Trends in Hardwood Floor Finishes

By Andy Ross All Hardwood Floors


Based on a significant sample of 500 homes in the New England and New York area over the past year, I observed some trends regarding the most popular hardwood floor finishes. If you’re in the process of selecting a finish for your floor, it can be a big decision. So I’ll share the results of this sampling with you, and it may give you some insight to help you make your own selection.


Oil-Based versus Water-Based Finishes


The vast majority of people (61% in our region) still prefer an old-fashioned oil-based finish. When applied properly with our All Hardwood Floors expertise, it will last many years and handle lots of foot traffic. Over a long period of time an oil-based finish will also tend to change from a clear coat to one with a slight amber tinge, and that warm tone appeals to many homeowners.  One distinct advantage of a water-based finish, on the other hand, is that it remains clear over time. That may be important to you if you have light-colored flooring and you want to ensure that the finish doesn’t affect that color. Water-based finishes are highly durable, and are also low-odor and dry very quickly. You can apply one and then be ready to walk on it in half the time it takes for an oil-based finish. Oil-based finishes need at least 24 hours to dry, and also give off that solvent smell that needs time to air-out and dissipate. So if you’re on a tight schedule, that’s something to consider. Over the past 12 months, nearly 40% of homeowners in our area asked for a water-based finish.


Satin, Gloss, or Matte?


Another characteristic of hardwood floor finishes, whether they are oil or water-based, is how much light they reflect. Those that absorb light and reflect virtually none are a Matte finish. That can look very organic and can work well if you don’t want to see light shining back at you from the floor. But only about 4% of homeowners chose this no-sheen type of finish, whereas more than 75% decided to compromise and use a low-sheen Satin finish. That offers enough reflective quality to make the hardwoods glow, without being glossy. Maybe you want more reflection, to make the room look a bit brighter or because you like a clean, shiny floor. In that case, a semi-gloss is the finish of choice for about 13% of homeowners. It’s a medium-sheen that gives you that shine without being too glossy. High-gloss is what you see on basketball courts and in bowling alleys. Used by about 4% of homeowners, it is a highly reflective surface that always sparkles.


Still Not Sure? Call or text Andy at 203-641-4666