One crucial aspect to consider when choosing solid wood flooring is the finish. Read what the different types of finishes are here.

Written by: Yarl Christie

Published on: June 27, 2023

What are the Different Finishes of Solid Wood Flooring?

Solid wood flooring offers timeless beauty and durability, enhancing the aesthetic appeal of any space. One crucial aspect to consider when choosing solid wood flooring is the finish. The finish not only enhances the natural beauty of the wood but also provides protection against wear, moisture, and other environmental factors.

A Graphic Showing The Different Solid Wood Flooring Finishes

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the various finishes available for real wood flooring, their characteristics, and the factors to consider when selecting the perfect finish for your hardwood floors. Whether you prefer a glossy, satin, or matte finish, this article will help you make an informed decision for your flooring project.

Understanding the Importance of Solid Wood Floor Finishes

Wood floor finishes play a vital role in both the aesthetics and functionality of solid wood flooring. While the natural beauty of wood is undeniable, finishes provide an added layer of protection and enhance the overall appearance of the floor.

Here are some key reasons why wood floor finishes are important:

  1. Protection against Wear and Tear: Solid wood flooring is subjected to daily foot traffic, furniture movement, and other activities that can cause scratches, dents, and stains. Finishes act as a protective shield, forming a durable barrier between the wood surface and potential damage. They help extend the lifespan of the floor and maintain its original beauty.

  2. Resistance to Moisture and Spills: Wood is naturally porous, making it susceptible to moisture damage. Finishes create a barrier that repels liquids, preventing them from seeping into the wood and causing swelling, warping, or mold growth. This is particularly crucial in areas prone to spills or high humidity levels, such as kitchens, bathrooms, or basements.

  3. Enhanced Durability: By applying a finish, the surface hardness of solid wood flooring can be significantly improved. This makes the floor more resistant to scratches, abrasions, and general wear, ensuring it withstands the demands of everyday life and maintains its attractive appearance for years to come.

  4. Easy Maintenance: Wood floor finishes simplify the cleaning and maintenance process. They create a smooth, sealed surface that resists dirt, dust, and stains, making it easier to wipe clean. With regular care and proper maintenance, a finished wood floor can retain its beauty with minimal effort. You can read more about how to maintain your solid wood flooring here.

  5. Aesthetic Enhancement: Finishes enhance the natural beauty of wood, accentuating its grain patterns, colour variations, and depth. They can be customised to achieve different looks, from a glossy and reflective sheen to a more subtle satin or matte appearance, allowing you to achieve the desired ambience in your space.

  6. UV Protection: Sunlight can cause wood to fade and lose its original colour over time. Some wood floor finishes include UV inhibitors that help protect the floor from harmful ultraviolet rays, preserving its appearance and preventing discolouration.

Understanding the importance of wood floor finishes empowers you to select the right type of finish for your solid wood flooring project.

Consider factors such as the level of protection required, desired aesthetics, maintenance preferences, and the specific environment where the floor will be installed.

By choosing an appropriate finish, you can ensure that your real wood flooring remains both beautiful and functional for years to come.

Common Types of Wood Floor Finishes

There are several common types of finishes to choose from. Each finish has its own characteristics. Let's explore some of the most popular types:

  1. Oiled Finish: Oil finishes penetrate the wood, enhancing its natural beauty and providing a warm, matte appearance. They offer a natural and organic look while also nourishing the wood fibers.Lusso Florence Brushed & Oiled Solid Oak 150mmProduct: Lusso Florence Brushed & Oiled Solid Oak 150mm

    Oil finishes are typically easy to maintain, as small scratches and imperfections can be easily repaired by reapplying the oil.

  2. Lacquered Finish: Lacquered finishes create a durable and glossy surface by applying a layer of lacquer on top of the wood. They provide excellent protection against wear and tear, making them suitable for high-traffic areas.Lusso Florence Natural Smooth UV Lacquered Solid Oak 90mmProduct: Lusso Florence Natural Smooth UV Lacquered Solid Oak 90mm

    Lacquered finishes are often available in various sheen levels, ranging from high-gloss to satin, allowing for customisation according to your desired aesthetic.

  3. Smoked Finish: Smoke finishes involve treating the wood with specific techniques to darken its natural colour, giving it a smoky, aged appearance.Smoked Finished Solid Wood FlooringThis finish adds depth and character to the wood, offering a unique and rustic charm. Smoke finishes are commonly used to create a vintage or reclaimed wood look.

  4. Brushed Finish: Brush finishes involve wire brushing the wood surface to accentuate the natural grain patterns.Lusso Florence Natural Brushed & Oiled Solid Oak 90mmProduct: Lusso Florence Natural Brushed & Oiled Solid Oak 90mm

    This technique adds texture and depth to the wood, creating a slightly rustic or distressed appearance. Brush finishes are popular for achieving a more tactile and visually interesting floor.

  5. Whitewashed Finish: Whitewashed finishes lighten the natural colour of the wood, creating a bright and airy aesthetic.Whitewashed Finished Solid Wood FlooringThis finish allows the wood grain to show through while providing a subtle, washed-out appearance. Whitewashed finishes are often used to achieve a coastal, Scandinavian, or contemporary look.

  6. Unfinished Solid Wood Flooring: Unfinished wood floors are installed without any protective coating or finish. They offer the flexibility to customise the finish on-site, allowing you to achieve a truly personalised look. Unfinished floors require additional steps for sanding, staining, and applying the desired finish, but they offer the advantage of being able to match existing woodwork or create a unique finish.

  7. Distressed Finish: Distressed finishes replicate the appearance of aged and weathered wood, incorporating intentional imperfections such as dents, scratches, and uneven textures.Distressed Finished Solid Wood FlooringThis finish adds character and a sense of history to the floor, giving it a vintage or antique look.

  8. Handscraped Finish: Handscraped finishes involve the meticulous process of manually scraping the surface of the wood to create intentional grooves, scrapes, and indentations. This technique replicates the look of antique, handcrafted flooring, adding a rustic and aged charm to your solid wood floors.Lusso Florence Golden Handsraped Solid Oak 125mm

    Handscraped finishes provide a textured surface that not only enhances the natural grain patterns but also helps to hide minor scratches and wear over time. This finish is perfect for achieving a warm and inviting ambience in traditional, farmhouse, or rustic interior design styles.

When choosing a solid wood floor finish, consider factors such as desired aesthetics, maintenance requirements, durability, and the overall style of your space. Consulting with flooring professionals or experts can help you make an informed decision based on your specific needs and preferences.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Wood Floor Finish

Durability and Protection

The durability and level of protection offered by a wood floor finish are essential considerations. Different finishes have varying resistance to scratches, stains, and general wear and tear.

Solid Wood Flooring Finishes Ideal for Pet Owners

For high-traffic areas or homes with pets and children, opt for finishes that provide excellent durability and can withstand heavy use. Consider finishes with protective properties against moisture, UV rays, and chemicals if your floors are exposed to such elements.

Gloss Levels and Aesthetic Appeal

The gloss level of a wood floor finish affects the overall aesthetic appeal. Glossy finishes offer a reflective, high-shine appearance, while satin finishes provide a subtle sheen, and matte finishes deliver a more natural and muted look.

Consider the desired ambience of the space, the style of your interior, and personal preferences when selecting the gloss level. Keep in mind that glossy finishes may show scratches and footprints more prominently than matte or satin finishes.

Maintenance and Ease of Repair

Maintenance requirements and ease of repair should be considered when choosing a wood floor finish. Some finishes may require more frequent maintenance, such as periodic reapplication or special cleaning products. Additionally, consider the ease of repairing minor damages like scratches or stains.

Types of Solid Wood Flooring Finishes Easy to Maintain and Hoover

Certain finishes may allow for spot repairs, while others may require more extensive refinishing. Understanding the maintenance and repair needs of the finish can help you make a choice that aligns with your lifestyle and maintenance preferences.

Environmental Considerations

Environmental considerations are increasingly important when selecting a wood floor finish. Look for finishes that have low volatile organic compound (VOC) content, as these emit fewer harmful chemicals into the indoor air.

Water-based finishes often have lower VOC levels compared to oil-based finishes. Additionally, consider the sustainability of the finish and its production process. Some finishes may be more eco-friendly or have certifications such as Greenguard compliance, indicating their environmental friendliness.

Taking these factors into account when choosing a wood floor finish will ensure that you select a finish that aligns with your specific needs and preferences.

Balancing durability, aesthetic appeal, ease of maintenance, and environmental considerations will help you find the ideal finish that not only protects and enhances your wood floors but also contributes to a healthy and sustainable living environment.

Choosing the Right Finish for Your Solid Wood Flooring

Matching the Finish with Your Interior Design Style

The choice of finish for your solid wood flooring should complement your interior design style and overall aesthetic. For a traditional or formal setting, a glossy or satin finish can add elegance and sophistication.

If you prefer a more rustic or natural look, matte or oil finishes enhance the organic beauty of the wood.

Solid Wood Flooring Finishes for Rustic Traditional Interiors

Consider the existing furniture, decor, and colour scheme of the room to ensure the finish harmonises with the overall design concept and creates a cohesive visual impact.

Considering the Wood Species and Colour

The type of wood species and its natural colour should influence your choice of finish. Some wood species have distinct grain patterns, such as solid oak or hickory, which can be enhanced with a brushed or distressed finish.

Lighter wood species like maple or birch often pair well with clear or whitewashed finishes to maintain their natural brightness.

Ideal Finished for Lighter Shades of Solid Wood Flooring

On the other hand, darker wood species like walnut or mahogany can be enriched with deeper stains or oil finishes to emphasise their richness and depth. Consider the unique characteristics of the wood species and select a finish that complements and enhances its natural attributes.

Evaluating Traffic and Usage Levels

The level of foot traffic and usage in the area where the solid wood flooring will be installed is an important consideration. High-traffic areas, such as entryways or living rooms, may benefit from more durable finishes that offer enhanced resistance to scratches, stains, and wear. Additionally, consider the specific usage requirements. For example, if the floor will be exposed to moisture in a kitchen, choosing a finish with good moisture resistance is crucial. Please note: we do note recommend installing solid wood flooring in areas where it is likely to have water contact. Evaluate the demands placed on the floor and select a finish that can withstand the anticipated wear and tear for long-lasting performance.

By considering the interior design style, wood species and colour, as well as the expected traffic and usage levels, you can choose the right finish for your solid wood flooring that not only enhances the beauty of the space but also ensures practicality and durability. Take the time to explore samples and consult with flooring professionals to find the perfect combination that aligns with your vision and meets your specific functional requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions about Wood Floor Finishes

Question: How long does a wood floor finish typically last?

Answer: The lifespan of a wood floor finish varies depending on several factors, including the type of finish, level of foot traffic, and maintenance practices. On average, a well-maintained wood floor finish can last anywhere from 5 to 10 years. However, it's important to note that high-traffic areas may require more frequent recoating or refinishing.

Question: Can I change the finish of my wood floor if I want a different look?

Answer: Yes, in most cases, it is possible to change the finish of a wood floor. The process typically involves sanding down the existing finish to bare wood and then applying the desired new finish. However, it's recommended to consult with a professional to ensure the proper techniques are used to achieve the desired result.

Question: Can I apply a different finish on top of an existing finish without sanding?

Answer: It is generally not recommended to apply a different finish directly on top of an existing finish without sanding. The new finish may not adhere properly, resulting in an uneven or compromised surface. Sanding the existing finish ensures proper adhesion and allows for a smooth and even application of the new finish.

Question: How do I maintain and clean my wood floor with a specific finish?

Answer: Maintenance and cleaning practices can vary depending on the type of finish. Generally, it is recommended to sweep or vacuum regularly to remove dirt and debris. Use a damp (not wet) mop or cloth for periodic cleaning. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners that can damage the finish. Specific maintenance instructions for your chosen finish can be obtained from the manufacturer or flooring professional.

Question: Are all wood floor finishes safe for children and pets?

Answer: Most wood floor finishes are considered safe for children and pets once they have fully cured. However, it's important to choose finishes with low VOC content to minimise the emission of potentially harmful chemicals. Water-based finishes generally have lower VOC levels compared to oil-based finishes, making them a popular choice for households with children and pets. For more information, check out our article on what the best type of kid-friendly flooring is here

Question: Can I apply a wood floor finish myself, or should I hire a professional?

Answer: Applying a wood floor finish can be a DIY project for those with experience and the necessary tools. We have an excellent guide on how to refurbish solid wood flooring here. However, for optimal results and to ensure proper application, many homeowners prefer to hire a professional flooring contractor. Professionals have the expertise to prepare the wood surface, apply the finish evenly, and provide recommendations based on your specific flooring and environment.

Remember, these answers are general in nature, and it's always recommended to consult with flooring professionals or manufacturers for specific guidance and recommendations based on your unique situation and flooring needs.

Conclusion: Enhancing the Beauty and Longevity of Your Solid Wood Flooring

Choosing the right finish for your solid wood flooring is a crucial step in enhancing its beauty and ensuring its longevity. By considering factors such as durability, gloss levels, maintenance, and environmental considerations, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your specific needs and preferences.

A well-chosen wood floor finish not only protects your investment but also enhances the overall aesthetics of your space. It provides a durable barrier against wear and tear, moisture, and UV rays, prolonging the life of your flooring and maintaining its original allure. With the right finish, you can strike a balance between protection and visual appeal, creating a stunning foundation for your interior design.

Additionally, regular maintenance and proper care are essential to preserve the beauty of your solid wood flooring. Following the manufacturer's guidelines for cleaning and maintenance, such as using appropriate cleaning products and techniques, will help protect the finish and extend its lifespan. Promptly addressing any stains, spills or scratches and periodically recoating or refinishing as needed will ensure that your floors continue to shine for years to come.

Beautiful Solid Wood Flooring In An Apartment

Remember, it's important to periodically assess the condition of your wood floor finish and consider refinishing when signs of wear or damage become apparent. Consulting with professionals or experts in the field can provide valuable insights and recommendations tailored to your specific flooring requirements.

By selecting the right finish, practicing regular maintenance, and staying attentive to the needs of your solid wood flooring, you can enjoy a beautiful, durable, and long-lasting floor that adds warmth and character to your home or space.

Investing time and effort in understanding the intricacies of wood floor finishes empowers you to make informed decisions, leading to a floor that not only stands the test of time but also becomes a source of pride and admiration in your living environment. For further reading, we recommend you check out our article on what solid wood flooring is here.

About The Author

Yarl Christie

Yarl is the Managing Director of Stories Flooring. started his career in the flooring industry by becoming a floor fitter at the age of 18 (2004). Yarl finally decided to move with the times and set up an online flooring store (Flooring Yorkshire, 2018). He works closely with the business managers and resource team to source new products from wholesalers, which in turn brings down the sale price. This enables Stories Flooring to be one of the leading UK flooring retailers.