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Natural Wood Flooring – Oil Finish vs. Urethane


The Fantastic Floor proudly offers solid and engineered wood flooring for clients looking to upgrade their home. We are dedicated to excellence in both product and customer service, which is why we’re pleased to provide the following tips on oil and urethane finishing.

Both finishing methods stem from two different approaches to wood. Oil finish permeates the wood, fortifying and sealing each fiber. Urethane protects the wood by creating a plastic-like barrier over it. With an oiled floor, you’re walking on the surface of the treated wood, whereas with urethane, there is a protective layer between your feet and the wood flooring.

While there are pros and cons to each method, the best decision will be made by considering how the floor will be used, maintained and cleaned.

Pros of Urethane Finished Floors

Urethane has been the most common finish for many years, as it is well known for its extreme durability. Many of the top hardwood flooring manufacturers use urethane with aluminum oxide, which lends another element of protection. A typical urethane floor has 9 to 11 coats of finish on every plank for ultimate strength.

This highly durable coating on the wood makes urethane finished floors extremely easy to clean using a simple regimen of sweeping and mopping with an approved wood floor cleaner.

Cons of Urethane Finished Floors

Interestingly, the durability of the urethane finish is also its primary downside. Should a scratch or gouge be deep enough to break through the finish, which will most likely happen at some point, especially in instances of extensive use and activity (pets, children, parties, etc.) it can be difficult to re-coat. The method of repair will either mean complete board replacement or resurfacing of all adjacent areas as it is difficult to blend the finish on a repaired area with the un-refinished areas around it.

Urethane-finished floors generally look the best the day they are installed. With use, they will become scratched, scuffed and worn, but since you are walking on the urethane finish (rather than the wood itself) the damage is usually white-colored scratches on the finish. Repair for these damages involves the removal of all furniture from the space and applying an even, uniform fresh coat of finish – typically done every 10-12 years.

Pros of Oil Finished Floors

Oil finishes have long been popular in Europe and are skyrocketing in popularity around the U.S, due to their natural aesthetics, composition, and low sheen. This rise in popularity has come about with the rustic, European-style wood flooring movement, and as this flooring increases in availability, the trend shows no signs of slowing down.

Oil finishes highlight and accentuate the natural beauty of wood. In addition, they are plant-based, VOC Free, and eligible for LEED credits, which introduces less man-made, toxic chemicals into your home.

While not as durable as a urethane finish, oil finishes do offer greater flexibility in repairing any damage. For this reason, more and more commercial projects, including restaurants, hotels and the like, are opting for oil finishes for their wood flooring. When scratches occur on oiled floors, they can be easily buffed and blended away. Even with larger abrasions, one area of an oiled floor can be sanded down, re-stained and re-oiled—and soon after the oil dries it will blend nicely with the sheen of adjacent areas. This allows for repairing of just the damaged area, rather than the entire floor. Combined with the more textured face treatments that are popular with oil finished floors, even with repairs and years of use, Oil finished floors never have to be sanded and refinished like Urethane, and many believe that oil finished floors only get more beautiful with time.

Cons of Oil Finished Floors

The primary downside of oil-finished floors is the specific and critical maintenance they require. A normal cleaning requires a special cleaner that has oil in the soap, or the floor will dry out and splinter. While buying a different cleaning product is not difficult, the biggest inconvenience with oil finished floors is the quarterly cleaning that is needed when the floors start to become dull in luster. This quarterly cleaning involves the following steps:

  • apply an oil refresher diluted in a bucket of water
  • use a string mop to apply to the floor
  • allow floors to dry on their own

In 7 to 10 years, when a Urethane floor would normally need to be entirely sanded and refinished, all that is required of your oil-finished flooring is a two-step process that can be done by an individual without hiring a professional:

  • use a wood cleaner to open the pores of the wood and remove all contaminants
  • buff in a master oil to re-oil the floor

You can even introduce a ting of color to the oil to revitalize the color of your natural wood flooring. Some see this cleaning regimen as a hassle, but ultimately it is superior to the total long-term cost and hindrance of fully refinishing Urethane-finished floors.

Choosing The Best Finish For Your Wood Flooring 

At the end of the day, both oil and urethane-finished wood flooring have many pros and cons, but each can be a lasting investment in the beauty and function of your space with proper care and maintenance. The best way to choose a finish for your natural wood flooring is to consider the use of the space, its care and maintenance requirements, and the overall aesthetic you desire.

Hardwood Floor Installation & More At The Fantastic Floor

Here at The Fantastic Floor, you will find a wonderful selection of wood flooring options, including natural wood flooring in the oil and urethane finishes. We encourage you to browse our engineered flooring catalog or give us a call at 1-888-448-9663 with any questions related to choosing a finish for your wood flooring. You can also reach out to us at our contact page. We look forward to providing you with fantastic floors that you and your family will enjoy for years to come!

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