Best Hardwood Floor Finishes with their Pros & Cons

Choosing the right hardwood flooring is one of the very first hurdles homeowners need to cross. But once that’s done, it is time to start thinking about hardwood flooring finishing, which would be the second milestone to cover. Hardwood flooring, like solid oak flooring and engineered oak flooring, have varying levels of finishes, which can determine their wear and tear capabilities, durability, ease of application, amongst other things.

Water based Polyurethane:

Ideal for: Flooring types which need a good, clear finish.


  • It’s easy to apply and clean-up. 
  • Extremely durable
  • Has low odour
  • Smooth, shiny finish
  • Does not yellow with age
  • Ranks high in environment friendly category


  • Since it’s a clear finish, scratches and scrapes are highlighted.

Don’t get fooled by this finish’s milky white colour in the beginning. The finish is quite smooth and clear, and will resist yellowing, even after a few years. It’s a durable finish, which is moisture resistant and easy to care for. It’s a relatively environment friendly finish, which means it releases less volatile organic compounds than some of the other options in the market.

It dries rather quickly, and has little to almost no odour, which is going to be a plus point for every DIY enthusiast out there, planning to finish the floors on their own. You will need to wait only 2-4 hours between each coat, but do wait for at least 48 hours, before putting furniture back on the floors.

Oil-Based Polyurethane

Ideal for: Areas with high foot traffic


  • Light on the pocket
  • Ranks high on durability
  • Moisture resistant
  • Easy to maintain and clean


  • Takes time to dry
  • Tends to yellow over a period of time
  • Flammable

Made out of linseed oil, synthetic resins and plasticizers, an oil-based polyurethane finish is ideal for commercial areas, where floorings experience high foot traffic. Thankfully, you won’t have to bother about refinishing the floors as often as you would need to with some other flooring options.

Oil based finishes have a tinge of yellow from the beginning, which will get darker after a while. It’s available in high-glossy, satin and semi-glossy finishes. The finish has a very strong odour; do make sure you wear a respirator, in case you plan to finish the floors on your own. It takes about 8-10 hours for a single coat to dry, so prepare yourself accordingly. 

Conclusion Even though there are a few other options in the market, the ones mentioned above are the two most widely used options for home owners. Depending on your need of the hour, budget, durability and ease of access, you can pick and choose the option which suits your requirements to the tee.

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