Refinishing your floors is a fast, efficient and cost-effective way to dramatically change any room. Whether you’re repurposing old, original, hardwood floors or installing brand-new maple, walnut or pine, the literal finishing touch is where you can really get creative. You may not want to permanently install a bright granite floor (not only is that incredibly expensive, but also unalterable!), but you can certainly stain, finish or paint your hardwood floors time and time again. |
Hardwood flooring gives you options, and the finishing possibilities are endless. Go for a shabby chic look with so-called distressed flooring when you allow the natural wood hues to peek through a pale paint. Stick with the classics for finishes, like wax or polyurethane. From dark and stunning to light and cheery, you can change your floor’s finish year after year.
Ready, Set, Finished
One of the most basic finishes is a simple wax that protects the hardwood and lets the natural beauty shine through. Hardwood flooring in its so-called natural state is in high demand and increases a home’s value. Waxing can be reapplied yearly in high-traffic homes — it’s easy to do, penetrates wood for durability and is considered low luster. Available in paste or liquid, it was the go-to choice before polyurethanes became popular in the 1970s. As an added bonus, wax is natural, nontoxic and a feasible DIY option.
Available as water-based or oil-based, polyurethanes made their debut 50 years ago. Water-based varieties dry fast, won’t yellow, are easy to apply and have minimal odor. However, oil-based varieties cost less and are tougher than their water-based counterparts. Today, most floors that look waxed actually have a polyurethane finish. The water-based options are eco-friendly and tougher than they used to be (but still no match for oil), but most people choose water or polyurethane based on one major difference: color. Water-based is clear while oil-based leaves an amber hue.
The Cure for What Ails You
An acid-cured, or Swedish, finish is hard and dries quickly, but comes at a higher cost. Only a professional can apply this finish, and the high VOCs turn some people off. However, this is a top-of-the-line finish, so luxury-minded homeowners adore it. It’s a must for premium exotic woods — as long as you can sleep somewhere else for a few days after application.
Another option is moisture-cured urethane, which is an incredibly hard finish, dries quickly and is also on the costly side. It also has high VOCs and can only be applied by an expert. It’s stronger than poly options, but there’s no DIY feasibility.
The Grand Finale
Using a penetrating oil sealer is a doable weekend project for homeowners, features a mild aroma and subtle sheen, and is wholly nontoxic. It’s not quite as strong as poly, and needs reapplications every two to three years. This has been a proven sealant for centuries, making wood moisture-proof (and you can touch up over the months as you see fit). The finish won’t scratch, but it does slowly fade away after a few months.
Aluminum oxide is an option that can last for up to 25 years, but it’s only an option with prefinished floors and is tough to refinish yourself. Of course, you can always go with paints and stains, too. No matter what type of floor you have, contact a local flooring professional today to start work on refinishing your floors.
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