Comparing Polyurethane and Hard Wax Oil for Timber Floors

Comparing Polyurethane and Hard Wax Oil for Timber Floors

Getting ready to refinish your floors? Want to protect timber furniture from the rough and tumble of everyday life? Polyurethane and hard wax oil are two of your best options!

Polyurethane coatings and hard wax oil for timber floors provide long-lasting protection against dirt, spills, stains, grease and everything else your life has in store. The two products are DIY-friendly, and they’re a great solution for use around the home.

In this article we’ll compare polyurethane and hard wax oil to see which is better for your next DIY project.

What is Polyurethane?

Polyurethane coatings are a type of liquid plastic that dries to form a thin, protective layer over timber flooring. They function similarly to regular paint, but are often much tougher than coloured paints.

Durability is the major benefit to polyurethane timber coatings. Because the coating is polymer-based, it’s extremely tough and resistant to spills, stains, acids, soaps and other chemicals. Not only does that keep timber floors looking good for longer, it reduces maintenance requirements and is perfect for residential settings.

Some of the other benefits of polyurethane floor coatings include:

  • Low VOC – Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are gases emitted by certain chemicals. These chemicals are often harmful to humans and pets, and they can also be harmful to the surrounding environment. Most polyurethane products are low VOC, making them safe to use in enclosed residential homes.
  • Easy application – Polyurethane coatings can be painted or rolled onto timber. This means they are suitable for DIY applications.
  • Fast curing time – Fresh polyurethane coatings are touch dry in a matter of hours, and they’re ready to be walked on within the day. If time is a factor, polyurethane coatings are a great way to protect timber floors.
  • Low cost – Similar to regular paints, polyurethane coatings are mass produced and very affordable. This can be a major factor if you are finishing the floors in a large home with lots of surface area.
  • Multiple finishes available – Polyurethane comes in matte, satin and gloss finishes, giving you the flexibility to choose a product that suits your design aesthetic.
  • Durability – Being resistant to soap, acid (such as wine and vinegar), dirt, water and other spills makes polyurethane the perfect coating for homes. While the polyurethane can be scratched by things such as sliding furniture, it generally provides the best protection on the market.

What is Hard Wax Oil?

Hard wax oil is a timber coating product that’s made using a blend of natural oils and waxes – typically beeswax and linseed oil. Where polyurethane sits on top of the timber like a layer of paint, hard wax oil soaks into the wood fibres, providing protection from the inside out.

Hard wax oil is a relatively new product. It’s popular in Europe, and has quickly gained popularity in other parts of the world. The beauty of hard wax oil lies in its simplicity. It’s easy to apply, very durable and it enhances the natural appearance of timber. For anyone that wants to highlight the beauty of their floors, hard wax oil is the best choice.

Many people also choose to use hard wax oil because it offers:

  • Zero VOC – While some hard wax oils contain solvents, many contain zero harmful chemicals. This is ideal when the product is being applied in enclosed spaces, such as on timber floors.
  • Easy application – Hard wax oil is one of the easiest timber coatings to apply. It requires little preparation and no sanding, and it provides excellent coverage with just 1-2 coats.
  • Durability – The protection in hard wax oil comes from the wax and the oil. Wax and oil are naturally resistant to water, dirt and spills. While it’s not as tough as polyurethane, it still provides excellent protection against everyday accidents.
  • Appearance – Hard wax oil enhances the appearance of timber. Because the product soaks into the timber fibres, it enriches the colour and makes the grain pattern stand out. This is highly desirable for anyone looking to add warmth to their home.

Which is Better for Timber Floors?

The choice between polyurethane and hard wax oil comes down to personal preference. Both are highly suited to use on timber floors, furniture, screens and other features.

However, the two products work very differently, and they provide differing levels of protection. It’s important to consider how you use your spaces (such as the risk of spills) and whether your timber is exposed to things such as harsh sun, lots of dirt and grit, or high foot traffic.

In general, polyurethane provides better protection that lasts for longer. The coating can slightly obscure the natural beauty of the timber (especially if you opt for a matte finish), but it will look better for longer.

On the other hand, hard wax oil is easier to apply and enhances the timber. While you lose some of the protective qualities of polyurethane, hard wax oil is simple to repair if an area becomes scratched or stained.

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