference in the thickness of the tile from piece to piece or one side of the tile to the other. To combat this ledging issue there are patterns that are used to mask the differences. One of the most popular ones is to do a 1/3 stagger. See the drawing below for an example of the layout in a 1/3 stagger:
one third staggerThis stagger pattern is most commonly used with the popular wood look tile that are on the market now, but is can be used in any large format tile application to minimize ledging. The change one third down the tile keeps the tile middle from the end and therefore hides any differences in thickness. As a matter of fact if you read the tile boxes the manufacturer will recommend that this be done for this reason.
Another method is use of different techniques like using a leveling system to hold the tiles even while installing. This is often done only by a professional installer.
Proper setting materials are REQUIRED to make sure that your large format tiles are properly supported and that the setting materials will not shrink back therefore causing a bond break between the tiles and setting materials.
There are additional ways such as leveling pours to handle difficult applications of larger tile. A floor has to be flat within ¼” in 10’. That is considered a “super flat” floor…and may not even be attainable. If a larger tile is installed on a floor that does not meet this you may experience significant “lippage”. That is where one tile may stick up higher than those next to it. This can become a trip hazard if the lippage is large enough. Make sure that your application is going to work without major floor prep before choosing the tile for your project. We prefer to see a project first before giving an estimate for this reason. We look at subfloor conditions to ensure that we find the product that will work the best for your situation.
Installation of a large format tile is often thought to be something that should “cost less” because you do so much area with just one tile. However, the need to ensure proper coverage of setting materials negates this difference in size. It actually may take longer to install that a smaller tile.
Even though the larger tiles are beautiful and do make spaces look larger, they also have some definite challenges in the installation process. Hiring a competent professional to do your installation is the best way to insure that your tile project turns out the way that you expect it to.

Quality that you can trust

We all want the best for our homes and we want a quality that you can trust. Where this is more desired than any other part of the home is where it involves water. For us that usually involves a shower that a customer has asked to have repaired or built in their home. Nothing does damage to your home faster than water that is where it is not supposed to be. Besides the cosmetic damage it does to the finishes it comes in contact with…it also affects things behind what you can see with the naked eye. I am talking about the sheet rock/plaster/studs and sub floor. These items can rot and have mold growing on them in a relatively short amount of time. Who even wants to think about that? That is too gross to even think about! However, we often come across it in our business. That is why we are very sensitive and so diligent in our efforts to keep any of our customers from encountering what no one even wants to think about.
How can we ensure that you should never have to even think about this when we complete a new shower for you?  Our answer is Schluter shower systems. It utilizes a bonded waterproofing material. This material is the answer to moisture control which will keep water and vapor penetration from reaching the items behind your shower that are sensitive to wetness. Below are the definitions of what is included in both a Schluter shower and a Traditional Tiled shower.
Schluter®-Shower System 
The Schluter®-Shower System is an integrated family of products that creates a
“sealed” system. First, the Schluter®-KERDI-DRAIN is installed in conjunction with
either a sloped mortar bed or the Schluter®-KERDI-SHOWER-ST prefabricated
foam tray. The KERDI-DRAIN provides a simple and secure connection to
the Schluter®-KERDI waterproofing membrane at the top of the assembly via
the unique integrated bonding flange. Unlike shower pan liners in traditional
assemblies, KERDI is a bonded waterproofing membrane that allows for
the direct application of tile with thin-set mortar. KERDI is bonded to the
mortar bed or tray and the surface of the KERDI-DRAIN’s integrated bonding
flange. In addition, KERDI is installed over the solid backing (e.g., gypsum
board, cement backerboard, etc.) on walls, creating a fully waterproof and vapor tight
enclosure. The resulting assembly provides superior moisture management as it does not
Kerdi shower constructionpermit moisture to penetrate into the mortar bed or solid backing, allowing the
assembly to dry completely between uses. The integrated Schluter®-Shower
System eliminates leaks, reduces the potential for efflorescence and mold growth
in the system, and dramatically reduces total installation time to ensure success
and make shower installation easier than ever.


Schluter Kerdi shower





The Traditional Tiled Shower System
The traditional method for installing tiled showers is time and labor intensive and
creates a “water in/water out” system. First, a mortar bed is sloped to the weep
holes in the drain. The waterproofing membrane, called a pan liner, is placed over
this “pre-slope” and clamped into the drain. Pan liners do not allow for the direct
application of ceramic or stone tile. Thus, another mortar bed must be installed
to provide load distribution and a bonding surface for the floor tile. Finally, a
moisture barrier typically must be included behind the solid backing on the walls
(e.g., mortar, cement backerboard, etc.) and lapped over the pan liner to protect
the wall cavities from moisture penetration and divert that moisture into the pan.
Contrary to popular belief, the tile covering itself is not waterproof. Moisture
will infiltrate the mortar bed and solid backing on the walls. This moisture must
percolate throuTraditional shower constructiongh the mortar bed to the sloped pan liner and exit through the
weep holes in the drain. With regular use of the shower the mortar bed can
remain saturated, particularly if pre-slope installation is ignored or the weep holes
become clogged, thus increasing the potential for efflorescence and mold growth
within the system


Traditional tiled shower






Why would anyone want to build a new shower in your home out of traditional system that increases the potential that moisture can seep behind your tile and allow for saturation to occur? See that orange colored material above in the picture? That is the moisture barrier that keeps the water from going past it into the structure of your home where it is invisible to the eye. You can technically use a Schluter shower after the water proofer is installed without the decorative tile covering. It is what keeps everything dry, provided that the Kerdi is not punctured anywhere.
Protect the investment that you are making in your home with a tile shower. The tile itself is not waterproof. Water and vapor will penetrate the grout joints and tiles even when sealed. An effective waterproof system is required to ensure the long term beauty and functionality of your tiled shower.
Contact us today to let us show you how we can give you the “quality that you can trust” in your shower installation.
Additional information on the Schluter shower product line is available at www.schluter.com