The Hardwax Oil Experiment – Part 1 OSMO
At Tadas Wood Flooring Inc. we’re constantly looking for and testing new finish systems so we can guarantee the best coatings for our client floors. In my last blog post I mentioned that over the next few months we’ll be testing several these new hard wax oil finishes that have entered market here in the States. Well for this post we’re going to dive right in to our first finish test subject – OSMO Hard Wax Oil…
The OSMO Polyx Oil finish system comes from Germany where it’s been in use for many, many years. It’s only recently gained steam over on this side of the pond though. We’ve used it about 10 times during the last few months so we’ve had a pretty good test run with it.
Here’s a rundown of features and benefits from the OSMO marketing material:
Hardwax Oil Features:
- The finish is blended from natural plant oils and waxes
- Once cured it’s highly water resistant
- It is very environmentally friendly with low VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds)
- Doesn’t stink up and drive you out of your home like some finishes will
- Doesn’t form a plastic film like other varnish, acrylic and polyurethane finishes
- It’s easy to look after and maintain
- Safe to use and have in your home with environmentally friendly ingredients
- It’s approved safe for bench tops, food preparation areas and children’s toys
- It won’t off-gas bad fumes, chemicals and smells for weeks after it’s applied
- Can be used in domestic as well as commercial applications
- Enhances the beauty of your timber’s natural grain
- It binds to wood grain and will not flake, blister or peel
- Damage can easily be spot repaired
That’s a pretty impressive list of claims. When we first started using this finish last year we wanted to see if it really was as good as they say so we began our tests…
First we experimented in our workshop on sample boards for a few days. We always do this for any new product we experiment with. If it doesn’t pass the workshop test then there’s no use wasting time and potentially ruining a good floor.
After some testing and messing about we had our first sample boards done. The application was quite easy and the durability seemed pretty impressive as it endured all sorts of abuse in our attempts to scratch and damage it. Dry time was adequate, VOC’s were very low and the smell was nothing compared to an oil based finish. Step one passed, onto the next stage…
The next step was to find a floor to test it out on in the real world. In stepped our good friend Arvydas from Arch Remodeling (you can see some of our other projects with him on our Photo’s and Feedback page). Arvydas is an amazing contractor and is always willing to try new products and systems like us to better his game. He also had the perfect floor in Orland Park, Illinois – beautiful random width French white oak – that was ready to refinish so it was a perfect match!
This was the first real life subject of our “Hardwax Oil Experiment”…
We think the natural hardwax oil finish looks great over the Golden Brown stain.
After this job turned out so well we were eager to try it again. Our chance came a few weeks later with another hardwood floor in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. The project was a kitchen that the homeowner wanted to be able to be able to easily maintain if it got scratched and abused.
This time we stained the floors 50 percent Ebony and then coated them with OSMO Hardwax Oil. You can see the results in the picture below…
Arvydas (Arch Remodeling) was so impressed with the first OSMO project we did for him that he called us in again a few months later to use it again.
His latest project was a remodel of a basement in Orland Park, IL. The goal was to turn it into a very cool wine cellar and a cool and trendy downstairs getaway/retreat for the client to relax in. It would feature a bar, a comfy seating area with a big screen flat panel TV and surround sound system, a cozy fireplace, a wine room complete with a top-end stainless steel wine cooler and pretty much everything else you could want for the perfect chill out spot.
Since there was no wine available yet, our interests soon turned to the beautiful Mesquite end grain flooring he had recently installed. You can see a picture of the finished product below to see how beautiful the Mesquite flooring looks and how the project turned out.
So what are our impressions of this finish system?
Well let’s go back to the basics of what we look for in a finish:
- Has to look good
- Be long-lasting, durable to traffic and resistant to spills
- Have relative easy maintenance and repair
- Not “yellow” excessively over time
- Not have high VOC’s and stink up the home for days on end
- Not take forever to cure
That’s a pretty tall order, but one we won’t compromise on. So far we’ve only found a few finishes that stand up to these requirements. Let’s go through each of these one-by-one below to see how OSMO faired…
1. Good Looking:
This one was easy to judge. From the pictures above and the one below what would you say? We think it looks great! We love how it brings out the natural beauty of the wood without covering it in a layer of “plastic” like so many other finishes do. There is also a selection of different colors that are available if you would like something more unique as well.
2. Long-lasting, durable to traffic and resistant to spills:
This is obviously a big issue with floor coatings. Who wants a beautiful finish only to realize it is useless to daily wear and occasional mishaps and spills. Or, it looks great and is durable for a while, but then quickly wears down after a few months or years.
This is the case with many cheap oil based and single component water based finishes out there. Once the inadequate coating wears down on a cheap finish it starts to blister, peel, crack and flake, leaving the floor susceptible to damage. When liquids and dirt get into these cracks they do damage to the wood underneath. That’s why you see patchy grey areas on old floors (or not-so-old floors with cheap finish).
Traditional penetrating oil systems look great and are resistant to traffic and spills to a point as well, but they’re definitely not long-lasting. They need constant upkeep and re-coating to keep their protection intact which can be a nuisance to many homeowners.
With OSMO you get the best of both worlds – the beautiful look of a traditional oil finish and the durability of a higher end “plastic” finish. As it’s applied, the oils in the finish penetrate deeply into the wood pores to protect it from the inside and the wax in the finish stays on the surface leaving a protective layer that offers a water resistant and lasting finish. No matter what is done to it, it doesn’t watermark and it won’t crack, flake, peel, blister or panelize like conventional finishes.
We (and many others before us) have tested this finish with boiling water, wine, soft drinks and other liquids that are commonly spilt in a home as well as dust, foot traffic and scratches. It stands up commendably. For any small imperfections in the finish a quick polish with the Osmo Liquid Wax Cleaner is all that is needed and the surface looks as good as new again.
Is it as strong as our Pall-X96 and X98 finish systems?
But… and this is a big but… the great thing about OSMO Hardwax Oil is that if there is damage done it can very easily be spot repaired – which brings us to the next point…
3. Easy Maintenance and Repair:
Easy maintenance is one of the reasons “plastic” finishes are so popular and old world penetrating oil systems are not. With a plastic oil or water based coating, if a liquid is dropped on the surface, you just need to wipe it up and the disaster is averted. They are also easily cleaned with a damp mop or cloth, and a Swiffer type of broom or a soft bristled vacuum quickly takes care of dust in-between washes.
The strength of this system is also its greatest weakness though. Because these finishes are basically a big “plastic” sheet spread out across the entire floor once dried, when there is major damage like deep scratches, they are very hard to repair properly. I shouldn’t say they’re hard to repair really, I should say it’s extremely hard to blend in the repair with the rest of the floor.
The reason is because these type of finishes need to be abraded before the touch-up coating is applied and the touch-up coat never is the same sheen as the surrounding floor sheen so the repairs stand out like a sore thumb. We’ve even done repairs from the exact same bottle of finish and they come out a different sheen! The only way to seamlessly blend in a repair to a “plastic” finish is by buffing and re-coating the entire floor – which is obviously a big hassle and expense.
For us, this is where hardwax oils really shine.
Osmo Hardwax Oil produces a surface which will not watermark or stain like a traditional oil finish. It’s also very easy to clean – just sweep, vacuum or damp mop. Yes they’re not as damage resistant as a top-end 2 component water-based finish… but, when damage happens, the surface can be spot repaired and sanding of the whole area is not required.
This is a huge feature.
Basically the finish is formulated so that only the open wood fibers accept the finish. The new application of finish will not adhere to the existing finish next to the scratch. There are no overlaps of finish and the sheen blends in perfectly with the existing floor. If well looked after and properly maintained, this finish system will last a lifetime and you’ll never need to re-sand your floors ever again.
The one downside to this amazing feature – your floors will need to be top-coated every couple of years. But it really isn’t as big a deal as it sounds. It can easily be done by the homeowner (we can give detailed instructions and supply the product) or we can come out and do it within a few hours and your floor will be ready the next day. You also don’t have to move out your furniture as the worn out pathways are the only areas needing attention. It’s a lot easier than maintaining a traditional oil finish every couple of months and also way less hassle than completely re-sanding and refinishing your entire hardwood floors every 7 to 10 years if you have a lower-end “plastic” finish.
The vegetable oils used in the finish (which include Sunflower Oil, Thistle Oil and Carnauba Wax) are non-yellowing so you don’t have to worry about that ugly “old” look after a couple of years.
5. VOC and Stink Factor:
VOC is short for Volatile Organic Compounds. These can be harmful to the environment as well as for your health. Governments are trying to cut down on the usage of products with dangerous levels of VOC’s and have recently started regulating the hardwood floor industry. This is no concern to us as we’ve cared about our own health as well as our clients for a long time now when it comes to using unhealthy finishes.
Our current favorite finishes, Pall-X 96 and Pall-X 98 are 150g/liter and 250g/liter in the VOC department. That is extremely low for a high-end finish. Most oil based finishes are way above 500g/liter and Glitsa is way up there at 725g/liter. OSMO PolyX Pure Oil has less than 50g/liter. It’s very environmentally friendly as well as being safe for your family’s health so we have no problem at all using it. The smell is just a mild solvent smell that will dissipate quickly with proper ventilation.
6. Time to Cure:
There are 2 types of OSMO oil – the normal blend that takes 8 hours to dry and a quick-dry blend that is dry in 4 hours. As it’s a 2 coat system it equals the time of a 3 coat water-based system and is much faster than a 3 coat oil-based system. Nobody wants their floors out of commission for too long so it’s definitely a win in our books for client convenience.
So what do you think? Did it pass our test?
We think it did extremely well. To tell you the truth we were pleasantly surprised – we didn’t expect so much from this little German oil finish.
I know that was a lot to take in above so we put together the chart below to help you see the benefits easier…
We are very impressed with OSMO Hardwax Oil.
Over these last few months we’ve completely changed our minds about what we initially thought about these “new” hardwax oil products. (Good thing we like to experiment hey!)
In fact we’re so impressed by OSMO that very soon, after we have finished the full experiment with the other 3 products – Rubio Monocoat , Bona Indoor Oil and Pallmann Magic Oil – we will be integrating the best one of these coatings into our extremely hard to get into line of recommended finish systems. That’s great news for our future clients that want all the benefits that a high quality hardwax oil finish offers – natural wood look, easy spot repair, low VOC’s etc.
But even though we are very happy with the initial outcome of this experiment, we still feel that hardwax oil is not going to be for everyone. It definitely needs to be maintained and re-coated every so often which could be off-putting for a few people. It is also limited in the tints and colors you can have and you can’t get as shiny sheens if that’s your style.
These are issues that our Pallmann water-based finish systems don’t have a problem with. Yet on the other hand the Pallmann water-based finishes are harder to spot repair if you do happen to damage the very tough coating. So it basically your decision will come down to what you value more in a finish.
If you have any questions about either of these systems then we’ll be more than happy to discuss it over the phone or in person. If you book an In-Home Audit with us then you’ll also get to see the samples we have of each finish system. One of them will be perfect for you and you floors we’re sure.
(Continue to Part 2 featuring Rubio Monocoat)