Perfect Wood Floors to the Finish

Oct 19, 2023

With many a well done floor restoration being let down by a botchy finish and a confusing number of products and applicators on the market to choose from, it may be time to ask a couple of fundamental questions:

A) How do you know what type of finishing to use?

B) How should it be correctly applied?

​Floor finishing is every bit as integral to the final result as is any other part of the real wood floor restoration process and a bad finishing destroys the look of the floor no matter how well it may be sanded and otherwise prepared.

​With fluffy rollers, brushes, rags, T-bars, pads and other applicators on the shelves of the average DIY superstore, how do you know what to choose? In short there is no rule of thumb here and the best applicator depends entirely upon the type of finishing to be used.


​This ever-popular choice of finishing gives the floor an excellent barrier of protection on even high traffic areas which, when properly applied, should keep a floor looking good for many years. Varnish responds well to brush application and a popular choice is the China Bristle brush (made of pig hair and hollow, so it does not drop bristles during application). The lamb’s wool roller is also commonly used although lambs wool, particularly if unused for a long period of time, does tend to leave residual strands of material along the way.

​For those who choose not to use animal products all, applicators can be substituted by synthetic lamb’s wool rollers, brushes or T-bar applicators.

​Varnish, as with every other type of finishing, must be applied carefully with no missed spots. Using a roller can often leave dry areas (especially on floors which are not completely smooth) whereas brushing tends to get into every wood crevice.

Urethane (water-based)

​Choosing any form of urethane finishing product means only ever using a synthetic applicator. Never use lambs wool rollers or real bristle brushes. This is because these types of applicators tend to absorb much of the product, and whilst this is fine in the cases of thick finishings such as varnish, it tends to spoil the smooth effect of thinner water-based finishings such as urethane. If using a pad for cutting in then be sure that it is also made of synthetic material.

Polyurethane (oil-based)

‘More is more’ in this case and oil-based finishings should be applied generously, and spread quickly but without puddling. A practiced hand is required for this type of finishing and it may be best left to the professionals unless the individual has floor finishing experience.

The Perfect Wood Floors Finish

​In general terms the easiest finishing to apply is varnish as it is more versatile and forgiving than other forms of finishing. This advantage should be seriously considered, especially for the first-time finisher.

The easiest form of finishing to get wrong is wood stain. Wood stain is similar to wood paint which completely changes the colour and tone of the floor and when applied too thickly can result in a dulled and flat appearance. To remove unwanted wood stain requires a complete resanding and the painstaking reapplication of a different type of finishing, so it’s important to get it right first time, every time!

Drying time

​It is essential to allow the floor to dry out completely before applying further finishing. It is likely that more than one coat will be required.

​The user should strictly follow the manufacturer’s instructions in terms of drying time and it is always a good idea to allow a further 24 hours drying time before returning furniture to the room.

It should also be remembered that finishing veneers are chemical-based and therefore it is important to keep a steady flow of air throughout the room. Those with moderate to severe respiratory issues should always avoid applying any type of finishing product.