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How to Choose the Perfect Finish for Your Hardwood Floors

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By Donovan Carrington

When it comes to renovating or building a new home, the type of flooring you choose can make a huge difference in the overall look and feel of your space. Hardwood floors are a popular and timeless choice, but choosing the right finish can be a daunting task. With so many options available, it’s essential to know what to look for and what will work best for your lifestyle and needs.

In this article, we will guide you through the process of choosing the perfect finish for your hardwood floors. We will discuss the different types of finishes available, how to consider your lifestyle and needs when making a decision, how to determine your preferred look, and seek professional advice.

By the end of this article, you will have all the information you need to make an informed decision and plan for installation. So, let’s get started!

Understand the Different Types of Hardwood Floor Finishes

Now that you’re exploring the world of hardwood floor finishes, it’s time to dive into the various types available and discover the unique qualities they bring to your home’s aesthetic.

The three most common types of hardwood floor finishes are polyurethane, oil-based, and water-based. Each type has its own set of pros and cons, so it’s essential to understand them before making a final decision.

Polyurethane finishes are the most durable and long-lasting of the three options. They create a hard, protective coating that resists scratches, spills, and stains. However, they can be challenging to apply, and the fumes from the finishing process can be harmful if not used in a well-ventilated area.

Oil-based finishes, on the other hand, are easier to apply and give the wood a warm, amber glow. However, they take longer to dry, and the finish can yellow over time.

Water-based finishes are the newest type of hardwood floor finish and have become increasingly popular in recent years. They are environmentally friendly, low in VOCs, and dry quickly. They also provide excellent clarity, making the wood’s natural grain and color more visible. However, they are not as durable as polyurethane finishes and can be more challenging to apply.

Understanding the pros and cons and application techniques of each type of finish is crucial in choosing the perfect finish for your home’s hardwood floors.

Consider Your Lifestyle and Needs

When considering the type of hardwood floor finish that’s right for you, it’s crucial to think about your lifestyle and needs.

If you have a high traffic area in your home, such as an entryway or hallway, you may want to choose a more durable finish that can withstand the wear and tear.

If you have pets or children, you may want to consider a finish that’s scratch-resistant and easy to clean.

Additionally, if you or someone in your household suffers from allergies, you may want to choose a finish that’s low in VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and easy to maintain.

High Traffic Areas

If you want your floors to withstand heavy foot traffic, you’ll need a durable and protective coating that can handle the wear and tear. For high traffic areas, such as entryways, hallways, and living rooms, you’ll want to consider durability considerations when choosing the perfect finish for your hardwood floors.

A more durable finish, such as polyurethane, will provide a thick layer of protection that can withstand scratches, dents, and spills. In addition to durability considerations, you’ll also want to choose the right color that can hide scratches and dirt.

Darker colors, such as espresso or mahogany, tend to hide scratches and dirt better than lighter colors, such as maple or oak. However, if you prefer lighter colors, you can still choose a finish that has a matte or satin sheen, which can help hide scratches and dirt.

Ultimately, the key to choosing the perfect finish for high traffic areas is to prioritize durability and choose a color that can hide wear and tear.

Pets and Children

Looking for a durable coating that can handle the wear and tear of pets and children on your hardwood floors? Consider a protective finish that can withstand scratches, spills, and any other messes that come with having a lively household.

When it comes to pet-friendly flooring, you want to make sure that your hardwood floors are protected against accidents and scratches. Choosing a finish that is specifically designed for pets can help prevent any damage caused by their claws, urine, and feces.

Childproofing techniques also play a crucial role in maintaining the longevity of your hardwood floors. A finish that is resistant to spills and stains can make cleaning up after your little ones a breeze. Opting for a matte finish can also help hide any scratches or scuffs that may occur from toys or playtime.

Ultimately, choosing the right finish for your hardwood floors can make all the difference in having a beautiful and long-lasting home for your family and pets.


Don’t let allergies ruin your home’s comfort and safety – discover how to make your floors a haven for those who suffer from allergies.

With hardwood floors, you can prevent allergens like dust, mold, and pet dander from accumulating and causing discomfort. However, it’s important to choose the right finish to ensure that your floors don’t emit harmful chemicals that may trigger allergies.

When selecting a finish for your hardwood floors, consider choosing eco-friendly options that are free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are chemicals that can be found in traditional finishes and can emit harmful fumes that may cause allergic reactions.

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Look for finishes that are labeled as low VOC or zero VOC. Additionally, finishes that are water-based tend to have lower levels of VOCs than oil-based finishes. By choosing an eco-friendly finish, you can protect both your family’s health and the environment.


Keeping up with regular maintenance is key to ensuring your beautiful hardwood floors stay in top condition for years to come. Cleaning techniques are an essential part of maintaining the longevity and appearance of your hardwood floors. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive tools when cleaning. Instead, use a damp mop or cloth to wipe away any dirt or spills.

Avoid leaving any standing water on the floors as they can cause damage to the wood. Long term care for hardwood floors involves more than just regular cleaning. It’s important to protect your floors from scratches and dents by using furniture pads and avoiding wearing shoes indoors.

Additionally, it’s recommended to have your floors professionally refinished every few years to maintain their shine and protect them from wear and tear. With proper maintenance, your hardwood floors will remain a beautiful and durable addition to your home for years to come.

Determine Your Preferred Look

When it comes to determining your preferred look for your hardwood floors, there are several finishes to consider.

A matte finish will provide a subtle, low-sheen look that’s great for a more rustic or casual vibe.

A satin finish will offer a bit more sheen than a matte finish, providing a more elegant and modern look.

A semi-gloss or glossy finish will provide a high-shine look that’s perfect for a more formal or contemporary space.

Consider your personal style and the overall aesthetic of your home when choosing the perfect finish for your hardwood floors.

Matte Finish

If you want a subtle and understated look for your floors, going for a matte finish might just be the right choice for you. A matte finish is a low-gloss finish that doesn’t reflect light, making it perfect for spaces that require a more subdued atmosphere.

One advantage of using a matte finish is that it doesn’t show scratches and scuffs as much as a high-gloss finish would. This means that your floors will look newer for a longer period of time. Another advantage is that it can make a room feel more cozy and inviting.

However, one disadvantage of a matte finish is that it can be more difficult to clean than a high-gloss finish. Dirt and stains tend to be more visible on a matte finish, so you’ll need to clean your floors more frequently.

When cleaning your matte finish floors, it’s important to avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that can cause damage to the finish. Instead, use a soft-bristled brush or a microfiber mop with a gentle cleaner specifically designed for hardwood floors.

Satin Finish

Looking for a way to add a touch of elegance to your space without the high shine of a glossy finish? Satin finish might just be the right fit for you.

This finish is a popular choice for homeowners who want a subtle shine that’s easy to maintain. The benefits of a satin finish include its ability to conceal scratches and dirt, making it a great option for high-traffic areas of your home.

Maintaining the satin finish shine is also relatively easy. Simply sweep or vacuum the floor regularly to remove dirt and debris, and mop with a damp microfiber cloth as needed. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as they can strip the finish and cause damage to the wood.

With proper care, a satin finish can last for years and provide a beautiful, low-maintenance flooring option for your home.

Semi-Gloss Finish

Now that you know about the satin finish, let’s discuss the semi-gloss finish for your hardwood floors.

A semi-gloss finish is a popular choice among homeowners as it offers a slight shine without being too reflective. It has a higher level of sheen than a satin finish, which makes it easier to clean and maintain.

One of the benefits of a semi-gloss finish is that it can help hide minor scratches or imperfections on your hardwood floors. It also provides a durable surface that can withstand high traffic areas.

To maintain the shine of your semi-gloss finish, it’s important to sweep or vacuum your floors regularly to remove dirt and debris. You can also use a damp mop to clean any spills or stains, but avoid using excessive water as it can damage your hardwood floors.

By following these simple maintenance tips, your semi-gloss finish can stay looking new for years to come.

Glossy Finish

Achieving a glossy finish on your hardwood floors will require a bit of extra effort, but the stunning, reflective result will be well worth it. A glossy finish is perfect for those who want to add an element of luxury and elegance to their home.

The high shine of a glossy finish can make your floors appear cleaner and more polished compared to other finishes. However, this finish is not without its drawbacks. The pros of a glossy finish include its ability to make your floors appear more reflective and bright. This can make even the smallest of rooms appear larger and more spacious.

Additionally, a glossy finish is more durable and resistant to scratches and scuff marks compared to other finishes. However, the cons of a glossy finish include its tendency to show dirt and dust more easily. This means that you will need to clean your floors more frequently to maintain their shine. Additionally, glossy finishes are more prone to showing scratches and dents, so you’ll need to take extra care when moving furniture or heavy objects across your floors.

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To maintain your glossy finish, it’s recommended that you sweep and dust your floors regularly, avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive tools, and place protective pads under furniture legs.

Seek Professional Advice

When it comes to making the right decision for your hardwood floors, it’s essential to seek professional advice.

A flooring expert can help you navigate the vast array of options available to you and provide insight into what will work best for your specific needs.

Ask for samples and read reviews to ensure that you’re making an informed decision that you’ll be happy with for years to come.

Consult with a Flooring Expert

Consulting with a flooring expert can provide invaluable insights and recommendations for achieving a stunning and durable look for your home’s wooden surfaces.

A flooring expert can give you an idea of the different types of wood finishes available, their respective benefits and drawbacks, and which one is best suited for your needs. They can also suggest finishes that are within your budget and offer cost-saving tips that you might not have considered.

Flooring expert consultation is especially helpful for those who are new to hardwood floor finishes. They can help you navigate the various options and identify what will work best for your lifestyle, aesthetic preferences, and budget.

Moreover, a flooring expert can offer tips on how to maintain and care for your floors after they’ve been installed, ensuring that they remain in top condition for years to come. With their guidance and expertise, you can make an informed decision about which wood finish to choose and enjoy a beautiful and long-lasting result.

Ask for Samples

Before making any decisions, it’s always a good idea to ask for samples of the different wood finishes available to see which ones will best suit your style and needs. This will allow you to see how the wood will look in your home and how it will complement your furniture and decor.

It will also give you the opportunity to compare the different finishes and weigh the pros and cons of each. One of the main factors to consider when choosing a finish is the cost. Some finishes are more expensive than others, so it’s important to compare the cost of each option and decide which one fits your budget.

Another factor to consider is the durability of the finish. Some finishes are more durable than others and can withstand heavy foot traffic and spills better. By asking for samples of different finishes, you can get a better idea of which one will be the best fit for your hardwood floors.

Read Reviews

Now that you’ve received samples of the finishes you’re considering, it’s time to do some research. One of the best ways to learn more about a product is to read reviews from other homeowners who have already installed it.

Researching the benefits and drawbacks of each finish can help you make a more informed decision about which one is right for your home. When reading reviews, it’s important to keep in mind that not everyone will have the same experience. However, you can look for common themes among reviews to get a sense of the overall quality of a product.

Compare brands and finishes to see which ones consistently receive positive feedback. It may also be helpful to look for reviews from homeowners who have similar lifestyles or pets, as this can impact how well a finish holds up over time.

By taking the time to read reviews, you can feel more confident in your decision and ensure that you choose a finish that will look great and last for years to come.

Make Your Final Decision and Plan for Installation

Now that you’ve sought professional advice and have a good idea of the perfect finish for your hardwood floors, it’s time to make your final decision and plan for installation.

To ensure a successful installation, you need to:

– Calculate the amount of finish needed for your floors.
– Schedule the installation.
– Prepare the room beforehand by removing any obstacles and ensuring the floors are clean and dry.

Calculate the Amount of Finish Needed

To accurately determine the required amount of coating for your hardwood floors, you’ll need to calculate coverage and estimate the cost.

First, carefully measure the area of your flooring to determine the total square footage.

Then, consult with a professional to determine the appropriate coverage rate for your chosen finish. This will help you determine how many coats of finish you’ll need to apply to achieve the desired result.

It’s important to note that different types of finishes have different coverage rates, so it’s important to choose a finish that is appropriate for your needs.

For example, water-based finishes typically have a higher coverage rate than oil-based finishes, meaning you’ll need less product to cover the same area.

By taking the time to calculate the amount of finish needed, you can ensure that you have enough product to complete the job without having to make additional trips to the store.

Schedule Installation

Scheduling the installation of your new hardwood flooring is an important step in the process. It’s important to choose a time when you’ll be available to oversee the installation process and answer any questions that may arise.

Also, consider the time of year and weather conditions that may affect the installation process. This will ensure that your new hardwood floors are installed correctly and will last for years to come.

Before scheduling your installation, it’s important to get a cost estimation from your flooring contractor. This will allow you to budget accordingly and avoid any surprises during the installation process. Be sure to ask your contractor about any additional costs that may arise, such as removal of old flooring or furniture moving.

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By properly scheduling your installation and budgeting accordingly, you can ensure that your new hardwood floors will be a beautiful addition to your home.

Prepare the Room for Installation

Get the room ready for installation by clearing out all the furniture and belongings so that the flooring contractor can get to work. This is an essential step in preparing the room for your hardwood floor installation.

Make sure that the room is completely empty before the contractor arrives, so they can work efficiently and effectively.

Before the installation process begins, it’s important to prepare the room properly. This includes checking the moisture levels in the room and ensuring that the flooring has been acclimated to the room’s temperature and humidity.

You may also need to use necessary tools such as a moisture meter to test the levels in the room, which will help determine if any additional measures need to be taken before the installation can begin.

By properly preparing the room, you can ensure that your new hardwood floors will look beautiful and last for many years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to refinish hardwood floors?

If you’re looking to refinish your hardwood floors, there are a few factors that will affect the cost. Refinishing options include DIY or professional services, with DIY being the cheaper option. However, if you’re not experienced with refinishing floors, you risk causing damage and may end up needing to hire a professional to fix it, which can end up costing more in the long run.

Other factors affecting cost include the condition of the floors, the size of the space, and the type of finish you choose. A basic sand and refinish can cost anywhere from $1.50 to $4 per square foot, while a more extensive process like a full restoration can cost up to $7 per square foot.

It’s important to do your research and get quotes from multiple professionals to ensure you’re getting the best value for your money.

Can hardwood floors be refinished multiple times?

If you’re wondering if hardwood floors can be refinished multiple times, the answer is yes! However, traditional refinishing methods often involve sanding down the top layer of your floors. This can be time-consuming, messy, and expensive. Luckily, there are alternatives to traditional refinishing, such as sandless refinishing.

Sandless refinishing uses a special chemical process to remove the top layer of your floors without any sanding. This process is quicker, cleaner, and can be more affordable than traditional refinishing. Plus, sandless refinishing also preserves more of your original flooring. This makes it a great option for those who want to maintain the original look and feel of their floors.

What is the best way to clean and maintain hardwood floors?

To keep your hardwood floors looking beautiful for years to come, it’s important to implement a regular cleaning routine and preventive maintenance plan.

Start by sweeping or vacuuming your floors daily to remove dirt and debris that can scratch the surface.

Use a damp mop with a pH-neutral cleaner to deep clean your floors once a week, being careful not to saturate the wood.

Avoid using harsh chemicals, oil-based soaps, or steam cleaners, as they can damage the finish.

To prevent scratches and dents, place felt pads under furniture legs and avoid wearing high heels or shoes with sharp objects on your floors.

With these cleaning tips and preventive maintenance measures, your hardwood floors will shine like new for years to come.

How long does it take to install hardwood floors?

When it comes to installing hardwood floors, the timeline can vary depending on the size of the area and the complexity of the project. Professional services are recommended to ensure a proper installation and to avoid any mistakes that could lead to future issues.

The installation process typically involves preparing the subfloor, laying down the planks, and finishing the edges. The timeline for installation can range from a few days to a few weeks depending on the size of the area and the complexity of the project.

It’s important to take the time to properly install the floors, as it can greatly impact the overall look and longevity of the hardwood. Hiring professionals can ensure a smooth and timely installation process.

Is it necessary to remove furniture before refinishing hardwood floors?

Before refinishing your hardwood floors, it’s necessary to remove all furniture and other obstacles from the room.

This will allow the refinishing process to be completed more efficiently and effectively. The refinishing process involves sanding down the existing finish, which can create a lot of dust and debris.

By removing all furniture, you not only protect it from damage but also ensure that it doesn’t impede the refinishing process.

Once the floors have been refinished, you can then move your furniture back into the room and enjoy your newly refinished floors.


Congratulations! You’ve successfully learned how to choose the perfect finish for your hardwood floors.

By understanding the different types of finishes available and considering your lifestyle and needs, you can make an informed decision that will ensure your floors are durable and long-lasting.

Remember to also determine your preferred look and seek professional advice to ensure that your choice fits your overall home aesthetic.

With these steps in mind, you can confidently make your final decision and plan for installation.

Your beautiful new hardwood floors will not only add value to your home but also enhance the overall look and feel of your living space.

Enjoy your new floors!

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Donovan Carrington


Donovan Carrington, a flooring expert with extensive experience of over 25 years, is the driving force behind Flooring Explorer. Initially working as a flooring installer, Donovan gained hands-on experience with different flooring materials such as hardwood, laminate, vinyl, and tile. His profound knowledge and expertise in flooring technologies and installation techniques have established him as a respected authority in the industry.