A common question we hear is “What is the best finish system for my hardwood floor?” At 12th & Oak we offer four options to best fit the needs and budget of each floor and household. I will explain some of the differences here in order for you to make an informed decision about what finish you should choose for your hardwood floors and budget.
Oil-Based Finish System
Oil-based Polyurethane or (OMU Oil Modified Urethane) has been a staple in the Flooring industry for years. This is a good finish that is durable and works well on most hardwood Floors. It gives the wood a rich depth and glow.
The manufacturer that we feel is leading the industry in the OMU category is Fabulon. We have used almost all OMUs in the field and have come to the conclusion that Fabulon provides superior durability and will allow you to extend the lifetime of your finish between maintenance coats and refinishing, ultimately saving you much more money in the long run. There are many less expensive products this category that other contractors use to have a lower price than us, but we will not sacrifice the quality of your floors to save a few cents.
Some of the drawbacks to OMU finishes are that it is high in VOC’s and has longer dry and cure times. The chemicals in OMU are very strong and the smell will remain in the house for a few days. If you or your family has any allergies or sensitivity to chemicals and smells in the home, we do not recommend this finish system. It is a slightly softer finish which Ambers or yellows over time. With certain species of hardwood such as Maple, and certain lighter stain colors it is not recommended to use this Finish System.
Water-based Finish Systems
The most popular types of finish in the industry today are water-based finishes. Because they use water instead of a chemical solvent it creates very low VOCs, no off-putting odor, and dries and cures extremely fast. By using water-based finishes we can save days on the total timeline for the job by applying more than one coat per day. Water-based Finishes also allow you to get back to normal living much faster than OMU. Water-based Finishes dry clear and do not amber (yellow/darken) over time like OMU does. A lot of research and development goes into the ever-evolving world of waterborne finishes. There are big differences in quality and performance between manufacturers and manufacturers lineup of finishes. The two most common types of waterborne finishes are: 1 component and 2 component (2k).
1 Component Water Based System
1 component waterborne finishes do not require an additional hardener or catalyst. 1 Component Finishes are less expensive to produce and use. There is a large gap between good finishes and ones that are subpar. But there are some high-quality 1 component finishes that perform better than many companies 2k Finishes. Loba Easy Finish is our number one choice for 1 component Water Base Finish. Loba Easy Finish outperforms most other manufacturers 2k Finish at a fraction of the cost. Loba Easy Finish dries in two to three hours, is 90 percent cured in just 24 hours, and fully cured after only five days.
A 1 component finish is typically not as durable as a 2k finish. But not everyone needs the extra protection and expense of a 2k finish. Many factors will affect the choice between 1 component and 2k finish. If your home has a normally active household, a 1 component such as Loba Easy Finish may be the choice for you.
2 K Water Based System
2k finishes are the absolute best in durability, wear, and chemical resistance when it comes to traditional topcoat finishes. The highest quality 2k Finish of all is Loba Supra Finish, which is what we use. We recommend this for very busy households and commercial spaces such as office buildings. The difference between a 1 component and 2k such as Loba Supra Finish is that the 2k utilizes an extra hardener that is mixed in to provide the maximum protection possible. Loba Supra Finish dries in two to three hours, is 50 percent curred in 24 hours, and is fully cured after only five days.
Our Economy, Standard, And Premier Options are applied in a three-coat system. We apply one coat of sealer, and two coats of finish. Additional coats for added protection can be applied. Be careful here when choosing your contractor; many only use a two-coat system for their finishes, leaving your floors a short on protection.
Hardened Oil/Penetrating Oil/Hardwax Oils
We believe this Finish System is superior to all others. They are 2 Component Systems that use a hardener or catalyst, however they are very different than the traditional topcoat film forming finishes like our OMU and Water-based Finishes This system offers the lowest VOCs in the industry and allows the quickest turnaround for you and your home.
Instead of forming a protection layer that sits on top of the hardwood, these oils actually penetrate the cells of hardwood and bond with the wood fibers and harden from the inside. There is no Finish to be scratched on top of the surface. These Oils color and protect the hardwood in a single coat, allowing the job to completed about a day sooner than our other Finish options. After lots of testing and many years of using this style of Finish, we have narrowed it down to two products that we use exclusively: Bona Craft Oil 2k, And Rubio Monocoat 2c. We feel these Hardened Oil Finishes are the best absolute finish System on the market today.
Hardened Oil Finishes do require slightly more maintenance than the normal film-forming Finishes. But overall, this system is easier to repair and maintain in the long run because you can touch up and re-oil just the areas as needed. Unlike OMU and Water-based Finishes, the entire floor doesn’t need to be recoated or refinished to blend if there is damage. If the proper maintenance is followed, this system will last a lifetime without the need to refinish or resand saving you countless dollars over the other systems.
Hardened Oils allow the true beauty of the hardwood to come through. It provides a matte finish and a more natural texture that you can feel underfoot. This system is also the most customizable of all, where you can create many different effects with the colors to produce a truly unique floor that you can be sure will be the envy of all. Ask us about our cerused and two-tone custom floors.
All systems with proper maintenance and cleaning will last many years. At the conclusion of each job, we will provide a cleaning/maintenance kit and a maintenance plan to help your floors last a lifetime. We recommend having your floors deep cleaned at least once yearly (depending on traffic) by us and our Deep Cleaning Equipment. This will not only allow us to inspect the hardwood as we clean but enables us to provide any preventative maintenance to keep your floors in tip-top condition for years to come — instead of waiting until the hardwood is passed the point of no return. Proper weekly and yearly maintenance will save you money by preventing recoat sand resands.