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Should You Finish Your Pine Floorboards With Polyurethane Or Hard Wax Oil?

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When you decide to have your pine floorboards stripped back, you'll also have to decide on a finish to protect the wood. Pine is a soft wood, so in order for your flooring to last several years, you'll need a finish that's suitable for the amount and type of foot traffic the floor is exposed to. You'll want the flooring in high-traffic areas of your home to be easy to maintain and able to cope with spills and wet shoes. In low-traffic areas of your home, you can focus more on style and appearance than on the durability of the finish. Polyurethane and hard wax oil are both good finishing options for pine floorboards, but there are some key differences between the two that you should be aware of when making your decision. Here's an overview of both finishes:


Polyurethane is a hardwearing, water-resistant finish that's easy to maintain. As it's a type of liquid plastic, this finishing option will not penetrate the floorboards. Instead, it forms a tough coating on top of the wood, which can be mopped and vacuumed, making this finish a smart choice for busy areas of your home, such as a hallway or dining kitchen. The main drawback of polyurethane is it's not easy to repair damaged sections of your flooring. It's usually necessary to strip back and refinish the entire floor if you don't want anyone to notice the section that's been repaired.

Oil-based and water-based polyurethane finishes are available, and they have a few main differences. Oil-based polyurethane emits volatile organic compounds while it's drying, but it does a good job of hiding defects in the wood. Once dry, your flooring will have a subtle amber glow and will appear smooth and polished. Water-based polyurethane won't hide defects as it dries clear. It doesn't emit volatile organic compounds, so it's safe to remain in your home while it's being applied to your flooring, and it's a good option if you want a natural look without compromising on durability.

Hard Wax Oil

Hard wax oil penetrates the wood and is made with a combination of natural oils and tough, protective wax. The wax prevents light spillages from seeping into the wood, but the spillage must be cleaned up immediately to preserve the performance of the wax. So, although this finish offers durability and is free from volatile organic compounds, it's not the best option for high-traffic areas. However, if part of your flooring gets damaged, the repaired area can be refinished with hard wax oil and no-one would be able to tell it had been repaired, as the finish blends in seamlessly.  Opt for this finish in low-traffic areas, such as an adult bedroom, where you can enjoy the nourished look the hard wax oil gives your flooring.

Both polyurethane and hard wax oil offer a good level of protection, but when choosing the finish for your flooring, ensure it will meet the needs of your household and the foot traffic in your home year-round.