Choosing an appropriate finish

There are many types of floor finishes available.

Your finish depends on the type and age of timber, the look you want, the environmental conditions, and how you will use the floor (commercial, residential or other). Talk to us about the perfect finish for your floors.

After sanding and finishing, we can expect to see movement in some floors from factors such as seasonal changes, humidity, use of wide boards, air-conditioning, and so on. In these cases, we recommend a flexible finish to allow boards to move individually. If flexible finishes are not used, wide gaps and  split boards may occur. For example, a new timber floor laid in winter with the wrong finish risks splitting or edge bonding when summer comes. 

  • Flexible finishes: Penetrating finishes such as oil and wax, oil modified polyurethane, waterbased polyurethane [medium flexible]

Less flexible finishes are hard wearing, and mainly suitable where minimal movement is expected after installation. They are best used in a permanently controlled environment, such as a shopping centre that is air air-conditioned almost constantly. A skilled timber flooring company can balance the moisture content of the floor within the environment and ensure a small amount of board movement, and the floor finish can be selected based on wear resistance.

  • Less flexible finishes: Solvent based polyurethane [single pack and two pack]

Penetrating oil finish on Brush box

 Edge bonding caused by MC polyurethane

Penetrating finishes - flexible finish



Oils and  waxes  penetrate the  surface of the floor, protecting the wood from within. Penetrating finishes are absorbed into the wood fibres. Oils have a matt or satin appearance. If you can feel the wood grain when you run your hand across the surface, it is probably a penetrating finish. Most of the penetrating finishes are non toxic and hypo-allergenic. Oils do not create problems with edge bonding or cracking, and minor repairs can be completed without sanding the floor back to bare timber.

Rubio Monocoat - penetrating oil

All-natural oil wood floor finishes are plant-based, VOC-free and completely non-toxic oil finishes of extraordinary durability. Available in clear finish and more than 30 colour finishes, all apply evenly in a single coating. All Monocoat finishes are easily maintained, and provide a subtle lustre that reveals and complements, rather than covers, the natural grain and patina of the wood.

Monocoat finishes adheres with the first microns of wood by molecular bonding. As a result, Monocoat Natural Oil can cover an average 400 sq. ft. of floor per litre. In addition, because of molecular bonding, no surface film can form, and no variable saturation can occur.  Not only is a second coat not required, the finished wood will not accept a second coat. The same action protects against overlaps and color variance and causes the process to complete in one coat.

Monocoat natural oil finish bonding technology allows local touch up of damaged areas or scratches, because only the free wood fibres will take the touchup coating. The finished margins next to the scratched or damaged area will not accept new coats. After 10 minutes, just wipe away superfluous oil. There is no overlapping or additional density buildup at the margins.

Rubio monocoat pure on old baltic pine

 Rubio Monocoat with hardener 

Rubio monocoat Black on old baltic pine

Loba Impact oil - Penetrating oil

A durable two component hard oil for wood floors. Based on 100% natural vegetable oils, HS 2K ImpactOil contains no solvents, water or waxes. Available in transparent and 10 designer colours for a beautiful satin sheen. HS 2K ImpactOil fortifies and protects from within.

Recommended Use:

For high traffic commercial areas.
Suitable for wood floors.

  • 100% solids – solvent free
  • Natural satin appearance
  • Excellent water resistance, also suitable for bathrooms, kitchens and other rooms exposed to high humidity
  • Increased anti-slip class R10 according to BGR 181 and DIN 51130.
  • Easy and ergonomic application
  • Time-saving application in 1 day
  • Very low consumption
Available in transparent and 10 designer colours for a beautiful satin sheen:

Bilinga, Jatoba, Kambala, Mahogany, Papyrus, Smoked Oak, Black, Sucupira, Transparent, White, Wenge, Antique Oak, Oyster, Clay, Sand, Pearl, Silver, Chalk, Iron, Transparent

 Loba impact oil Black 50% on Black butt timber flooring

Synteko Natural - Penetrating oil

Natural oil is an alkyd based high solid oil which achieves a highest quality and environmentally friendly finish. Hard oil is especially recommended for use in gyms, yoga centres and other places people frequent with bare feet. Hard oil creates a floor that is comfortable to walk on. The finish wears only as the wood wears for a lovely natural feel.

Synteko Natural oil, which is 100% VOC free, penetrates into the surface of the wood. As this oil cures and hardens in the top layer of wood fibres it forms an integral part of the timber floor resulting in a protective surface that is not only part of the wood floor but achieves a very high wear resistant finish. One walks on the timber and not the coating. A distinguishing feature of Synteko Natural compared to other penetrating and surface oil is that it is roughly 100% solids. This results in a very high quality floor finish that is also friendly to the environment.

Synteko Natural oil finish provides very good protection, is easy to maintain and, if done properly, will prevent a wood floor from ever having to be re-sanded. No additional protective coatings are required such as hard waxes to ensure the longevity of this natural floor finish.

 Synteko natural oil clear on old tas oak

 Synteko natural oil clear on stained old baltic pine

Surface finishes - Non flexible finish




Surface finishes shield floors by forming a protective layer that looks like clear plastic on top of the wood.

Predominantly MC (moisture-cured) polyurethane, surface finishes are found on all pre-finished floors and are today's most popular choice in Victoria. They are beautiful, durable, water-resistant and require minimal maintenance. Various gloss levels are available to achieve the look you want.

However, surface finishes can suffer from edge bonding problems.

MC (Moisture Cured ) Polyurethane - Surface finish

MC polyurethane is the most hard wearing and moisture resistant of all surface finishes. It can be clear or become amber with age and is available in a gloss, satin or matt appearance.

When first applying MC polyurethane, it will have a strong odour and is toxic, so the drying time for a new floor is several days. One potential problem is edge bonding and splitting or cracking of the floor boards when the moisture content of the air is very low. We can advise you on how to prevent this problem.

Moisture cured polyurethane gloss on new Baltic pine

Moisture cured polyurethane Satin on Old Tas oak flooring

Composition finishes - Non flexible finish


Oil modified polyurethane finish has the strength of both oil and polyurethane seals.
It gives reasonable wear resistance while allowing movement in the timber, so it avoids edge bonding and splitting.

Oil Modified Polyurethane - Composition finish

Feast Watson Alkathane is an oil modified polyurethane composed of penetrating finish and surface finish. It has the benefits of both Tung oil and polyurethane for your floors - it is more durable than Tung oil, easy to spot repair and is less likely to have an edge bonding problem. It includes oil-based alkyds and urethanes and provides a finish with reasonably good abrasion resistance. These finishes provide a subdued, satin to semigloss appearance. They darken with time and require more frequent maintenance than other finishes, particularly in high traffic areas. Fine scuff marks can be repaired with Tung oil and can be recoated without sanding it to the bare timber.

Oil Modified Polyurethane Satin on old Tas oak flooring

Hardwax oil - Composition finish

Treatex hard wax oil is a combination of oil and wax on a base of natural sustainable raw materials including linseed oil, sunflower oil, jojoba oil, beeswax, carnauba wax and candelilla wax.

This premium product is available in gloss, satin and matt. It is hard wearing, non toxic and spot repairable.

Hard Wax Oil is an engineered finish made with plant oils and waxes, plus just enough highly refined mineral spirits to allow easy application. This remarkable finish offers excellent durability and renew-ability with a unique lustrous finish. It will never crack, blister, or flake off. Instead of forming a plastic film, like polyurethane does, Hard Wax Oil has open pores that allow any moisture that does get through to get back out again without pushing off the finish.

Because it is micro porous, Hard Wax Oil works well in rooms with high humidity, such as kitchens. It meets German standards for resistance to stains from wine, cola, coffee, tea and fruit juice. Spot repairs are easy. There's no need to strip the whole floor or even to remove old Hard Wax Oil. For minor repairs, just scuff the damaged area with fine steel wool, coat with Liquid Wax Cleaner and buff lightly when the cleaner is dry. If a more extensive fix is needed, use Hard Wax Oil. Make repairs regularly, and the finish will last indefinitely.

Treatex hardwax oil Matt finish on European oak parquetry stained

Treatex hardwax oil Matt on New Tas oak flooring

Pros and Cons













Solvent based

MC polyurethane

- Most durable finish

- Minimal maintenance

- Gloss, Satin, Matt

- Colours darken by UV

- Edge bonding can happen

- Poisonous vapour

- Long curing time

  (full curing takes 2 weeks)


Water based Polyurethane

- Non toxic

- Low odour

- Less chance of edge bonding

- Fast dry (full curing takes 3 days)

- No need to vacate premises

- Enhance the natural look of the timber

- More expensive than MC polyurethane












Oil Modified


- Less toxic

- No edge bonding

- No splitting

- Enhance natural beauty of timber.

- Easy to patch up

- Spot repairable

- More durable than Tung oil

- Less wear resistant than MC polyurethane












Natural oil

- Non toxic

- No splitting

- No edge bonding

- Enhance the natural beauty of timber.

- Easy to patch up

- Spot repairable

- Not necessary to sand back in the future

- Maintenance required every 1~2 years (but not as difficult as solvent based polyurethane)

- Not shiny as solvent based because it does not build film on the surface of the timber floor.

- More daily maintenance required - If not cleaned regularly, dirt is more obvious than on MC polyurethane


Color difference between water base and solvent based polyurethane

White Ash

American beach





  • The photos illustrate the appearance of several wood species when applying water base and solvent base polyurethane. The top half of the timber is coated with a water-base polyurethane, while the bottom half is finished with a solvent-base polyurethane.


Wear Resistance

What makes a floor finish more wear resistant than another? Very often the hardness of a finish is confused with the wear resistance, but these are 2 different things. A harder finish does not mean it is necessarily more wear resistant. For example, when comparing solvent-based finishes, a 2 pack finish whilst harder, does not have the wear resistance of a single pack moisture-cured finish. Even the method of measuring wear resistance can be misunderstood. The most common test method is by using a Taber Abraser machine, but numerous testing standards exist and this is where the confusion begins.

Of the different Taber Abraser testing standards, the grit feeder method(SIS 923509) provides the most realistic prediction of the performance of a floor finish. The reason is because this test best simulates 'real life' wear and tear.

Taber Test Results (the lower the figure, the more wear resistant)

Bona Traffic


Typical single pack moisture cured polyurethane


Synteko Best


Synteko Extra


Bona Mega


Nanosol Classic


Typical 2 pack polyurethane


Typical Oil modified/Tung oil finish


Synteko Classic(Acid curing)



  • Quote from bona X


Finish sold in U.S.A 2002
Right hand diagram shows the market share of finish sold in United State in 2002. Oil modified polyurethane and waterbased polyurethane is dominant.


Guidance of finish selection

  • I want the cheapest finish
    • MC polyurethane gloss


  • I want the most durable finish
    • Waterbase polyurethane 2 part


  • I want a non-toxic finishes
    • Waterbase polyurethane/Penetrating natural oil/Treatex hard wax oil


  • I want a non-yellowing finish
    • Waterbased polyurethane


  • I want my floor colour to be as light as possible
    • Waterbased polyurethane


  • I want my floor color to be a rich, oiled look
    • Oil modifed PU /Tung oil/ Treatex wax/ Penetrating Oil


  • I want my floor to be look as matte as possible
    • Treatex wax oil Matt finish/ Penetrating oil finish


  • I want my floor to be limed and polished
    • Waterbased polyurethane


  • I want my floor to be stained and polished
    • Oil modified polyurethane/ Treatex Wax/Combination of Oil modied and Waterbase polyurethane


  • I want my floor to be maintaned without the need for sanding back in the future
    • Penetrating oil/ Treatex wax/ Tung oil.


  • I want my floor to look as natural as possible
    • Penetrating natural oil/Tung oil/Hard wax


  • I want my floor to be finishes as quickly as possible
    • Penetrating oil/Waterbase polyurethane


  • I want my kitchen floor to be finished with the best possible water proofing finish
    • Penetrating Oil/ Tung oil/ Treatex wax, and need proper maintenance.


  • I have a restaurant with a timber floor and I want to keep it looking clean without resanding again
    • Penetrating oil with wax finish and maintain with regular maintenance coat every 6 to 12 months depending on volume of traffic. 



Health Issues of Solvent based polyurethane (MC polyurethane)

It is hard to find accurate information about the toxicity of solvent borne floor coatings and in particular that of cancer causing Toluene Diisocyanate, TDI, which is contained in all current Australian solvent borne one and two pack polyurethanes. Myflooring only uses highest quality products and specialises in environmentally-friendly, non-toxic flooring finishes. The following is an article detailing information about the potentials dangers in such solvents. 

In Utero Workplace Injuries:
Children Harmed By Solvents During Pregnancy
By Richard Alexander

Children who have been injured as a result of the negligent conduct of employers who expose pregnant mothers to hazards in the workplace are now entitled to bring a direct action against the mother's employer in California as a result of a long prayed for September 25, 1996 decision of the California Court of Appeal in Mikala Snyder v. Michael's Stores, Inc.
This decision expressly holds that an earlier California case that has precluded injured children from seeking relief in California courts since 1989, Bell v. Macy 212 Cal. App. 3d 1442, was incorrectly decided.
In a related article involving in utero exposure to methyl ethyl ketone which resulted in microcephaly we explain our analysis and approach to proof in one case arising from an exposure suffered by a pregnant woman and her fetus to solvents in an electronics industry "clean room." In that case we successfully pursued a "third party" action against a solvent manufacturer on behalf of the brain damaged child, having been precluded from suing the employer under the draconian reasoning of the Bell case. See Methyl Ethyl Ketone, Fetal Neurotoxicity, Microcephaly and Mental Retardation: In Utero Brain Damage Caused by Toxic Solvent Exposure [].
Bell held that a child's claim for personal injuries as a result of an in utero poisoning or developmentally damaging exposure was barred by the "exclusive remedy" provisions of California Labor Code section 3600 and 3602. The Snyder Court had no difficulty determining that a child in the womb was not an employee and that any injury inflicted upon a child by the mother¹s employer is actionable to the same extent as any nonemployee's direct injury by the employer.
In Snyder, Mikala's mother was employed by Michael¹s Stores in Modesto. During Naomi¹s employment the store permitted a buffing machine powered by propane gas to be used in the store without adequate ventilation and monitoring, even though management had been informed that a toxic level of carbon monoxide gas was accumulating in the store during the use of the buffer.. On one afternoon the CO reached such a high level that 21 customers and employees were taken to hospitals, including Naomi. All were diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning.
CO binds to hemoglobin and reduces the capacity of the blood to transport oxygen and poisons a variety of intracellular mechanisms, further impairing cellular respiration. In Mikala's case the deprivation of oxygen resulted in permanent damage to her brain and as a result she suffers from cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, abnormal motor function and other serious conditions.

California law provides, Civil Code section 1714, that everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by a want of ordinary care in the management of his person or property. In other words, negligent acts will be held liable.
In contrast the rules are much different for an employee who is injured at work. Under California Labor Code section 3600, an employer's liability is without regard to negligence and the sole and exclusive remedy for an on-the-job injury to an employee is controlled by the workers¹ compensation system's schedule of benefits. The concept is that both employer and employee give up certain rights. The employer becomes liable notwithstanding whether or not the employer is at fault and if the injury is work related the workers' compensation system is the only available avenue for relief, including any derivative claims of family members, such as lost consortium, loss of support and emotional distress. It is a system without fault, but with severely limited damages and in some cases recoveries are precluded for certain injuries that are real but unrelated to one¹s ability to work, as victims of on-the-job castration or penile injury have learned to their gross dismay. The Bell decision was particularly mean-spirited because California's workers' compensation system has no provision of injuries to children, basically because they are not related to workplace productivity.
Over 40 states permit an action in tort for prenatal injuries to a child and even California law provides that an unborn child is "deemed an existing person, so far as necessary for the child¹s interests in the event of the child's subsequent birth." Civil Code section 43.1.
California adopted a minority position with regard to the claims of children injure in utero in the Bell case where a company nurse misdiagnosed abdominal discomfort as gas when it fact it was a ruptured uterus. The child suffered brain damage and dies at the age of 28 months. The court held in Bell that since the injury was a direct result of Macy's work-related negligence it was include within the workers' compensation system of claims. But, the workers' compensation system has never provided any benefits for injured children. In short the court created a right which provides no remedy and withdrew a right that did. Clearly a mean decision by judges who care not that the victim and his or her family would be condemned to a life of injury and mandatory provision of care. That the California Supreme Court would allow such a decision to stand is beyond belief, especially in light of California's statutory policy that in utero injuries suffered by a child born alive shall be compensated in the same manner as injuries to a living person. Civil Code section 43.1.
Wisely the justices deciding Snyder conclude that the decision in Bell "stretches the exclusivity rule beyond any reasonable bounds intended" and held that the bargained exchange of rights in the workers compensation system is "limited, however, to he consequences of injuries to the employee."
The practical impact of Bell was to confer virtual immunity on employers from claims of injured children and allowed employers to act negligently towards the unborn children of pregnant employees.
The wisdom of Justices Vartabdian, Thaxter, and Stone is indeed commendable. On behalf of a grateful parents of injured and handicapped children, "thank you" to his court for recognizing the plight of their children and families and for providing an avenue for relief.

ⓒ Richard Alexander, 1995-2007.
Richard Alexander is a specialist in personal injury litigation with 30 years in-depth experience. Emphasizing working relationships with clients has led to an exceptional record of success. He has served as a member of the Board of Governors of The State Bar of California, President of the Santa Clara County Bar Association and the Board of Governors of Consumer Attorneys of California. He is a founding member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, and heads Alexander Hawes, LLP.
Alexander Hawes, LLP is a California law firm that specializes in personal injury, wrongful death, and financial losses caused by negligence, defective products, toxic chemicals, corporate misconduct or insurance fraud on behalf of consumers, small investors, injured workers and small businesses. In addition to individual cases the firm prosecutes class actions for large groups of individuals who have suffered financial loss as a result of corporate fraud, defective consumer products, and environmental pollution. The firm holds Martindale-Hubbell's highest rating and is recognized in the List of Preeminent Law Firms in the U. S.



Volatile Organic Compounds

Conventional paints contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), which are petroleum-based solvents that evaporate from paint films while the paint is drying. These compounds are the unpleasant solvent fumes that may trigger respiratory reactions including asthma, and breathing discomfort, when using conventional paints.

Conventional water-borne paints have a solvent level of around 7%, so obviously using water-borne paints is a far more environmentally responsible option.

Additives classified as VOCs are normally included in conventional paint for a number of reasons, such as:

  • Basic “carrier” or solvent in enamels, supporting the resins and pigments in the paint formula, and allowing these to be transferred from the can to the substrate.
  • Improving “wet edge” by prolonging evaporation long enough to allow the paint to flow out.
  • Improving coalescence of the latex particles in water based paints as the water evaporates.
  • Preventing “in-can” corrosion.

It must be noted that all organic additives that evaporate from paint as it dries are classified as VOC, regardless of relative potential for harm. In other words, a particular additive may be harmless enough to be found in a range of foodstuffs (such as soya oil or ethanol, the alcohol present in wines, beer and spirits), or face creams, but as part of a paint formula, so long as it evaporates from paint, it is considered a VOC! 

It must also be noted that some VOCs are actually renewable raw materials, such as ethanol, pine oil or wood turpentine. Tonnes of these naturally occurring VOC’s evaporate from forests annually.

Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of every specifier to specify, wherever a genuine choice exists, the paint with the lower VOC.