Floor Finishes: Hardwax Oils and Water-Based Lacquers
Wooden floors are one of the easiest of all floor surfaces to keep clean and looking good. Unlike carpeted floors that show age regardless of care, wooden floors can be kept looking like new with minimum care.
Why not have a look at our Chauncey’s YouTube channel where we have information films on finishes for wooden floors and top tips on how to maintain your wooden floor?
Water-based lacquers will normally keep the wood a slightly lighter hue (useful for light woods such as ash or maple), whereas Hardwax Oils will give a slightly richer, more golden tone. However, the main difference between finishes is not the look of the finish itself, but that the maintenance of Hardwax Oils and Lacquers are quite different.
Hardwax Oils require on-going maintenance (simply washing the floor using the correct cleaner, which will help re-apply some oil). It is possible to just spot treat any worn or damaged areas to an oiled floor by rubbing back the damaged area of the floor and re-oiling. This is the finish to choose if you, or your customer, will carry out the routine cleaning necessary.
Lacquered floors require little on-going maintenance other than general cleaning, but once the floor is damaged the entire floor will need to be sanded (to key the surface) and re-coated. If regular maintenance is unlikely to be done then a water based lacquer may be the best finish to choose as it really requires very little on-going maintenance.
We suggest that floors likely to experience heavy wear or high moisture levels (e.g. halls, kitchens & bathrooms) are protected in one of the following two ways:
1) with a base coat of Duraseal and then two (or more) coats of our water-based two part matt polyurethane finish (Duraguard). The reason for applying a coat of Duraseal first is to stop ‘cross-bonding’. ‘Cross-Bonding’ is where the strength of the Duraguard lacquer bonds some boards together and results in occasional wider gaps caused by cumulative contraction across several boards. This is only likely to happen with solid wood as engineered boards are much more stable. As most water-based products can raise the grain in wood, it may be necessary to sand any rough areas lightly by hand between coats two and three to remove raised grain.
2) with two coats of Treatex Hardwax Oil plus Hardener.
Other floors may be protected with three coats of our standard water-based satin polyurethane finish (Duraseal) or two coats of a wax finish such as Treatex or Osmo OS Hardwax Oil (without hardener).
Coats of Duraseal, Duraguard and Treatex need to be applied thinly and can be applied with a brush or a roller. Allow about 2 hours for a coat to dry and then re-coat – it is best not to leave more than 12 hours between coats as the surface may harden too much to accept the next coat. N.B. Osmo oil cannot be used with a hardener and takes longer to dry and harden (approx. 8 hours between coats)
Routine cleaning for Polyurethane finishes:
Use a specialist wood floor cleaner (e.g. Neutral Floorclean), but not one that contains oils. NEVER oil, wax or soap a polyurethane finish as the waxy residue will inhibit re-coating. Follow the instructions for the floor cleaner, making sure that the mop is as well-wrung as possible and that there are no water spills left on the floor after cleaning.
Routine cleaning for Oiled finishes:
Use a specialist wood floor cleaner (e.g. Treatex Wash/Care or OS Wash/Care Floor Cleaner) recommended by the flooring company or the finish manufacturer. Follow the instructions for the floor cleaner carefully. Additional oil can be applied in areas of heavy wear, but be careful not to over oil. The floor can be buffed to give it a slight sheen.
N.B. The specialist cleaners for oiled floors contain soaps and oils, which need to be used at least once a month to reapply the oils and maintain the floor finish. If using on an oiled floor in a commercial location then use the specialist cleaner every time the floor is cleaned (preferably every day).
Chauncey’s Aged Antique Gold Regency Finish
Long term maintenance for Polyurethane finishes:
Polyurethane finishes will show signs of wear eventually due to scratching. When the finish looks dull or scratched it is time to re-coat the floor – it is really important to do this before the heavy wear areas are worn through to the wood. If the wood becomes dirty where the finish has been completely worn through then there is no option but to sand all the finish off the floor and start from scratch. Normally, however, all you will need to do is to give the floor a light sand and then apply a coat of the same finish as used originally (or a compatible one). Ensure that only approved cleaners have been used on the floor (e.g. Neutral Floorclean, which does not contain waxes or oils) so that the new coat of finish will bond properly.
Long term maintenance for Hardwax Oil finishes:
Hard wax oil finishes may also show signs of wear due to scratching. When the finish looks dull or scratched it is time to re-coat the floor. Apply a coat of hardwax oil in areas where the wear is apparent. It isn’t necessary to re-coat the entire floor. To repair any damage, rub the damaged area with fine steel wool and then re-coat with oil. Ensure that only approved cleaners containing the correct oils and soaps have been used on the floor. Waxed floors that have been neglected may need to be cleaned using renovating cleaners which will strip off the top layer of oil (e.g. Treatex Refreshment Cleaner or OS Liquid Wax Cleaner). The floor must then be re-finished with a new coat of hard wax oil.
N.B. Due to the fact that hard wax oil soaks into a wooden floor, once wax has been applied it is not advisable to try to change the floor coating to a polyurethane water-based lacquer.
Chauncey’s Top Maintenance Tips:
Regular maintenance requires little more than sweeping with a soft broom or vacuuming with a soft attachment on a daily basis. Walking on a dirty floor is the fastest way to damage a finish – the dirt and grit acts like sandpaper under your feet
Use door mats to stop dirt and grit from coming in. Mats should be placed at all exterior doors.
Kitchen Floors get the most wear, particularly in front of the sink. It’s a good idea to place a rug in any areas where excessive wear may occur.
Floor protector pads (e.g. soft felt pads) should be attached to the bottom of chair and table legs to prevent scratching the surface of the floor.
Castors may gouge the floor. The floor should be protected by using protector cups in which the castors sit.(e.g. glide castor grips)
Stiletto Heels may damage even a hardwood floor, particularly if the heel tips are metal.
Water can also damage your floor, so be careful to mop up any spills immediately. Raise any pot plants onto stands or trivets so that air can circulate under the container and so that water spills can be seen.
Re-coat your floor with the original finish as often as you need – every 12-18 months in heavily used areas. (See long term maintenance notes).