Water Based vs. Oil Based Finishes

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Today’s hardwood floors are typically finish with a urethane finish verses shellacs, waxes, penetrating oils, etc. due the the durability and low maintenance a urethane finish provides.  There are two options in urethane floor finishes – water-based and oil-based.

Both water-based and oil-based urethane finishes offer good protection, with the biggest difference being being in appearance.  Water-based finish go on clear and add no amber tint to the wood floor.  This results in less depth and richness in appearance, which in some floors such as maple, may be preferred to keep the white appearance of maple flooring.  However, most customers prefer the depth and richness that the oil-based finish adds to the wood flooring.

Typically, a good water-based urethane will cost twice as much as a comparable oil-based finish, hence comes with an upgrade charge if water-based finish is desired.  Water-based finishes are very low in odor and that is an important factor to some customers.  You will find several writings about applying multiple coats of water-based finish in a single day since it has a quicker drying time than oil-based finishes, however we only apply one coat per day regardless of the finish type chosen.

There is much debate over which is harder, but if you choose a quality finish in either water-based or oil-based, the typical customer will not see any significant difference.

Lastly, to clarify a common misconception regarding floor finishes, NOTHING will make your floor scratch-proof, dent-proof, etc.  A floor finish does not make the wood harder.  Therefore, big dogs running around corners and dropping things on a floor will gouge the floor regardless of the finish used.

Choosing a Stain Color

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Tips for choosing a stain color and sheen for your hardwood floors.

Currently darker stains are trending verses several years ago most hardwood floors were finished natural or with a light stain such as golden oak or golden pecan.  Today, stain colors such as Special Walnut, English Chestnut and Jacobean are used more and more.

The darker the stain color the more dust, dirt and wear and tear will show on the hardwood floor.  As far as sheen goes…the higher the sheen (shine) the more dust, dirt and wear and tear will show also.  We suggest to consider a lower sheen such as Satin with darker stained floors.

Try to avoid “trendy” colors.  Today it seems the trend is a shade of grey.  From paint to counter tops to cabinets to stain colors, grey is in.  Trendy colors can go out as fast as they came in, so tread lightly when choosing colors for higher end items as they will cost much more to replace when the trends change.

Traditional colors, whether light or dark, are a safer choice for the long run.