Guide to Floor Types and Finishes

Prefinished Floors

Pro:

Remarkable improvement in finish and milling quality have made some good brands of prefinished floors more durable than sand-on-site floors. Requires only installation and as a result saves much labour and cost on small jobs (less than 200 ft2) Especially true to stained prefinished floors, uniform colour control, no sanding scratches.

Cons:

Nothing can be done about the 'over wood' between boards. The deeper "V" groove, the more collection of debris. The shallower the eased edge, can chip over time and feel bumpy to stocking feet. Both create gaps between the boards. Requires more skill to install than unfinished floors. Can be permanently damaged during a sloppy installation. Great responsibility is borne by installer to find out if there are any defective boards. It's too late if these are installed. Finish is difficult to touchup, and may be impossible to disguise.


Unfinished (Sand-On-Site)

Pro:

Dark floor shows scuffs and dirt the least. Dye and pigment stains enhances the grain of the wood.

Cons:

Requires great skill to repair damaged finish. Requires great skill to prepare, stain, and finish wood with consistent and even results. Because of two part process, small jobs (200 ft2 or less), can be more costly than prefinished. Requires great skill to sand (especially for staining), and finish wood so that it has that smooth glow of a table top. Some professionals fall very short of this ideal. This is not a job you want to do over again. Each sanding removes decades of life from the thickness of the floor.




Laquer Finish (Nitrocellulose)

Pro:

Its very durable. Dries quickly, non-yellowing, easy 2-3 coats in one day.

Con:

Difficult to apply. Requires professional, is moderately resistant to Chemicals and water.


Natural or Clear Finish

Pro:

Give the floor a bright clean appearance and is easy for the "do-it-yourselfer" to repair.

Con:

Looks less formal than a stained floor and can clash (colour wise) with the dark woodwork.


Polyurethane

Pro:

Achieves the highest gloss of any finish, also available in satin finish, also is very durable and very resistant to water and some chemicals.

Con:

Requires 3-5 days for 3 coats. Scuffing between coats, and touchups are difficult.


Stained Finish

Pro:

Dark floor shows scuffs and dirt the least. Dye and pigment stains enhances the grain of the wood.

Con:

Requires great skill to repair damaged finish. Requires great skill to prepare, stain, and finish wood with consistent and even results.


Water borne finishes

Pro:

2-3 coats done in one day. Very clear, pale finish. Can be tinted for a more traditional look.

Con:

Unless catalyzed or NMP solvent finish is used, it is not durable at all. More durable in catalyzed form, but very poisonous. Moderate skill level to apply.