Q: How should an unfinished floor be treated?
A: There are many different wood floor finishes. The earlier
finishes used were wax, lacquer, varnish and "shellac". Although these
old methods of stain and coat are still used, they are becoming rarer
today because of lower durability and higher maintenance compared to
oil-modified urethanes and water-based finishes. Nevertheless, these
finishes still have their place. For example, oiled and waxed finishes
are durable and more repairable than urethane based finishes, and therefore
often used in commercial applications. They need more maintenance and
have a fairly low luster. Shellac gives antique flooring a beautiful
rich patina and is used both as a sealer coat under certain finishes
or as a finish by itself.
Oil modified Urethanes (Polyurethane): -A clear,
tough and durable finish that is applied as a wear layer. The application
is relatively easy. A common method is to apply three coats allowing
each coat to dry overnight with light sanding and vacuuming between
coats. The coating has a thick looking appearance and gives the wood
an amber color tone. It has great moisture resistance and is also one
of the most scratch-resistant finishes available. It can be hard to
touch up or re-coat. Oil-based urethanes have a tendency to darken and
or yellow with age.
Water based finishes: This blend of synthetic
resins, plasticizers and other film-forming ingredients (water based)
produces an extremely durable surface that is moisture resistant. Different
gloss levels are available, most have a clear finish and are frequently
used over white and pastel colored stains. Their drying time is much
faster than oil-based urethanes (one to two hours), there is little
odor, and clean up is with soap and water. Their application can be
difficult due to its quick drying time.
Moisture cured Urethane: Moisture cured urethane
is one of the hardest finishes available, but It is also extremely difficult
to apply and it has a very unpleasant (toxic) odor. A respirator is
a must when applying. Moisture cured urethane dries by pulling moisture
from the air, while most other finishes dry through evaporation of the
solvents leaving the resins on the floor.
Q: What are the advantages of a pre-finished floor?
A: Factory pre-finished wood floors have grown tremendously.
Today's pre-finished flooring comes with very durable finishes such
as oil-modified urethanes and water-based finishes (see above), using
several coats of ultraviolet (UV) cured urethane for added protection.
UV cured urethanes can only be properly cured in the
presence of UV light, which would be extremely difficult to duplicate
on a job site finish, not to mention how many days it would take. These
UV cured urethanes create a tough, scratch resistant wear layer and
help prevent moisture from penetrating the wood's surface. This means
that these floors won't watermark like the old waxed hardwood floors,
and the UV cure urethanes do make it easier to maintain the like new
appearance than, for example, the old waxed wood floors.
Choosing pre-finished largely boils down to installation,
durability and maintenance issues. Instead of taking several days to
install and finish a wood floor, a pre-finished wood floor is generally
done in one day, hence resulting in substantial time and cost savings.
Most do-it-yourselfers can install a pre-finished floor. Because of
a high quality and consistent factory application, a pre-finished floor
often has a more durable wear layer and lower maintenance than a site