FLOOR FINISHES


UV-Cured Urethane

UV-cured urethane (or simply ‘UV urethane’) is the most common type of finish for pre-finished wood flooring. The finish is applied to the wood at the factory and then hardened via a chemical reaction triggered by ultra violet (UV) light. Like other urethane finishes, UV urethanes protect the wood by creating an artificial barrier between the wood and the traffic above.
PROS
- Hard, durable, and stain resistant
- Barrier above wood helps protect against physical damage
- Requires no topcoat after installation
CONS
- Finish build looks like plastic - artificial
- Scratches generally show as white lines - highly visible
- Refreshing requires sanding/abrading
- Can’t be feathered - repairs require board replacements or re-coat of entire floorings more frequent, but it is far less disruptive because it generally requires no sanding. 

UV-Cured Oil

Like other oil finishes, UV oils are intended to protect the wood from within by sealing the fibers, rather than creating a barrier between the wood and the traffic above, as urethanes do. However, almost all UV oils contain some percentage of acrylic, the main component in urethane finishes, which is why UV oils are often viewed as hybrids between urethanes and oils. The higher the acrylic content of a UV oil, the more it will perform like a urethane, with all of the associated pros and cons. Higher acrylic content lends better stain resistance and protects the wood fibers better from physical damage, but also creates more of the plastic looking build above the wood, is more challenging to repair, and may show white in the scratches like a urethane. Like UV urethanes, UV oils are cured at the factory via a chemical reaction triggered by UV light.

PROS
- Can be nourished and refreshed without sanding, like other oils
- Natural look and feel
- Requires no topcoat after installation
- Better stain resistance than penetrating or hardwax oils
- Better initial durability than penetrating or hardwax oils – longer before first re-oiling

CONS
- Can be more difficult to blend/repair than other oils
- Less stain resistant than urethane
- Requires regular maintenance with proper cleaning products

Hardwax Oil

Hardwax oils are another type of ‘oxidative’ (air-dried) oil. Hardwax oil finishes are like penetrating oil finishes in that they contain some natural oil such as linseed or soy that is mixed with a solvent to accelerate drying. Hardwax oils are different from penetrating oils, however, in that they also contain wax, usually a mixture of paraffin with carnauba and/or beeswax. When hardwax oils are applied, the oil soaks into the wood and separates from the wax, which is left at the surface. This wax layer is then buffed in to give the wood an attractive, silky luster. The wax also helps to seal the floor.
Most hardwax oils on the market require the application of at least two coats, but there are some ‘single-coat’ hardwax oils that make use of isocyanate hardeners to bond quickly to the wood fiber and create a seal with just one thin application. These single-coat hardwax oil finishes have unique characteristics that require that they be maintained with different types of soaps and cleaners than most oil finishes.
The advantages and disadvantages of hardwax oil finishes are more or less the same as penetrating oil finishes:
PROS
- Natural look and feel - soaks into the fibers rather than covering them with plastic
- Easier to repair – new hardwax oil can be buffed into the surrounding finish
- Can be refreshed without sanding
CONS
- May require a topcoat of oil after installation
- Less stain resistant than urethane
- Wood is more exposed to physical damage
- Requires regular maintenance with proper cleaning products

So Which Finish is Best? 

At Cut & Dried Flooring, we believe that each of these types of finishes has its advantages, and that the right choice depends on personal preferences. Some people want their wood floor to look as natural as possible, look forward to the floor taking on a patina from daily use, and like the idea that they can repair or refresh their floor with a little bit of work on a Saturday afternoon. For them, a Penetrating Oil or Hardwax Oil finish might be a good choice. Others might enjoy the natural look and feel of an oil finish, but prefer a little bit more durability, stain resistance, and easier initial maintenance. For them, a UV Oil may be a better choice.  Still others want a floor they can install and forget about, requiring as little maintenance as possible until it’s time to replace or refinish the floor completely. Or the floor might be going into a location where the occupants can’t be trusted to use the specialty care products required for oil finishes. In these cases, UV Urethane is probably the better choice.