Once your floorboards are sanded you'll need to decide what protective coating to use on them, and the best coating to use will depend on the level of footfall the floor will experience and the finished look you want to achieve. Polyurethane and hard wax oil are commonly used floor finishes as they are easy to apply with a brush or roller, but they have very different qualities. Here's an overview of both types of finish:


Polyurethane is available as a water-based or oil-based finish. Both types are hard-wearing and water-resistant as they are a type of liquid plastic, so they are ideal for use in high-traffic areas or areas with a high moisture level such as a kitchen or utility room. Polyurethane doesn't penetrate the wood but simply dries on top of it. This means you can't add a coat of wax as the polyurethane will stop it being absorbed into the wood, but it also means spills tend to sit on top of the finish and can simply be mopped up. However, the thick coating provided by polyurethane isn't easy to repair if a section is damaged, so you typically have to sand and re-coat the full floor if you want to get rid of a deep scratch or chip.

Water-based polyurethane provides a lighter finish than oil-based. It's odourless and colourless, so the natural colour of the wood will be preserved, but it won't cover up any marks in the floorboards. If you'd like to achieve a distressed look in an area with high footfall, water-based polyurethane is a good option. Oil-based polyurethane can hide light blemishes and has a smooth finish that will leave your floorboards with a polished glow. It leaves a tinge of soft amber on the floorboards and has to be applied when your family is out of your home due to emitting volatile organic compounds while it dries. Oil-based polyurethane is ideal if you have small defects in your floorboards or prefer a sleeker look.

Hard Wax Oil

Hard wax oil soaks into your floorboards and leaves them looking nourished. It's a durable finish that consists of natural oils and a protective wax, and it's easy to touch up if a small section of the floor gets damaged. Simply sand over the damaged area and refinish with the same hard wax oil you used to cover the rest of the floor. As hard wax oil contains a wax such as carnauba wax, it's not suitable for use in high moisture areas as this can reduce the effectiveness of the wax. Additionally, floors coated with hard wax oil can only be cleaned with a damp cloth and must be dried thoroughly afterwards with a soft cloth. This finish is ideal for use in low-traffic areas such as a bedroom and will leave the floors with a country cottage feel, which will complement solid wood furniture.

The best finishing option for your floorboards will depend on your lifestyle. For example, if you have pets and small children, you'll need a hard-wearing finish, but those with no children or pets will be better able to control what gets walked through their home or spilled on their floors.

When getting floors sanded, consult with a professional from a company like MI Floor Sanding to determine the finish that is desired.