Types of Wood Floor Finishes

Stained Wood SampleHardwood flooring is easily one of the most popular types of flooring today, and it’s easy to see why. The aesthetic benefit coupled with relatively easy maintenance and great resale value makes hardwood floors a go-to for many homeowners who wish to update their flooring. 

One of the main considerations when getting hardwood installed is the finish of the wood. When choosing a finish, the desired color of the hardwood may be the initial consideration for homeowners, but there are a variety of factors beyond color that influence the different types of finishes.

The most popular types of hardwood floor finishes are surface finishes. The application of surface finishes involves applying a stain to achieve the desired color, followed by the application of a protective topcoat. All surface finishes are durable, water-resistant and low maintenance, making them very popular with homeowners.

There are various options for surface finishes, including:

  • Oil-based finishes: Very durable finishes, and the most commonly used. These finishes appear amber in color and dry in about eight hours. There is a moderate odor when applied, and it is usually applied in multiple coats.
  • Water-based finishes: Has quicker dry-time and less odor than oil-based finishes, and provides a clear finish when applied.
  • Moisture-cured finishes: Appear clear to amber and have a strong odor when applied. In humid conditions, moisture-cured finishes will dry in about two to three hours, but could take up to a day depending on conditions. Extremely durable and more moisture-resistant than other finishes, and are ideal for very damp environments.
  • Acid-cured finishes: When applied, they appear clear to slightly amber and have a strong odor. Drying time is about two to the three hours, and the finished result is extremely durable.

After picking your finish, there are several other options to keep in mind, including sheen and extra-durable products. The choice of sheen for your hardwood floors is a purely personal preference, but homeowners should keep in mind that finishes with a high-gloss sheen show scratches and scuffs more easily than low-gloss or satin finishes.

Extra-durable products give flooring more protection and are designed to extend the life of wood flooring. The most popular types of extra-durable products include acrylic finishes and Swedish finishes. An alcohol-based varnish used since the 1950s, Swedish finishes provide high durability and extremely easy maintenance. The downside of Swedish finishes is the long time it takes to cure – some manufacturers say it takes about 90 days.

There’s certainly a lot to consider when installing hardwood flooring and picking a finish, but with the variety of options available, homeowners can rest assured that there is an option that works best with their lifestyle.