5 Types of Finish to Keep Hardwood Floors Looking Immaculate

5 Types of Finish to Keep Hardwood Floors Looking Immaculate

Hardwood flooring is known to hold up remarkably well over time for something that gets stepped on every day. That said, it’s no surprise when it does eventually acquire scratches and dents or fade to a dull yellow color. Even the most durable kinds of hardwood need to be refinished every seven to ten years. Whether you seek out professional floor refinishing services or tackle it as a DIY project, you should be familiar with the five main kinds of hardwood flooring finish to ascertain which one best suits your home.

Oil-Based Polyurethane

Oil-based polyurethanes are made of synthetic resins, linseed oil, and plasticizers. These substances combine to create a highly durable, long-lasting, water-resistant finish, an excellent choice for areas with a lot of foot traffic or spills. On the other hand, an oil-based polyurethane finish takes longer to apply, requiring at least three coats that take ten hours each to dry. It also emits volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are toxic to breathe without a respirator. If these downsides aren’t an issue, you can look forward to the warm amber tone it will give your floors over time. Oil-based polyurethane finishes are also on the cheaper side at about $35 per gallon on average.

Water-Based Polyurethane

Some polyurethane finishes consist of synthetic resins and plasticizers without the linseed oil, using water as a base instead. With water-based polyurethane, you won’t have to worry as much about VOCs or environmental concerns, nor will you spend as long applying each coat. These finishes dry after about two to four hours, leaving a highly durable and shiny surface. If you prefer cooler tones, a water-based polyurethane finish is for you, as it won’t yellow over time. The only disadvantage is that it tends to be on the more expensive side at about $50 per gallon on average.


An old-fashioned type of finish used predominantly in the 1940s and 1950s, wax is a fantastic option for those who like the yellow tone and historic aesthetic that comes with an aged finish. The application process is significantly more involved because wax must be buffed by hand in several layers. If a bit of elbow grease doesn’t bother you, you’ll love the natural, low sheen look. Plus, scratches are easily buffed away with a wax finish. Wax is also a cheaper alternative at $10 to $15 a pound and can even be mixed with wood stains to create unique colored effects.

Penetrating Sealer

There are many kinds of penetrating sealers, but most are made with a tung oil or linseed oil base that seeps into the wood to maximize hardness once dried. Often combined with wax as a final coat, penetrating oil sealers use natural substances to bring out the wood’s inherent beauty and grain with an elegant but minimal shine. As attractive as this finish type can be, it also demands the most upkeep, requiring a fresh coat every three to five years and resisting very little damage from standard wood cleaning products, water and chemicals. It’s also one of the more expensive options at about $65 per gallon on average.

Acid-Cured Finish

Most homeowners will find what they need with the finishes mentioned above. However, acid-cured finishes are reserved for special cases, like exotic wood species or hardwood set in an intricate pattern like parquet or fishbone. These alcohol-based acrylic finishes dry into a seal of exceptional durability, resisting everything from scratches to chemical exposures, completely outmatching polyurethane varieties. However, a few cons of acid-cured finishes are the extremely high amounts of VOCs released during application, the multiple days’ worth of drying time required, and flammability. Undoubtedly, only a flooring professional should handle this type of finish, and you and your family should not stay at home while the floors are curing.

In Conclusion

Your next home improvement endeavor doesn’t have to be as drastic as remodeling the kitchen, adding a section to your house, or implementing an all-new landscaping plan. When you’ve caught the itch to create something fresh in your home, hardwood floor maintenance can be a relatively simpler and cheaper project. Whether you go for a dazzling glossy sheen or a sophisticated matte texture, a new floor finish can accomplish the same effect of exciting newness in your home and also preserve your hardwood for many more years to come.

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