Choosing the best finish for hardwood floors or engineered hardwood floors (if the brand allows it) is a debate that has been ongoing for quite some time. The decision largely depends on the specific conditions and parameters of your home. There are several types of finishes available, each with its own characteristics and benefits. Here’s a breakdown of the different types of finishes:

  1. Water-Based Finish:
    • Overview: Water-based finishes are popular due to their clear color and quick drying time. They don’t yellow over time and have a lower odor compared to oil-based finishes. However, they can sometimes give the wood a somewhat plastic-like appearance. Brands include Arboritec, Bona, Duraseal, Glitsa, Pallmann, Loba Wakol.
  2. Oil-Based Finish:
    • Overview: Oil-based finishes are known for their durability and the rich, warm amber hue they impart to the wood. They tend to take longer to dry and have a stronger odor. Over time, they can yellow and darken the wood. Brands include Sampson’s oil, Masterline, Duraseal & Bona.
  3. Penetrating Oil Finish:
    • Overview: This finish penetrates into the wood, rather than forming a film on the surface. It enhances the wood’s grain and offers a more natural look. However, it may not be as protective as film-forming finishes and doesn’t give the traditional glossy wood floor look. Brands include Rubio Monocoat,
    • Pallmann, Loba Wakol and Arboritec.
  4. UV (Ultraviolet) Finish:
    • Overview: Similar to water-based finishes in appearance, UV finishes are cured using ultraviolet light. This process happens almost instantly, making the floor ready for use much faster. They offer good durability and a clear finish.
  5. Conversion Varnish (Swedish Finish):
    • Overview: Known for its durability and high-gloss appearance, conversion varnish can be very strong-smelling during application. It’s important to check local regulations, as it may not be allowed in all areas due to its VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) content. These include Glitsa and Skania.

What We Know:

All finishes can hold up well, but the longevity of your floors largely depends on how you use and maintain them. For instance, walking with dirty shoes will wear down any finish quickly, while floors in a home where occupants wear socks can last much longer, even with a lesser-quality finish.

Maintenance Matters:

Regular maintenance is crucial for preserving the longevity and appearance of hardwood floors. Film finishes like oil and water-based should be recoated every 3-5 years, while penetrating finishes may require yearly maintenance with renew-type products. Keeping the floors clean is also vital for their upkeep.

Considerations for Each Finish:

  • Water-Based: Durable with a plastic look but doesn’t yellow.
  • Oil-Based: Traditional wood floor appearance but tends to yellow over time.
  • UV Finish: Similar to water-based in look but cures instantly.
  • Penetrating Oil: Doesn’t show scratches as there’s no film, but it’s not traditional in appearance.
  • Conversion Varnish: Very strong and durable but has a strong odor and may have legal restrictions.

Ultimately, the best finish for your hardwood floors depends on your personal preferences, lifestyle, and the specific conditions in your home. Regular maintenance and appropriate care are key to ensuring the longevity and beauty of your hardwood floors, regardless of the type of finish you choose.