Wood Floor Finishes

When choosing the right type of finish for your wood floors, consider your lifestyle and maintenance preferences. All wood floors will require routine maintenance, such as sweeping, vacuuming or dust mopping, to keep them looking beautiful and new, but different wood flooring finishes will have a big impact on how you care for your floor long-term, as well as how your floor will look in the years to come.

While floor finishes vary in durability and longevity, all will scratch and mar depending on use and/or abuse during their lifetimes.


Surface finishes are very popular because they are durable, water-resistant, and require minimal maintenance. Surface finishes are blends of synthetic resins. These finishes most often are referred to as urethanes or polyurethanes, and remain on the surface of the wood to form a protective coating. There are several types of surface finishes available: water-based, oil-based, acid-cured, and moisture-cured. 

Water-based finishes appear clear and will resist turning yellow over time. They have a mild odor when applied, and will dry in two to three hours. Water-based finishes are very durable.

Oil-based finishes appear amber in color. They have a moderate odor when applied, and will dry in about eight hours – or typically overnight. Oil-based finishes are very durable.

Acid-cured finishes appear clear to slightly amber. They have a strong odor when applied, and will dry in about two to three hours. Acid-cured finishes are extremely durable.

Moisture-cured finishes appear clear to amber. They have a strong odor when applied, and will dry in about two to three hours in humid conditions. Moisture-cured finishes are extremely durable and are more moisture-resistant than other surface finishes.

These finishes are applied on site after installation.

Hard Wax Oil finishes soak into the pores of the wood and harden to form a protective penetrating seal, which will appear low luster and amber in color. They have a mild odor when applied, and will dry in a variable amount of time depending on the type of wax used and the job-site conditions. Wax finishes are less durable and may show spots from water and other contaminates – but, can be spot repaired as needed. These finishes are site applied after installation.

Acrylic impregnated finishes are injected into the wood to create a super-hard, extremely durable floor. Acrylic impregnated finishes rarely are used in residential applications. They most often are used in very high traffic areas in commercial settings such as malls and restaurants. These finishes are applied in the factory prior to installation. 

UV cured finishes are waterborne finishes that are cured by the use of ultraviolet light. The cure time is instantaneous. Multiple sheen levels are available to suit your taste. These finishes are applied in the factory prior to installation. 

Penetrating and hardening oils are usually made of tung oils, linseed oils, or other natural oils, along with blends of additional additives that can assist in drying and hardness. These finishes are applied on site after installation.

Talk to your installer/finisher regarding which type of finish best suits your needs and lifestyle.