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Lacquered Or Oiled Wood Flooring? Here's How To Choose


One of the features of wood flooring that people often leave unconsidered until just before ordering is the finish they’ll choose for their new floor.  While it is possible to leave this decision pretty much to the last minute, it’s well worth knowing the options that are open to you.  In this article, we’ll give you a clear and quick overview of the two most commonly selected and most popular wood flooring finishes; lacquered and oiled.

Lacquered Finish Wood Floor

lacquered finish floor

What is it?

A lacquer is a bit like a modern day varnish and is applied to a wood floor as a way of protecting the floor and often giving it a shine.  Lacquer effectively sits on the top of the wood and doesn’t sink in like oil does.

When should you choose it?

A lacquer finish is ideal in a room where you anticipate either high or heavy footfall or where you want a gloss or high gloss finish.

Ease of care

The good thing about a lacquered finish on your floor is that it becomes somewhat water resistant.  That said, it’s never a good idea to splash lots of water about on any wood floor.  The one downside of a lacquered wood floor is that it has a tendency to show scratches more easily than an oiled floor.  Because of this, when the floor finally ends up looking tired and worn, the best course of action is normally a re-sand and re-finish.

Protection level

The protection offered by lacquered wood finish is arguably the toughest of all and this is probably why, in the good old days, gyms and dance halls were finished in this way, rather than simply waxed or oiled.  That said, because lacquer sits on top of the wood, when it is worn away with wear and tear, the bare wood is left exposed and susceptible to damage.

Visual effect

Lacquer comes in high gloss, gloss and matt finishes.  All of that said, even a matt finish tends to have a bit of a shine to it.  So when you’re choosing a lacquered finish for your floor, it’s important to be aware of the shine that you’ll get.

Advantages and disadvantages

One of the best things about lacquered finish wood flooring is that spills, if they’re wiped up reasonably quickly, won’t seep into the body of your floor.  The main downside when you choose a lacquer is that it tends to scuff and scratch more easily than an oiled finish, so it’s doubly important to invest in really great doormats and sweep or vacuum regularly.

Additional options available

As already mentioned, you can choose either a high gloss, a matt finish, or something in between when you choose lacquer as your finish, however there’s another option that’s particularly appealing if your room gets a significant amount of sunshine.  This is a UV filter, which works like a sunscreen and helps avoid your becoming faded by too much sunshine.

Oiled Finish Wood Floor

oil finish wood floor

What is it?

Oil is the modern day equivalent to the old fashioned; ‘on your hands and knees’ wax option that our grandparents had to put up with.  Now typically involving a hardwax oil, oiled finish wood flooring provides both a surface protection and a deep penetrating protection.

When should you choose it?

An oiled finish is the perfect solution when you’re looking for a natural looking finish for your wood floor.  Generally speaking, this solution will give you a nice natural, matt look.

Ease of care

Although oiled wood flooring is slightly higher maintenance on an ongoing basis than lacquered wood flooring, it tends to need fewer major interventions because the protection goes deeper than the surface.  Unlike lacquered finish, when the top layer of oil finish gets worn away, there is still a level of protection underneath.  And like any wooden floor, if you protect it with good doormats, and sweep or vacuum it regularly and give it a light mopping, it’ll stand the test of time nicely.

Protection level

The good thing about oiled wood flooring finish is that it goes deep into the heart of the wood and provides not only protection on the surface, but into the core too, which means that your wood is protected to the max.

Visual effect

Oiled wood flooring has a really natural look and enables the colour of the wood to deepen over the years.

Advantages and disadvantages

The great thing about oiled finishes is that your floor looks as if it has no protection applied whatsoever.  What’s more, there really are no disadvantages of this type of finish.

Additional options available

Oiled floor finishes often come with a brushed effect, which serves to open up the grain of the wood even more, further enhancing the natural look.  Certain finishes may also come with a UV filter.

If you’re struggling to decide between oiled and lacquered finish wood flooring, why not get in touch so we can chat in further detail about which option would work best for your project?

Visual

Oil or Lacquered Finish Wood Flooring

Original article date December 5 2012, updated December 5 2014


20 thoughts on “Lacquered Or Oiled Wood Flooring? Here's How To Choose”

  • Sven Andersen

    Hi, I have only ever installed lacquered flooring and would like to know if oiled wooden floors become 'polished' with wear in the heavy traffic areas?? Apart from the door area I never wear shoes inside the house and only socks or slippers. And if so will Matt lacquered floors suffer the same fate??

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Jonathan Sapir

      Hi,

      One of the differences between oil and lacquered is the proximity of the finish the floor traffic (for example, shoes). Oil being a lighter liquid oozes into the wood so it comes less in contact with foot traffic and therefore slower to wear, while lacquer being thicker remains on the surface and is therefore quicker to wear.

      Due to its position, lacquer is a stronger option when it comes to improving the service life of the floor, but as pointed out, in some cases it is quicker to wear. Both oil and lacquer require up-keeping from time to time depending on footfall, quality of the floor and how it was carried for. There isn't a conclusive answer to your question, however if you don't need extra strong finish, oil will suffice and will prove slower wearing. I hope this helps.

      Reply
  • Melanie

    Hi,

    What type of flooring is best for a kitchen?
    I heard lacquered is best but I'm looking into having my whole flat installed with engineered wood (kitchen included, all in the same wood) and I am not sure about lacquered.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Jonathan Sapir
      Jonathan Sapir July 25, 2014 at 3:52 pm

      Hi,

      UV Lacquered (extra strong coating) engineered wood is the best choice. It is made up of layers of different types of wood, which are bonded together and then topped with a solid wood lamella or top layer. Because of its top layer, it looks just like solid wood, but because of the construction of its under layer, it will not expand and contract like solid wood, making it the ideal choice for your kitchen. Thank you for the comment.

      Reply
  • Clem

    Hi, we have just laid an 'oiled' oak wood floor through our hallway and lounge. Whilst it looks lovely, I feel I would like to see it looking a little more 'polished' I stead of the [very] matt looking finish. I used a piece of off-cut and tried some goo quality oak furniture beeswax polish on it and it enhanced the grain beautifully and gave the wood a slight sheen - but I think it will also be a pretty bad slip hazard! So, what would you recommend to give a little more shine without being too slippery and WITHOUT varnish or lacquer? Do you recommend further oil and, if so, which brand and what? Thanks

    Reply
    • Jonathan Sapir

      Hi, We would recommend to using Bona Satin hard Wax . Please try on small off cut area prior apply onto the entire floor.

      Reply
  • Steve

    Hi, I plan to lay Engineered Oak in our Bathroom. Which would be better - oil or lacquer? Are there any other tips I should keep in mind when laying this type of flooring in a bathroom?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Jonathan Sapir

      Hi, Lacquer will make the wood flooring in your bathroom pretty much waterproof and will help cut down your maintenance requirements. This is because lacquer effectively creates a protective coating over the wood making it resistant to damage and moisture. You should plump for a maximum 14 or 15 mm thick board. The reason for this is because at this thickness, the flooring is very flexible and therefore more stable. I hope this helps.

      Reply
  • sarah

    Hi, I'm after advice on retreating two different wood floors in my house. I have original pitch pine parquet on the hall floor that we sanded and laquered but now needs re-treating as its very worn. I was thinking of a wax or oil finish instead next time so I can easily re-treat the worst areas - I assume I need to sand the lacquer off first? Also in my kitchen I have an engineered wood floor with a matt lacquer that has also worn off in parts - can I re-treat parts or does it have to be sanded as its a big area.
    Thanks for any advice

    Reply
    • Jonathan Sapir

      Hi, for your pine floor, you will have to sand it first and then apply the Wax. As for the OAK floor - you might want to apply first maintenance lacquered before you sand the OAK floor. That might sort the issue.

      Reply
  • Zahid Siddique

    Engineered oak floor needs to be sanded and lacquered. Any suggestions regarding the type of lacquer for use on the floor?
    Thanks

    Reply
  • Nicole

    are oiled wood floors not recommended in warm dry countries?

    Reply
    • Jonathan Sapir
      Jonathan Sapir July 13, 2015 at 9:28 am

      Hi, Oiled wood flooring is absolutely fine in warm climates. If the floor is subject to direct sunlight, I recommend the UV lacquered finish, thanks.

      Reply
  • Hannah Leach

    We are installing engineered parquet in our open plan downstairs throughout including kitchen. We like the slightly shiny finish of the lacquer and plan to apply this, however our carpenter has scared us by saying that a lacquer will scratch terribly within weeks and we should use an oil. Do you think this will be the case? Also is possible to buy a sample of the bona lacquer?

    Reply
    • Jonathan Sapir
      Jonathan Sapir May 3, 2016 at 4:02 pm

      Hi - this is match depends on your protection and the way you will maintain your floor. Normally the rule is as followed:

      Lacquered - More resistant to scratches but, once happen more difficult to repair.

      Oil – more vulnerable but very easy to repair.

      Sorry - We do not have Bona Lacquered…

      Reply
  • Hadi

    Hi,
    I would like to put the same parquet over the living room and the kitchen.
    My question is that if it is possible to do the flooring with an oil finished parquet over all the apartment and then for kitchen, I do refinish with a lacquer by myself to make it a waterproof somehow? Because i am afraid that finished may get destroyed in the kitchen over time.
    Thanks for any advice.

    Reply
    • Jonathan Sapir
      Jonathan Sapir May 3, 2016 at 4:01 pm

      Hi – Yes it is possible. You will have to apply WAX OIL ideally 2 coats at the kitchen on top of the existing Oil.

      Reply
  • J

    If we use oil, will we need to have it professionally re-oiled every 12 months?

    Reply
    • Jonathan Sapir
      Jonathan Sapir March 11, 2017 at 5:51 pm

      Hi, If you have opted for oiled finish wood flooring, it’s important to keep the coating of your flooring in good condition by oiling it regularly and minimising the risk of scratches, scrapes and chips. How often will depend on the manufacturer recommendations. Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
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