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How to: Choose a dark wood finish

Have you ever heard of ‘Bog Oak’?

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Bog oak is an oak which after laying buried in peat for hundreds (or in some cases thousands) of years, gradually becomes darker and darker until it is almost black in colour. This change in colour occurs as the oak is starved of oxygen, which is what normally causes wood to decay. Submerged in peat, the oak is subject to acidic conditions by which iron salts and other minerals react with the tannins (an acid found in the make-up of wood).

Due to its lengthy ageing process, bog oak is incredibly hard to source and extremely expensive. There are however a number of ways to achieve the distinctive look of bog oak at a far more accessible price point.

The first is burnt or charred wood. This is increasingly popular for cladding the outside of buildings, as it is extremely weather resistant and can withstand stress better than standard wood. It also provides a unique, rustic look to the wood.

Another popular alternative to achieve a deep, dark wood is to use smoking or fuming. This process involves exposing the wood to ammonia in order to darken the wood not only at the surface but also penetrating the entire way through the wood. The exposing process takes place in an enclosed environment, either a tank or a sealed tent. Fumed oak is ideal for high-traffic areas, as the colour penetrates the entire depth of the wood, it can be sanded and refinished without having to reapply any colour. It is also useful in that scratches will not remove the colour, therefore they will appear less noticeable vs stained or varnished wood. Beware of wood which has been merely finished by painting ammonia onto the surface. When looking at fumed wood always ask to see the full depth of the wood to ensure the dark, smoked colour is consistent all the way through.

A third alternative is a dark finish oil. This is a deep, dark colour which is applied to the top layer of the wood. It is a less expensive alternative to the previous two options but still provides a high quality finish with a similar effect. The benefit of a dark finish oil is that it can be applied to a greater range of flooring types. It can be applied to large planks which may not fit within a chamber for smoking or may not even be possible to create from bog oak. It also allows you to customise and tailor the shade you’d like to achieve. It can also be used on other products such as wall panelling, furniture, stairs and skirting boards.

We work with Milan-based hardwood company Fornett, who provide everything from a wide range of finishes and grades, to standard and bespoke patterns. They are also able to produce wall coverings, bespoke joinery and furniture. Fornett pride themselves on the relationships they build with their clients, establishing trust through exceptional customer service.

‘Ordering our products is a lifetime investment. This requires trust, which doesn’t come on its own and rather must be built. This is why we put such a strong emphasis on our involvement. For the past decade Fornett has gained international recognition for supplying quality hardwood flooring in prestigious projects worldwide. We credit this to our approach and our aforementioned emphasis on quality - both in the product and the service’ - Fornett

If you’d like samples of some of Fornett’s finishes, they have a quick and free sample service available either on their website: or by contacting us directly.

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