Hardwood Flooring
Hardwood Flooring

Almost just as important as choosing the right contractor is selecting a finishing system for protecting your wood flooring estimate. There have been a lot of advances in wood floor finish. We are going to cover some basic elements of the wood floor finishing process and then go into more detail about specific categories of finish in subsequent pages.

Once a wood floor is properly sanded, the next step involves choosing a color.

The systems for creating color are quite elaborate, but the most common method is a penetrating stain such as Dura Seal. Staining a wood floor is not necessary if you like the natural color of the wood. Stain does provide a level of protection and seals the wood fibers. There are other methods for achieving color such as colored oils, reactive stains, and dyes, but their application is considerably more difficult. Your average Sacramento wood floor contractor is not likely to have the required skills and knowledge to apply these systems, so choose wisely.

Once your wood floor has the right color, you can treat it with either a surface finish or a penetrating oil/hardwax finish.

Surface finishes are by far the most commonly known and the frequently associated term is “urethane” finish. It gets quite involved when discussing surface finishes, so I have dedicated an entire page to discussing the various types of surface finish and pros and cons of each system.

Penetrating oils/Hardwax oils are literally exploding onto the scene because they are extremely easy to service for wear or damage and because their appearance is very “real” looking. These finishes encompass a majority of the wood floor finish market in Europe and are now gaining popularity in America. This type of finish typically has a lower sheen and requires occasional “refreshing” with a buffer annually to maintain their sheen. However, penetrating oils do not scratch and scuff like a surface finish. Although their look is not as traditional, their enhanced livability and pet-friendly characteristics are why they are gaining ground rapidly.

If you elect for a more common surface finish, the key to durability relies in a combination of elements. You may here some contractors make a blanket statement that the finish they use is the best or longest lasting, which is not entirely true. What makes a wood floor finish durable is a combination of factors: application rate, sanding quality, resin content, and catalyzation method.

Application rate– Wood floor finish has a specific application rate for optimal durability. If a finish manufacturer specifies a finish should be applied at 350 square feet per gallon, but a contractor applies the finish at 600 square feet per gallon, then the client is getting a less durable finish coat applied.

Sanding quality-We have already covered this, but a floor that has been sanded and still has a coarse surface will absorb finish considerably. So instead of the finish resting on top of the floor, the finish now gets buried into deep sanding grooves in the floor from inadequate sanding.

Resin content-Related to application rate, but resin content is the percent of resin (the stuff protecting the floor) that is in a gallon of finish. The trick is that higher resin content can increase surface tension of a finish making it more difficult to apply. Some manufacturers will decrease solids content of a finish to decrease manufacturing costs and to aid in ease of use of the finish. Some floor finish can have a solids content of 26% per gallon, while other finishes have a solids content nearing 50% per gallon. So the composition of the finish has great deal to do with longevity of your wood floors.

Catalyzation method– Most commonly available surface finishes rely on either air or a chemical catalyst to harden and cure the finish. Traditional polyurethane is a finish that relies upon air to cure and harden, so it is more susceptible to premature wear. Chemically catalyzed floor finish dries and cures faster and is far less impacted by conditions such as weather. Using a chemically catalyzed finish adds to the cost of a project, but shortens the move-in time and adds additional durability to your floors.

In an effort to sell jobs, contractors are often guilty of touting their preferred finish as ultra-tough, which tends to convey the idea of minimal maintenance on behalf of homeowners. There are a lot of exceptional wood floor finishes available, but all of them require attention to maintenance if you want longevity for your wood floors. After your job is completed, you will need to remove fine particulates from the floor on a regular basis. Sand, dirt, and small rocks can get embedded in shoes and shorten the life of a floor. We recommend walk-off mats and small rugs at high traffic areas and frequent entry spots in the home. Felt pads should be secured under any furniture that moves frequently such as dining chairs. Any furniture that has rolling wheels can crush the wood fibers of a floor, so area rugs should be under rolling chairs.

Pets are the single biggest concern regarding wood floors. The formula is simple, groom their nails on a regular basis. I have not identified a floor finish that can stand up to playing tug of war or fetch inside of your home with your dog, so please use caution. This is typically too extreme for a floor finish and is not warrantable.

We really hope that the information on this page helps you decode the details necessary to have your wood floors refinished so that they last for a long time. Everything that we have written for your education is generic in nature so that you understand our intent. We simply intend to help you level the playing field when getting estimates.