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Q. I have a hardwood floor that I would like to ebonize. Can this be done to any type of wood floor?

Q. I have a hardwood floor that I would like to ebonize. Can this be done to any type of wood floor?

A. If you want to create a sleek black look on your hardwood floors, you’re going to have an easier time getting there if you’re working with oak, rather than maple. The grain in oak accepts stains better than most other woods, says Arild Farkvam, owner of A&K Floor Co. (727 N. Lombard Ave., Oak Park, 708-848-3606).

Maple, a very dense wood that’s often used for kitchen floors, doesn’t easily take on color pigment-and once it does, doesn’t easily give it up. If you think there’s a chance you might want to take the floor back to its original color someday, that will be more difficult if your floor is maple. But even if some woods are trickier than others, Farkvam says he hasn’t come across any that he can’t stain black.

Exotic woods, meanwhile, may take the color, but it kind of defeats their aesthetic purpose, says Brian Quinn, a sales representative at Birger Juell (150 Merchandise Mart, 312-464-9663; birgerjuell.com). Most people don’t opt for unusual woods if they’re just going to stain them black or any other color, he says; instead, they choose them for their natural color and grain. If you are installing a hardwood floor and know you want to add color, go with oak and the professionals you hire will have a much easier time.

The process of staining a 300-square-foot floor black takes about a week, Quinn says, including the application of multiple coats of stain, drying time, and finishes. Professionals start by sanding the floor and then add moisture to the raw wood with sponges or damp cloths, opening the grain and preparing it to accept the pigment. The number of coats of stain and finish depends on the look you want, but after three, Quinn says, the wood likely won’t accept any more color. Prices for ebonizing a floor can range from about $3 to $7 per square foot.

Maintenance of black floors is a bit of an issue. “They tend to show everything, all the dust and dirt,” Farkvam says. “It’s kind of like wearing a black dress or a black suit or driving a black car.” Quinn recommends using felt pads, available at any hardware store, under chair and table legs to keep your new floor scratch-free. For regular cleaning, don’t overwash-damp mop the floor rather than dousing it with water.


Have a design or renovation question? E-mail us at chicagohome@chicagomag.com. Sorry, we cannot take questions by phone, or guarantee individual responses

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