Pre-finished Wood Floor Options
Written by CRAFT Artisan Wood Floors. JUNE, 2019.
WHAT PROFESSIONALS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE IMPORTANT DIFFERENCES WITHIN PRE-FINISHED WOOD FLOORING FINISH OPTIONS.
There are 3 different categories of wood flooring finishes that are common in today’s marketplace:
1) Natural oil / hardwax oil
2) UV oil
3) UV lacquer.
Each type of wood finish has advantages and disadvantages, especially when viewed in from the perspective that a wood floor finish has 2 main functions: it must offer long-lasting protection for the wood surface, and it must look attractive, adding to the beauty of the wood’s grain and colour.
The first category, natural oil/hardwax oil, is often considered to be the most “natural” looking. This is because these finishes are designed to mainly penetrate into the wood, leaving only a very thin, soft film on the surface. The result is that the wood looks very natural without any significant film covering the surface.
These coatings come with a significant disadvantage: they offer only minimal protection to the wood’s surface and must be diligently maintained. These finishes do offer the feature of being somewhat easy to repair damage to the surface such as scratches or dents, however the protection against spills or water intrusion only lasts as long as the homeowner is extremely diligent with ongoing applications of “refresher” coatings. Failure to strictly follow the prescribed maintenance schedule can quickly render a floor dull and ugly. Some homeowners with a natural oil or hardwax oil finish complain that the cost and effort on the ongoing maintenance of such floors is more onerous than originally thought.
The second category is UV oil finishes. The concept of these finishes is that they are supposed to offer the best of both worlds: the good looks of a natural oil finish, with the protection and abrasion resistance of a UV lacquer finish.
UV oil finishes are different than natural and hardwax oils in that they are designed to form a more substantive film on the surface. The surface film is what creates better protection and better abrasion resistance than natural and hardwax oils. Although UV oil finishes offer a film buildup on the surface, the amount of buildup is much less than that of a UV lacquer finish, and in theory, this thinner surface buildup is supposed to be so thin that the finish itself is supposed to be hard to notice, and therefore have a similar effect as a natural or hardwax oil. The reality, however, is that most UV oil finishes end up looking somewhat more “noticeable” than a true natural or hardwax oil finish. They also have special maintenance concerns and need to be “refreshed” on a semi-regular basis due to the fact that the surface film is quite thin and can be easily worn off. So, some would argue that with a UV oil finish what you really get is the worst of both worlds.
Shown here is CRAFT's DuRa Finish™ Ultra Matte. A UV (cured urethane) finish for a natural look.
The third category is UV lacquer finishes, which are often referred to simply as “UV finishes”. The main advantage of most UV finishes is that they offer superior protection and abrasion resistance to the surface of the wood, and they do this by building up a coating film that is thicker and more durable than either a natural/hardwax oil finish or than most UV oil coatings.
There are many different types of UV finishes, ranging from those with a very thick and obvious film buildup, to those with more of a subtle appearance that harmonizes well with the surface of the wood. Generally speaking, the thicker and more obvious the UV finish is, the more protection it offers. Some UV finishes with thicker film buildups offer warranties of up to 50 years, but these often have a very “plastic” appearance to them, a look which is frowned upon by most designers and discerning homeowners.
On the other end of the spectrum of UV finishes are those offered by companies that put a lot of effort into applying many layers of thin coats that can conform to the natural wood texture, and thus come off harmonizing so well with the wood’s surface that they are almost invisible. The world of UV finishes has advanced a lot recently, to the point where today a handful of visionary flooring manufacturers that have invested enough time and energy into the look of their finish have been able to achieve results that approach the attractiveness of natural and hardwax oil finishes, while still maintaining the far superior performance characteristics of UV lacquer finishes.
From a design point of view, the purpose of a matte finish is to achieve a low level of sheen, bringing out the full lustre and true depth of real wood and showing-off the beautiful wood patterns.
In summary, there is a big universe of many different types of finishes for hardwood flooring, and we encourage industry professionals to go out and explore, ask questions and learn even more about this continually evolving aspect hardwood flooring.