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 Wood 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

Oiled 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?

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Oil or Lacquered Finish Wood Flooring

Original article date December 5 2012, updated December 5 2014 and April 11th 2019