Choosing Environmentally Responsible Finishes for Wood Floors

Sep 30, 2023

Embracing Eco-Friendly Finishes for Sustainable Wood Flooring

As global awareness of environmental issues increases, many homeowners are searching for ways to make eco-conscious choices in their home improvement projects. One of the key areas of focus is flooring, particularly wooden floors. By choosing environmentally responsible finishes for wood floors, homeowners can reduce their ecological footprint while ensuring the longevity and beauty of their floors. In this guide, we will explore the various eco-friendly finishes available and provide tips on how to choose the right one for your wooden floors.

Finishes for Wood Floors

1. Understanding the Importance of Environmentally Friendly Finishes

Before delving into the options available, it’s essential to grasp why it’s important to select eco-friendly finishes.

  • Reduced Chemical Emissions: Traditional wood finishes often contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are harmful to both the environment and human health. Low-VOC or VOC-free finishes minimise these emissions.
  • Sustainable Resource Utilisation: Some eco-friendly finishes are made from renewable resources, ensuring that they have a minimal impact on the environment.
  • Enhanced Indoor Air Quality: Using green finishes can help maintain healthier indoor air, benefiting the occupants of the home.
Finishes for Wood Floors

2. Popular Environmentally Friendly Finishes for Wood Floors

a. Water-Based Polyurethane

Water-based polyurethanes are a popular choice among homeowners due to their low VOC content and durability. They provide a clear finish, allowing the wood’s natural beauty to shine through.


  • Low odour during application.
  • Dries quickly.
  • Maintains the wood’s natural colour.


  • Might be slightly less durable than oil-based finishes.

b. Oil-Based Finishes

Many oil-based finishes, like linseed and tung oil, are derived from natural, renewable resources. They penetrate deep into the wood, offering protection from within.


  • Long-lasting.
  • Rich, warm finish.


  • Longer drying time.
  • Some may still contain VOCs, so always check the label.

c. Hardwax Oil

Hardwax oil finishes are a blend of natural oils and waxes. They offer a matte, natural-looking finish.


  • Made from natural ingredients.
  • Easy to repair.
  • Enhances the wood’s grain.


  • Requires more frequent maintenance.

d. Soy-Based Finishes

Derived from soybeans, soy-based finishes are a new addition to the market. They are biodegradable and often have zero VOCs.


  • Sustainable.
  • Low or zero VOCs.


  • Might not be as readily available as other finishes.
Finishes for Wood Floors

3. Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Finish

  • Durability: Some finishes are more resistant to scratches and stains than others. Consider the foot traffic in the area where the wood flooring is installed.
  • Maintenance: Some finishes might require regular maintenance, such as re-application every few years.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: While some homeowners prefer a glossy shine, others might opt for a matte or natural look. The finish you choose can significantly influence your floor’s overall look.
  • Health and Safety: Always look for finishes that have low or zero VOCs. This ensures better indoor air quality and safety for the home’s inhabitants.
  • Environmental Impact: Choose finishes derived from renewable resources and those that are biodegradable.
Finishes for Wood Floors

4. Application Tips for Eco-Friendly Finishes

  • Proper Preparation: Before applying any finish, ensure the wood surface is clean, dry, and free from dust.
  • Follow Manufacturer Instructions: Always read and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding application, drying time, and subsequent coats.
  • Ventilation: Even if you’re using a low or zero VOC finish, it’s essential to ensure adequate ventilation during the application process.
  • Use the Right Tools: Using brushes or rollers recommended for your chosen finish will ensure a smoother application.
Finishes for Wood Floors

5. The Broader Benefits of Eco-Friendly Finishes

Beyond the immediate and evident benefits for your home, using eco-friendly finishes can have a broader, more profound impact on the environment and society. Here are some of the bigger-picture benefits:

a. Reducing the Carbon Footprint

Traditional finishes often require energy-intensive processes for their production. By contrast, many eco-friendly alternatives use fewer resources during manufacturing. Moreover, being biodegradable, they don’t contribute to long-term waste, meaning they have a much smaller carbon footprint over their lifecycle.

b. Supporting Sustainable Farming and Forestry

Many natural, eco-friendly finishes come from resources that can be sustainably farmed, like flax for linseed oil or soybeans for soy-based finishes. By choosing these options, consumers indirectly support sustainable farming practices, promoting a balanced coexistence with nature.

c. Economic Implications

The rising demand for green products has the potential to boost economies. As consumers lean towards eco-friendly products, industries will pivot to meet these demands, creating job opportunities in green manufacturing, research, and development.

d. Fostering healthier living spaces

Beyond their immediate environmental benefits, these finishes create safer spaces for families. Traditional finishes, laden with chemicals, can off-gas for years, contributing to long-term health risks. With green finishes, these risks are considerably minimised.

e. Setting a precedent for future generations

Choosing environmentally responsible finishes not only impacts the present but also sets an example for future generations. It teaches the importance of co-existing harmoniously with the environment and making choices that prioritise the planet’s well-being.

Finishes for Wood Floors

6. Innovations on the Horizon

As environmental consciousness grows, so does the range and efficacy of green products. Here’s a glance at what the future might hold:

a. Enhanced Durability

One of the main concerns with some green finishes is their longevity compared to traditional products. However, research is ongoing to enhance the durability of eco-friendly finishes without compromising their environmental benefits.

b. Widening Range of Choices

As more consumers opt for green products, we can expect a broader range of choices in terms of colours, textures, and finishes. This means homeowners won’t have to compromise on aesthetics while making eco-friendly choices.

c. Lower Costs

Initially, some green products came with a higher price tag due to the costs of research and development. However, as demand rises and production techniques improve, prices are expected to become more competitive, making eco-friendly finishes accessible to a wider audience.

d. Improved Recycling and Reusability

The future might see finishes that are not just made of sustainable materials but are also entirely recyclable or reusable. This would mean a closed loop where products are used, repurposed, and then re-used, minimising waste significantly.

With these innovations and broader benefits in mind, it becomes clear that the move towards environmentally responsible finishes is not just a fleeting trend but a profound shift towards a more sustainable way of life.

Conclusion: The Green Way Forward

Selecting an environmentally responsible finish for your wood floors is not just a step towards a more sustainable planet; it’s also a move towards a healthier living space. With numerous eco-friendly options available on the market today, homeowners can enjoy beautiful wooden floors without compromising the environment.

Embracing these eco-friendly finishes symbolises a step towards a green and sustainable future. As more people make environmentally conscious decisions, manufacturers will likely continue to innovate, producing even more options that are both good for our homes and our planet.


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