The finish of your hardwood floors makes an impact. It can increase your home’s value, create a cozy and warm space, and save you money by putting a level of protection over your floors. Finding the right finish for your hardwood floors is the next hurdle. Check out the pros and cons of different wood floor finishes to make the best decision for your home, or give us a call at Barnum Floors so we can guide you through the process!  

Hard Wax Oil and Natural Oil

Hard wax and natural oil are popular choices for wood floor finishes and are one of the oldest ways to put a protective sheen down on your floor with modern products & technologies.  For a while, hard wax and natural oil were the primary methods homeowners used for their hardwood floors, but they went out of fashion when quicker and easier urethanes varnishes came on the market. 

Even still, hard wax and natural oil have started to make a comeback for those looking for a natural, subtle finish. The finish is beautiful and more forgiving than a film finish.  They’re also considered to be more eco-friendly than other options. Hard wax and natural oil are easy to apply, but floors treated in this way need regular maintenance and can be susceptible to staining if you spill things like wine or coffee. 

Polyurethane (Water- and Oil-Based)

Polyurethane has been the standard application of most hardwood floors for the last 40 years or so. It’s easy to apply, dries quickly, and requires less maintenance. There are two types of polyurethane floor covering: water-based and oil-based. Water-based dries clear and is a bit more expensive but has a faster drying time, has the most evolved technology & increased UV protection. Water-based is also thought to be a greener option with fewer VOCs than oil-based. 

Oil-based polyurethane will give a tinge of color after application, which can turn amber with age. Oil polyurethane requires a longer drying time between coats, which can make it difficult to apply if you have a busy home. 

Oil Sealer

Similar to hard wax finishes, oil sealer is easy to apply and penetrates deeply into the wood, providing a nice, even finish. While it’s not as durable as other products and requires recoating every couple of years, it is an option for flooring. It does need a lot of time to dry and harden before you can walk on it though—up to two days to be on the safe side.  


Shellac actually predated polyurethane and was popular before the 1970s. While it’s not the top choice for floor finish these days, it is still sometimes used by homeowners to match older trim and cabinets. Shellac isn’t particularly durable though, so it’s not the best choice for homes that have a lot of foot traffic. You’ll need to re-coat periodically, and it’s not compatible with most other finishes because it could produce a chemical reaction.  

Aluminum Oxide

Pre-finished wood flooring is often coated with aluminum oxide, which is very hard and durable and designed to last for many years, although all hardwood floors need recoating occasionally to remove light surface abuse. It’s mainly used as an add-on layer on urethane finishes and in pre-finished factory-coated floors. Aluminum oxide is a great option if you really want a tough finish on your hardwood floors that can take a lot of wear. One disadvantage is that this finish often looks very “plastic” in appearance.

Find the Right Finish with Barnum

Call the floor care experts at Barnum to decide which finish is right for you and the hardwood floors in your home. We’ll guide you through all of your options and then get started on the finishing process! From start to finish, Barnum has your best interest in mind when it comes to the longevity of your hardwood floors. Give us a call today!