After you’ve settled on installing hardwood floors for your home, the flooring decisions don’t end there. You still need to choose from a wide variety of options to finish your hardwood floors.
First, let’s review what the natural finishes and stained finishes are. Understanding the ingredients and methods can help you make a more informed choice down the line.
Natural finishes, or varnishes, are a combination of a drying oil, a resin, and a solvent.
They have no added pigment and typically provide only a gloss or soft luster. This semi-gloss is also produced naturally on polished wood over time and is called patina.
The drying process is reliant on the evaporation of the solvent ingredient, which causes a short-lived chemical scent. The varnish cures when oils and resin combine with oxygen and polymerize.
Varnish requires a few coats, and the time it takes for the floors to harden fully is dependent on the environment, although it can take weeks.
Wood stain consists of colorants dissolved in a vehicle, a petroleum distillate or a finishing agent. Two common agents are shellac or varnish.
Stains colorants are typically pigments and/or dyes, with dyes being considered “transparent” when primarily used in the mixture. Dyes go deep into the wood and bond with it, meaning dense woods like maple can be colored darker without obscuring the wood.
Most commercial stains are pigment-based. The larger molecules of pigment do not absorb into the solvent but settle gradually over time. Pigment stains also include a small amount of a ‘binder’ which helps to adhere the pigments to the wood. A common binder would be a drying oil such as linseed oil. Semi-soft woods such as oak are best suited for pigment-based mixtures.
What Should You Choose?
Think about the surrounding environment or time of year you plan to finish your floor. If your environment has higher humidity, you might want to shy away from oil varnishes and turn to a finishing agent such as shellac.
That said, there are many aesthetic benefits to varnish, including a more accentuated wood grain and the development of a patina over time. If you enjoy a more rustic feel, explore this option.
Along with the performance characteristics of both options, you’ll want to consider aesthetics with the size and color schemes of the room. For example, darker floors make rooms smaller, so a natural finish or light-colored stain is better for a smaller space.
And, of course, natural finishes are more environmentally friendly because they release less volatile organic compounds (VOC). If you have a family member with asthma or other health or breathing issues, talk to an expert about which finish might be right for you.
Dublin Carpet has a team of flooring experts on board to help you choose the right hardwood finishing for your floors. Let us help you find the ideal solution for your needs with expert advice, professional service and in store sample flooring and options.