The finish on a hardwood floor is an important aspect of hardwood floors that will impact many features, understanding hardwood finishes will help you understand what you can expect from the life and durability that your hardwood will have over the years after it is installed in your home. There is a wide range of approaches to protecting your hardwood that the market offers, we’re going to help you learn the basics of a few of the options on the market, to make the selection process very easy.
The most widely used and common finish on the market today is the polyurethane. Polyurethane’s are clear finishes that are available in water or oil based formats, and a variety of sheen levels. If you intend to site finish your hardwood floors, Depending on the surface it will be applied to, one may be better for your particular project than the other. Where application is concerned, polyurethanes can be part of the factory finished or an onsite finished floor product or installation. Here are a few pros and cons of both water and oil based polyurethanes for site finished flooring:
- Water based: will dry faster, will have little to no odour, will not yellow over time and sun exposure, and will have little to no VOC’s but are a little more money on average than oil based polyurethanes.
- Oil based: On advantage is they cost less money, are known to be more durable, but come with higher VOC levels, odour and will yellow hardwood over time.
So when do you use an oil based finish, and when do you opt for a water based one? If you will be finishing your own floors, and have a lighter colored, or natural wood, whose grain you want to enhance and color you want to protect, water-based may be best. As this will allow the natural color to shine through for much longer than an oil based finish, which will amber your hardwood faster. If your going to go with darker stain for hardwood, your safe to go with an oil based finish which will have less of an effect since the amber will not be visible on a dark stain.
In a factory finish specifications should be sourced from the given supplier directly, as they all provide varying versions of their own polyurethanes. Mercier for example carries a finish which they call their Generations Finish, which is a green guard gold certified soy based finish that comes with a 35 year residential warranty, antimicrobial, and anti yellowing. Pure Expressions is their oil based finish, used for selected hardwoods within their product range which is unique in that it offers the client that requires no refinishing or reapplication which is typical of most oil finishes.
The main purpose of a titanium oxide, which is added to the polyurethane during the production process of factory finished floors, is to achieve the most durable finish possible. This enables your floors to combat the likelihood of scratches, and dents. Adding titanium oxide will not change the color of your finish, or effect the clarity of any grain. It is ideal to have a hardwood floor finished with titanium oxide because it will also fight against the effect of sunlight, which will threaten to either fade or amber particular species of hardwood. You can expect a floor finished with titanium oxide to have a warranty of 25-35 years depending on the manufacturer, which is a welcome comfort for a life long investment. The benefit of a Titanium oxide finish over an aluminum oxide on, is a smoother finish.
Aluminum Oxide (UV Cured)
Such like the titanium oxide finish, the aluminum oxide or UV cured hardwood, is only achievable through a factory finish. A fine power, added to polyurethane, making floors less prone to sun damage, and scratches resistant, UV cured aluminum oxide finishes will harden with exposure to sunlight; creating the hard surface you want in a long wearing durable surface. Aluminum oxide finishes are also known to be lower in VOC or have no VOC levels in the finished surface, so off gassing of toxic chemicals is not an area of concern, for homeowners with allergies or children who will be exposed.
Natural Oil Finish
An oil finish is typically a matte finish used to enhance the natural characteristics of hardwood, presenting a finished product that looks closest to it’s natural state. It will penetrate the wood and strengthen your hardwood from the inside out, appearing to have a low, or no finish at all. Natural oil finished floors should be cleaned with special wood cleaning soaps a few times a year, one of the more popular wood floor soaps on the market right now is WOCA. Manufactured in Denmark, where oil finished floors in Europe at large is very popular, WOCA is a company who takes a green approach to their products by using natural vegetable fatty acids, that protect by leaving behind a film on top of the wood.