How Wood Changes Naturally Over Time

Wood is a beautiful, natural material that can add warmth and character to any home. But like all natural materials, wood is subject to change over time, particularly when exposed to light. This process, called photosensitivity, is perfectly normal and doesn’t necessarily mean that your wood furniture is damaged.

Many people embrace the changes that occur as wood ages, as they can add a unique patina and charm. But if you’re not a fan of how your wood flooring is changing color, there are a few things you can do to prevent or slow down the process.

What Is Photosensitivity?

Photosensitivity is the degree to which wood changes color when exposed to light. The more photosensitive a wood is, the more rapidly it will change color when exposed to light. The term “photochemical reaction” is used to describe the process by which light energy causes chemical changes to occur.

The most familiar example is how sunlight causes the skin to tan. The photochemical reaction in wood is much slower and poorly understood. However, it is known that certain extractives in the wood are responsible for its photosensitivity.

The most common change is that the wood will become darker in color. And the change that occurs will depend on the type of wood, the finish, and the amount of sunlight exposure.

Do Certain Woods Change Color More Than Others?

Yes, different types of wood will change color at different rates.

For instance, light-colored woods like birch and maple will change color more quickly than dark woods like walnut and mahogany. This is because lighter woods have a higher degree of transparency, meaning the wood grain is more visible and reacts more to sunlight and other environmental elements.

On the other hand, dark woods have a lower degree of transparency and are less affected by sunlight. This is why they often have a richer color that lasts longer.

Here are some examples:

  • BEECH: changes color to a medium degree over time, with the orange colors fading slightly and ambering.
  • EUROPEAN MAPLE: changes to a more golden color over time.
  • CHERRY: changes very fast and dramatically, darkening to a dark reddish color.
  • ASH: changes from a lighter tone to a straw or tan color over time.
  • MAPLE: changes color from a creamy white to a golden color.
  • JARRAH: changes color to a much darker tone over time.
  • WHITE OAK: changes color to a darker or ambering tone.
  • WALNUT: changes to a lighter golden-brown tone (the only one that gets lighter over time).
  • JATOBA: changes over time to a darker, almost vibrant red tone.


As seen in the table above, some wood species change their color considerably, especially exotic wood species such as Jatoba, but also Tigerwood and Cumaru. In time, they may appear in a completely different color.

So, before choosing your wood floor, get professional advice on how your wood floor will change its color over the years. And don’t be disappointed when your new fresh wood floor has a different color than the aged sample floor you saw in the shop!

How can I prevent my wood floor from changing color?

As we have seen, the main problem that causes color changes in your wood floor is UV light. And the truth is, there is very little you can do to completely prevent that process altogether.

However, you can do something to ensure, that your floor at least changes color evenly, without having some areas that are much darker or lighter than others.

Install Blinds or Curtains on Windows

You can try using window treatments to filter the sunlight and prevent bleaching. Curtains or blinds can help block out some UV rays that cause fading.

Rearrange Your Furniture Periodically

To prevent your wood floor from changing color due to UV light exposure, try to rearrange your furniture periodically. This will help distribute the light evenly and prevent any area from getting too much exposure.

Rearrange Your Rugs Periodically

If you have rugs on your wood floors, rearranging them periodically can help prevent the color from changing unevenly. As we have seen, the sun will naturally change areas of your floor that it hits more directly, so by moving your rugs around, you can help keep the color more even.

If you are still concerned about the color of your floor, you can always contact a professional to have it refinished. This will give you a fresh start and ensure that your floor looks its best.