• Wood floors are finished to enhance the beauty of the wood and to protect the wood from moisture and everyday wear and tear. Two types of coatings are used on wood floors--either a penetrating seal or a surface finish. Either will look nice if applied correctly.

    Penetrating Sealers

    The most common finish on home wood floors is a penetrating sealer. These sealers penetrate into the wood below the surface to give the floor a satin or low gloss finish. Sealers wear as the wood wears and protects the floors from chips and scratches, so it is ideal for high traffic areas like home wood floors. Sealers come in two basic types. Normal sealers are thin varnishes that are slow drying and easily applied. Fast drying sealers are also thin varnishes, but are more difficult to apply because of the fast drying time. If you don't know what you're doing, your floors can end up having lap marks and an uneven appearance. Professionals usually use the fast drying varnish sealers.

    Surface Finishes

    Surface finishes include polyurethane, shellac and varnish. They are available in a matte or high gloss finish. Polyurethane is the most popular because of its resistance to moisture and scratches and its high durability. Polyurethane comes in either moisture cured or oil modified formulas. The oil types are the easier of the two to apply.


    Varnishes work the best on brand new floors that have never been finished. This is because the varnish is difficult to patch and tends to show the lines between the old and new finish. Varnishes are based on an alkyd, epoxy, phenolic or polyurethane resin and come in either a matte or glossy finish.


    Shellac finish dries quickly, allowing more than one coat to be applied in the same day. However, shellac is not as resistant as polyurethane and varnish when it comes to moisture and everyday wear and tear.


    Once you choose the type of finish you want, make sure the surface of the wood is well-sanded, clean and smooth. Wipe the floor thoroughly with a tack cloth and turpentine to pick up every trace of dust on the floor. The temperature of the room should ideally to be approximately 70 degrees to ensure even flow of the liquid and proper curing. Make sure you have adequate ventilation for the fumes. Following the grain of the wood, apply the finish evenly with a paint roller. Allow this to dry for six to eight hours. If you want to apply a second coat, make sure again that the floor is clean of dust and debris. If you are using polyurethane, you will need to sand the first coat very lightly before the second application. Allow the second coat to dry overnight.


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