Internal Timber Floor Finishes
Timber floor finishes can be grouped into the four broad categories. These are the oil-based finishes, composite finishes (mixes of oil-based and solvent based polyurethane finishes), solvent based polyurethane finishes, and water based finishes.
With time all finishes will change in colour and film build as the floor wears. Therefore the ability to touch up becomes more difficult with time, however, all coatings can be restored by recoating. In the long term, a re-sand and refinish may be necessary depending on the wear and age of the floor.
Oil-based finishes (alkyd/oleoresins) are the more traditional types of finish manufactured by reacting a natural oil (e.g. linseed and tung) with another chemical. Varnishes and the traditional tung oils fall into this category and are associated with the polished and waxed timber floors of the past. These types of finishes are still available and require greater regular maintenance than the other finishes. However, with the use of acrylic floor polishes, they have become easier to maintain. These finishes will darken with time.
Composite Oil-Based/Solvent Base Finishes
Finishes containing oil-based alkyds with the addition of urethanes provide a finish with reasonably good abrasion resistance. Oil modified urethanes, which are one of the predominant floor finishes used in the USA and many of the ‘tung oil’ based finishes are of this type. The odor during application is very strong but dissipates as the finish dries. These finishes provide a subdued, satin to semi-gloss appearance. They darken with time and require more frequent maintenance particularly in high traffic areas. Acrylic floor polishes may be used to protect the finish.
Solvent Base Polyurethane Finishes
Solvent based polyurethanes (one pack and two pack) provide a harder finish, generally with limited flexibility but much greater abrasion resistance. Consequently, this greatly reduces the level of routine maintenance. They currently provide some of the hardest finishes available today with gloss levels from matt through to a very high gloss. These finishes, as with the oil-based finishes, will generally darken with time. The odor during application is very strong with these products but dissipates as the finish dries. This is a very hard wearing, low maintenance product.
Water Base Finishes
Some water based polyurethane/acrylic mixes of moderate durability are available but straight one and two pack water based polyurethanes with very good wear resistance are gaining in popularity. These finishes are generally applied over a sealer (either solvent or water based), that enhances the colour of the timber. Rapid shrinkage in the floor and the associated stretching of the finish at board joints has on occasions caused the appearance of light coloured lines at board joints. Matt through to semi gloss finishes are available and these finishes generally darken little with time. During application, there is a low odor associated with water based finishes. The 2 pack waterbased polyurethane is probably the most desirable floor finish and is as hard wearing as any other finish on the market. It is also known to be one of the more expensive coating systems.
Hardwax oils are micro-porous which allows the timber to breathe, this means climatic changes are accommodated. The full body finish does not create a skin so each board can move individually without the concern of edge bonding. As there is no water in the product they do not “grain raise” on application. With proper application, they will not flake, blister or peel and tend to be non-yellowing. The hardwax Oils will enhance the grain of the timber, all while keeping the natural timber feel.
Durable and easily maintained, hardwax oils have high coverage rates up to 20 to 30m2 per litre depending on the timber species. The first application is applied easily with two coats, the surface may be used with care 24 hours after the application of the second coat. Long thereafter they are replenish able with a simple maintenance coat. For areas that use faster than others the fact that they are spot repairable, no need to re-sand your whole floor to repair or replenish is a tremendous benefit.
Hardwax oils are predominately made in Europe, where non-toxic, eco-friendly finishes are based on the best vegetable oils, natural resins, beeswax and least aggressive solvents available. The oil and wax combinations are made on a base of natural, sustainable raw materials including linseed oil, sunflower oil, jojoba oil, beeswax, carnauba and candelilla wax. Contains no pollutants and minimal amounts of the least aggressive solvents available. It is also known to be one of the more expensive coating systems. Whittle wax is also available in a variety of colours (samples made to your approval).