Hardwood Pre-Finished vs. Unfinished
Hardwood flooring is available in two different selections, prefinished which has a finish that is applied at the factory and unfinished which is installed without a finish and then a finish is applied on location after the installation is complete, either by you or the installer. The finish is the stain and protective top coat that is applied over the hardwood to give it color and make it more durable and scratch resistant. The finish enhances the beauty of the wood and makes it easier to clean and maintain. Today’s hardwood floor finishes are well advanced over those of yesteryear and are made of polyurethanes which provide a protective wear layer that helps prevent dirt, grit and moisture from damaging the hardwood. The surface finish of the hardwood also offers a variety of colors and can either have a matte or semi gloss appearance. Most hardwood flooring comes with a factory finish, since it is preferred among consumers because it is superior to any finish that you can achieve at home.
The types of floor finishes available are Aluminum Oxide finishes and the polyurethane finishes such as Moisture cure urethane, Acid cure urethane (Swedish Finish), Oil modified urethane and Water based urethane. Below is a short summary of the differences and pros and cons of each type of hardwood floor surface finish.
Prefinished Hardwood Flooring
Modern technology has produced superior hardwood flooring finishes with great benefits and appearances, which are prefinished at the factory before shipping and installation. These finishes are more durable than traditional finishes and come with a limited 20 year wear warranty. These new high quality factory finishes are infused with up to ten coats of aluminum oxide and then UV cured to harden the finishes. This process results in the ultimate protective finish that cannot be reproduced at home. As such, the aluminum oxide finishes are very durable and will last for many, many years. Aluminum Oxide finishes are offered by all of the major hardwood flooring manufacturers and are highly recommended over traditional hardwood flooring finishes for ease of cleaning and maintenance.
Custom finishes are applied to a new unfinished hardwood floor on location after installation or to an existing old floor that has been sanded and prepared for refinishing. These custom finishes allow you to express your individuality by giving you the freedom to choose from a large variety of options of color, protective surfaces, and appearances such as matte or semi gloss. That way you are not confined to pre-selected options chosen by the manufacturer and you have a wide range of possibilities to choose from, making your hardwood flooring custom designed by you.
The most popular finish to use on location after installation is oil modified urethane because it is easy to apply and dries in about eight hours. It is made from polyurethane with a solvent base and produces a brownish yellow hue with age.
Moisture-cure urethane offers the most moisture resistance and durability, will not yellow with age has the option of a matte or gloss finish. This polyurethane has a solvent base that has a strong smell. It is recommended that you hire a flooring professional to apply this finish and that you do not attempt to apply this finish yourself, due to the expertise required to apply this finish.
Acid Cure Urethane (Swedish Finish)
Acid cure urethane (Swedish finish) is a clear, durable finish that will not yellow with age. It will dry fast but has a very strong smell. Please contact a skilled professional to apply this finish and do not attempt this yourself.
Water-based urethane is a more costly polyurethane, that is clear and will not yellow over time. It does not have as strong of a smell as oil modified urethanes and dries as the water evaporates from the surface, which takes approximately three hours.
Penetrating Stain & Wax
The finish is different from the polyurethane finishes that form a protective wear layer on top of the hardwood in that it soaks into the wood, filling up the pores of the wood and then hardens when it dries to seal the wood. The wax provides a matte finish that does not scratch and wears off when the wood wears. It does not last as long as surfaces finishes and has to be reapplied in thin layers when it wears off. Do not use any water based waxes on hardwood flooring, only solvent based waxes. Use only manufacturer recommended waxes, pastes or cleaning products that are specially designed for use on hardwood flooring to clean and maintain your floors.
Traditionally wax was applied over a penetrating stain. This would allow the wood to wear instead of the finish. The advantages of traditional wax are that it is inexpensive, easy to apply and dries fast. This finish can be easily repaired and will last forever because it is in the wood itself and not a wear surface applied over the wood. Thus, the wood wears instead of the surface. The problem with traditional wax is that it wears off from time to time and you have to keep reapplying it and buffing is required. Also, water spills on a waxed surface will cause spotting, so they should be avoided and if this occurs the water must be wiped up immediately. After the wood begins to show wear, you will need to maintain it by using colored waxes. This requires a lot of care and maintenance as in times past. Although this is a durable finish and resists scratches, it requires a lot of time and energy to keep up.
At Woodwudy Wholesale Flooring, we are here for you! If you need any assistance or additional information, please call our trained flooring specialists at 1-877-966-3983.