Different types of wooden floor finishes

UK Home Improvement

Different Types of Wooden Floor Finishes

There are a lot of different types of wood floor finishes. Some are designed to provide protection, while others enhance the natural beauty of the wood. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to choosing a finish for wooden flooring. This guide will help you understand how each type works so that you can find the best option for yourself and your home.

Hard Wax Oil

Hard Wax Oil is a natural finish made from beeswax. It is a good choice for floors that get a lot of traffic and require easy maintenance. Hard Wax Oil has no drying time so it can be applied and walked on immediately after application. This is ideal for unfinished wooden floors that are in need of an immediate protective coating, or for those who want to apply their own finish themselves.

Hard Wax Oil is a perfect finish for softwood grains because the wax acts as an emollient, which helps fill in any gaps between the grain, making the floor appear more seamless and uniform. This makes hard wax oil ideal for pine, cedar, cypress, redwood or any other soft-grained wood flooring materials.

However, this type of finish isn’t recommended if you have hard-grained floors like oak or maple as they are less porous and don’t allow enough penetration into the wood. If your floor has a very dense grain pattern like these two species do then using a traditional polyurethane finish would be your best bet as it provides better sealing capabilities than hard waxes can achieve


One of the most popular finishes for wooden floors is Polyurethane. A polyurethane finish is water-based so dries quickly. In addition to its ease of application, Polyurethane is a great choice for floors that are exposed to water and high levels of traffic. It provides a high level of protection from water, but does not provide the same level of protection from wear and tear as oil-based or wax finishes. 

Polyurethane is available in two different types: satin and semi-gloss. Satin produces a duller finish than semi-gloss and should be used if you wish to avoid an extra shiny look on your flooring.


Lacquer is a clear, hard finish that dries quickly and can be applied over existing finishes.

While lacquer is not as durable as polyurethane, it is an economical choice for someone who wants to protect their floor from everyday wear and tear. Lacquer also tends to be more susceptible to water damage, so it should be used with care if you live somewhere likely to flood or have household members who are prone to spilling things on the floor.


Shellac is a natural resin secreted by the female lac bug. It is similar to amber in appearance and texture. Unlike other finishes made with petroleum products, Shellac is a natural wooden floor finish. 

For centuries, Shellac was used as an effective wood finish, insecticide and polish. However since it is made from a non-renewable resource (the lac bug), its status in modern times has fallen out of favour compared to other products such as varnish or polyurethane

The advantage of shellac over other types of finishes for wooden flooring is that it doesn’t yellow over time like alternative options do and can be easily re-applied if needed.

Tung Oil

Tung oil is a vegetable oil derived from the seeds of the tung tree. It’s been used for centuries as a finish for wood, and it has many advantages over other finishes.

It’s a natural wooden floor finish containing no harmful chemicals or toxins which make it an ideal solution for flooring with children and pets in the house. 

Tung oil is also easy to apply because all you need are some rags and an application brush or roller. Just apply the tung oil in several coats according to the manufacturer’s instructions until your wood is nice and shiny.


Varnish is a liquid that’s applied to wood that dries with a hardened finish. It provides a glossy protective coating and can be applied over other finishes, such as polyurethane or lacquer. It’s a great option if you want the look of a glossy floor without the hassle of having to sand your current flooring down and reapply a finish.

Varnishes can be used on all types of wood, so no matter your taste in decorating, there’s one that will match it.

Wood Stains, Dyes and Pigments

There are many kinds of wood stains, dyes and pigments.

Wood stains are made from natural dyes that are created by extracting colour from plants or minerals. These products can be used on any type of wood surface, including hardwood floors. They’re quite flexible in their ability to cover up old finishes while creating a new look for your flooring.

Wax & Wax Polishes

Wax is a protective coating that helps seal your wooden floors and keeps it from drying out. It’s easy to apply and can be applied in layers if you want to build up a thicker coating. Wax polishes are used to bring out the natural aesthetics of the wood by removing any surface scratches or stains.

The Different Wooden Floor Finishes

As you can tell, when it comes to wood floor finishes, there are a variety of options to choose from. Each type of finish provides a different level of protection from water and wear and well as being more suitable to different types of wooden flooring. 

An alternative wooden floor finish are clear sealers, designed specifically for outdoor use; these protect against mildew (which can cause mould), moisture damage, scratches and dings caused by pets or children playing around with toys

If you’re looking for the best way to protect your hardwood floor, there are many options that will work well, no matter what type of wood finish. If you’re still unsure about the best treatment, contact a specialist. Whether you’re looking for wooden floor finishing in Manchester, London or Bristol there will be a local professional that will be able to help and assist.


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