Ultimate Guide to Choosing The Best Hardwood Floor Finish To Use


Hardwood floors are often applied with either a penetrating oil finish or a top coat of surface finish. They both give some level of protection to any wood floor from scratches, abrasions, and moisture.

Penetrating oils penetrate deep beneath the wood’s surface which binds itself with the wood’s fibers. These types of finishes, while it protects the wood from within from moisture and stain, the actual wood surface is exposed and will wear down over time.

Surface finishes, on the other hand, create a surface barrier protecting the actual wood’s surface against scratches, abrasions, and moisture. This means that the actual finish is the one that wears down and not the wood surface itself.

There are also finishes that both penetrates the wood surface and gives surface protection as well. We’ll talk about these finishes below.

Depending on the type of finish use, they can enhance the wood floor’s appearance, bringing out the details of the woodgrains more and making the wood’s color richer. Depending on the type of finish used, the floor finish can be matte, glossy, or semi-glossy.

There are several types of wood floor finishes available in the market and it can be very difficult for someone without experience to choose the right wood floor finish to use for their needs and for the specific conditions of their rooms where the wood floor is installed in. This guide will hopefully help you identify which wood floor finish is best for a specific need or condition so read on.

To give you a quick overview here’s a list of all the floor finishes that can be applied to your wood floors today. Click on any of the finishes to go directly to its section of this article:

  1. Wax
  2. Conjugated oil varnishes
  3. Natural oils
  4. Conversion varnishes
  5. Oil-modified urethanes
  6. Waterborne urethanes
  7. Moisture-cured urethanes
  8. On-site UV-cured finish
  9. Aluminum Oxide
  10. Hardwax Oil
  11. Lacquer

There are several types of wood floors that are used in residential, offices, and commercial spaces nowadays. These can be solid hardwood floors, engineered hardwood floors, bamboo floors, engineered bamboo floors, or parquet floors. In most cases, all these wood floors can be applied with any of the finishes discussed in this guide.

It would still be best though to seek the advice of the flooring manufacturers which particular finishes are best to use on their products to get the best results and application methodologies of each finishing product should always be followed.

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11 Types of Wood Floor Finishes To Choose From

Below are 11 wood floor finishes that you can consider applying to your own hardwood floors. Each finish is shown with a list of their advantages and disadvantages to give you a quick overview of each finish characteristics.

1. Wax

ADVANTAGES

  • Easy to apply. Any DIYer can use this.
  • Dries fast, can be walked on after 1-2 hours.
  • Cheap
  • It provides warmth and depth to wood floors.
  • It can hide superficial scratches and dents.
  • It can easily be reapplied and rebuffed.
  • Can provide some surface moisture resistance.
  • Little to no odor. It has a very low volatile organic compound (VOC) level.

DISADVANTAGES

  • Wears quickly and needs to be regularly maintained and re-applied.
  • Not durable enough to protect wood floors against heavy wear, and deep indentations and scratches.
  • You need to add a sealer beforehand to add protection to the wood floor.
  • It can be slippery.
  • Other finishes can’t be applied on top of the wax.
  • Will yellow as it ages.

Floor wax is considered a penetrating finish as it penetrates beneath the wood floor’s surface. It has been used on wood floors for hundreds of years and is made from a blend of solvents and natural waxes such as carnauba wax or beeswax. It comes in paste or liquid form and is very cheap as compared to the other types of hardwood floor finishes. It is normally applied after the floor has been stained or sealed.

It is a very forgiving finish to apply and can be done easily by any DIYer. Wax can provide the appearance of warmth and depth to your wood floors. It will also help hide some of the superficial and minor scratches of your floor bringing it back to its original beauty.

As it dries, it will add resistance to wood against moisture and stains. Wax, however, is not durable enough to protect against abrasions and scratches and will need extra protection, to make the wood floor a little bit harder and durable.

While clear wax will add a slight amber color to your floors there is colored wax that is available in hues of brown that will add a deep brown color to your hardwood floors. It tends to yellow as it ages and can make a poor choice for light-colored wood floors.

After the application, it will dry and can already be walked on within 1-2 hours. You can have it in a matte or a satin finish. To get the right amount of sheen, wax needs to be buffed using polishing pads or steel wool pads. It is recommended to get at least 1-3 coats of wax to your floors prior to buffing. Wax can make your floors slippery so extra caution is necessary when walking on waxed floors.

Although wax can be a cheap way of finishing your floors, it does wear very quickly so you would need to reapply it every so often. It is also not durable enough to withstand gouges and dents made by heavy objects or your pet dogs’ nails.

Here are some other things you should keep in mind when using floor wax.

  1. You can apply wax on hardwood floors that are previously treated with varnish, lacquer, or oil.
  2. Avoid waxing over urethane finished floors especially if you plan to recoat your wood floors with urethane in the future as these two are not compatible. Urethane finishes will not stick on floors with wax.
  3. Check the label when buying wax, make sure that the wax is for floor usage. Wood furniture wax will make your floors very slippery.

2. Conjugated Oil Varnishes

ADVANTAGES

  • Easy to apply. Any DIYer can use this.
  • Penetrates deep underneath the wood floor surface, hardening and binding itself with the wood’s fibers.
  • Enhances wood’s natural look.
  • Acts as both sealer and finish.
  • Hides superficial scratches and dents.
  • Easy to repair and retouch floor. No need for resanding.
  • Dries fast.

DISADVANTAGES

  • Not durable enough to protect wood floors against heavy wear, and deep indentations and scratches.
  • Low resistance to moisture penetration.
  • Will yellow as it ages.

The conjugated oil varnish is a clear, semi-transparent liquid that penetrates and seals wood underneath the surface. It can act both as its own wood floor sealer and finish. It incorporates either tung oil which comes from treenut, or linseed oil that comes from flax seeds, mixed into other synthetic resin.

Conjugated oil varnishes incorporated with tung oil are considered better than those with linseed oil. Because of the smaller molecules of tung oil as compared to linseed oil, it has the ability to penetrate the wood deeper. While linseed oil will yellow when exposed to UV light, tung oil will not. Clear conjugated oil varnishes have a slight amber color and it will slowly turn yellow as it ages.

While other finishes fail to adhere, conjugated oil varnishes bind well to oily woods such as Brazilian walnut and teak. And unlike finishes like urethanes that build a film on top of the wood surface, conjugated oil varnishes bind with the wood fibers inside and become an integral part of the floor. While urethane finishes may add a look of plastic layer finish, oil varnishes enhance the natural feel and look of wood floors.

Since conjugated oil varnishes have a minimal surface build-up, scratches often go unnoticed. Repairing scratches and superficial dents is simply done by applying more finish and no resanding is required. Making spot repairs is very much possible, unlike other finishes. This can be a good finish for any DIY guys as applying this finish is easy to learn.

While conjugated oil varnishes will help hide small and superficial scratches on your wood floors, it will not protect your wood floor against hard objects such as furniture legs or your dog’s nails making deep indentations and gouges to the floor. Since conjugated oil varnishes seep in the surface of the wood, it has little resistance against moisture penetration from the surface. This finish does not offer the best protection against heavy wear and moisture.

The floor will usually need 2-4 coats of this finish. It also dries fast, around 2-4 hours time.

3. Natural Oils

ADVANTAGES

  • Easy to apply. Any DIYer can use this.
  • Penetrates deep beneath the wood floor’s surface, hardening and binding itself with the wood’s fibers.
  • Enhances wood’s natural look.
  • Available in several color options.
  • Easy to repair and retouch floor. No need for resanding.

DISADVANTAGES

  • Not durable enough to protect wood floors against heavy wear, and deep indentations and scratches.
  • Low resistance to moisture penetration.
  • Some natural oils dry for more than 12 hours.
  • Will yellow as it ages.

There are several types of natural oils that can be used to finish wood. Some penetrate underneath the wood floor’s surface and hardens within the wood, while some are film-forming, leaving a layer of film on the floor’s surface.

Natural oils can typically be tung, linseed, vegetable, hemp, or other oxidizing oils. It has similar characteristics to the conjugated oil varnishes but with little to zero amounts of synthetic materials added.

Other than the finish’s mixture, natural oils have almost the same characteristics and qualities of conjugated oil varnishes.

4. Conversion Varnishes

ADVANTAGES

  • Penetrates deep beneath the wood floor’s surface, hardening and binding itself with the wood’s fibers.
  • Some products have high resistance to chemical spills.
  • Extremely durable to wear and moisture, and is a good finish to use for homes with pets.
  • Gives depth and clarity to wood grains.
  • Gives wood floors a warm hue.
  • It doesn’t show scratches easily.

DISADVANTAGES

  • Needs great skill to use.
  • Dries fast and unforgiving of application mistakes.
  • Not recommended for DIYers.
  • Very strong odor. High Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) level.
  • Finish vapor is flammable.
  • The full curing period ranges from 30-90 days.

Conversion varnishes are also referred to as “Swedish finishes” because of their national origin. They are also known as an acid-cured finish because of the acid used to cure the finish. It is a clear alcohol-based liquid that cures to a durable, hard film. It penetrates into the wood and chemically bonds with the wood fibers giving it a good hard finish.

Conversion varnishes will make your hardwood floors extremely durable to heavy wear, moisture, and even chemical spills. This can be used for heavy traffic areas or even homes with pets. These are even more durable than most polyurethane finishes. This finish is almost an apply and forget system as it requires little maintenance.

Since it bonds directly to the wood, it enhances the wood’s natural beauty and it gives the wood floor a deeper color and highlights its grains.

Great skill is required to apply this finish which is why this is not recommended for inexperienced DIYers. It dries quickly and is unforgiving of application mistakes. You would need to hire a professional to apply this finish for you.

Once applied, it’s not easy to refinish or touch-up a conversion varnished floor but if applied right, you won’t need refinishing for a very long time.

One downside to conversion varnishes is it’s high volatile organic compound (VOC) level. It will give off a very strong odor that will spread around the house that may require the residents to stay away for a while until the smell dissipates. This can be around 30-90 days long depending on the ventilation system applied on the floors.

5. Oil-Modified Urethanes

ADVANTAGES

  • Dries slowly with longer working time. Mistakes during application are easy to repair.
  • Any inexperienced DIYers can learn to use this finish.
  • It gives the floor a furniture-like quality.
  • Brings out the rich colors of wood floors.
  • It creates a durable topcoat surface that protects the wood floor against wear and moisture. Although scratches may occur, it will usually affect the top finish and not the wood underneath.
  • Relatively low-cost compared to other finishes.
  • This can be a moderately good finish to use for homes with pets.
  • High build per coat as compared to waterborne urethanes.
  • Self-leveling with great adhesion.

DISADVANTAGES

  • Tends to yellow in color as it ages and when exposed to UV light. This can also be an advantage since other people like the amber character it adds to the wood.
  • Takes 3-7 days to cure, hard enough for furniture to be placed.
  • High volatile organic compound (VOC ) levels. The smell can linger for weeks.
  • Scratches are evident as they turn up white in color.
  • Depending on the product used, it may add a plastic film appearance to the floor.
  • Spot repairing is not possible without making the repair obvious. A full re-sanding and re-coating are needed for repairs.
  • Applying several coats will take several days due to the 5 hours drying time required between each coat.

Oil-modified urethanes (OMU) is also known as oil-based or oil-modified polyurethanes. It’s a transparent, somewhat amber in color, oil-based varnish that is self-leveling and creates a hard film on the surface of the wood floor.

It is the most widely used wood floor finish because of its affordability and workability as compared to other finishes. Because of the slow drying time, it is manageable to apply. Most DIYers choose this finish as it is very forgiving of errors during applications.

Depending on the product, you’ll need at least 2-3 coats of OMU for each floor. It has a high build per coat, which means fewer coats needed as compared to waterborne urethanes. Because of the slow drying time though and depending on the product used, you would need to wait at an average of 5 hours before you can apply another coat. The application of all the coats required would need more than one day to finish.

As the OMU finish cures, it will create a hard, plastic-like film which will protect the wood’s surface against abrasions and scratches. Water penetration is also mitigated because of this. Scratches made by heavy objects such as furniture legs or dog nails will usually only occur on the finish and will not penetrate through to the wood’s surface. The only downside to this is that scratches turn up white in color and will become very evident.

OMU finishes can have a matte, satin, or glossy finish. Curing, under optimum conditions, can take up to 3-7 days in which you will be able to place your furniture already.

As it ages, it will turn into a yellow or amber color more especially when subjected to UV light. This can be both an advantage or disadvantage as some people like the amber tone character of the finish while some don’t. In oak hardwood flooring, for example, the OMU’s amber tone will make the wood’s original pale color bolder looking.

Another downside is its high volatile organic compound (VOC) levels which will give off a very strong odor. Although the curing time of OMU ranges from 14-30 days under normal conditions, the odor may linger for weeks.

6. Waterborne Urethanes

ADVANTAGES

  • It has low volatile organic compound (VOC) levels.
  • Dries faster as compared to oil-based urethanes. Furniture can be placed in 3 days.
  • Clear in color and is mostly non-ambering/yellowing.
  • Durable and harder than most oil-based urethanes. This finish will protect the wood’s surface from heavy wear and moisture.
  • Non-combustible.
  • Self-leveling with great adhesion.
  • It can be a good floor finish for homes with pets.
  • The application of the total number of coats can be done in one day because of the fast drying time in between coats.

DISADVANTAGES

  • Depending on the product used, it may add a plastic film appearance to the floor.
  • Scratches will have an evidently white color.
  • May raise the wood grain if the wood floor is not sealed.
  • It is pricier than oil-modified urethanes.

Waterborne urethane finishes, also known as water-based polyurethanes, have the polyurethane resin suspended in water. Waterborne urethanes dry quicker as compared to oil-modified urethanes and thus have a different method of application. It’s also easy to apply and DIYers will be able to manage to apply this finish to their wood floors themselves. Since it’s self-leveling, it will level itself before it dries and cures.

Unlike the oil-modified urethanes (OMU), waterborne urethanes do not have a high build when applied which is why it needs at least 2-4 coats of application, more compared to OMUs. The upside is since waterborne urethanes dry fast, you can do all a maximum of 4 coats in just one day.

Curing time is faster, and depending on the product used, the floor can accept any furniture in just about 3 days.

Waterborne urethanes are considered to be non-ambering and are almost clear when it cures. It does not bring out the color of woods like walnut. It may be a good finish for light-colored woods like pine or maple if you would like to retain the natural color of the hardwood floor. The finish is available in matte, satin, or gloss finish.

Most waterborne urethanes are harder than oil-modified urethanes. It will protect the wood’s surface from heavy wear and moisture. They are a good option for homes with pets as the wood floor will be protected well. The downside with scratches, while it will not damage the wood’s surface and will only happen at the finish’s surface, is that they are apparently white in color. The finish may also create a plastic look.

Waterborne urethanes have a very low volatile organic compound (VOC) level compared to other finishes. It is higher priced than OMUs though, almost twice as much.

Wood floor sealers are usually recommended before this finish is applied because it may cause the wood grain to rise which exposes the wood’s surface to wear. You should refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations with regard to the sealing requirements of the floor before applying the finish.

There are two types of waterborne urethanes – the two-component urethane and the one-component urethane.

Two-component urethanes have a separate cross-linker you add to the finish that hardens it when applied to the floor. Two-component urethanes are superior and outperform one-component urethanes.

Although one-component urethanes are cheaper compared to two-component urethanes, the savings are not worth it. They are less durable and do not have the same kind of resistance to wear and moisture as the two-component offers.

7. Moisture-Cured Urethanes

ADVANTAGES

  • Extremely durable and has good resistance against heavy wear, moisture, and chemicals.

DISADVANTAGES

  • It needs to be applied with the right amount of humidity in the air, around 30% – 70%, otherwise, it will not cure well.
  • High levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC).
  • Very difficult to apply. You’ll need to hire a professional to apply this product.

Moisture-cured urethanes draw moisture from the air to cure, thus it’s named. It is one of the extremely durable, and hard finish for hardwood floors. Because it relies heavily on moisture from the air, humidity levels should be optimum in the range of 30%-70%. Less or more than that, the finish won’t cure well.

It will resist heavy wear, moisture, and even chemicals. Because of the difficulty of its application, professionals are required to apply this type of finish. It’s mostly used for industrial and commercial spaces. Rarely used for residential homes, this finish has a high level of VOC with the odor lingering for weeks.

8. On-Site UV-Cured Finish

ADVANTAGES

  • Extremely durable and will resist heavy wear, moisture, and chemicals. A good finish for homes with pets.
  • Instantly cures using UV equipment. The floor will be fully usable right away.
  • Very low volatile organic compound (VOC) levels.

DISADVANTAGES

  • Needs a professional to apply this finish.
  • More expensive than oil-modified or waterborne urethanes.

On-site UV-cured finish is a waterborne urethane which cures using UV light instead of a chemical catalyst. It’s one of the hardest wood floor finishes available in the market, harder than two-component waterborne urethanes.

Using a UV light equipment, the finish will instantly cure and is ready for use right away. It’s extremely durable and will resist heavy wear, moisture, and even chemicals. The surface of the wood will be well protected. It’s a popular choice not only for residential spaces but for commercial and industrial spaces as well.

It has a very low volatile organic compound (VOC) levels with little to no odor.

You would need to hire a professional to apply this finish for you since it will require a lot of skill. It’s also on the expensive side, more expensive than the oil-modified or waterborne urethanes.

9. Aluminum Oxide

ADVANTAGES

  • Extremely durable and will resist heavy wear and moisture. A good candidate for homes with pets.
  • Since the finish is already part of a prefinished hardwood floor, the floor is ready to use once it has been completely installed.
  • Since the wood flooring is already pre-finished, it doesn’t give off any strong odor as opposed to on-site floor finishing.

DISADVANTAGES

  • Only available to prefinished hardwood floors.

Aluminum oxide finish is only available as an option to prefinished hardwood floors. It’s an extremely durable finish and will last for more than 20 years, in normal conditions. This finish will resist heavy wear, moisture, and stains. It’s a good finish to use if you plan to have pets in your homes.

The finish is available in matte, satin, and glossy sheens. Since the wood flooring comes pre-finished with the aluminum oxide finish already integrated, once the flooring system is installed, the room is ready to use at once. There is also no strong odor involved during the floor installation which means that the inhabitants of the space don’t need to move out.

10. Hardwax Oil

ADVANTAGES

  • It has good moisture and stain resistance since oil penetrates deeply and impregnates itself to the wood fibers.
  • All-natural and not-toxic.
  • Extremely low volatile organic compound (VOC) levels. Little to no odor.
  • It both penetrates the wood beneath the surface adding hardness to the wood itself and leaves a protective surface above the wood’s surface as well.
  • Easy to apply and easy to spot repair as compared to most urethane finishes.
  • Scratches created aren’t apparent and will blend well with the rest of the wood.
  • Creates a warm natural wood looking floor.

DISADVANTAGES

  • Needs periodic recoating of maintenance oil.
  • Needs periodic cleaning with special soaps.
  • It is mostly a matte to a satin sheen. You can’t get a glossy sheen with this finish.
  • Wears down faster as compared to oil-modified or waterborne urethanes. It needs to be recoated every 2-3 years when exposed to heavy traffic.

A hardwax oil finish is a non-toxic, blended from natural oil and waxes, and with less odor when applied. It is both a penetrating oil and a surface finish. This means that like traditional oils, it penetrates deep beneath the surface of the wood floor and binds itself with the wood’s fibers making the wood more moisture and stain-resistant. It also leaves a protective surface above the wood floor’s surface protecting the wood’s surface from wear, scratches, and abrasions just like any of the surface finishes.

This finish is very easy to apply and can be applied by DIYers. Spot repairs are also easily done, just like most penetrating oils. Unlike urethanes, scratches that are created are not apparent and blends well with the wood.

The finish is generally matte in sheen so if you wanted a glossy finish, hardwax oil might not be the best finish to use on your wood floors.

It does need periodic cleaning with special soaps and oil maintenance recoating. Although it takes time to do, the maintenance work is not that difficult to accomplish and can be done by any DIYer.

As compared to oil-modified and waterborne urethanes, this finish wears faster in high traffic and will need recoating every 2 to 3 years.

11. Lacquer

ADVANTAGES

  • No significant advantage. The risks involved with this finish outways the beauty and benefits it could offer.

DISADVANTAGES

  • Highly flammable.
  • Highly combustible.

Lacquer finish as a wood flooring finish is no longer recommended because of its high combustibility and flammability characteristics.

5 Characteristics to Consider When Choosing the Right Finish to Use

1. Durability

Durability is the ability of the finish to protect the wood against surface abrasions and scratches, moisture and stain resistance, and chemical resistance.

Below is a table showing a rating of 1 to 5 with 1 being the less durable and 5 being highly durable. These are general averages based on my personal research but may vary from product to product.

FinishAbrasions and ScratchesMoisture and StainChemicals
Wax231
Conjugated Oil Varnishes231
Natural Oils231
Conversion
Varnishes
444
Oil-modified Urethanes444
Waterborne Urethanes555
Moisture-cured Urethanes555
On-site UV-cured Finish555
Aluminum Oxide555
Hardwax Oil444

2. Gloss Level

A finish has generally 4 types of gloss level or sheen that you can choose from which are matte, satin, semi-gloss, and gloss. Not all finishes are available with all 4 sheen types and depending on the aesthetic that you’re looking for, the specific finish might not be capable of producing the specific gloss level that you want.

Lower gloss level such as matte and satin will hide scratches and dings better and is something you can also consider when choosing an appropriate gloss level for your floor finish.

Below is a table showing gloss levels of common wood floor finish products available in the market today but may vary from product to product. Refer to the manufacturers for the available gloss level that their products can offer.

FinishGloss Level
WaxMatte to Satin
Conjugated Oil VarnishesSatin to Gloss
Natural OilsMatte to Satin
Conversion
Varnishes
Matte to Gloss
Oil-modified UrethanesMatte to Gloss
Waterborne UrethanesMatte to Gloss
Moisture-cured UrethanesMatte to Gloss
On-site UV-cured FinishMatte to Gloss
Aluminum OxideMatte to Gloss
Hardwax OilMatte to Satin

3. Appearance

The finish’s appearance may affect the final look of your floor. While most finishes add a level of yellow or ambering to the floor’s color, others are clear or non-ambering, and some, have multiple color options as well.

Depending on your aesthetic preference for your wood floors, choosing a finish’s color may be an important consideration to decide on. Most finish yellows over time, although some are faster than others, especially when subjected to UV lighting.

Below is a table showing the color appearance of common wood floor finish products available in the market today but may vary from product to product. Refer to the manufacturers for the exact color that their products add to the wood floor.

FinishAppearance
WaxLight Amber
Conjugated Oil VarnishesLight Amber
Natural OilsSeveral Color Options
Conversion
Varnishes
Clear to Light Amber
Oil-modified UrethanesAmber
Waterborne UrethanesClear to Amber
Moisture-cured UrethanesClear to Dark Amber
On-site UV-cured FinishClear to Amber
Aluminum OxideAmber
Hardwax OilSeveral Color Options

4. Odor

Odor can be a factor during the application process of finishing your wood floors. Generally, the higher the volatile organic compound (V0C) level of a finish has, the stronger it’s odor during application will have and the longer the odor will linger inside the space.

For finishes with strong odors, it’s highly recommended for the inhabitants of the house or space to move out for some time until the odor is completely gone.

Most of the odor that the finish gives off is toxic which is why anyone applying the finish is highly encouraged to wear appropriate respiratory protection at all times during the application process.

Below is a table showing the odor levels of common wood floor finish products available in the market today but may vary from product to product. Refer to the manufacturers for the volatile organic compound (VOC) level of their products to give you an idea of how strong their odor is.

FinishOdor
WaxMild
Conjugated Oil VarnishesModerate
Natural OilsMild
Conversion
Varnishes
Very Strong
Oil-modified UrethanesModerate
Waterborne UrethanesMild
Moisture-cured UrethanesStrong
On-site UV-cured FinishMild
Aluminum OxideNone
Hardwax OilMild

5. Drying Time

Drying and curing time can be a deciding factor if you have a specific timeline to use the space.

Below is a table showing the drying time of common wood floor finish products available in the market today but may vary from product to product. Refer to the manufacturer’s specifications to give you the exact drying and curing time of their products.

FinishDrying Time
WaxDry to touch in 1-2 hours.
Conjugated Oil Varnishes Dry to touch in 2-4 hours.
Cure time ranges from 30-90 days .
Natural OilsDry to touch in 2-12 hours.
Cure time ranges from 5-10 days.
Conversion
Varnishes
Dry to touch in1-4 hours.
Cure time ranges from 30-90 days.
Oil-modified UrethanesDry to touch in 6-24 hours.
Cure time ranges from 14-30 days.
Waterborne UrethanesDry to touch in 1-4 hours.
Cure time ranges from 3-7 days.
Moisture-cured UrethanesDry to touch depends on humidity levels and can range from 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Cure time ranges from 3-7 days.
On-site UV-cured FinishDry to touch in 1-2 hours.
Cure time is instant as soon as UV light equipment is used.
Aluminum OxideNot Applicable. It comes as a pre-finished option for wood floors.
Hardwax OilDry to touch in 1-2 hours.

Frequently Asked Questions with Regards Wood Floor Finishes

Below are answers to some of the frequently asked questions with regard to choosing the right wood floor finish to use.

1. Is it Safe to Breathe in Wood Floor Finishes such as Polyurethanes?

Most finishes release toxic fumes, and the higher the VOC level the finish has, the higher the toxicity level the fumes contain. It is not safe to breathe in these toxic fumes. It is highly advisable to wear proper respiratory equipment when applying wood flooring finishes.

2. What Wood Floor Finish is Best for Dogs or Pets?

The durability of the wood floor finish is a factor when choosing the right finish to use. Since pets tend to have nails that could create scratches to the wood floor, the finish should be durable enough to protect the wood’s surface from physical damage and be able to hide superficial scratches when created.

Finishes that will be able to protect the wood’s surface from scratches and possible urines from pets are usually the surface finish types or those that creates a protective film over the wood floor’s surface. Don’t use the penetrating oils as the surface of the wood will still be exposed to wear and possible damage.

One of the most durable and hard finishes is the moisture-cured urethanes. Hardwax oils are also a good finish to use. They are durable and good at hiding superficial scratches that are made.

Other good options are oil-modified urethanes, waterborne urethanes, on-site uv-cured finish, aluminum oxide, and conversion varnishes.

Each finish has its own pros and cons which you can read above.

3. What Wood Floor Finish is Best for High Traffic Areas?

Areas with high traffic areas would need a very good abrasive resistance. Most finish types that have good abrasive resistance are the surface finish types. These are the type of finishes that leaves a durable protective film over the wood’s surface, protecting the actual wood from wear.

Similar to what has been answered above regarding the finish that is best to use with pets, you can use the following finishes for high traffic areas, in no particular order:

  • moisture-cured urethanes
  • hardwax oils
  • oil-modified urethanes
  • waterborne urethanes
  • on-site uv-cured finish
  • aluminum oxide
  • conversion varnishes

Again, each has its own pros and cons with regards to how it reacts to the wood floor, VOC levels, ease of use, etc. You can read about them above.

4. What is the Best Floor Finish for Wood Floors in Kitchens or Bathrooms?

Although it is highly discouraged to use wood floors for highly wet and humid areas, it is completely possible to do so but extra precautions should be maintained. Moisture is the biggest enemy of wood, and when wood gets soaked, it can create irreparable damages to the floor.

Surface finish types are usually used in these kinds of situations. It creates a barrier over the wood protecting it from any liquid or moisture outside, preventing them from penetrating the wood’s surface.

These, however, will not guarantee 100% that moisture will stay out for a long time. Letting liquid sit on the floor for hours may find a crack or crevice in between the wood’s joints or connections and may still end up soaking the floor. It would be best to always keep the floor dry, and wipe any liquid as soon as they make contact with the floor.

Angelo

He is an architect for more than 20 years. He is passionate about design and architecture and enjoys sharing his knowledge and information with people as well.

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