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How to choose the right type of floor varnish?

How to choose the right type of floor varnish? Stéphanie Landry Poirier

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Waterborne, oil based, alcohol based, etc.; facing the wide variety of floor varnishes available, it gets hard to know which one to choose for your hardwood floor. Depending on your criteria, you have different options.

Resistance, maintenance, drying: many elements need to be considered when buying a finish. Discover all our advice to help you make the right choice of varnish for your floor.


The Resistance

Finishing your floor is a duty that you don’t necessarily want to do on a regular basis. Make sure you choose a varnish such as a waterborne finish that will be resistant throughout the years and that will protect your floors for a while.

Indeed, waterborne finishes have the reputation of offering excellent resistance to shocks and scratches. Beside this, according to a study done by Protégez-vous Magazine, Finitec waterborne varnishes stood out among its competitors for the best results during the Taber test.

The Taber test is a reliable and recognized test in the industry that measures the wear resistance of a finish.


The Drying Time

Depending on the type of finish that you will choose, the drying time may vary. If you want to use your floor shortly, make sure you opt for a quick drying finish.

In this case, avoid oil-based finishes as these tend to take a while to dry. On the other hand, waterborne and alcohol-based finishes have the property of drying really fast, sometimes in only a few hours.


The Components

When shopping, pay particular attention to the ingredients in your varnish. Many finishes, such as alcohol, have extremely toxic components. Using them may be really harmful for you and for the environment.

The basic component in a finish is the part that evaporates when drying leaving the solid component on the floor. So, if you have alcohol-based, oil-based or waterborne finishes, these are the parts that are vapored. From this, no matter what finish you choose, the 100% solid, solvent-free or waterborne finishes will be the least harmful.

To know if a product is more toxic than another, you may refer to the number of grams per liter (g/L) of VOC (volatile organic components). The lower this number is, the less toxic is your finish.


The Yellowing

Many finishes tend to yellow over time. That is the case for oil-based finishes. It is an important criterion to consider if you want to avoid this type of inconvenience. If you want to make sure to avoid it, choose a waterborne finish that is non-yellowing and which keeps its luster throughout the years.


The Odor

While some people may appreciate the smell of the finish, many of them can’t stand it, mostly if it remains after the varnish application.

To minimize this inconvenience, opt for a waterborne finish. These ones have the reputation of being the ones with a less bothersome odor.


The type of floor and the luster

Depending on the type of floor you have or wish to have, many finishes may be suitable. All will depend on the style you would like for your room. This will determine the sheen of the finish you will choose.

Most of the finishes offer a wide range of lusters such as gloss, semi-gloss, satin or matte. So, depending on the look you are trying to achieve, you will select the appropriate sheen.

Let’s take as an example gloss and semi-gloss finishes. These are the ones that enhance the color the most but the ones that make the dust the most visible and require more maintenance.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, satin and matte finishes are less enhancing of the wood grain but are better at hiding the dust and the dirt. This is why this sheen is preferred when it comes to commercial or high traffic floors.



For a clean and aesthetic finish, it is important to apply your varnish correctly. If you are not familiar with this type of work, opt for a product that will be easy to apply such as a waterborne finish. This type of varnish will place itself and will leave no trace.

Still unsure about which varnish to choose? Please contact us! Our experts will be pleased to help and you with choosing the right product.

Talk with an expert now at 1-888-838-4449.