Wood Floor Finishes

Wood Flooring Finish Types and Application Tips

By Mark J. Donovan

Wood floor finishes are designed to protect and preserve the beauty of hardwood floors. They are also designed to reduce the maintenance effort and frequency of wood floor restoration. Besides protecting wood floors from dirt, grime, moisture and overall wear and tear, wood floor finishes also provide color and shine. Wood floor finishes come in two main camps, penetrating and surface finishes.

Penetrating Wood Floor Finishes

Penetrating floor finishes, as the name suggests, penetrate deep into the wood floor surface grains and solidify to create a protective seal.

The most common type of penetrating floor finish involves applying a penetrating stain to the wood floor, followed by an application of wax that is buffed into the wood floor. Penetrating oil sealers are made from tung or linseed oil that include additives for speeding up drying time and improving hardness.

Surface Wood Floor Finishes

Surface wood floor finishes, again as the name suggests, are floor finishes that provide a protective coating over the surface of the wood floor. Surface wood floor finishes are very popular today as they are easy to apply, are very durable, and are low maintenance. Surface wood floor finishes are comprised of synthetic resin blends and typically are referred to as urethane or polyurethane floor finishes. Surface wood floor finishes can be purchased in a variety of sheens, including matte, satin, semi-gloss and high-gloss.

Surface Wood Floor Finishes

Oil modified urethane is probably the most common type of surface floor finish and it is easy to apply. It is a petroleum based product that consists of a blend of resins and plasticizers to achieve a solid finish that is also moisture resistant. Typically oil modified urethane wood floor finishes dry in about 8 to 12 hours depending upon temperature and humidity. As oil modified urethane ages it normally ambers in color.

Water based urethane is another type of surface wood floor finish. It is a water based urethane product, again with a blend of resins and plasticizers to produce a solid and moisture resistance seal. Water based urethane is more difficult to apply than oil modified urethane and has a slight odor. It is also more expensive than other types of surface wood floor finishes. Typically it dries in a few hours and leaves a clear and non-yellowing surface.

Moisture cured urethane wood floor finishes are solvent based polyurethane that are more durable and resistant to water than any other type of surface floor finish.

Moisture cured urethane is difficult to apply and has a strong odor, and should be left to the pros to apply. Drying time is dependent upon humidity levels. When dry, it leaves a clear or amber appearance depending upon the type purchased.

Wood Flooring Installation Bid Sheet

Applying Wood Floor Finishes

When applying any type of wood floor finish a respirator should be worn to protect against inhalation of fumes and odors. Also, many wood floor finish products are flammable and combustible. Consequently make sure to avoid any type of flame when applying wood floor finishes.

Before applying a wood floor finish, make sure the wood floor is completely free of dirt and dust. With most types of wood floor finishes 2 to 3 coats should be applied to maximize floor protection and to bring out the wood floor’s full natural beauty.

For help on finding a wood flooring installation contractor, see HomeAdditionPlus.com’s Wood Flooring Installation Bid Sheet. It will help ensure that you find and hire the right flooring installation contractor for your wood flooring project. In addition, it will help to ensure that your wood floor installation is completed on time and on budget.

Related Information

Additional Flooring Resources from Amazon.com

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