Let’s Talk Hardwood Finish

UV Oil, water based, oil based, aluminum oxide, pre-finished, un-finished, am I finished? In today’s blog we’ll chat about the different types of hardwood finish and trust me, you’ll have a favourite.

Not all hardwood finishes are created equel and depending on the look you are trying to achieve (and your care for you and your families health) a little research goes a long way.

Aluminum Oxide

Aluminum oxide is a chemical compound of aluminum and oxygen. It occurs naturally in its crystalline polymorphic phase of which form gemstones ruby and saphire. It has abbrasive qualities which makes it durable and is applied as a finish to hardwood in five to ten layers that are cured. Do we sell a lot of floors with this finish? No actually. It’s not our favourite

Pros: durable finish, helps protect against UV fading

Cons: scratches white, has been so common it is difficult to guarantee a safe chemical composition, difficult (but possible) to refinish, not as aesthetic as other finishes and dated

This is an aluminum oxide floor from Timeless Wood Floors
This is what scratched aluminum oxide looks like
Photo Credit – Woodwright Hardwood Flooring

UV Oil

UV Oil floors are more popular than ever. This type of finish is an oil melange (mix) that is cured with ultraviolet light. A cured UV Oil machine can cure the oil in about sixty seconds. This provides a thin but durable protection layer on the hardwood planks. This finish is made in a factory and cannot be done on site.

Trends have moved towards long, wide planks of flooring with rustic textures and knots (we’re looking at you white oak) and to keep the hardwood looking natural a matte finish is best met with a UV Oil floor. The majority of the pre-finished hardwoods sold today, and in our showroom, have this finish.

Pros: matte rustic finish, wood texture comes through, popular right now, some oils can be coated with a water based polyurethane in the future

Cons: Not as protective as other floor finishes, will likely require re-oiling to maintain, must use appropriate cleaners

This is a UV Oil finished floor from PurParket – Napoli Herringbone
This is another UV Oil finished hardwood from PurParket – Pure


An oil finished floor is typically done on site in place of polyurethane. The oil finish is a one coat application and it absorbs into the wood to seal it. This look leaves a beautiful patina and natural looking floor rather than a finished looking floor. The product that we use to oil floors on site can easily be re-oiled in the future (which will be necessary) and is compatible with our water based polyurethane if you tire of re-oiling.

Pros: beautiful patina, natural looking floor, can re-oil as necessary

Cons: needs to be re-oiled continually for it’s life to ensure the wood does not get thirsty and lose it’s durability

The gorgeous Cumaru hardwood was installed in The District on Bernard and is glowing thanks to the Bona Craft Oil 2K that was applied to it.

Water Based Polyurethane

Water based polyurethane is what we use when we finish a hardwood floor on site. We also use this application for our custom wood products. This water based, love VOC product is a topical coating that is applied to the floor as a whole, rather than board by board. It creates a protective barrier between your floor and life. It comes in sheen levels from matte to high gloss and also comes in grades from residential to commercial.

Pros: Customized finish sheen, doesn’t scratch white, strong protection, easily re-coated to minimize surface scratches, low VOC, custom and quality

Cons: Not as strong as a quality aluminum oxide, not as matte and natural as UV Oil

This African Sapelle was finished with a water based polyurethane in satin finish
This white oak went with a matte finish and wire brushing to keep a more rustic look.

Oil Based Polyurethane

Oiled based polyurethane use to be the main finish used in floor finishing. If you are trying to bring out depth and warmth of tone in a hardwood floor oil based polyurethane does that job well. The reason it’s almost never used now? It stinks! Literally this product stinks. The off gas when coating a floor with oil is unhealthy for us, for you and for our earth and it can last for days. Thanks to technology we don’t need to suffer through this product any more (unless it is specifically requested) because our water based products are cleaner, healthier and superior.

Pros: bring out richness and depth to wood

Cons: Longer dry time, harsh odor, not good for health

What do we use?

As mentioned when coating floors we use a water based polyurethane. Our product comes from Sweden and is tried tested and true as a leader in the flooring industry. Bona also offers floor oiling products and great cleaning products. This diverse product line allows us to oil a floor and later coat it with water based finish if a customers chooses to. We supply all of our site finish or refinishing customers with cleaning kits that are made for the product that is on their floors. We are proud to be Certified Craftsmen who are part of the NWFA and use Greenguard Certified and FSC Certified products.

It’s always good to remember that wood is a natural and living product. It is porous, its responds to high and low humidity and heat levels and not all species are alike. Every floor is unique and every customer is unique. We hope this helps.