7 Types of Wood Floor Finishes : The Right Choice For My Type of Flooring

7 Types of Wood Floor Finishes

StainingApplying wood floor finish is an easy but tricky process. Considering that floor finish is used to protect and extend the life of a floor, it is important to know the different types of wood floor finishes that are available in today's market. All of the ingredients used to make floor finishes are combined to produce a balanced blend of physical performance characteristics such as hardness, glass, clarity, scuff resistance, slip resistance, water resistance, removability, toughness, and more.

Choosing the right floor finish can make a big difference, and we are here to help you make sure you are asking the right questions.

What look and colour am I after?

How much does the finish change as it ages?

How much time and money do I want to invest?

How often do I have to clean and maintain my floors after coating?

To be able to obtain answers, it is important to know about the options you are being offered before even considering the application process.

1. Sealer

Sealer is classified as:

  • Surface Sealers
  • Penetrating Sealers

The main difference between them is their thickness. Surface sealers have a higher viscosity than penetrating sealers. Penetrating sealers actually penetrate the wood, and it fills the pores to create a durable seal.  On the contrary, surface sealers are not absorbed into the floor. The film that the surface sealers forms just protects the surface from water, soil, water, and some chemicals. Surface sealers are designed to fill in the tiny holes in the surfaces of concrete or worn resilient flooring. It is recommended to use this with a polyurethane wood finish if it is used on hardwood floors. They are primarily used as the first coat before applying the polyurethane finish. You must double check that the sealer you choose is compatible with the polyurethane you are coating to your floor. If not, the polyurethane layer will break down, and the floor will blister or chip -- usually within three years after application. When compared to other finishes, they are harder to apply correctly and even harder to remove. Sealers are of great significance as the coating gives the floor a smoother look and makes the finish stick better for the next application.

2. Polyurethane

Essentially a plastic in the form of liquid until it dries, polyurethane finish is available in:

  • Solvent(Oil)-Base Polyurethane
  • Water-Base Polyurethane

Water-based poly is popular because of its low odour and low toxicity. Solvent-based poly is also a popular choice because it is more durable than water-based when it comes to handling heat. If you decide to go for solvent-based polyurethane, it will add a slight colour tone, and it will bring out the richness of your wood floors. Read more about the differences. Polyurethane finishes are intended as an after coat once a stain has been applied.

3. Tung Oil

tung oil treeTung oil is usually used for furniture, but it is also used to protect floors as it can achieve a natural finished look. Besides it being durable and easy to apply, this type of finish has regained its popularity as it is non-toxic and does not darken the wood's surfaces -- making it even more popular among antique floors. The more coats you apply, the shinier your floor will be. On the other hand, tung oil can take up to 48 hours to dry, and it needs approximately seven coats for the surface to become truly waterproof. Additionally, tung oil is expensive when compared to other types of finishes.

4. Moisture Cure

moisture cure finishMoisture cure finish is a high-quality finish that is much more durable and will outlast a traditional polyurethane finish. The curing process is very dependent on relative humidity as it uses the moisture in the air to dry and harden. Apparently, not highly recommended for use in dry climates. This type of flooring finish is tough to apply and should be left to the professionals.

5. Swedish Finish

This finish is also known as Acid Finish or Acid Cure. When used, it preserves the wood's natural colour and characteristics. They have a strong odour, and it takes about two to three hours to dry completely. The finished result is extremely durable. Unlike polyurethane, when it comes to flooring stain finishes, the Swedish finish is not the best option to go for due to its partial incompatibility with solvent(oil)-based stains. Another major disadvantage is the level of its toxicity and odour.

6. Hard Wax Oil

Also known as Natural Oil, this type of finish was used back in the day before polyurethanes even became available until the 70s. Recently making a comeback, homeowners use this kind of finish when they want a mellow and low-sheen look. The greatest thing about hard wax oil is its content of natural products and low toxicity levels. Hard wax oil is DIY-friendly but labour-intensive as it needs to be applied by hand while covering small areas at a time.

7. Stain

Staining is used when you want to strengthen or change the colour of your floors while sealing the wood. Besides the colour stain enhances the grain while creating a distinctive appearance. Stain comes in a variety of shades. There are two types of wood stains:

  • Pigment/Oil Base (Takes longer to dry but produces a very natural-looking result.)
  • Solvent/Spirit Base

wood floor stainYou must be aware that if your floor is patched from different species of timber (mixed), staining will not make the varying Timbers match exactly (colour wise). For example, older timber can result in a darker stain, relative to the new timber. It is important to know that timber should never be coloured to be lighter than the original timber -- believe me, it won't work!

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