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A Guide To Wood Flooring Finishes: Types, Installation, Maintenance, Cost

03/02/2024
Wood flooring finishes installation, maintenance, and cost. Learn about types, pros, cons, and application. Enhance your space with beautiful wooden floors.

Choosing the right wood flooring finishes transforms your space, adding charm and architectural interest. This guide covers everything, starting with an exploration of different types of finishes—ranging from oil-based to varnish—and their unique characteristics.

We then move on to application techniques, demystifying the process and offering practical tips. Next, we delve into the expected lifespan of these finishes and the crucial aspects of their maintenance, including treatment and cleaning.

Cost considerations, pet-friendliness, and the versatility of finishes across flooring types are also discussed. With this knowledge, selecting a finish that complements your wooden flooring becomes an easier, more informed decision.

What Are Wood Flooring Finishes?

Wood flooring finishes are the protective and decorative treatments applied to wooden surfaces. They serve as a functional ‘seal' and aesthetic enhancer.

Whether you're redecorating or starting from scratch, knowing about finishes is crucial – they're the front-line defence against damage and the final flourish that underlines your floor's beauty.

What Are the Different Types of Wood Flooring Finishes?

There are many types of wood flooring finishes, each with its unique properties and effects. In this section, we'll provide a brief overview of each.

Oil-based

At the core, oil-based finishes for wood flooring are treatments that use oil as a primary ingredient to protect and beautify the wood.

Oil-based finishes penetrate the wood, enriching its grain and providing a warm, natural glow. These finishes are often preferred for their durability and traditional aesthetic.

When applied, the oil penetrates deep into the wood fibres, strengthening them from within and creating a protective barrier on the surface.

Oil-based finishes have their share of benefits and drawbacks.

Pros

  • Penetrates deeply, enhancing the wood's durability
  • Gives a rich, warm glow to the floor
  • Ideal for high-traffic areas due to its robustness

Cons

  • Takes longer to dry between coats
  • May yellow over time
  • Requires more maintenance with regular re-oiling needed

Water-based

Water-based finishes are protective coatings for wood floors, primarily composed of water.

These finishes are known for their clear, non-yellowing nature, allowing the wood's natural beauty to shine. They also dry quickly, making them popular for projects with tight timelines.

Environmentally conscious homeowners often prefer water-based finishes due to their lower volatile organic compound (VOC) content compared to oil-based counterparts.

However, it's important to weigh the pros and cons before deciding.

Pros

  • Fast-drying, allowing quicker project completion
  • The clear finish allows the natural wood grain and colour to show
  • Lower VOC content, making it more environmentally friendly

Cons

  • Generally less durable than oil-based finishes
  • May require more coats for optimum protection
  • Can be more expensive than other finish types

Lacquered

The lacquered finish is a type of wood floor finish that provides a hard, highly reflective surface.

Lacquered finishes involve the application of a pre-prepared lacquer, creating a hard, sealed surface. This type of finish adds a touch of glamour to any room with its high sheen and reflective qualities.

Although quite durable, any scratches or dents that occur are often more noticeable due to the glossy finish. Lacquers are generally easy to clean and maintain, making them a popular choice for spaces that need to look pristine, such as commercial premises or elegant households.

As with any finish, it's important to consider the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Provides a glossy, reflective finish
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Durable, with resistance to wear and tear

Cons

  • Scratches and dents are more noticeable
  • Can create a ‘plastic' look, which may not appeal to those desiring a natural appearance
  • The glossy surface may make the floor slippery

Wax

A wax finish is a traditional wood flooring finish that uses natural wax to enhance the wood's texture and patina. Wax finishes are an age-old method dating back centuries, which have grown in popularity recently.

These finishes are appreciated for the rich, low-sheen lustre they provide, which can be buffed up to a higher shine if desired. They also offer a more tactile surface feel than many modern finishes.

However, wax finishes are less durable than lacquered or varnished finishes and require more maintenance.

Let's weigh the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Provides a natural, low-sheen finish
  • Enhances the texture and patina of the wood
  • Can be buffed to a higher shine if desired

Cons

  • Not as durable as modern finishes
  • Requires regular maintenance to preserve the look and protection
  • Can darken the wood over time

Shellac

Shellac is a wood finish derived from the secretions of the female lac bug, offering a natural, glossy finish for wood floors.

Shellac finishes have been used for centuries, long before the advent of synthetic products, and are revered for their eco-friendliness and quick-drying properties.

They produce a warm, rich finish that enhances the wood's natural grain. Shellac is also safe for food contact, making it a popular choice for kitchen tables and countertops.

However, it's less resistant to water and alcohol spills compared to other finishes and may require more frequent maintenance.

Let's explore the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Natural and eco-friendly
  • Quick-drying
  • Safe for food contact

Cons

  • Less resistant to water and alcohol spills
  • Requires more maintenance
  • Sometimes considered less durable than other modern finishes

Varnish

Varnish is a clear protective finish widely used in wood flooring for its durability and versatility.

Known for its exceptional durability, varnish forms a hard, protective surface over the wood, safeguarding it from everyday wear and tear. It's available in various sheen levels, composed of oil, resin, and solvents, from matte to high-gloss.

Varnish is often chosen for its capacity to resist heat, chemical damage, and UV radiation. However, applying it requires precision, as any application flaws can be easily noticed.

Considering the strengths and weaknesses is important:

Pros

  • Highly durable, protecting against heat and chemical damage
  • Available in various sheen levels
  • Provides excellent UV protection

Cons

  • Application can be tricky; flaws are easily spotted
  • Longer drying times compared to other finishes
  • Varnished floors can be slippery

How Do You Apply Wood Flooring Finishes?

The application of wood flooring finishes is the next key piece of our puzzle. In this section, we'll walk you through the fundamentals of how to apply these finishes, from the necessary preparations to the application techniques.

Applying wood flooring finishes involves several crucial steps to ensure a durable, aesthetically pleasing result. Starting with a clean, sanded wood surface is essential; any dust or flaws may show through the finish.

Safety is paramount; wearing protective gear, including gloves and a mask, is critical due to the chemical nature of some finishes.

Also, the choice of application tool depends on the type of finish. Brushes, rollers, or lambswool applicators work well for most finishes, though each has its advantages. Brushes, for instance, provide control, while rollers cover large areas faster.

The finish must be evenly applied, usually in the direction of the wood grain. It's important to allow sufficient drying times between coats—hurrying this process can lead to a patchy finish.

Finally, each layer should be lightly sanded to promote adhesion of the next coat, creating a seamless, professional result. 

Wood flooring finishes installation, maintenance, and cost. Learn about types, pros, cons, and applications. Enhance your space with beautiful wooden floors.

How Long Do Wood Flooring Finishes Last?

Wood flooring finishes typically last between 1 and 10 years, depending largely on various factors:

  • Type of finish
  • Floor traffic and usage
  • Quality of application
  • Maintenance routine
  • Environmental conditions (sunlight, humidity)
  • Type of wood

How Do You Maintain Wood Flooring Finishes?

Keeping your wood flooring finishes in top shape is key to preserving their aesthetic and functional appeal. In this segment, we'll touch upon the key aspects of maintaining your wood floor finishes, ensuring their longevity and sustained beauty.

Treatment

This refers to applying specific products or methods to enhance the durability and appearance of your wood floor finish.

  1. Reapplying Finish: Over time, finishes may wear out and require reapplication. This rejuvenation helps maintain the protective layer, enhancing the lifespan of the wood underneath.
  2. Buffing: This is a process to refresh the look of your floor. It involves light sanding to prepare the surface for a new topcoat of finish, allowing your floor to regain its lustre.
  3. Oiling: For oil-finished floors, periodic oiling helps replenish the protective oil layer, nourishing the wood and maintaining the finish’s beautiful, natural look.

Cleaning

Cleaning is the regular removal of dust, dirt and spills from the surface of the finished wood floor to preserve its appearance and prevent damage.

  1. Sweeping or Vacuuming: Regularly remove dust and dirt with a soft broom or vacuum cleaner. This prevents abrasive particles from scratching the finish.
  2. Mopping: Use a damp (not wet) mop with a cleaner suitable for your specific finish. Excess water can seep into the wood, causing damage.
  3. Immediate Spill Cleanup: Attend to spills promptly to prevent staining or water damage. Always use a soft, absorbent cloth for this purpose.

How Much Do Wood Flooring Finishes Cost?

Wood flooring finishes in the UK typically range from £10 to £50 per litre. The cost largely depends on the type of finish:

  • Oil-based finishes: around £10-£20 per litre
  • Water-based finishes: roughly £30-£40 per litre
  • Lacquered finishes: approximately £20-£30 per litre
  • Wax finishes: typically £10-£20 per litre
  • Shellac finishes: usually £20-£30 per litre
  • Varnish finishes: around £15-£25 per litre

Several factors influence the final cost:

  • The size of the area requiring the finish
  • The type and quality of the finish chosen
  • The number of coats applied
  • Additional costs for professional application, if not DIY
  • Costs for floor preparation (sanding, cleaning, etc.) before applying the finish
  • Maintenance costs over time

Are Wood Flooring Finishes Good for Pets?

Yes, wood flooring finishes can be good for pets, provided they are chosen and maintained correctly. Finishes add a protective layer to the flooring, guarding it against potential scratches or damage from pets.

However, certain finishes may be more resistant to pet-related wear and tear than others, so it's crucial to select an appropriate type based on your specific needs.

Can You Have the Same Finishes on Different Types of Flooring?

Yes, you can have the same finishes on different types of flooring. However, the choice of finish should consider the flooring material's specific characteristics.

As each type of flooring has its unique properties and requirements, the efficiency and appearance of a finish may vary across different materials. It is always advised to consult with a flooring professional to choose the most suitable finish for your specific type of flooring.

Conclusion

Selecting and maintaining the right wood flooring finish can make all the difference to your home. It not only enhances the beauty of your interiors but also ensures the longevity of your wooden floors.

Remember the variety of finishes we talked about at the beginning – from oil-based to varnish. Each offers its unique benefits and challenges, and knowing these details will guide you in making an informed decision that suits your needs, aesthetic preferences, and budget.

Ensure you understand the application process, how long a finish lasts, and how to maintain it. Consider your specific circumstances – do you have pets? What type of flooring do you have? These factors can influence your decision. Most importantly, don't hesitate to contact us at Allfloors Trade Centre for professional flooring services. Our expertise can save you time, money, and potential missteps.

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