Most Popular Hard Floor Finishes for a New Home

Hardwood floors have continued to grow in popularity, and it is now a sought after surface for most homeowners. This is because hardwood floors are long-lasting, aesthetically pleasing, and they increase the value of a home. 

Hardwood floor finishes are protective substances that protect the floors from scratches, stains and general wear and tear. They also give the wood a shiny look and increase their longevity. 

There are a lot of finishes available with different durability, drying time and ease of application. Listed below are five hardwood finishes and their unique qualities;

Oil penetrating sealers

This type of finish has been around for a while now, long before the advent of modern floor finishes. Although most homeowners no longer use it, some prefer to use this finish on their floors because it produces a low-shine that highlights the natural grain of the wood. 

Oil sealers are made from natural products such as tung oil, and they do not produce any volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This quality makes it ideal for DIY application as it has a fast drying time between coats. This finish is suitable for historic homes that are being restored. 

Having looked at the positives, the drawbacks of using this finish is that it has to be reapplied every few years as it is not very durable. Oil penetrating sealers are also expensive compared to other finishes.


Before the new floor finishes were developed in the mid-1900s, the wax was the floor finish of choice. It is still being used nowadays for historical homes and by homeowners who prefer the low-gloss and natural appearance. 

Wax dries quickly and emits low VOCs, making it easy for homeowners to apply by themselves. It is possible to mix wax with any colour of stain to give your wood some shade as you finish them. 

Applying a wax finish requires a lot of labour as several coats are required to be buffed into the wood by hand. A wax finish is highly prone to scratches, shows watermarks and tends to yellow over time

Water-based polyurethane finish

The water-based polyurethane is one of the most popular choices of finishes that homeowners prefer nowadays. It gives hardwood floors a clear and high-gloss, there are also options for low-gloss and satin. 

This finish does not change colour over time and is relatively waterproof. A minimum of three coats is recommended, and each layer takes two to four hours to dry.

The one disadvantage is that the high gloss can often show scratches quite badly, so re-applying the finish is essential to maintain a finished look.

Oil-based polyurethane finish

The oil-based polyurethane is more durable than the water-based one, and this makes it ideal for commercial areas. This finish has a yellow tint that darkens as time progresses. It is available in high-gloss, semi-gloss and satin options. 

Some of the other advantages of this finish are that it is resistant to water and scratch damage making it easy to clean and maintain. Should you need to re-coat the finish is also relatively inexpensive.

It is ideal for this finish to be applied by a professional as it releases a high amount of VOCs and a respirator is required during application. You may also need to factor in the length of drying time as it an take a while to dry.

Acid-cured finish

This finish is mostly used for exotic woods and floors with extensive designs. It is the most durable of all the hardwood finishes and also the most costly. However, as a result, it does not require frequent retouching.

It leaves a high-gloss surface on wood floors that protects it from water, scratches and chemical damage thus preserving the natural beauty of the wood.

Due to the acid contained in this finish, it emits a high volume of VOCs, which makes it inhabitable for a couple of weeks. It has to be applied by a professional with the use of a respirator and proper ventilation. 

Although hardwood floors can stand the test of time, it is essential to maintain and restore them when necessary to preserve the integrity and beauty of the wood. 


You can choose to restore your floors by yourself or use a floor sanding service that will take care of removing, retouching and reapplying the finishes.

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