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  • Writer's pictureJoni Rocco

The New Finish Conversation: Repairability vs. Durability

Updated: Jul 19, 2021

One of the most popular questions I get is: “You offer two types of finish, but which is more durable?”

This question reminds me of my sons, arguing over who is stronger: Batman or Superman. As a mom of three boys, I would shake my head and calm them down by saying that neither of them is stronger, but both are different types of superheroes.

In the same fashion, BOTH of our finishes are durable. They’re commercial-grade finishes, which means we add a hardening component to both types which cures the finish quicker and cause it to be more durable.

Both finishes seal and protect the wood, but act in a different manner. Polyurethane forms a film between the wood and your foot. Penetrating oil penetrates the wood fibers and cures at the molecular level.

Ready for science? (Here’s where most of you will leave this webpage, I guarantee it…unless you’re paying us the big bucks to refinish your wood floor!)

The difference isn’t durability and both types of finish offer lower sheens, which are less reflective and more forgiving of normal wear and tear over time. The difference is in the repairability of each type. I’m going to describe each option because it’s my goal to make sure you have no surprises when we get to the work in your home!

Your first finish option is two-component, commercial grade water-based polyurethane, a film-forming finish. We apply an approximately three-millimeter build of three coats above stain or the raw, natural wood (a seal coat, a build coat, and a topcoat). The build protects the wood from most minor damage, like some dog claw marks. We call those “indentations” in the finish because the damage doesn’t reach all the way to the wood and scratch it. Indentations in the polyurethane may be filled in with a maintenance coat, which requires all furniture to be moved. We abrade the top coat of finish and apply another coat of finish on top. If the wood is scratched, the only way to repair those scratches is sanding all the way down to the raw wood, staining, and coating the floors again. Spot treatment is extremely difficult, and the sheen of the new finish rarely matches. PRO TIP: NEVER polish a floor on your own or use any type of oil or glow product on your new floor.

Your second option for finish is a two-component, commercial-grade penetrating oil. Penetrating oil penetrates the wood fibers, so we don't apply coats of finish that form a film. In fact, we trowel on the finish, and then we spend the rest of the day buff, buff, buffing the excess oil off. Penetrating oil also referred to in our industry as a self-healing finish, penetrates and seals the wood fibers and protects the wood at the molecular level, and the advantage to penetrating oil is that repairs are much less invasive. For dog claw marks and other damage, we buff more oil on the repair area, which then repairs the wood fibers. To extend the life of the floor, we reoil the traffic areas, so you don't have to move your furniture to do the maintenance coat that's required with polyurethane. The disadvantage to penetrating oil is that it is more permeable (so you need to wipe up spills like wine or mustard) and has a longer dry and cure time. However, penetrating oil can be easily repaired, so in most cases, the advantages of the ease of maintenance and repair outweigh the disadvantages of the potential permeability and dry/cure times.

We are committed to matching color and finish type with your lifestyle. Please contact us to ask any other questions about our products or processes so we can give you a beautiful floor that lasts for years to come!

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