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Custom Stain Mixing Guide

Creating custom colors for clients can give you an edge over other contractors. Learn some basic tips to mixing custom floor finishes.


When it comes to making your clients happy, being able to provide more than just an expertly installed floor helps to boost your credibility and visibility. With the popularity of providing a custom floor rising, knowing how to make a custom color can be the skill that separates you from the competition. The more you know about mixing custom stains, the better prepared your clients’ expectation will be. Here are a few tips to mixing custom floor stains.

Know what staining can and can’t do.

Staining a piece of wood can add more detail and depth to the wood’s physical properties and can be color matched to another species, but it’s best to remind clients that staining can only do so much. If clients are expecting a piece of stained wood to look 100% identical to another species, it’s best to inform them before they get their hopes up and waste precious time.

Know how a wood reacts to staining.

Not all woods stain well. Woods that have tight grains and small pores will be difficult to stain evenly. Coniferous woods like pine or fir contain sap that resists staining. Common woods like red or white oak are more easily stained. If a client wants their floor stained, make sure they understand what can be done with the type of wood they have.

Know your undertones.

When dealing with colors and how they impact a room, it’s good to understand the impact of a color’s undertone. Colors are made up of mass tones and undertones. A mass tone is the color you immediately see, and the undertone is another color that adds to the overall effect. You see great examples of undertone when you look at color swatches—the various shades of similar colors show how much of an impact undertones have. When helping clients plan their custom colors, colors with similar undertones will look good together.

Bona has a number of color options in the DriFast Stains, from the saturated reds, smoky browns, grays and rich, chocolaty black of the Metropolitan to the subtle and soft light tones mixed with warm whites found in the Naturals stain

Document your samples.

When you finally get around to creating your custom stains, be sure to document everything that you did to create that mixture. What brand, what product type and the ratio used to create that color will be crucial when you want to recreate that color again. Be sure to have clients sign off on the custom color used so that they know what to expect in the finished project.

Avoid a risky mix.

With all the different types of stains out there (oil-based, water-based, fast drying, etc.), it’s best to stick to one product and brand family to get the best results. Mixing different chemical formulas can result in unforeseen results, longer dry times or a chemical breakdown in the stain solution.

Bona Craft Oil and Bona DriFast Stains are excellent options to breathe new life into hardwood floors. Bona Provides a listing of Unique Blends showcasing some combinations of the depth and breadth of color ranges the DriFast Stain collection offers. With a wide range of colors and ease of mixing, the possibilities are endless.