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Learning Center - About Floor Finishes

Hardwood flooring comes with a variety of different finishes and each finish has its own characteristics and benefits. Wood floors can be purchased as unfinished or prefinished. Prefinished floors have already been sanded, stained, and sealed at the factory meaning that installation is a much simpler process. A majority of the flooring today is sold as prefinished product.

Unfinished hardwood floors require that you sand, stain, dry, and seal the floor yourself after installing in your home. The advantage of an unfinished floor is that you can stain and seal it to your exact specifications. In addition, an unfinished floor can be sanded flat where as a prefinished floor is only as level as the sub-floor beneath it. In general, unfinished hardwood floors are not a “do it yourself” choice because of the skill needed to do it right.

Many finishes also feature different bases or modifiers. Water-based finishes tend to be best at showing the natural character and color of your floor. Oil-based or modified finishes tend to have a slight amber hue, which is very popular with lighter colored floors like oak and maple.

Polyurethane Finish:

Until recently, polyurethane was the most commonly applied finish. Despite new advances in durability, polyurethane is still considered a very good finish that can be stained to give it even more versatility. There are many different kinds and blends of polyurethane available; for example, Kahrs flooring uses a polyurethane and acrylic mix to achieve a very tough finish. Maintenance is reasonably easy and while spot repairs can be done, they're usually easy to see.

Acrylic Impregnated Floor:

This flooring can be found in the Hartco and Bruce floors, and provides excellent durability. The finish is forced into the floor itself to create a finish that goes all the way through the wear surface. It is frequently used in commercial projects, because it is so tough. Currently, only oak and maple are offered using this technique. Maintenance is easy and small scratches are easy to fix with a spray finish that makes them disappear completely. One negative is that water can leave permanent spots if allowed to dry on the surface.

Ceramic Finish:

Ceramic finishes used for tile have been offered for wood flooring. They offer incredible abrasion wear resistance. With this finish, a floor is more resistant to stains, scratches and other imperfections. Maintenance is easy, but the finish is so tough and wear-resistant, repairs can be difficult.

Aluminum Oxide Finish:

More and more companies are turning to aluminum oxide finishes for their toughness and abrasion resistance. Like the ceramic finishes, this finish is usually much tougher than urethane and acrylic finishes which gives an easy to maintain floor for high traffic areas. However, unlike an acrylic finish, repairs may be a little more difficult.

Wax Finish:

While a wax finish is hard to maintain day to day, it is easily repaired. Many super high-end floors use the wax finish because the planked look combined with the wax finish can look absolutely spectacular. Newer types of wax flooring make the maintenance easier.

Swedish Finish:

This type of finish is only applied on-site, after the flooring has been installed and sanded, and after you've moved out for a while. That's because you can't be in the house while the alcohol based acid solvents evaporate. Basically, a Swedish finish involves a sealer coat and a wear layer coat, or a polyurethane product with a solvent base. Since the air quality of the environment can not be controlled it is very common to find particulates, lint and even some hair in Swedish finishes that fall onto the floor during the curing process.