What’s your favorite finish?

People ask me all the time to recommend a finish for their wood floors. I personally love hand-rubbed wax and European oil finishes. But what I like personally may not be the best choice for your home or your family’s lifestyle. It’s important to consider how you live and to what sort of long-term maintenance you are willing to commit.

All floors require routine maintenance such as sweeping and dust-mopping. But long-term, different finishes have different maintenance requirements.

Wax and oil finishes can be touched up and brought back to their original luster with relative ease. To keep a floor looking its best, I often recommend that my clients schedule annual maintenance for their hand-rubbed floors. With regular care, a wax or oil finish will provide many years of warm, subtle beauty. Yet these natural finishes don’t hold up well to water, so they may not be the best choice for a family kitchen or busy powder room.

In areas where there is likely to be a lot of moisture, I usually recommend a polyurethane finish, which remains on the surface of the wood, thereby providing protection. There are a variety of polyurethanes and synthetic resins on the market today. The choice for a specific finish depends on the wood species, stain color, and other design elements. The main drawback to all surface finishes is that, over time, they will scratch and slightly discolor.

Choosing a finish for your wood floor isn’t difficult, it just requires that you consider the amount and type of traffic in your home and your long-term maintenance objective. It may be, in fact, that different rooms are finished differently. Often I recommend wax in the majority of the house but polyurethane in the baths and kitchens.

A fine wood floor finished appropriately, should work for you and your family, bringing you pleasure, not anxiety over little scratches and spilled milk.

Greg Schenck
April 2011