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4 Popular Timber Floor Finishes

Before you choose the type of timber floor coating you use on your timber flooring, you should understand some of the main features and benefits of the different options available. In this post we look at 4 of the most popular timber floor coating options. Read on to learn more about these types of finishes.

Solvent based Polyurethane

There are many options for finishes for timber floors, but a traditional solvent-based polyurethane finish is one of the most durable and long-lasting coatings which helps to preserve the beautiful look of your timber floors for years of heavy wear and tear. Hence why it’s still one of the most popular options for floor coating products in Townsville, QLD.

Another great feature of solvent based polyurethane coatings is that they’re moisture resistant making them a great option for wet areas of the home such as a kitchen. This coating is best suited for those seeking a gloss or semi-gloss finish. However, if you’re after a matte or satin finish you should probably consider other coating options.

Generally speaking, 2 or 3 coats of solvent-based polyurethane are applied after any previous coatings on the timber floorboards have been sanded back to bare timber to allow the best and most even coverage and to ensure maximum adhesion.

The downside of solvent-based polyurethane is the longer drying time compared to water-based polyurethane or the other coating options.  Additionally solvent based polyurethane produces a strong solvent odour that tends to linger for a couple of days after the job has been completed. So, this may not be the best option for you if you or someone within the household suffers from respiratory issues.

Additionally, solvent-based polyurethanes exposed to UV tends to discolour over time. Over the years it tends to take on a slight amber appearance which is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact you might prefer the colour but it’s just something to be aware of that over time the colour of the timber will change slightly.

water based polyurethane timber floor coating
Polyurethane timber floor coating in process

Water based Polyurethane

Historically water-based polyurethanes were inferior in terms of their durability compared to solvent-based polyurethanes but in more recent years the technology has improved and now the high-quality water-based products are just as durable as solvent-based products.

Water based polyurethane is more transparent than oil-based polyurethane so the difference in in colour after applying the product is more subtle than its solvent-based counterpart. Additionally, water-based products don’t tend to change colour over time like solvent-based products. This makes it the choice coating when you wish to maintain as much of the natural colour of the timber as possible.

Another attractive feature of water-based polyurethane is that the drying time is much less compared to traditional solvent-based polyurethane. This means floor sanding and coating jobs can be completed in a shorter time frame. In addition to faster drying times, it’s low VOCs mean that it doesn’t give off a strong odour for days or weeks like solvent-based polyurethanes are known to do, making it the good option for those who are living in the property during or shortly after the timber floors have been coated.

The main drawback of water-based polyurethane coatings is their higher price point being approximately 30-45% more expensive compared to solvent-based polyurethane.

solvent based polyurethane timber floor coating
Timber floors receiving a coat of polyurethane

Penetrating oils

If you don’t want a high gloss shiny mirror like finish but prefer a much more subtle and natural look then penetrating oils might be the type of coating, you’re after. Penetrating oils are often the go to product for those interested in preserving the natural beauty of wood.

Once applied to the timber flooring surface the penetrating oils, do as the name suggests, penetrates the wood grain and hardens over time when exposed to oxygen. Since it becomes a part of the surface of the wooden floor it’s not as sensitive to surface scratches and marks from wear and tear and traditional polyurethane coatings. Additionally, and scratches and marks that do appear are less obvious on a matte finish compared to a glossy finish as is the case with polyurethane coatings.

Another great feature of penetrating oils is that sections of worn-out flooring can be spot treated and repaired if required, unlike polyurethane coatings which must be fully sanded and refinished.

Being a natural product, they don’t emit VOCs so they’re a great option for those seeking an environmentally friendly product.

The major downsides of penetrating oils are they’re not as durable as polyurethane coatings and need recoating more regularly so the costs over the long term make it a more expensive option.

penetrating oils help preserve the natural timber look
Penetrating oils provide a more natural finished look compared to polyurethane coatings


Hard wax oils are a great option for homes with timber floors. Hard wax oil has a low-matte finish, which allows the natural beauty of the wood to show through. Hard wax also repels water, making it a suitable solution for outdoor wood floors too!

It can be combined with stains to achieve the desired colouration you want and the best part is that it can be walked on just a couple of hours after application.

The major downside of a wax finish is that application is very labour intensive, it’s not as durable as polyurethane coatings and it darkens/yellows over time.

Choosing the right type of timber floor coating

For the vast majority of Townsville property owners’ polyurethane coatings will be the first choice due primarily to its high durability which makes it a low maintenance and cost-effective option in the long run. However, if you’re seeking an alternative more natural finish then penetrating oils or wax could be the right choice for you. If you would like more information about the different finishes available to you and tailored expert advice to suit your needs, then feel free to give us a call and we’d be happy to discuss the best options for you given your situation and budget.

Or call us to schedule a free measure and quote to get your timber floors refinished at your property in Townsville QLD.

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About Us

We’re your local Townsville’s floor sanding experts. For years we’ve been slowly working away transforming Townsville homes through our passion for revitalising old timber floors to their former beauty with our professional floor sanding and polishing services. If you would like expert advice and a free quote to restore your timber floor in Townsville, simply give us a call today!

(07) 4428 7334

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