NATURAL OIL FINISHES – AN INTRODUCTION
At Monarch Plank, we offer flooring with both urethane and natural oil finishes. Both technologies have their advantages.
Urethane finishes are very durable and are currently the most popular choice in the U.S., but at Monarch Plank we believe that natural oil finishes would be more popular if they were better understood. In Europe, where natural oil floor finishes have a long tradition, they constitute roughly one third of the residential market and one half of the commercial market. We hope you'll take the time to read on and find out why so many Europeans prefer natural oils.
The two finishes reflect two completely different approaches – oils work by fortifying and sealing the wood fibers, while urethane works by walling them off. With an oiled floor, you are walking on the natural wood surface. With a urethane floor, you are walking on a manmade barrier. Consider this analogy: oil is to urethane as skin is to a raincoat. An oil finish penetrates into the wood and hardens to become an integral part of the floor, just as skin is an integral part of the body. A urethane finish is a protective layer that covers the floor, like a raincoat.
Consumers often ask which type of finish is more durable, urethane or oil, but there is no simple answer to that question. Please keep reading to understand why.
REPAIR & MAINTENANCE – NATURAL OIL VS. URETHANE
There is a common perception that natural oils are more difficult to maintain than urethane, and that is true in the short term, but if you consider the total long-term cost and hassle of maintaining the floor, oil finishes actually may be superior.
Like a raincoat, a urethane finish provides excellent protection, but its appearance and performance are never again as good as on the day it was installed. Gradually the floor gets more and more scratched up until you eventually have to sand and recoat it. Urethane finishes can’t be patched or touched up - repairing scratches requires refinishing the entire floor, like throwing away that old raincoat.
By contrast, an oiled floor that gets damaged in a particular location can be treated locally and blended seamlessly with the rest of the floor. And, the entire floor can be refreshed relatively easily by cleaning with special soaps and every few years nourishing the wood with more oil, which will remove most signs of wear and tear. Like skin, an oiled floor that is well cared for may last a lifetime, never needing re-sanding.
A urethane-coated floor will, on average, need to be sanded and refinished every 10-12 years. A properly cared-for oil finish will require re-oiling every 3-5 years. So, the maintenance of oiled wood floors is more frequent, but it is far less disruptive because it requires no sanding.
It is important to mention that the cost of the products used to clean and maintain an oiled floor is slightly higher than the products used to clean urethane finishes, and you have to make sure you use the right products, which are specific to the type of oil that was used on your floor. Oil soaps and finishes also tend to have mild odors, whereas cleaning products for urethane finishes are usually odorless. For information comparing the environmental and health attributes of oil vs. urethane finishes, click here.
MONARCH PLANK OILED WOOD FLOORS VS. THE COMPETITION
Monarch Plank's oiled floors do not require top-coating after installation, which is a requirement with many other oiled wood floors currently on the market. This is a huge added cost and inconvenience that is often not mentioned in our competitors' marketing.
Also, unlike some of our competitors, we apply a final top-coat of clear or white oil above the oils used to generate our colors. This allows periodic maintenance and re-oiling without the need to find the right colored oil to match the original color that was applied at the factory.
For further details, please refer to our Care + Maintenance page.