The last step of any (raw) installation or refinishing project is the application of the polyurethane finish. The finish is the key factor in determining the durability and longevity of any flooring project, and is essentially the only thing protecting your hardwood from the wear and tear that it receives every time you walk on it. Choosing the correct polyurethane finish to best suit your needs is a crucial step, and we highly recommend any homeowner considering installation or refinishing services to be as well informed as possible on their available options. Today we'll explore your two main choices: oil-based polyurethanes and water-based polyurethanes, the pros and cons of each, and why it's important you have a heavy hand in the decision making process.
Oil-based polyurethanes have been around forever and are a tried-and-true product, which is why they're still extremely popular today. They're also considerably less expensive than water-based polyurethanes, which makes them ideal for short-term homebuyers, rental properties, and anyone looking for a budget-conscious option. While their longevity and durability rank amongst the best, they do, however, have a few drawbacks compared to their more modern, water-based counterparts.
Oil-based Polyurethanes: Pros and Cons
*Hard, durable, and long-lasting finish
*Inexpensive (retails right around $20/gallon)
*Self-leveling and user friendly
*Generally less health-friendly and less environmentally-friendly (they're not permitted for use in the state of California)
*Longer dry time (8-12 hours before walking on floors is permitted, once the final coat is applied)
*Longer curing time (approximately 5-7 days to reach 90% hardness [when furniture can be moved back onto the flooring], and 14 days to reach 100% hardness [when large area rugs can be moved back onto flooring])
*Prone to ambering (over time, floors will develop a darker, amber color)
*Highly susceptible to sunlight damage (ambering can be accelerated or intensified in areas where sunlight hits the flooring)
Water-based polyurethanes, while newer, are fast-approaching the popularity of the classic oil-based version. Though they fare as the more expensive option, they offer long-term benefits ideal for homeowners looking to invest in their home, and get the most value in the long-run.
Water-based polyurethanes: Pros and Cons
*Hard, durable, and long-lasting finish
*Generally more health-friendly and more environmentally-friendly
*Shorter dry time (45 min-2 hours before walking on floors is permitted, once the final coat is applied)
*Shorter curing time (approximately 2-4 days to reach 90% hardness [when furniture can be moved back onto the flooring], and 14 days to reach 100% hardness [when large area rugs can be moved back onto flooring])
*Less prone to ambering (over time floors may develop some ambering, but it's very subtle by comparison)
*Less susceptible to sunlight damage
*Pricier than their oil-based counterparts (retails right around $75/gallon)
*Much trickier to apply; because they dry so quickly, water-based polyurethanes are more susceptible to application errors. It's imperative you hire a professional who is experienced in applying water-based polyurethanes.
Because we at Hamilton Hardwood understand that the needs for each homeowner differs from the next, we always aim to inform you about your options, and we'll happily apply whichever type of products you decide best suit your needs. You should certainly be leery of anyone trying to steer you down one specific path, and with anyone providing you with only one option on materials. (We can think of only a few reasons why other companies do this: they're either using crappy materials in order to maximize their profitability, or they don't have the skill-set needed to properly apply all types of finishes. Yes, it happens, and more often than you'd probably think.) Your contacted service provider should be as forthcoming as possible about the materials being used in your home, and you, the homeowner, should be researching these materials as well. The more you know, the better off you'll be!
If you ever have any questions about the materials being used in your home, please don't hesitate to ask us how we can answer your inquiries, or help you become better informed.
Peace, Love & Wood,
That IS the question.
You may have heard conflicting information about whether or not it's best to have your floors trowel-filled during the sanding process of your hardwood installation or refinishing project; While some professionals insist on applying it to your flooring, others avoid it like the plague. The decision is ultimately best left to the homeowner, depending on their desired end-result, but it is important that they understand the benefits as well as the limits of trowel-filling before choosing which route to go. In the next few paragraphs, I intend to explain what trowel filler does for the overall look of your flooring, what it doesn't do, and why we at Hamilton Hardwood recommend you have an opinion, either way.
First of all, just what is trowel-filler, exactly? Trowel-filler, or 'trowel,' as it's commonly referred to in the industry, is simply a filler that is applied to surface of your hardwood after your flooring has been rough sanded, much like the way spackle is applied to drywall, for the purpose of filling in all of the tiny cracks, nail holes, and imperfections in your hardwood. The trowel-filler is then sanded off during fine sanding, yielding a flush, smooth, table-top surface for stain, sealer and finish to be applied to. Trowel-fillers are typically water-based, non-toxic, pet and eco-friendly, and contain no harsh solvents. Furthermore, they receive natural, light, dark, white and gray stains in a manner consistent with your hardwood for optimal blending. Having trowel-filler applied to your flooring is crucial if you desire floors that look flawless and new, and many companies include this service at no extra cost, Hamilton Hardwood included.
With all of those listed benefits, it's hard to imagine why a hardwood expert would recommend you not have your floors trowel-filled, right? So, what's the catch? When asking this question, the responses you receive will most definitely vary, but the main reason will likely hear is that, unfortunately, trowel-filler is often only a temporary fix. Your flooring, being a natural, porous material, will expand and contract seasonally. In the summertime, when humidity is high, your flooring will swell up, forcing some of the trowel-filler out of their little cracks and onto your flooring. Because this happens gradually, you will likely not even notice the eviction of the cracks, but in times that you do, it can easily be remedied with a quick sweep or vacuum. Being that, over the years it will likely eventually come out, some pros do not see the purpose in applying it in the first place. Another reason- one they won't tell you- is because it's an added cost of labor, time, and materials, often at no upcharge. Trowel-filling is widely considered a step in the process, not an option, and many companies believe skipping this step, except for in instances when skipping it is requested by the homeowner, is an example of "cutting corners." It's fair to also mention that some homeowners might opt against having their floors filled because, perhaps, brand-new looking flooring doesn't go with the style or décor of their home. Older, antique homes, as well as customers looking for a natural, unpolished, and/or rustic look may opt to skip the trowel-filler for aesthetic purposes.
If brand-new, polished, perfect looking flooring appeals to your tastes, we at Hamilton Hardwood insist on applying trowel-filler to any and all flooring projects. Our reasoning is because, if it's going to come out over time anyway, homeowners might as well enjoy the look while it lasts! Further, because the trowel-filler is applied in between the rounds of rough sanding and fine sanding, we are more easily able to see where our machines have already passed, allowing for a smoother, more consistent sanding. Here are a few photos that show what finished flooring looks like- with and without trowel-filler- for you to reference.
It is ultimately best to consult with your hired professional before deciding whether or not to have your flooring trowel-filled. Feel free to post questions in the comments, or contact me directly at (248) 802-5501 with any further inquiries. Happy filling... or not!
Peace, Love & Wood,