Surface Wood Floor Finishes

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 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.

Types of Wood Floor Finishes

  • 1. 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 popular but require three coats for durability.
  • 2. 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 ten hours. This type of finish ambers slightly with age. and comes in different sheen levels. This finish allows for two coats for moderate to low traffic areas.
  • 3. Conversion – Varnish 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 and can be expensive but very durable.
  • 4. 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.
  • 5. 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. This style is rarely used anymore because of low durability.
  • 6. Varnish – Vinyl-alkyd varnishes have superseded natural varnish made from vegetable oils. This product was commonly used before urethane finishes where introduced.
  • 7. Lacquer – The flammability and incompatibility of this floor finish is NOT a recommended by many manufacturers. This finish should avoided.
  • 8. 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.
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