You love your reclaimed wood floor from Aged Woods don’t you? Of course you do. That means maintenance will need to be done on that floor and one of the most common things that will need to be done is to refinish the floor. Knowing which method was used or that you would like to use (if you are just about to install your reclaimed hardwood floor) will help you when it comes time to do maintenance or to refinish the floor.
The frequency of how often your reclaimed wood floor needs to be refinished can vary. It mostly depends on the amount of traffic in the room but there are other factors. A floor that is used by a family of four and their pets may need to be refinished every 4-5 years while a room that is used by only 2 adults might need to be done so every decade.
There are several different types of finishes on the market so you will have a lot of variety to choose from. Wax is the ageless tried-and-true method, it is easy to apply, penetrates well into the wood and only gives off a mild odor. The problem with it is that it is not as durable as other finishes, susceptible to stains, needs regular refinishing and if another finish is applied it must be completely removed. Wax was the way to finish a floor before polyurethane became available in the 1970s and has been used for centuries. It comes in either a paste or a liquid and is making a comeback with homeowners who prefer to use more natural products. It is easy to apply and touch up but it is labor intensive.
If you are looking for more modern convenience there are two types of polyurethane, water-based and oil-based. Water-based dries very quickly, is easy to apply and is low odor but it is the more expensive of the two and is not quite as tough as oil-based. Water-based is more eco-friendly and can be used overtop of an oil-based polyurethane finish. Oil-based is the cheaper of the two, very tough and also easy to apply but it takes longer to dry, has a strong odor and yellows over time. This is usually the choice of professionals and the odor means that the home will need to be vacated while it dries, and that includes pets. There have also been problems reported when using an oil-based finish overtop of a water-based finish.
An acid-cured finish is for professionals only and not for a do-it-yourselfer. This finish is extremely hard and durable and dries in 2 hours, though it will not cure completely for 60 days. It is probably the most expensive method to use and produces very strong odors. In the future only an acid-cured finish can then be used to touch up a floor. If you choose this method it is best to have it done while on vacation as the odors alone will force you to sleep elsewhere and it takes three days of curing before you can even walk on the floor so you better take your pets with you. This method is also known as the Swedish finish.
If time is of short supply then a moisture-cured urethane may be the way to go. It is extremely durable and dries very quickly, which allows for multiple coats to be applied in a day which means the workers will be out of your hair sooner but you’re not done yet. This is a method that should be done by professionals only and it is expensive. The fumes can be offputting and can last for weeks so it is recommended that people and pets leave the house for two weeks at least and the drying time can be extended in a low humidity environment so it could be even longer. It is a step up in quality when compared to a polyurethane finish and this is a good finish to use for high traffic areas and in homes with kids and dogs.
If you don’t want the cost of hiring a professional and prefer to do it yourself then a penetrating oil sealer might be the way to go. It is easy to apply, nontoxic, has a mild odor and produces a mellow sheen. Oil sealers have been used for hundreds of years to seal wood so this method is time-tested and it makes retouching a snap. It can take several days to dry between coats and is not as durable as other methods, which means you might have to recoat your floor every 2-3 years but it is great for antique wood flooring like that reclaimed wood you have!
A final option is shellac. Shellac is easy to work with, cheap and low on odor and many homes built before 1970 used shellac for a finish. Shellac contains wax, so it will work fine with another coating of shellac or wax but does not work with more modern finishes like polyurethane. It is not very durable and must be recoated often. It is a natural product and non-toxic and its ease of use allows for very easy touch-up jobs. It is good for floors that have already been covered by it but your reclaimed wood floor will not have been finished by it so it is best to go with another option.
It should be noted that there is another option, aluminum oxide. This comes only on prefinished wood planks. While extremely hard and durable it is difficult to impossible to refinish so when the finish wears off the wood needs to be replaced. This is common with wood flooring bought in big box stores so you won’t be seeing this on your reclaimed hardwood floor anytime soon.