How to Choose a Hardwood Floor Finish – Part 3


Here we are in Part 3 of how to go about choosing a hardwood floor finish system for your floors. In Part 1 we talked about the different types of finishes available. In Part 2 we discussed the many different factors involved in choosing a finish.

Choose a Finish Part 3

In this article, we put all these factors together in a chart and see how all of the finishes compare to each other side-by-side. Below are all the different finish systems and most important factors to consider when choosing a finish.

Factors like resistance to abrasion, scratching and chemicals, as well as other relevant things such as looks, yellowing, fumes and smell, maintenance and cure and dry times are listed.

We have given each element a score of 1-5 with a total score out of 40 points…

Finish Comparison Chart

As you can see, most of the finishes have multiple high scores. Some though, have very low scores in certain areas. These are the areas you will need to carefully consider and decide for yourself if you can live with.

We have extensive experience with all these finish systems and have figured out what systems do and don’t work the best for the majority of situations.

So What Finishes DON’T We Fully Recommend?

We’ve listed the ones that didn’t make the cut below…

– Swedish and Moisture Cure:

We ruled out moisture cure and Swedish finishes (like Glitsa) because of their toxicity, safety concerns (fire hazards, combustibility etc) and horrible smell and fumes from the solvents evaporating as they dry. We don’t like subjecting ourselves to that, let alone others.

Yes, they’re very durable finishes and are easy to maintain, but the high-end two component water based finishes are just as good in these areas and they don’t have the stinkage or safety factors to worry about.

– Penetrating Finishes:

We also ruled out penetrating finishes. This is because most people in the Chicago and Naperville area are used to the convenience of surface finishes and aren’t willing to spend the time maintaining a penetrating oil or wax floor like their grandparents were.

A lot of the hardwood floors we refinish here have been sanded many times already and are now quite thin, so walking on the actual wood and wearing it down would not be a good idea either. Plus, they take far too long to dry and cure and don’t have the best durability.

– Cheap, Low Quality, 1 Component Water Based Finishes:

We also don’t use cheap single component water based finishes you can find in big box stores because they’re nowhere near the quality of professional finishes. Some so called ‘professional’ guys will use these to save themselves some money… but they end up cheating their customers out of a strong, long lasting floor.

– Oil Based Finishes:

Recently, we’ve also had to stop using oil based finishes as well. The new lower VOC finishes just aren’t up to the standard we have promised to maintain for our clients.

It’s unfortunate really because these were among the nicest looking finishes available. They had a beautiful amber glow and were quite durable for the investment. This may change in the future though as the manufacturers keep trying to make them work. We’ll be keeping on top of this and if they come up to our high standard once again we may offer them once more in the future.

What are the Finishes We DO Recommend?

These 3 finishes below are the only ones we recommend and use here at Tadas Wood Flooring…

  • Commercial Grade 2 Component Water Based
  • High Quality Single Component Water Based
  • Quality Hardwax Oils

Obviously you still have a BIG decision in deciding which one out of these to use.

So How Do I Go about Choosing Between these 3 Finish Systems?

No project or situation is going to be exactly the same, so the answer will depend on how you answer the 8 questions below:

  1. What type of wood floor you have and what setting are they in—residential or commercial?
  2. How many kids/pets/customers do you have using and abusing your floors daily?
  3. Will your friends, family or customers be walking on your floors with dirty/wet/ muddy outside shoes?
  4. How regular will you be at cleaning them?
  5. Do you want the best finish available regardless of cost, or would you like a tough finish with a more reasonable investment?
  6. How “green” do you want to go?
  7. Do you want your floors to be easily repairable ?
  8. What type of look and sheen are you going after for your floors—shiny gloss, satin, matte or a hand rubbed look?

Armed with the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to make a great decision when we discuss each of the 3 recommended finish systems in the next and final installment .

Updated Jan 2023

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Your blog on hardwood floors is amazing. So many answers to so many of my questions! I look forward to reading Part 4 – will it be soon?


It’s up now Maggie, thanks for your patience :)


Hi Maggie,

It’s coming soon, I promise… been a busy few months (and year) so I’m still catching up on a few things.

I should have it finished and up next week though :)


Like Maggie, I’m looking forward to the final installment. I need to pick the finish NOW since my new flooring is supposed to be being finished starting on Monday.

Hi CB,

Part 4 is now up :)

Hope it can help with your decision.


Trying to decide between Tung Oil, Rubio Monocoat, and Pallmann Magic Oil 2k.

Hi Tadas,

Greetings from downunder mate. Hey of course i’m doing some timber floors all out of 200 year old recycled ironbark and brushbox.

I’m still trying to decide between matte water poly and oils. certainly the lifespan of the rubio seems really good ‘for an oil’. Another one keeps popping up over here which is the Loba Impact Oil. Have you had any experience with it?

Reason i ask is because i know you recommend their water based poly so i thought maybe it wasn’t up to a review or parhaps wasn’t available.

Hi Matt,

Wow that flooring sounds great!

To answer your question… No, not yet. We do have it here and I have been wanting to test it but we have been so busy I just haven’t got around to it. One day soon hopefully.

Good luck with your floors mate.


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