Your floors are the hardest working space in your home. They are walked on and trampled and take spills, dirty paws and high heels. If they are chipped, broken, stained or slippery, they can injure anyone who walks on them. If you want your hardwood floors to look beautiful and last for decades, proper finishing is a must. There are many hardwood finishes, each with its advantages and disadvantages. In this blog, we discuss what natural oil finishes are and what makes them so appealing.
What’s a Natural Oil Finish and How Does It Work?
Basically, there are three types of finishes: oil-based polyurethanes, water-based polyurethanes and natural oils. Unlike oil and water-based polyurethane finishes that serve as protective coatings by sitting on top of the wood, natural oils penetrate deep and harden it. This provides a low-sheen matte effect that retains the natural grain and texture of a hardwood floor. You can opt for either a clear finish or colourful stains.
Why Natural Oil Finish Is a Good Option
Natural oil finishes owe their popularity to a muted, natural matte effect. Unlike glossy polyurethane surfaces that make blemishes more apparent, natural oils enhance the innate beauty of your hardwood floors and hide scratches, scuffs and dirt. This is because the oil blends with the wood and becomes part of it. Natural oil-finished floors also feel warm under foot.
While polyurethane finishes stay on the surface and protect against regular damage, natural oils soak into the wood to create a watertight seal. Certain penetrating oils contain special hardening agents that enhance durability. Regular damage like scratches and dents can be repaired easily, providing a huge benefit over other types of finishes. With polyurethane finishes, complete floor replacement or re-coating can cost you a lot of time and money. Penetrating oils, on the other hand, simply need a thorough cleaning (with a solution) or re-oiling to regain its original look and functionality.
With polyurethane finishes, there are concerns about feathering, streaking and lap lines that can result in a poor finish. Penetrating oils, by contrast, are easy to apply, and there’s no such concern about a faulty finish. You either need a lambswool brush or a roller to buff the oil into the wood. However, if you want the oil finishing to be perfect and long-lasting, it’s best to hire an experienced flooring professional.
Hardwood flooring is high maintenance, no matter what finish you choose. That said, oiled floors require fewer repairs and less re-sanding with due care and maintenance. A urethane floor finish needs to be dry mopped or vacuumed. Damp mops are seldom required, and regular damp mopping can actually cause dust and dirt to create a haze on the surface. Moreover, these contaminants may cause adhesion issues during recoating. Oil floor finishes, on the other hand, can be damp mopped with a mild detergent and warm water solution. You may also use a special cleaning product, suggested by the manufacturer, to maintain its lustrous look. When cleaning, make sure you use a non-scratching microfiber mop to avoid any damage. With proper care and maintenance, you won’t have to repair your floors often.
Safe for the Environment
Like paints, polyurethane finishes often contain high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are toxic in nature and can cause serious health problems. They may also contain additives that speed drying and have fungicidal properties. All of these affect your home’s indoor air quality and family’s health. Natural oils, on the other hand, are not as volatile and don’t harm the environment. They are the perfect choice for those who care about the environment and want to protect it for future generations.
However, like any other hardwood finish, it has certain disadvantages. Let’s take a look at them.
The Downside of Natural Wood Flooring
- Linseed oil and a few other natural oil finishes tend to give a yellow or blonde tint to some woods.
- Oil finishes are generally easier to dent and scratch than polyurethane finishes. While some natural oils have water-resistant properties, others (especially linseed oil) are often poor at resisting water.
- If something heavy drops on the floor, the damage occurs directly to the wood plank, rather than to the protecting surface.
- Penetrating oil finishes often produce a strong odour that may irritate your nose, throat or skin.
- Natural oil finishes offer little resistance to solvent damages from substances like alcohol, cleansers and urine. If wiped quickly, this shouldn’t be much of a headache, but if you have a lot of pets (especially dogs), you may want to consider a different finish.
- The initial oil finishing process may involve several coats, requiring you to stay out of the house for several days. Depending on the climate, each coat can take up to 48 hours to dry.
Choosing the right finish for your hardwood floors requires a little homework, especially if you are doing it for the first time. However, the results are always rewarding. Hopefully, this blog has provided some information that will help you with your decision.