What Hardwood Floor Finishes are the Most Durable?

Updated: Aug 16, 2021


Your hardwood has lost its shine, and you decide it is time for a little refinishing. With so many types of finishes on the market, deciding on the right one can be a tricky one. The finish you choose for your hardwood can affect the value of your home, and you always want results that look the absolute best.


Constantly refinishing your floors can be a headache, and an expensive process, so you will want to choose one that lasts for a long time.


Let’s consider the amount of traffic your floor receives every day. If you have children who play on it or pets moving about, the wear and tear on it is going to build up at a much faster rate. In such cases, your top concern would be durability.


Which Hardwood Floor Finish is Most Durable?

There are many finishing options for you to consider. Included on the list are:

  • Water based

  • Surface sealers

  • Lacquer

  • Oil based urethane

  • Penetrating finishes

  • Swedish finishes

Each of these are valid options, depending on your need. So, which finish is the fit for you?

Water Based Urethane Water based urethane dries by evaporation, giving your floor a clear finish with UV inhibitors that delay the color changing process of wood. It is a popular choice to use on maple as it helps to bring out its natural color.

Using this hardwood floor finish has other advantages. For example:

  • It dries easily.

  • Has less odor.

  • It is easy to clean.

  • It is cost friendly.

However, they do not last quite as long as other polyurethanes because they evaporate fast. They must be applied more often, which means higher costs overall.


You may also want to consider surface sealers made of solvent and resin. When they are applied, the resin remains after the solvent evaporates, hardening and forming a layer that protects your hardwood.

Shellac Shellac is formed when the droppings of the lac bug are combined with denatured alcohol. It is an old favorite of woodworkers; it makes the floor shine naturally with a beautiful result. It’s a good option for a few reasons, as it:

  • Is inexpensive

  • Dries up fast

  • Does not yellow.

However, you will need to apply it constantly because it dries quickly and does not last long.

Lacquer Lacquer is an excellent choice if you find the finishing process tedious. It is easily sprayed on floors and dries fast. However, it has toxic fumes and is not the most durable finish on the market.

Oil Base Urethane

Oil based urethane is the most used finish for wood floors because they provide a glossy shine. Many different sheens are available. Although they take longer to dry, they last and are good to use on floors which get high traffic.


A penetrating finish is an excellent choice if you want to stain your floor. These are made of tung, linseed or other natural oils.


Excess use of penetrating finishes may cause seepage through gaps, or “bleed back.” Notwithstanding, its application can last for a good number of years.


Swedish Finish For high traffic floors, try a Swedish finish. It is an alcohol-based varnish discovered in the 1960’s, known for its durability. Even though it needs to be handled carefully, as it is known to be highly flammable, many professionals still choose to apple it for its truly exceptional durability. All it takes to maintain its shine is a light mopping. If durability ranks high on your list of needs, try an oil based, penetrating, or Swedish floor finish.

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