Your new solid timber floor is nearly complete. The species of timber you have chosen can appear shiny and modern or rustic and industrial simply by the decision you are about to make. What coating do I apply to this blank canvas?

There are several different options or combinations available to you each with its own pros and cons.

Waterbourne Polyurethane Coatings

The last few years has seen a vast improvement in the technology of waterbourne finishes and hence a resulting increase in the amount of people using them. In the early days single pack waterbased finishes earned a reputation for being easily scratched. Now 90% of the installations we do are finished with a Satin or Matt 2 pack waterbourne polyurethane. A hardener is mixed with the coating to ensure that the finishes cure to a hard protective layer on your floor. These coatings in Satin and Matt really complement the natural building materials of todays architecture. They keep the timber colour natural and don’t yellow quickly with time like the solvent based coatings.

Gloss finishes are also available. Another factor that has driven the popularity of waterbourne finishes is the low VOC rating(Volatile Organic Compounds). There is very little odour given off when these coatings are applied so you can rest easy knowing you aren’t breathing in toxic fumes – a real plus if you are living in the building when the work is done. While they provide an impervious coating to most household substances, you need to exercise caution with solvent like turps etc and animal urine – these can damage your floor if not quickly cleaned up.

A coat of sealer is applied to your floor followed by two coats of waterbourne polyurethane. There are many reputable brands on the market and the technical data sheets are a good way to compare. The Taber test results will help you ascertain the abrasion resistance of various coatings.

Solvent Based Coating

The traditional high gloss timber floors have always be achieved using a solvent based finish. Solvent based finishes excel at the glossy end of the spectrum. They cure to form a tough resilient surface that protects you timber floor from the rigours and spills of life. The solvent based coating will yellow with time, hence changing the colour of your floor but this is less noticeable with dark timbers. If you choose a solvent based finish we recommend that you don’t enter the house for the couple of days when the coating is applied as the fumes released are quite strong. As with waterbased finishes a sealer is applied to the timber followed by 2 coats of solvent based polyurethane.


There are many different oil coatings available on the market, and you will find that most of the pre-finished engineered oaks are finished with a UV cured oil coating. This coating soaks into your timber immediately giving it a slightly darker shade than if you had used a polyurethane coating. Oiling your floor really give you the ‘natural’ timber feel, however there is a little more maintenance required to keep it looking great. Every so often you will need to clean it with a special soap recommended by the manufacturer which replenishes the oils taken out by repeated cleaning. Depending on traffic you may have to re apply the oil coating every couple of years, but this certainly isn’t a big deal because you don’t need to sand back to bare timber as you would with a polyurethane coating. Make sure you clean up spills as quickly as possible with an oiled floor because the coating will allow liquid to penetrate. Some oil based products also have wax in them.


Another way to make your floor unique is by staining. American oak has the perfect grain as the softer wood absorbs the stain quicker than the harder wood and really accentuates the feature. Many different effects can be achieved depending upon how the stain is applied.


Bleaching timber, particularly Jarrah, was once a very trendy option. The popularity of this process has recently waned because of the vast variety in timber species and colour now available. It is also a very toxic process that produces noxious fumes and can only be undertaken by an experienced operator. At Floors By Nature we still bleach timber for various reasons and will be happy to discuss your options.

Bleached Jarrah
Stained Oak x2
high gloss