Choosing the Right Finish for Your Newly Sanded Floors

Sep 22, 2023

Unlocking the Beauty of Wood: Guide to Choosing the Perfect Floor Finish

Refinishing a floor can transform a room, giving it a fresh, updated look. When you’ve invested time and energy into sanding your floors, the next critical step is choosing the right finish. Your choice can enhance the beauty of the wood, provide protection against wear, and determine the maintenance routine for years to come. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you make the best decision for your home.

The allure of wooden floors is timeless. Their grain patterns, warm hues, and natural feel make them a favourite among homeowners. However, like any other material, wood requires protection to preserve its beauty and prolong its lifespan. If you’ve taken the step to sand your floors, you’re halfway through the journey of rejuvenation. The final and equally crucial step is selecting the right finish. This choice not only dictates the aesthetic appeal of your floors but also their durability and resilience against everyday challenges.

Choosing the Right Finish

Understanding the Basics: What is a Floor Finish?

Before diving into the specific types, it’s essential to understand what a floor finish is. Simply put, it’s a protective layer applied to a wooden floor to enhance its appearance and protect it from moisture, stains, and everyday wear and tear.

Choosing the Right Finish

Types of Floor Finishes

1. Polyurethane

Water-Based Polyurethane: Water-based options dry quickly and emit fewer odors. They provide a clear finish, highlighting the wood’s natural colour.

Oil-Based Polyurethane: This type takes longer to dry and has a more robust odor. It gives a warm, amber hue to the wood and is generally more durable than its water-based counterpart.

2. Varnish

Varnishes are available in glossy, semi-gloss, and satin finishes. They darken over time, giving the wood an amber tint, which many homeowners find appealing.

3. Shellac

Derived from natural resins, shellac finishes provide a warm, rich hue. While they are less resistant to water and alcohol spills, they can be easily repaired.

4. Lacquer

Lacquers dry quickly, giving them a glossy and hard finish. However, they can be sensitive to scratches and are best suited for less-trafficked areas.

5. Oil finishes

These penetrate the wood deeply, enhancing its grain and providing a natural look. Common types include tung oil and linseed oil. While they provide a beautiful matte finish, they might require more frequent maintenance.

Choosing the Right Finish

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Finish

1. Room’s Purpose

A playroom or kitchen might see more spills and traffic, demanding a more durable finish like polyurethane. On the other hand, a bedroom might be suitable for a softer finish, like oil.

2. Aesthetics

If you desire a natural look, penetrating oils might be your go-to. For a glossy and polished appearance, opt for lacquers or varnishes.

3. Maintenance and Durability

Some finishes, like polyurethane, offer high durability with low maintenance, while others, such as oils, may require regular touch-ups.

4. Application Process

While some finishes can be DIY-friendly, others might require professional expertise. Consider the application process and decide if you’re up for the task or if you’d rather hire a professional.

5. Drying Time and Odour

Some finishes have strong odours and might need longer drying times. If you have kids, pets, or are sensitive to smells, opt for those with minimal odours and quick drying times.

Choosing the Right Finish

Advantages of Each Finish

1. Polyurethane

  • Pros: highly durable, available in various sheens, protects against spills and scratches.
  • Cons: Strong odour during application can become cloudy over time.

2. Varnish

  • Pros: It enhances the wood’s natural colour and is available in multiple sheens.
  • Cons: slower drying time; can darken with age.

3. Shellac

  • Pros: natural and non-toxic; easy repairability; provides a warm glow.
  • Cons: Less resistant to moisture and spills.

4. Lacquer

  • Pros: Fast drying offers a smooth and polished appearance.
  • Cons: less durable; might need frequent touch-ups.

5. Oil finishes

  • Pros: Enhances wood’s grain and provides a soft, natural look.
  • Cons: Might require regular maintenance; less resistant to spills.
Choosing the Right Finish

Tips for Applying Floor Finishes

  1. Always Test First: Before applying any finish to the entire floor, test a small hidden section to ensure it gives the desired result.
  2. Safety First: Wear appropriate protective gear, like gloves and masks, especially with finishes that emit strong odours.
  3. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions: Each product might have specific application guidelines; always refer to them for best results.
  4. Ensure Proper Ventilation: Keep windows and doors open during and after application to allow odours to dissipate.
Choosing the Right Finish


Choosing the right finish for your newly sanded floors is a balance of aesthetics, functionality, and maintenance. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, understanding the different types and considering your home’s needs will lead you to the perfect choice. With the right finish, your floors can shine and remain protected for many years to come.

Wooden floors possess an inherent charm, echoing tales of time and tradition. As you stand on the threshold of finalising their look and feel, remember that the finish you choose is more than just a protective seal—it’s a commitment to preserving the narratives held within every grain and knot. Each finish offers a different story, from the lustrous sheen of lacquers to the rustic allure of oils. As you make your selection, consider not only the practical aspects but also the emotional resonance it holds for your space. After all, the true essence of a home lies in the details, and your floor finishing is one of those defining elements.

Revamping your home’s floors is an investment in aesthetics, functionality, and value. The right finish can make all the difference, setting the tone for the room’s ambiance while ensuring the floor’s longevity. By weighing the pros and cons of each finish type and considering the unique needs of your space, you’re poised to make an informed decision. Remember, the beauty of a wooden floor isn’t just in its initial appearance, but in the sustained glow and grace it maintains over the years. Choose wisely and watch your floors become the cornerstone of your home’s charm.


Useful Links:

Recent Posts