There is a wide array of hardwood floor finish options in the market, and if you wish to get hardwood floor refinishing services, you should think about what type of wood finish you would like to have.
Finishes can enhance the beauty of your wood floor, extend its lifespan, and even make it safer. However, each floor finish for hardwood floors has its own characteristics and qualities that should be considered before applying it to your flooring.
To help you make an informed decision, we will explore the features of the most common hardwood floor finishes, such as oil and water-based finishes, polyurethane finishes, varnish finishes, wax finishes, and more. At the end, we will answer some FAQs about wood floor finishes.
Are looking for professional hardwood floor refinishing services in Manchester, NH? Minuteman Floors offers top-notch wood floor refinishing services for residential and commercial settings.
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What Is Hardwood Floor Finish?
Hardwood floor is made of natural wood, such as oak, pine, cherry, walnut, and bamboo. All of us have seen how easily wood can be scratched and dented. So, when natural wood is used in flooring or furniture, a kind of protective coating is applied on its surface to enhance its durability and strength. This coating is called wood finish (or floor finish for the flooring) and must be used for the following reasons.
- Protecting the natural wood from any damage, like scratches, spills, dents, dirt, UV, moisture, and stains. In other words, hardwood floor finishes shield your floor from wear and tear.
- Prolonging the lifespan of the floor by making it stronger and more durable.
- Enhancing the overall beauty. Wood finishes add depth and sheen to your flooring and make it smooth. They also provide customization options and you can decide how glossy or matte your wood floor would look. Therefore, you can easily match it with the style of the place.
- Making it easier to maintain and clean. A smooth and sealed surface means that you can keep it from dust, dirt, and spills more easily. As a result, you will have a healthier and more hygienic indoor environment.
Aside from maximizing the longevity, hygiene, and aesthetic appeal of the hardwood floor, a quality wood finish adds to the value of your place.
Let’s go over the options you have when it comes to choosing a hardwood floor finish.
A Review of Different Types of Hardwood Floor Finishes
Each wood floor finish has its own distinctive features, benefits, and maintenance considerations. We will explore water-based finishes, oil-based finishes, polyurethane finishes, wax finishes, varnish finishes, and their subtypes.
Water-Based Hardwood Floor Finishes
Water-based hardwood floor finishes are perhaps the most popular ones nowadays. It can be due to the following reasons.
- They dry fast. For example, water-based polyurethane finish dries after 6 hours. It speeds up the hardwood refinishing process.
- They do not have offensive odors. Unlike many other wood finishes, water-based finishes are almost odorless and you can even stay around while your floor is being refinished.
- They do not give off harmful gases. As water-based coatings contain low levels of VOCs (volatile organic compounds), they do not off-gas harmful gases. So, they are healthier for the people and more environmentally friendly.
- They enhance the natural appearance of the wood. A water-based finish provides a clear colorless coating that enhances the natural color and grain of the wood.
- They are durable. Although water-based coating layers are thin, when applied two or three times, they provide a durable protective coating for your wood floor that can resist wear and tear even in high-traffic areas.
- They are non-yellowing. While many oil-based finishes turn yellow or amber over time, water-based finishes are famous for resistance to yellowing.
- They are easy to apply.
Despite all these benefits, some may consider water-based finishes cold-looking, as they make a crystal-clear layer. But you can always stain (a kind of wood paint) if you like to add some color to your wood floor. What’s more, they can be more expensive than oil-based finishes.
Water-based finishes come in different kinds, including water-based polyurethane finish, water-based acrylic finish, water-based varnish finish, water-based penetrating sealers, etc.
Water-Based Flooring Finishes Maintenance
You can clean and maintain a hardwood floor with a water-based coating simply. Just use a broom regularly to keep the dust and dirt away. You can also use a damp mop once in a while for deeper cleaning. However, you should avoid harsh detergents as they can damage the finish.
And, over time, as your wood floor gets worn, it can be restored by professional wood floor refinishing. The current worn water-based finish will be easily sanded and new layers of coatings will replace it.
Oil-Based Hardwood Flooring Finishes
Another main type of hardwood finishes is oil-based finishes. There are several types of oil-based hardwood floor finishes, from the commonly-used oil-based polyurethane finish to tung oil (natural oil from tung tree seeds), linseed oil (from flaxseed), and Danish oil (a blend of varnish, resin, tung, linseed, and other oils.).
- add a rich and warm color to your flooring, which makes the place look more welcoming.
- enhance the natural beauty of the wood floor by penetrating inside the wood pores and giving it a slightly glossy surface.
- maximizing the longevity of the floor by making it more resistant to damage. Oil-based wood floor coatings improve the durability and strength of the floor and can be used in mild to high-traffic areas.
However, most oil-based finishes take 24 to 48 hours to dry, which makes the finishing process take longer. Moreover, oil-based finishes that contain urethane and acrylic have high levels of VOCs that easily vaporize and enter the air. VOCs, as mentioned above, are harmful to the environment and people.
Another drawback is the long-lasting odors of most oil-based wood finishes that can be bothering for many. Besides, most oil-based coatings turn darker and yellowish over time.
Maintaining and Cleaning Oil-Based Finish
If your hardwood floor has an oil-based coating, you should regularly sweep or vacuum clean it to remove the dust and debris. You can also use a damp mop with a hardwood floor cleaning product for deep cleaning. Make sure you do not use a lot of water or harsh chemicals as both can damage your floor.
Every few years, you can get a professional maintenance coating, during which the surface layer is removed through sanding and new coatings are applied.
Restore your hardwood flooring with a high-quality oil-based or water-based polyurethane finish. Call to schedule an appointment.
Polyurethane Hardwood Finishes
Polyurethane finishes come in two main formulations; water-based and oil-based. While all the advantages and disadvantages we discussed above are true about water-based polyurethane finishes and oil-based polyurethane finishes, polyurethane (a resin-based material) itself has the following features.
- Polyurethane finishes are very tough, durable, and strong. So, they can protect the wood surface very well, even in high-traffic areas.
- Polyurethane hardwood finishes show good resistance to scratches and stains. Therefore, they are the best choice for households with kids and pets.
- Polyurethane wood floor finishes can resist moisture well.
- You can get a polyurethane coating in a variety of sheen levels, including glossy, semi-gloss, and satin.
And, except for the water and oil-based types, there are some subcategories as well. For example, moisture-cured polyurethane finishes show an exceptional resistance to moisture. However, they have a strong odor.
Wax Wood Floor Finishes
Although not as common as oil/water-based polyurethane finishes, wax hardwood finishes are used in some low-traffic areas. They enhance the aesthetic appeal by adding warmth to your wood flooring. It also brings out the natural texture and grain of the wood.
However, they are not as strong and durable as polyurethane finishes. In addition, they need regular maintenance and reapplication to ensure they can protect the wood surface. Another potential problem is the need for regular buffing if you like your wax floor coating to have its natural low sheen. Because wax can get dull relatively soon.
On the other hand, there is a type of wax finish in which wax and oil are combined to have the benefits of both. It is called a hard-wax oil finish. A hard wax oil coating is beautiful and natural, durable, strong, and easy to maintain. This type of hardwood floor coating is suitable for both residential and commercial settings.
Varnish Hardwood Flooring Finishes
Varnish finishes have been around for a long time. It is basically a combination of resin, some oil, and solvents.
As varnish hardwood finishes are traditional, they give your place a kind of classic look and style. You can also choose the level of sheen you prefer for your wood flooring. Aside from the elegant and stylish look, it protects the floor from damage if maintained and cleaned regularly. You can also refinish your hardwood flooring when the varnish coating gets dull and damaged.
There are several types of varnish finishes for wood flooring. Some of these include
- Oil-based varnish finish: It is beautiful and long-lasting.
- Water-based varnish finish: It is low in VOCs and non-yellowing.
- Polyurethane varnish finish: It provides excellent durability and resistance to damage.
- Shellac varnish finish: It gives your floor a warm and natural amber tone. Being a natural resin, shellac varnish can provide a relatively good protective coating, but not as tough as polyurethane.
- Lacquer varnish finish: It offers great durability and resistance, as well as, a perfect glossy coating.
To sum up, we have explored the benefits, drawbacks, and characteristics of the most common hardwood floor finish types. There are still some more, such as antique finishes (to give your wood floor an aged appearance) and reactive finishes (to give the wood a unique look and color by using chemicals). So, with these various options, it is up to your personal preferences and your hardwood floor specific requirements to decide what type of wood finish to go with.
FAQs About Wood Floor Finishes
Let’s discuss some of the most common questions about hardwood flooring finishes.
How Often Should You Refinish a Hardwood Floor?
As we have seen, the range of durability and strength differs from type to type. Another key factor is how much foot traffic there is. Besides, how well you maintain the wood floor coating plays a big role in its longevity. So, it is difficult to say exactly how often a hardwood refinishing is needed. But you should consider a minimum of 3 to at most 10 years.
Is It Possible to Apply a New Coating on Top of the Current Finish?
Although it is possible in most cases, still the current finish must be sanded to remove the scratches and stains. Sanding and making the surface prepare for a new finish requires professional help. Otherwise, you might end up damaging the wood itself or having an uneven coating.
What Type of Hardwood Floor Finish Dries Faster?
Generally speaking, water-based finishes dry much faster than oil-based finishes.
How Long Do the Odors Linger After Applying the Finish?
Water-based finishes are virtually odorless. However, the strong odor of most oil-based finishes can last for days or even weeks. Good ventilation can help to dissipate the smell faster.
Can I Clean My Hardwood Floor with Water?
Even if the flooring finish is moisture-resistant, you must avoid excessive water. Wood is very sensitive to water and it can badly damage it if seeps into the lower layers. Only use a damp mop when cleaning and dry any spills ASAP.
Do you need advice on what kind of finish to use on your hardwood floor? Discuss it with our experts.
Get Professional Hardwood Floor Refinishing Services in New Hampshire
We have seen how different types of hardwood floor finish vary in their levels of durability, their appearance, and their maintenance requirements. So, it is essential to make an informed decision to reach a desirable outcome. Remember to consult with an experienced professional before making a choice.
Minuteman Floors is located in Manchester, NH, and has been providing hardwood refinishing services for years. The combination of our experience and dedication to delivering top-quality refinishing services have made us come up with our special 9-step wood floor refinishing process.
Read more about our commercial and residential hardwood floor refinishing or give us a call at (800) 315-2185 for more information.