Half Bathroom Kristi's Studio

DIY Whitewashed Red Oak Studio Floor – Part 1

My whitewashed red oak floor isn’t finished yet, but we did get the most important (and definitely the most difficult) step finished yesterday — the actual whitewashing of the wood floor. So I wanted to show you how it turned out, and also share the whitewash stain formula that I ended up using.

The floor still needs to be polyurethaned, and that will happen later this week. I ordered the polyurethane late, so it’s not scheduled to arrive until Wednesday. I’ll also be adding some white universal tint to the polyurethane to brighten and smooth out the finish a bit more, so the final floor should be a bit whiter and brighter than it is now. But this first step was a very good start towards cutting the red and pink undertones of the red oak floor, and giving the floor a nice, bright appearance.

Before I show you the whitewashed floor, let me remind you just how red red oak flooring really is…

Studio red oak hardwood floor in natural state before whitewashing
Studio red oak hardwood floor in natural state before whitewashing

Many of you suggested that I just seal the floor in its natural state, but red oak is way too red (pink, actually) in its natural state for my personal taste, and any clear sealer (yes, even water-based) enhances the pink even more.

I used red oak flooring because that is the flooring that’s throughout the original part of the house, and in the event that Future Kristi wants this floor to be stained to match the rest of the house, that can be done since I used the same species of wood. But for now, I want this floor light and bright.

This was definitely a two-person job. My brother used a rag dipped into the stain mixture, and wiped the stain on the floor. Then I came behind him with dry rags and wiped away the excess. Because water-based stain dries ridiculously fast, we had to work pretty quickly.

Here’s a look at what the whitewashed area looks like compared to the natural red oak floor during the whitewashing process…

Studio red oak hardwood flooring during whitewash process

You can see that the whitewash is subtle, and yet it drastically cuts the red/pink color from the wood.

It took us just under three hours to do the whole floor — studio, half bath, storage closet and back entry — but just look at the beautiful results!

Studio whitewashed red oak hardwood flooring

Once again, here’s the before picture…

Studio red oak hardwood floor in natural state before whitewashing

Here’s another view of the whitewashed floor…

Studio whitewashed red oak hardwood floor

And here’s how that same view looked before the whitewash stain…

Studio red oak hardwood floor in natural state before whitewashing

That’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison since those pictures were taken at different times of the day, which affects the natural lighting in the room. But there’s nothing inaccurate about the red tones in floor in that before picture.

As I mentioned, the floor finish is only halfway done. I still have to polyurethane the floor, and that will make it whiter and brighter. But I’ll share those details, as well as the finished floor, later this week. But here’s the most important info I can give you about this first step…

Stain Formula For Whitewash For Red Oak Floor

First, let me make clear that I wanted my floor to be whitewashed and have a light and bright appearance, but I did NOT want a rustic, farmhouse result (like this). Rustic is not my style at all. I wanted a clean and consistent look to the floor. The last thing I wanted was a streaky appearance, or the look of whitewash stain over dark wood, or the look of aged wood hidden under a chipped off white finish. So if any of that describes the look you’re going for, then this may not be what you’re looking for. Or at the very least, you may require a staining step with a dark stain before you whitewash the wood.

I’ll also say that the stain I used specifically says on the can “not intended for floors.” That didn’t stop me. 🙂 But just be aware of that before you try this.

Anyway, I purchased a two-gallon bucket from Home Depot, and for my 550-square feet of flooring, I mixed:

  • 1 gallon of Varathane classic water-based white tint base wood stain
  • 6 teaspoons of green craft paint
  • 1 cup of Behr white flat ceiling paint (no colorant added — just use it right out of the can)
  • 1 cup of Floetrol
  • 1 cup of water

This was plenty of stain for my 550-square feet, and I even had quite a bit left over.

The purpose of the green craft paint was to add a slight green tint to the stain to counter the red undertones of the wood. And in fact, the Varathane white tint base stain right out of the can has a slight red undertone to it. So the green cuts both. This is the specific green paint that I used, purchased at Michael’s.

green added to white Varathane stain to whitewash red oak floors without pink undertones

And the stain did have a green tint to it. It was subtle, but unmistakable.

Stain formula for whitewashing red oak hardwood flooring to eliminate pink undertones

But you can see that once it was on the floor, the stain doesn’t look green at all.

If your flooring has a different undertone that you want to minimize, just use the color that is opposite the undertone color on the color wheel. If your floor is really yellow, add a touch of purple. If your floor is really orange, add a touch of blue. You get the point.

The white paint was added to add a bit more solids to the very watery stain. A few days ago, I tested this stain on the floor before I sanded. The first two samples that I tested were one coat of stain (one straight out of the can, and one with a bit of green tint added). The one coat seemed way too sheer. So I tried a third sample with two coats of stain, and that seemed too white and opaque. So I thought one coat of stain with some paint to add more solids to the watery stain might be a good in-between compromise between the one and two coats of stain that I tried the other day. (You can see those samples here). The one coat of stain with a bit of white paint added did seem to get me somewhere between those samples a few days ago.

I added the Floetrol in hopes that it would slow the drying time just a bit. The main thing that makes water-based stain so frustrating to work with is that it dries so fast, causing problems where a wet edge meets an already-dry edge. The Floetrol did seem to help a great deal. But I would still recommend turning off ceiling fans and anything else in the room that causes too much air flow that might dry the stain faster. The longer you can keep a wet edge, the better the result will be.

But even if you are very careful, turn off anything that creates air flow, and work really fast, you might end up with some areas of overlap that dried too fast and could’t be wiped off with a rag, like this…

line where coats of water based stain overlap

If that happens, don’t panic! Just let it dry completely, and then use some 220-grit sandpaper and lightly sand the overlapped area until it matches the rest. If you keep trying to rub the drying stain with a rag to get rid of the overlap, you might end up taking all of the stain off instead, and then if you try to add more stain, you’ll make an even bigger mess of things. So it’s better to just let it dry and then sand it lightly and strategically to make the line disappear.

And finally, I added a bit of water just to bring the whole mixture back to the consistency of stain.

So that’s Step 1 in the whitewashing process. I can’t wait to get this finished!

Studio whitewashed red oak hardwood flooring

Update:

My whitewashed red oak floor is finished! Here’s how it turned out…

You can find the next post for this project here…

And see the final post, and the finished floor, here…



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34 Comments

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Debbie
    May 27, 2019 at 10:35 am

    I wonder if Home Depot would add some green tint to your stain and eliminate the need to add craft paint.; just a thought. The floors look beautiful and I love the Bird of Paradise paint with the wallpaper.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Kristi
      May 27, 2019 at 10:37 am

      Nope. There are nine colors to choose from if you want Home Depot to tint that stain. They won’t do anything outside of those nine colors. At least the one here in Waco wouldn’t.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Bobbi Jo Thompson
    May 27, 2019 at 10:41 am

    I love it when your plan comes together. I use your hits to convince my hubby we need to try one of your projects. I love the lighter floor it makes your room look so much brighter and bigger.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Bobbie
    May 27, 2019 at 10:54 am

    Beautiful whitewash! From whitewashing the two brick walls in my sunroom, I know what a leap of faith it can be. But so satisfying when it’s just right after ring.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Stacye
    May 27, 2019 at 11:42 am

    I love the floors. Can’t wait to see finished studio. I’m a color girl like you so this studio is going to be a happy place. You are lucky to have a great brother that helps you. I’m working on a craft room made from a bedroom where my last son just moved out. I’m using fuchsia, orange and purple with some black as a neutral.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Danielle
    May 27, 2019 at 11:56 am

    That looks amazing.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    cyd
    May 27, 2019 at 11:58 am

    It’s gonna be great!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Patricia
    May 27, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    Wow, so great. So, do you think the white wash technique made your red oak look like white oak ? That’s the way it looks on my computer to me.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Denise Pellerito
    May 27, 2019 at 12:28 pm

    They are beautiful!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Darlene
    May 27, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    Woohoo…… SCORE 🤗

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Lori L
    May 27, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    I thought polyurethane can turn yellow as it ages. Am I wrong? How do you prevent that?

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Kristi
      May 27, 2019 at 12:45 pm

      Crystal clear water based polyurethanes shouldn’t yellow. Oil-based polyurethanes are yellow/amber right out of the can, and will continue to yellow/amber with age. And there are some water-based polyurethanes that have an amber color as well. If you don’t want the yellow/amber color, you just have to be very careful about which on you purchase, and it will definitely have to be water-based.

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        BeckiB
        May 27, 2019 at 2:07 pm

        Is the polyurethane the product made by General that you liked so much? You used to use Waterlox for your floors, what changed your mind?

        • Reply To This Comment ↓
          Kristi
          May 27, 2019 at 3:33 pm

          I’m using a Varathane polyurethane made specifically for floors. Waterlox is an oil-based product and is amber in color. It’s not something that could be used on white floors.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    janice dinse
    May 27, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    Did you have to wood fill the entire floor (like you did in the bathroom and hallway) on the entire floor before you sanded it?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Barb
    May 27, 2019 at 1:05 pm

    What a beautiful change. Thanks for all the info.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Eva B. Liland
    May 27, 2019 at 1:47 pm

    Looks beautiful! I read that you added Floetrol to it to extend the time and my question is, can you add Floetrol to an oil based paint too? Thanks in advance.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Kristi
      May 27, 2019 at 1:59 pm

      Floeetrol is specifically for water-based products. For an oil-based paint, you’d need to use Penetrol. Both products are made by the same company, and can be found together in Home Depot.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Barbara
      May 27, 2019 at 2:12 pm

      Floetrol has the oil based equivalent for sale, too. I know that because Kristi has written about it before. I just re read her posts on cabinet painting, which mentions it.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Eva B. Liland
    May 27, 2019 at 2:06 pm

    Oh darn, I bought the wrong product, lol. Back to Home Depot again. It’s been years ago since I painted anything.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Barbara
      May 27, 2019 at 2:15 pm

      Kristi answer wasn’t there when I posted . But oil based paints don’tdry as fast as water based, so you may not need it. We can’t get oil based in Canada, it has been years now.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sharon
    May 27, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    It looks great!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Chris
    May 27, 2019 at 4:18 pm

    Looks good and I’m really looking forward to the wallpaper and cabinets. Such a bright and cheerful room to get to work in.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kismet
    May 27, 2019 at 4:54 pm

    I wish you had done a time lapse so we could see it going on in real time.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sharon C
    May 27, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    WOW……..it looks a-maz-ing!!!!! I love it. Big thank yous to Kristi´s brother for helping Kristi do this floor.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    cori tate
    May 27, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    GORGEOUS!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Marianne in Mo.
    May 27, 2019 at 6:28 pm

    Looks great! Amazing how adding the green craft paint helped tone down the pink so well! Wonder if that powdered Tempra would do the same, if you would ever need a larger quantity? I often wonder if that is what Folk Art and other craft paints are made from. Not quite the same consistency, but maybe? Anyway, I am loving your hard work and hope your brother knows we appreciate him helping you!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Rebecca Neustel
    May 27, 2019 at 7:36 pm

    I was one that suggested sealing the floor in its natural state, but I definitely see why that wouldn’t be something you’d want to do! Nothing better than a visual!! lol This floor is really beautiful, and I can see using this in the main part of a house, but I guess it’d make more sense to use white oak, wouldn’t it? Would you need to use the green paint in that case? Great job you and your brother did!! 👏👏

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Tirsa
    May 27, 2019 at 10:59 pm

    The floor looks gorgeous, Kristi! Light and airy just as you you’ve said. Love it!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sue
    May 28, 2019 at 7:29 am

    I really like it. You can still see the wood grain but it’s light and bright. Great job and thank you for sharing your process with us.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sally
    May 28, 2019 at 9:35 am

    You guys have done a great job. You brother is really useful, and so kind to help you out the way he does. We all need a brother like that!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    ILENE RICHARDSON
    May 28, 2019 at 10:06 am

    Beautiful and just what I’m looking to do on my floors. Did you apply the whitewash with a rag?
    Thanks

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Michelle
    May 29, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    Well, once again you pull off something amazing !! You are THE energizer Bunny !!! Kudos to you !!!

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