Will sunlight damage timber floor?

Before buying a new timber floor, many of our clients get extremely concerned about their floor changing colour over time and whether their wooden flooring can be damaged by sunlight.

Common questions we get are:

  • Will my timber floor fade?
  • Can my timber floor be damaged by sunlight?
  • Will my wood floor turn yellow with sun exposure
  • Do I have to protect my timber floor from sun and heat

These are very valid questions and the answer will vary depending on factors such as the species of wood, or the type of lacquer and coating used. Some wood species are more susceptible to sun damage whilst others can become richer in colour with a little bit of sunlight.

Let’s explore some of these questions to help you choose a timber floor suitable for your lifestyle.

Will my timber floor fade with sunlight?

The reality is that natural hardwood timbers are photosensitive and do react to UV rays, but they don’t necessarily fade. Many species of hardwood will get darker with age and UV light.

We have found that French Oak will typically go darker when under direct sunlight, although it’s a very subtle difference in comparison to other timber floors. Only in darker stained French Oak colours will you see it losing its strength and possibly fade, although this can be avoided when proper coatings are applied.

Australian hardwoods on the other hand are known to have a more noticeable colour change compared to French Oak. As these timbers are very textured, over time they have a tendency of getting darker and their individual colour traits become richer and warmer.

Bamboo flooring as a rule will go lighter. The natural colours in bamboo tend to be not as stable in the sun so strong UV light will make bamboo floors lighter over time.

Picture above: Marri timber flooring installed in highly sunlit living room

How to Choose Your Timber Floor Considering Colour Changes

From a customer’s perspective, when choosing a floor you need to consider how your floor will vary in colour with age and sun exposure.

If you are choosing a Bamboo floor, select a floor that is a little bit darker than your desired outcome, considering the lightening process over time. With Australian timbers and French Oaks, choose a colour which is potentially lighter because it will darken over time.

You will only need to consider these lightening and darkening effects if you floor is receiving sunlight. If you live in an apartment and your floor has little to no sun exposure, you won’t have to worry as the floor colour won’t change much.

Note that most of the colour change that does occur with sunlight will happen in the first 12 months of laying your floor.

Can Internal Lighting Change the Colour of the Floor?

Some internal lighting does emanate UV light.

Certain UV spectrums that come from internal lighting can change the colour of your floor. We’ve witnessed this happen in homes which receive no sunlight in the main floor-space, but still get some colour change due to the UV in the home lighting.

Picture above: Bamboo flooring installed in highly sunlit area with large windows

Do I have to protect my floor from the sun and heat?

When natural unsealed timber is exposed to excessive sunlight it has a tendency to lose its natural colour, causing the wood to go grey. This issue doesn’t happen with timber flooring because the oxidation process causing this colour loss is sealed with an oil or polyurethane coating.

We recommend you do protect your floor from excessive sunlight, just as you would any natural fabric in your home, such as a leather sofa for example.

Here are some best practices for protecting your timber floor from UV damage:

  • Apply window treatments where strong light is coming in
  • Tint windows to reduce glare and heat load
  • Awnings
  • Close blinds or curtains when there’s excessive sun

At the end of the day, you have to recognize that timber flooring is a natural product which will have a reaction to sunlight, but for most of us, this is why we choose and love natural timber in our homes.

With the right precautions a timber floor is a timeless asset for your home which will age gracefully and look amazing for generations.