Finishes for Hardwood Flooring

Jim Williams
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Buying Guides

A hardwood floor finish is important in any home that uses hardwood flooring. It creates not only lasting beauty, but can also provide more durability. Modern technology and finishing techniques protect hardwood floors from wear, dirt, and moisture without compromising the beauty of the floors!

Currently, surface finishes are all the rage because they can provide a long-lasting sheen. This hardwood flooring finish is also quite durable and requires minimal maintenance. Surface finishes are commonly made of synthetic resins that coat the floor, remain there, and protect it from moisture and other abuses, and these resins are more commonly referred to as urethanes. These are the basic types of hardwood floor finishes, what they do, and what they are used for:

OIL MODIFIED URETHANE is a hardwood floor finish that has the tendency to amber with age, so it's more suitable for a "traditional" feel. It is the most common type of surface finish, easy to apply, and requires about eight hours to dry.

MOISTURE-CURE URETHANE is a hardwood flooring finish that is generally more durable and more moisture-proof than other types. With this type, you may choose between moisture-cure urethane products that amber with age or those that don't. However, this hardwood floor finish is difficult to apply and has a strong odor, so it's best to hire a professional.

ACID CURE URETHANE is a hardwood floor finish that is also called the "Swedish finish." It is a fast-drying finish that dries clear and strong. Also, it doesn't amber with age, so you'll get a "modern" feel. However, it has an extremely strong odor during application so application is best left to skilled professionals.

WATER-BASED URETHANE is a hardwood flooring finish that is, as the name implies, water-based. Because of this, it provides a clear finish and doesn't yellow with age. Because it is water-based, it dries with water evaporation and it emits a milder odor. Also, water-based urethanes are generally more expensive.

ALUMINUM OXIDE URETHANE is a hardwood floor finish that is currently the finish used in prefinished, manufactured hardwood floors. They generally offer a more lasting and durable coating than other hardwood flooring finishes. This type of finish is only available to manufacturers, and often comes with a limited warranty spanning 20-25 years.

What About Wax?

Another method commonly used is wax. Wax is the least expensive, and in some ways the best hardwood floor finish available. It dries quickly, is easy to repair, and may potentially outlive the homeowner if it is taken care of properly. However, wax can be harder to maintain, since water will very quickly form spots on the surface. Occasionally, wax must be added to protect the sheen, and some buffing may be required. This type of finish requires more maintenance than others, but with proper care will survive a lifetime.

It is important to note that each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. All hardwood flooring finish types have their own distinct properties and characteristics and will add a different style & appearance to any household. It is great to look around and see different hardwood floor finish types first and select the one that would most suit your taste, and enhance your home.