Oiled, varnished or waxed wooden flooring: what treatment should you use to protect your floor?

From stylised wooden flooring to the classic kind, all wooden floors need some kind of surface treatment to protect the natural wood against everyday wear and tear. Whether the floor is oiled, varnished or waxed, a protective finish is a necessary final touch. It will not only make maintenance easier, but will also enhance the installed flooring’s visual impact.

A wide range of finishes and increasingly sophisticated products are available to provide your floor with long-term protection. There are more and more products which, in addition to protecting wooden flooring over the long term, also protect both the environment (eco-friendly oils and varnishes) and your health (producing very little formaldehyde). In all cases, it is essential to employ the cleaning/maintenance methods recommended for your wooden flooring’s particular finish if its natural beauty is to be preserved over the long term.

Varnished or lacquered wooden flooring:

This method hardly allows the wood to breath, but does prevent scratches and stains from damaging the wood’s surface. Thus protected, color variation due to oxidation and exposure to light has little impact, even if still present. 

Thanks to recent innovations, a large range of varnishes is now available, offering a wide variety of different finishes: brilliant, satin, mat, natural effect, wax effect, etc. 

The abrasions and scratches that inevitably occur from day to day use of the floor are more noticeable with some types of varnish and less noticeable with others. It is important to bear in mind that the more brilliant the varnish, the more visible the scratches will be. Conversely, the more mat the varnish, the less noticeable the marks left by everyday wear and tear will be. 

Different types of varnish are available. Polyurethane (PU) varnishes are the most common. These are particularly hard wearing and effective at preventing dirt and stains from penetrating the wood, thus preserving its original appearance. These types of varnish may be solvent-based or water-based. Additionally, aluminium oxide and ceramic-based varnishes exist. These offer superior levels of protection and transparency.

Some high performance varnishes are even designed for high-traffic areas and are authorized for application on flooring used in commercial and industrial settings.

Varnish lasts for a long time: between four and seven years, depending on how the floor is used, the traffic intensity, and the incidence of knocks and abrasions.

Varnished wooden flooring requires less maintenance than oiled wooden flooring, but partial renovation of its surface is difficult: the results will not match the rest of the floor

Oiled-waxed wooden flooring:

A wooden floor described as ‘oiled-waxed’ undergoes the same treatment as an oiled floor. However, the final finishing layer is much less liquid and therefore provides stronger and better-sealed protection than natural oils achieve. Waxing the floor involves covering it with a hardened protective layer that completely fills the wood’s pores. The oiling-waxing method is based on traditional wooden-floor finishing techniques and achieves a very natural effect, giving your floor a little more patina and a slightly more satin finish. The oil partially repairs the effects of daily use on the floor. This is the traditional way of protecting wood. Regularly maintained (once or twice a year), oiled-waxed wooden flooring will retain its natural warmth and fine appearance.

Oiled wooden flooring – natural oil:

When natural oil is used on wooden flooring it brings out the wood’s natural finish, whilst at the same time forming a fine protective film. As a thin fluid, it naturally penetrates deep into the wood’s fibres and allows the wood to breathe. Like a moisturizing cream on human skin, it becomes one with the wood. An oil-treated wooden floor offers numerous advantages. In particular, it is more resistant to wear and tear. Scratches can easily be removed using products designed for the purpose, making it possible to carry out partial renovations to your floor. With the wood exposed to light to a greater extent, it oxidizes and acquires some color variation over time, lending it a more natural appearance. Regularly maintained (once or twice a year), oiled wooden flooring will retain its natural warmth and fine appearance. Once a wooden floor has been oil-treated, it is possible to varnish it, after first sanding down to the bare wood. To summarize: Varnished wooden flooring:

- Easy to maintain
- Durable: several properties make it suitable for heavy traffic areas
- Large choice of final appearances (brilliant, satin, matt)
- Whole surface has to be renovated for consistency of appearance
- Regular (though easy) maintenance Oiled-waxed wooden flooring: Advantages:
- Allows the wood to breathe
- Scratch resistant
- Better sealing than with oil Disadvantages:
- More sealed than varnished flooring
- Less stain resistant

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