OIL FINISH VS. SYNTHETIC FINISH HARDWOOD FLOORS

January 13th, 2017 by


Hardwood floors are exceptionally popular today due to their beauty, durability and cleanliness. However, the finish on hardwood floors can vary, and is actually quite important to consider when choosing your hardwood floor. Two of the leading types of finish for wood floors currently are oil finished and synthetic surface coatings (aluminum oxide, polyurethane, ect). Here we will outline the differences and benefits of these finishes.
The first thing to understand, is what these finishes are. Oil finishes are pretty self explanatory, an oil based finish. Synthetic finishes are essentially a sealing top coat. While, off hand, this may seem the preferable option, there is more to consider.
Synthetic finishes create a plastic like coating on top of the wood. This creates a very shiny floor and durable surface. However, the shine of this coating is easily, and quickly dulled by any surface scratches. Scratches will often be more obvious in this type of floor and appear white when first created. While most scratches will remain solely in the protectant layer it is necessary to recoat in order to maintain this type of floor. In order to recoat this type of floor you must do the entire floor at once, which require moving all furniture and items in the room. Finally, this floor requires specific cleaners, using the wrong type of cleaner on this type of finish can not only dull and cloud the appearance of the floor but prevent future recoats from adhering correctly.
In contrast, oil finished floors have a much more natural, matte look to them. While you might initially think oil would not protect as well as a synthetic finish, the truth is oil is able to penetrate further into the wood to protect and condition it. While it will not create a full barrier between the floor and shoes, ect. floors like this actually develop a patina, and tend to look better over time. Another huge advantage of oil finished floors is the ability to spot repair scratches and other imperfections that may occur, all it takes to repair simple damage is a cleaning and a little oil. You will still want to maintain your whole floor every few years or so, but this allows you to keep your floor looking show ready all the time! This finish is also simple to clean, with soap and water and a damp mop, no need to worry about build up.
One final thing to consider is the process of refinishing. Refinishing oil finished floors is substantially easier and less dusty. Synthetic finishes tend to create excessive dust, as the entire surface coating has to be removed to get to the wood. As oil finished floors do not have an extra layers they are quite simple to sand down and refinish, should the need arise. However, if you choose a product like our Castle Combe Grande or Originals, which are designed to look rustic and already contain imperfections, the odds of needing to refinish your floor are quite slim.
While both finishes have their advantages and disadvantages, in the end it truly depends on you, the consumer, and what is most important to you in a floor. If you prefer simple, easy to maintain with a natural look I would say oil finished is right for you. If a shiny finish with overall durability against scratches is most important to you I would suggest going with a synthetic finish. Either route you decide to go we would be happy to help you find the floor you’ve been dreaming about! Visit us at either our Palmer or Anchorage location to see the wide variety of wood floors we have available.

~You can see below how scratches affect the different materials~