Polyurethane or Oil Finished Hardwood Flooring | Understanding the Dif – Gaylord Flooring

Polyurethane or Oil Finished Hardwood Flooring | Understanding the Difference

We often encounter potential clients asking us about oil finishes vs polyurethane finishes and how they compare. There are so many different details that go into picking out the perfect hardwood floor for your home, it is important to understand the differences between the two different finishes!

Polyurethane Finishes on Hardwood Flooring

Polyurethane finishes can look beautiful on hardwood flooring, and there are an array of different sheen levels available when opting for a polyurethane finish. The sheen level can range from semi-gloss to a very matte finish. Often when comparing oil finishes and polyurethane finishes, you are looking for a very matte looking floor. When the matte finish is combined with our wire-brushed technique, it creates a very natural ultra matte floor. (Same look with less maintenance....win/win!)

Why Polyurethane Finishes are Lower Maintenance

As you know, not all finishes are created equal on hardwood floors so it is important to understand the differences when you begin shopping around for hardwood flooring. All Gaylord Hardwood Flooring comes with 10 coats of titanium oxide finish that is UV dried in between each layer. It does not require continued maintenance or additional finishes to be applied to validate the warranty (...which is a 40 year finish warranty!) When you opt for a wire brushed, matte finish this makes touching up any marks very easy with a small amount of stain and a rag or paper towel. 

Oil Finishes on Hardwood Flooring

Oil finishes can look absolutely stunning on hardwood flooring. Typically, the oil finishes have a super low sheen and are ultra matte looking. This matte finish provides a very natural looking wood floor, adding to their popularity. Often oil finished floors have beautiful colors and samples, although they may not always look this way.  Typically, oil finished floors are marketed as a very forgiving, durable, low maintenance option for your home. This can be misleading as oil finishes on a hardwood floor are actually quite high maintenance for a home owner. 

Why Oil Finishes are High Maintenance

It is important to review the warranty that is included with your hardwood flooring. Sometimes oil finished floors have a lifetime warranty included with the product which seems fabulous right? It's important to dive further into this, and realize that this warranty is valid with the periodic re-oiling of your hardwood flooring. What is periodic? How often will you have to do this? How long will this take and will I have to move my entire home around? These are important things to consider when looking at an oil finished hardwood floor. 

How do Polyurethane Finishes vs Oil Finishes Handle Scratches & Marking? 

Both polyurethane and oil finishes over time will develop small scratches or marking in them, it is wood after all! Polyurethane finishes can be easily touched up with a small amount of stain or with a stain pen to hide the scratch. This is especially easy with a wire brushed finish as it blends in seamlessly. An oil finished floor can have the scratches repaired by using a small amount of oil and working it back into the hardwood. 

 Do Polyurethane or Oil Finishes handle traffic better? 

This really depends on the type of finish and sheen level that is applied to your hardwood flooring. A matte or wire brushed finish on a polyurethane floor will handle high traffic extremely well. The stain color will look the same in the high traffic areas as it does in the lower traffic areas of your home. The low sheen reduces visibility of heavy traffic and dirt and dust. Oil finishes tend to fade over time and loose the beautiful color that you fell in love with, you will notice this in your heavy traffic areas. It can create a very patchy looking floor, as the low traffic areas will still look beautiful where the high traffic areas will look run down and abused. 

Can you recreate a Oil Finish look with a Polyurethane finish?

Sometimes a client has fallen in love with the stain on an oil finish floor (and usually we love it too), but they don't want the maintenance level of re-oiling or the color fading with the product. We offer a custom color program and can match to these samples, we can come very close to the oil finished floor. Clients love this because the floor will remain true to the color that they fell in love with over time, and they have a very durable finish over time. It often is very important that there flooring has an outstanding warranty, without the upkeep of an oil finished floor. 

Of course, it will always be the age old question which one really is better? It's important to think of your maintenance level, and your flooring in 5, 10, and even over 30 years. This will help in deciding which option is right for you. Do you have any pros and cons of either finish? Which finish option would you choose? 


1 comment

  • I’m just learning about the finishes. I think I like more the idea of the oil (due to the natural look) but I also like the matte finish in urethane and the fact that it does not have patches like the oil. Hard to decide, I feel like I need to learn more.


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