Two factors, besides price, that most often effect a homeowners decision when purchasing hardwood or bamboo flooring are style and durability. With the first factor we have complete control over the choices we make, with the second our choices are dependent upon a variety of consideration. Different woods have different levels of durability, as does each type of finish and each finish has a different aesthetic appeal. Inevitably, most customers are looking for a wood floor and finish that doesn’t scratch. In reality, no such floor exists. All wood and bamboo floors can be scratched, though to different degrees and ease. So here are a few things to consider.
Today, the majority of hardwood flooring not produced in local mills, and nearly all bamboo, comes pre-finished for the homeowner. There are distinct differences between factory made finishes and on site finishes. Factory made finishes, such as the finish on Eco Timber flooring products are applied with a perfection rarely repeated in on site work, they prevent your home from experiencing the messy and smelly site work, and though slightly more per square foot in up front cost than unfinished floors (approx $1) that pre-finishing saves money because the regional average for finishing is $2.50 per sf.
But forget about costs and convenience differences. What about the finish. There are a few differences you should know about factory finishes and on site finishes. Factory finishes are harder and usually allow the wood to look more natural. That’s neither good or bad, just different. Because of their hardness, with high quality products such as Eco Timber the actual floor is rarely scratched, but if the finish is scratched it reveals a fine, often white line, smaller, but brighter than an on site finish does. In contrast, applied on site urethanes are often softer. They are less effective at protecting the wood, but the pliability of these plastic like finishes often results in a scratch that looks more like a dent. If you have a large dog like me, you understand. Our on-site finished floors don’t have any fine lines from scratching, but looked at askew, our hardwood floors are covered in dent like scratches in formations of four (the dog’s claws.) Admittedly, this is an unscientific conclusion, but factory finishes seem to scratch much less frequently, but more visibly. When the time comes to re-finish the oak floors in the home I recently purchases I will use a product that straddles the line of differences between these two finish types magnificently, Vermont Natural Coatings Poly Whey. This is the best finish I have ever worked with and every professional that I know that has used it agrees.
Made in Vermont Poly Whey is truly unique. This water borne, low VOC “urethane” replaces petroleum as its binding agent with protein rich (think of building blocks) whey left overs from the cheese making industry. The odor from this product is extremely mild, it has a good open time, and yet it dries quickly enough to apply three coats in one day. From the homeowner perspective it can’t be beaten. No on-site finish I have seen looks, nor is more natural. Obviously, I love the stuff.
Finally, there is one other option, the non plastic route; letting wood be wood. Before urethanes came into vogue with the ramp up of the petro-chemical industry in the 1940’s, most wood floors were treated with oils and waxes. Today, such products are making a come back and we have fallen for Naturals Oil Wax from AFM Safecoat amd Osmo PolyOl. No other finish bring more life and luster to wood than these two products. Both are low in VOC and made primarily from plant oils. While neither is design to protect your floors from dings, both protect it from moisture, complement the natural beauty of the product and help your floor age gracefully.
*Eco Timber finish is formaldehyde free and meets the E1 and CARB 2012 standards for indoor air quality. It is made by applying 5 layers of low VOC water based urethane and 2 layers of aluminum oxide spray.