Wax Wood Finish

What is the best finish to use on wood flooring?

How do I choose the right product to finish my floor?

After having to pick the type of flooring, pick the supplier and then pick the flooring installer/floor finisher, sometimes these final decisions like the right hardwood floor finish can seem overwhelming! There are a lot of choices out there when it comes to a finish for your hardwood flooring. We often get asked which is the best wood floor finish. There are many choices but not all hardwood finishes are created equal. We wanted to provide our customers and other homeowners with some insight in the best choices for their flooring. Lets review the options.

Wood Wax Finish

Wax Wood Finish
Easy to applyNot as durable as polyurethane finishes
Low Luster/MatteStains more easily
Penetrates into woodNeeds regular upkeep (refinishing)
Mild odorMust be completely removed before applying a polyurethane finish

Wax finishes have been around for a long time. It was the main type of finish chosen through the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s until polyurethane became available in the 1970’s. There are several pros to choosing a wax wood finish. They include:

  • increased stain resistance – it limits the absorption of spills to keep floors from staining.
  • minimizes minor imperfections- wax finish helps fade and minimize the appearance of superficial scratches, dings, and scuffs marks.
  • prolongs your wood floor’s life- wax increases the hardiness of floors and allows them to potentially last years longer than un-waxed floors if regularly maintained.

It can be applied as a DIY job but it is labor intensive. If you are specifically looking for a matte look to your pine or hardwood floors, then it is the right  wood finish choice for you. However, beware that it does take more upkeep and doesn’t seal the wood as well as other finishes.                        


Polyurethane Oil-Based Finish

Oil Based Polyurethane Finish
From thefamilyhandyman.com
Less expensive than water-based polyurethaneLong drying time (8 to 10 hours between coats)
Extremely toughHigh odor during application; high VOCs
Easy to applyGets yellow with age (benefit to some)

Oil based polyurethane finishes have been used in the wood floor finishing industry since they came on the scene in the 1970’s. It is a very hardy oil based finish that will protect the wood better than wax. If you are replacing flooring in your home and your home is from the the 70’s through the 90’s, you will want to pick this to match the other flooring in your home. There is a good chance that this was the type of finish used.

There are several sheens available and really the sheen is based on personal preference. It ranges from from high gloss to satin. Chances are a professional flooring finisher will recommend this type of finish because of its low cost. If the project is being finished before moving in, then it could be a good choice. However, we feel like its negatives outweigh the pros especially if it is a remodel job while living in the residence. The long drying time and high odor levels makes home flooring refinishing a long, smelly procedure.

Polyurethane Water-Based Finish

Fast drying time (2 to 4 hours between coats)More expensive than oil polyurethane
Low odor; low VOCs (eco-friendly)Slightly less tough than oil polyurethane
Doesn’t yellow like oil based polyurethane 
Easy to apply; good for DIYers 

Water-Based Polyurethane is the winner in our books. It is hardy and will protect those wood floors. It also dries quickly which means you can re-finish and not necessarily have to move out of the property (depending on individual sensitivity). Some oil base finishes will yellow over time.This option will not, ensuring it is a long term investment that will pay off. On top of all that, the low VOC means you are making a healthier choice for your family and the environment. Similar to oil based polyurethane, the sheen is based on personal preference. Professionals Tip: For high traffic areas, pick satin or a low gloss option to help keep floors looking new.


  • Thanks for the information on the different types of wood finishes, such as how oil based polyurethane can have different sheens and is inexpensive. Taking all the different aspects into consideration, such as the look, how to apply it, price, and the outcome would probably be important when choosing which one to use on your flooring. I’d imagine that having a professional apply it could help you save time and make sure it’s done correctly so the outcome looks and works great. If you get a new floor installed, it would probably be a good idea to talk to a professional about the different types of wood finishes they offer and how they’d work with your type of flooring.

    July 25, 2017

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