Ultimate Guide to the Different Types of Wood Flooring Finishes

There’s a certain charm to a wooden floor, isn’t there? The way it feels beneath your feet, the warmth it adds to a room, and the timeless elegance it brings to any interior. But did you know that the final touch, which makes all the difference, is the finish? Dive in to discover the wide array of finishes available, so you can pick the perfect one for your space.


Wood flooring has been a popular choice for centuries. Whether it’s for its durability, aesthetic appeal, or the value it adds to a home, people are drawn to the classic look of wood. However, as anyone who has shopped for wood flooring knows, the choices don’t end once you pick the type of wood.

The finish you choose can drastically alter the look, feel, and longevity of your flooring. This guide will take you through the different types of wood flooring finishes to help you make an informed decision..


wood flooring finishes

Why is the finish important?

The finish of a wood floor serves several functions:

  • Protection: It acts as a barrier against moisture, stains, and daily wear and tear.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: The finish can enhance the natural beauty of the wood, add shine, or even give it a completely different look.
  • Maintenance: Some finishes make the floor easier to clean and maintain.

Different types of wood flooring finishes

Oil-Based Polyurethane

One of the most common finishes, oil-based polyurethane offers a glossy, smooth finish. It’s durable and water-resistant, making it ideal for areas with high foot traffic. However, it can yellow over time, especially when exposed to direct sunlight.

Water-Based Polyurethane

A more eco-friendly option, water-based polyurethane is less odorous and dries faster than its oil-based counterpart. It remains clear over time and is resistant to yellowing. It offers a more natural look, which is perfect for those who want to highlight the wood’s grain.


wood floor protection

Hardwax Oil

Hardwax oil penetrates deep into the wood, offering protection from the inside out. This finish is easy to maintain, and it enhances the natural appearance of the wood. It’s ideal for those who prefer a matte finish.


Lacquer creates a hard, shiny surface on the wood. It’s more resistant to scratches than polyurethane and provides an ultra-glossy appearance. However, it can chip if struck hard, so it’s best used in low-traffic areas.


Derived from the secretion of the lac bug, shellac is an organic finish. It provides a warm, amber hue to the wood, enhancing its natural beauty. While not as durable as polyurethane or lacquer, it can be easily repaired if damaged.

Penetrating Oil

Penetrating oil, like tung or linseed oil, seeps deep into the wood’s pores, providing protection and a natural matte finish. It’s easy to reapply and is often chosen for its organic look and feel.

Aluminium Oxide

One of the most durable finishes, aluminum oxide can last up to 25 years. It’s often used in pre-finished wood flooring. However, it can be tricky to refinish when the time comes.


flooring finishes

Choosing the right finish for your home

When deciding on a finish, consider:

  • Traffic Levels: High-traffic areas, like hallways and kitchens, require a durable finish like polyurethane or aluminum oxide.
  • Aesthetic Preferences: Do you want a glossy shine or a natural matte? The finish can drastically change the floor’s appearance.
  • Maintenance: Some finishes require more upkeep than others. If you want low maintenance, opt for finishes like hardwax oil or aluminium oxide.
  • Environmental Concerns: If eco-friendliness is a priority, water-based polyurethane and hardwax oil are excellent choices.


The finish you choose for your wood flooring is more than just an afterthought. It’s a crucial decision that impacts the durability, appearance, and maintenance of your floor. With so many options available, it’s essential to consider your home’s needs and your personal preferences. Whether you’re looking for a high-gloss shine or a natural matte finish, there’s a wood flooring finish out there that’s perfect for you.:

If you need further advice on the best wood flooring options and types of finishes best suited for your home, business or new development project, get in touch with us today on 020 8959 2629.

Latest Work

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE ROYAL NAVY  – Part of a £1.25m fit out of a major new exhibition for the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRM) at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Indigo Flooring were tasked with completing the complicated layout of some 1,500 m2 of Marmoleum flooring with a water jet cut world map inlaid into the floor and Jet cut map of Great Britain vertically installed onto two swing doors, with various hand cut contrasting inlays leading the public to important exhibits throughout.

To see more of our work click here >>>