Sanding and refreshing timber floors is an excellent way to maintain your flooring for a long time
Most property buyers consider the state of the flooring before proceeding with a purchase. If you are a property owner with plans to put your house or commercial establishment on the market either for rent or for sale in the future, it is crucial to consider the state of your flooring. This includes good sanding and coating of timber floors, as well as the right finish. A well looked after floor can help to substantially raise the value of your property.
As one of the most popular flooring materials in Western Australia, timber flooring can have many finishes. The species of timber you have chosen can appear shiny and modern or rustic and industrial depending on the sanding process and the final finishing applied. What coating do I apply to this blank canvas? If you’re indecisive regarding the finish or coating of your floor, there are several different options and combinations available each with its own pros and cons.
Waterbourne Polyurethane Coatings
The last few years have seen a vast improvement in the technology of waterborne flooring finishes and hence have resulted in an increase in the amount of people using them. In the early days, single pack water-based finishes earned a reputation for being easily scratched. Now, 90% of the timber installations we do are finished with a Satin or a Matte 2 pack waterborne polyurethane layer. A hardening agent is mixed with the coating to ensure that the finish cures to a hard protective layer on your floor. These coatings in Satin and Matte really complement the natural building materials of today’s architecture. They keep the timber colour natural and don’t yellow quickly with time like the solvent–based coatings. In addition to Satin and Matte, Gloss finishes are also available.
Another factor that has driven the popularity of waterborne finishes is the low VOC rating (Volatile Organic Compounds) that present in this type of flooring finish. 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 waterborne finishes provide an impervious coating to most household substances, you need to exercise caution with solvents like turps etc and animal urine, for these can damage your floor if not removed and quickly cleaned up.
Once your timber flooring is installed and sanded, a coat of sealer is applied to your floor followed by two coats of waterborne polyurethane. There are many reputable brands on the market and the technical data sheets are a good way to compare. At Floors By Nature, we use the Taber test to help us ascertain the abrasion resistance of various Waterborne Polyurethane coatings for use in our Perth floor installation projects.
Solvent Based Coating
The traditional high gloss timber floors have always been 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 your timber floor from rigorous floor traffic and inevitable spills. The solvent-based coating will yellow with time, hence changing the colour of your floor, though less noticeable with dark timbers. If you choose a solvent-based finish, we recommend that you don’t enter the house for a couple of days when the coating is applied as the fumes released are quite strong. As with water-based 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 gives you the ‘natural’ timber feel, however, there is a little more maintenance required to keep your timber flooring looking great. You will often need to clean it with a special soap recommended by the manufacturer, which replenishes the oils taken out by repeated cleaning. Depending on the foot traffic you may have to reapply 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, making the flooring finish shiny and smooth.
Another way to make your floor look unique is through staining or by adding a layer or a coat of wood stain/ink to your floors to give it extra character. Usually, the species of timber flooring often stained with additional colour is American Oak since this type of wood has the perfect grain, as this type of softer wood absorbs the stain quicker than the harder wood which really accentuates the feature of the natural wood. With staining, 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.