The Differences Between Hardwood Floor Finishes
Love your hardwood floors? Did you know there’s a number of different finishes?
Each finish has its own unique factors and offers different benefits. Choosing the right finish can make you love your hardwood floors even more. Here are the most common types of finish you’ll find.
Oil Based Polyurethane
This is one of the top choices in finishes, especially for commercial and sports flooring. Oil based polyurethane requires a long drying time between each coat and take several coats to offer full protection. Plan on waiting 8 to 12 hours between each coat. Oil based polyurethane has a high VOC content and a strong odor when applied. It’s very durable, perfect for high traffic areas.
Water Based Polyurethane
Similar to its oil based predecessor, water based polyurethane has a lower VOC content, a milder odor, and requires less drying time between coats. Plan on giving 2 to 4 hours of dry time between each coat, but keep in mind that they will require more coats for durability. Water based polyurethane is typically less expensive than oil based, and won’t yellow as much over time.
Moisture Cured Polyurethane
Moisture cured polyurethane is one of the hardest, most durable finishes available, and is more water resistant than other finishes. This type cures by absorbing moisture vapor from the air. It has an extremely high VOC content and very strong fumes – ventilation and respirators are mandatory for application.
Oil is applied to penetrate the wood and fill the pores to create a durable seal. Penetrating oil consists of a blend of natural oils, is very durable, has low VOC and low odor, and dries with a slightly mellow sheen. It’s one of the simplest to apply and clean up. It will require long drying periods in between coats, usually of 24 hours of longer. It will turn a whitish color if multiple applications are applied too quickly.
This was a common floor finish before polyurethane was introduced. Wax seeps into the pores of the wood to give it durability. Yet wax still allows wood to be vulnerable to moisture and water spills. Wax needs regular maintenance and is not as durable as poly. It has low VOC content, but it will tend to darken the wood over time.
Varnish was also commonly used on flooring before the introduction of polyurethanes. Varnish is very durable and will give your flooring a slightly amber look. When applied, it has a very strong odor and has a high VOC content.