Wood Floor Finishes
create lasting beauty and requires minimal care with
today's modern technology in wood floor finish products. The right
finish protects wood flooring from wear, dirt and moisture while
giving the wood an attractive color and sheen. Today most wood
floors are finished with a stain and a top coat. Technology has
provided a wide selection of wood flooring finishes, each with its
own distinct benefits and appearances.
Surface Wood Floor Finishes- Surface finishes are very popular today because they are durable,
water-resistant and require minimal maintenance. Surface finishes
are blends of synthetic resins. These finishes most often referred
to as urethanes or polyurethane's remain on the surface of the wood
and form a protective coating. They are generally available in
high-gloss, semi-gloss, satin and matte. Any one of the surface
finishes are appropriate for the kitchen.
Types of Wood Floor Finishes
1. Oil-modified urethane is
generally the most common surface finish and is easy to apply. It is
a petroleum base with a blend of synthetic resins, plasticizers and
other film forming ingredients that produces a durable surface that
is moisture-resistant. It is
a solvent-base polyurethane that dries in about eight hours. This
type of finish ambers with age. and comes in different sheen levels.
2. Moisture-cured urethane is a
solvent-base polyurethane that is more durable and more moisture
resistant than other surface finishes. Moisture-cure urethane comes
in non-yellowing and in ambering types and is generally available in
satin or gloss. These finishes are extremely difficult to apply,
have a strong odor and are best left to the professional.
Curing of this type of finish is by absorbing minute quantities of
moisture vapor from the air, which causes them to dry and harden.
The curing process is very dependant on relative humidity.
3. Water-based urethane is a
water-borne urethane with a blend of synthetic resins, plasticizers
and other film forming ingredients that produces a durable surface
that is moisture-resistant. These finishes
are clear and non-yellowing and are different sheen levels. They have a milder odor than
oil-modified finishes have and they dry in about two to three hours.
Water-based urethanes are generally more expensive.
Sealers-(Swedish Finishes)- A two-component acid-curing,
alcohol-based sealers. Because of their origin (country), conversion
varnish sealers are often referred to as Swedish finishes
5. Penetrating Sealers
- These sealers are spread on the floor and allowed to penetrate and
are solvent based. The excess sealer is removed with rags or buffed
in with synthetic or steel wool pads. This type of finish often have
a color and can be used to stain and seal the wood floor.
Penetrating Oil Sealers are made from tung or linseed oil, with
additives improve drying and hardness.
6. Paste Wax-
The oldest, and in some ways the best. Wax is the easiest to apply,
least expensive, fastest drying, easiest to repair, and with proper
care will survive forever. Wax over a penetrating stain, and the
system is in the wood so you wear the wood, not the finish. Wax is
spread in thin coats for a surface protection after the stain and/or
sealer is applied, then buffed to the desired sheen.
Vinyl-alkyd varnishes have superseded natural varnish made from
vegetable oils. This product was commonly used before urethane
finishes where introduced.
8. Lacquer - The flammability
and incompatibility of this floor finish is NOT a recommended by
many manufacturers. This finish should avoided.
9. Shellac - This product
(natural shellac) contains wax and is not widely used for top
coating in today's wood flooring market. Dewaxed shellac is becoming
used more and more for a wood floor sealer.
NOTE: Inspection of wood
floor finishes should be made from a standing position (five feet up
and two feet away) with normal lighting. Light glare from windows,
added lighting (flood lights) magnify any irregularities in the
floor surface and should NOT determine acceptability of the finish.
What Finish - What wood floor products? Commonly used wood floor
Prefinished Hardwood Flooring (Wood
floors that have been factory finished before they are installed)
Impregnated – Acrylic monomers are injected into the cell
structure of the wood to give increased hardness and then finished
with a wear layer over the wood.
Acrylic-urethane – Has a slightly different chemical make up
than polyurethane, but with similar benefits.
Aluminum Oxide – particles added to the polyurethane finish to
increase the abrasion resistance of the wear layer. This has become
extremely popular on the better grades of hardwood floors.
Ceramic – Advanced finish technology that allows the use of
space-age ceramics to increase the abrasion resistance of the wear
Polyurethane – A clear, tough and durable finish that is applied
as a wear layer.
UV-cured – these floors are finished at the factory and the
polyurethane finish are cured with Ultra Violet lights instead of
Job Site- Refinishing-A
job-site finish means you start with an unfinished wood floor and
than the wood floor is sanded, stained, and/or finished at the
job-site. If you want a custom stained wood floor, or a wood floor
to match existing trim than a job-site finishing is to proper route
to take. NOTE; The type of wood floor species you have may determine
the type of wood floor finish that works best! Consult your wood
floor professional FIRST !
1. Moisture Cured Urethane – A
similar chemical make up as solvent based urethanes but, as the name
suggest, this finish needs the humidity (moisture ) in the air to
2. Solvent Based Urethane –
Oil components are used as part of the chemical make up of the
polyurethane finish. Dry time for most needs at least 24 hours
before recoating and/or light foot traffic,
3. Water Based Urethane (latex) –
Water is used as part of the chemical make up of the polyurethane
finish. Dry times in 2-6 hours for most.
Swedish Conversion Varnish
& Wax or Oil finish
quickly with humidity
NOTE: Finishes can discolor over time.
Ultraviolet light can change the color of a finish, so it is
important to drape large windows from sunlight. Area rugs are an
excellent addition to wood floors, however they should not be placed
on the floor until the finish has fully cured (min 30-45 days)
What type of finish do you have?
Here are some simple steps to help you determine if
the finish is a wax finish, shellac or varnish finish or a surface
finish. If the floor was installed, or last serviced, before the mid
'60s, you should assume the finish used was varnish or shellac. To
determine this, scratch the surface with a coin or other sharp
object in a corner or other inconspicuous space. If the finish
flakes, it is probably shellac or varnish. Shellac and varnish are
rarely used anymore and require full sanding to remove before
application of a surface finish or wax finish.
Next, check the floor for wax finish. In an inconspicuous area,
corner or behind a door, apply two(2) drops of water. If, within ten
minutes, white spots appear under the drops of water, the floor has
a wax finish. To remove the white spots, gently rub the spots with
#000 steel wool dampened with wax.
If the finish does not flake from scratching with a coin and white
spots do not appear from the drops of water, the floor has a surface
finish and should be
1. A table top finish. Each
piece of oak flooring sands differently depending on its grain type
(plain or quartered) making it virtually impossible for a completely
2. Dust-free finish. Since
your floor is being finished in your home it is not possible to
achieve a "clean room" environment. Some dust will fall onto the
freshly applied top finish.
3. A monochromatic floor.
Wood, as a natural product, varies from piece to piece. Remember it
is not fabricated -- it is milled from a tree and will have grain
and color variations consistent with the grade and species of
4. A floor that will not indent.
In spite of the term "hardwood", Oak flooring will indent under high
heel traffic (especially heels in disrepair). The finish that is
applied will not prevent the dents.
5. A floor without cracks
between the boards, or within the parquet pieces. Although your new
floor may start tight together, as a natural product it will
continue to absorb and release moisture. This natural process will
cause the flooring to expand and contract from season to season --
resulting in cracks between some of the pieces in your floor. Some
stain colors, such as white, will show this process more than
Understand that furniture, cabinetry, doors,
etc., are fabricated in a factory under ideal conditions and that
they contain 1-10 different pieces of wood. Their floor is
fabricated in their own home and is made up of 300 to a thousand
individually different pieces. And that their floor is never to be
duplicated -- a truly custom floor of their own !