What Hardwood Floor Finish is Most Durable?

What Hardwood Floor Finish is Most Durable?

Your hardwood has lost its shine, and it’s time for a little refinishing.

With so many types of finishes on the market, deciding on the right one can be a brain teaser.

The finish you choose for your hardwood can affect the value of your home. You won’t want people giving you odd looks when they see your wood floor.

Finishing constantly can be a headache. It’s also an expensive process, so you’ll want to choose one that lasts for a long time.

Finished Wood Floor

Consider the amount of traffic your floor receives everyday. If you have children who play on it constantly or pets moving about, wear and tear would be higher. In such cases, your top concern would be durability.

There are many finishing options for you to consider. Included on the list are:

  • Water based
  • Surface sealers
  • Lacquer
  • Oil based urethane
  • Penetrating finishes
  • Swedish finishes

Each of these are valid options, depending on your need. So which is the most durable?

Water Based Urethane

Water based urethane dries by evaporation. It gives your floor a clear finish and has UV inhibitors that delay the color changing process of wood. Many people use it on maple as it helps to bring out its natural color.

Using this hardwood floor finish has other advantages. For example, it:

  • Dries easily.
  • Has less odor.
  • Is easy to clean.
  • Is cost friendly.

However, they don’t last as long as other polyurethanes because they evaporate fast. They have to be applied more often, which means higher costs in the long run.

You may also want to consider surface sealers made of solvent and resin. When they are applied, the resin remains after the solvent evaporates. This hardens to form a layer that protects your hardwood.


A good surface sealer is shellac.

Shellac is formed when the droppings of the lac bug are combined with denatured alcohol. An old favorite of woodworkers, it makes the floor shine naturally and it:

  • Is inexpensive
  • Dries up fast
  • Doesn’t yellow.

However, you’ll need to apply it constantly because it dries quickly and does not last long.


Lacquer is a good choice if you find the finishing process tedious. It’s easily sprayed on floors and dries fast. However, it has toxic fumes and is not the most durable finish.

Oil Base Urethane

Oil based urethane is probably the most used finish for wood floors because they provide a glossy shine. Many different sheens are available.Although they take longer to dry, they last and are good to use on floors which get high traffic.

A penetrating finish is a good choice if you want to stain your floor. These are made of tung, linseed or other natural oils.

Excess use of penetrating finishes may cause seepage through gaps, or “bleedback”. Notwithstanding, Its application can last for a good number of years.

For very high traffic floors, try a swedish finish. An alcohol based varnish discovered in the 1960s, it is highly flammable.

Many still choose to apply it because it has been noted as being very durable. All it takes to maintain its shine is a little light mopping.

If durability ranks high on your list of needs, try an oil based, penetrating or swedish floor finish.

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