Unlike waxed floors, oiled floors have a non-film-forming finish (which isn’t limited to the surface of the wood). Oiled floors highlight the raw wood.
However, an oiled floor has two disadvantages compared to a glazed or varnished floor:
The trend of natural and rustic-looking floors is growing more and more, and oiled floors, which offer a very particular finish, are gaining in popularity. Easy to care for, they create a pleasant environment and restore the true feeling of warmth of the wood.
The primary natural oils used to finish oiled floors are linseed oil and tung oil. Boiled linseed oil penetrates the wood deeply and dries to create a surface that’s resistant to water and alcohol, without altering the natural colour of the wood. Tung oil is a quick-drying oil extracted from the nut of the tung tree. Also known as China wood oil, this oil is generally used in fine wood finishes and in marine varnishes. Most natural oils don’t have negative effects on indoor air quality, unlike some primers, which can give off chemical fumes. While these products may take weeks to evaporate completely, natural oils obtained from plants are usually harmless.
It’s enough to apply a new oil to it – specially designed for this purpose – every three or four years, and always before it whitens. Each time, its beauty grows until it has that silky look and patina of the floors in old European homes that’s so desirable.
But if you have a maple floor, beware of applying oil to it, since its grain is so tight that it prohibits the in-depth passage of the oil.
The main quality of oiled finishes lies in the fact that they let the wood breathe. When the wood is varnished or glazed, it loses its ability to absorb and restore moisture and may crack. Oiled floors resist temperature variations better and can even be used in the bathroom. The oil deeply penetrates the pores of the wood, which gives it good resistance to abrasion and maintains the natural matte look of the floor. Oil brings out the grain of the wood, and imperfections become less obvious than with a varnished or glazed finish. The oiled finish is done by impregnating the wood. This technique, which increases the resistance and longevity of the floor, also makes it easier to care for. The day-to-day maintenance of the floor is done using a broom or a vacuum cleaner. Oiled floors must be cleaned regularly with a well-wrung damp cloth. Oiled floors must not be cleaned with a degreaser! Over time, oiled floors become increasingly resistant and easy to care for, and they acquire a patina reminiscent of old wood floors.
Varnish is quite different from oil. It’s applied as a layer that doesn’t nourish the wood, but remains on the surface and protects it.
You have to know how to choose your varnish wisely. It will ideally be non-flammable. You should also make sure that it isn’t toxic and that it doesn’t have any odour.
Varnish serves to protect parquet, floors, and stairs. It also preserves their aesthetic appearance. Oils and varnishes differ in quality and price. You should inform yourself well before buying them.
Another point that should be taken into account for varnish is the colour. Indeed, varnish generally isn’t neutral, and it gives a colour to the wood. It will be useful to test the varnish on a floorboard to ensure that it’s the desired colour.
By opting for a varnish for your floor, you’ll protect your floors for years to come while preserving their beauty.
Applied in several layers to a still-raw wood floor, varnish forms an invisible and impermeable protective film. It doesn’t let the wood breathe much and thus prevents both scratches and stains from getting embedded in the wood. Colour variations after oxidation and exposure to light are thus insignificant, even though they may still exist. Recent innovations allow us to offer a wide range of varnishes in a variety of finishes: glossy, satin, and matte.
There are 3 brightness levels:
Depending on the appearance of the varnish, shocks and scratches left by normal use will be more or less visible. Remember: the brighter a varnish is, the more visible the scratches will be. Conversely, the more matte a varnish is, the less noticeable the traces of wear and tear will be.
There are different types of varnish. The most common are polyurethane varnishes (PU), which are particularly appreciated for wear and tear, various dirt, and for their impregnation into the wood, thus faithfully respecting its original figuration. These varnishes are either solvent-based or without water-based solvents. Others are aluminum oxide and ceramic-based, and offer superior resistance and transparency.
Some high-performance varnishes are even developed for use in high-traffic areas and are authorized for application to floors for use classes 3 and 4 (professional and industrial).
Depending on the use and the intensity of the traffic and shocks, varnish has a long lifespan: between 10 and 15 years.
Varnished flooring requires less maintenance than an oiled floor, but can you can’t really do a partial renovation on the same surface: the result won’t be even.
For routine cleaning: A mild shampoo for glazed flooring maintains and revives the metalizing.
In case of serious dirt on the varnished floor: Use a stripper for glazed flooring and repeat the application of the metalizing shampoo.
In all cases, refer to the operating instructions for the products.
Water-based floor varnishes have long been ignored by professionals, who preferred urethane (Crystal), a highly toxic product that gives a brighter finish. Fortunately, this trend is now reversing.
The technology behind water-based varnishes has evolved very rapidly in recent years. Today, some of them are three times more resistant to wear than urethane varnishes, and they can offer all degrees of brightness.
Varnish consists of a solvent and a resin. The solvent dilutes the resin and evaporates in the air in the house after its application, allowing the solid film that forms the varnish to harden. Varnishes are grouped based on their solvent: oil-based, water-based, or alcohol-based products. The resins can be urethane, acrylic, or hybrids, such as oil-modified urethane. We can therefore have a water-based varnish (the solvent), but with a urethane-oil resin.
Among the oil-based products, we find polyurethane varnishes, which harden in the air, and urethane varnishes, which harden in moisture. Polyurethane is a varnish sold only at retailers for consumers looking for an economical product that’s easy to apply with a roller. It’s not very durable, it turns yellow quickly, it smells very strong, and it takes a long time to dry (16 to 24 hours).
Urethane varnishes are products intended for contractors. Due to the toxicity of their solvents, they have been banned in the United States for several years.
Alcohol-based varnishes have been used in Québec since 2005 by specialized contractors. They’re as resistant and toxic as urethane varnishes, but unlike with those, you can open the windows to ventilate during their application, which greatly reduces their toxicity.
Water-based varnishes have practically no scent. They’re by far the healthiest for the indoor air quality and the eco-friendliest in their manufacture.