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May 15th, 2024

If you’re about to start a project on your hardwood floors and are wondering how they were previously finished, this article is for you.

There are two very common ways hardwood floors are finished. Figuring out how your hardwood floors have been finished is vital before you do any work on the floors themselves. The floor’s finishing will significantly impact how you approach your project. Here are the three most common types of hardwood floor finishes.


Polyurethane is by far the most common type of hardwood floor finishing method. Almost all new floors that are installed are finished with polyurethane. Polyurethane finishes can be either water-based or oil-based. Oil-based polyurethane is the industry standard. Most people prefer oil-based polyurethane because it tends to look better, and less is needed when finishing floors. However, a few wood species require water-based polyurethane, but besides these unique instances, we recommend oil-based.

You can tell you have polyurethane if a shiny, protective coating is on top of the wood that is deeply bonded with the wood. You will not be able to scrape up any top coat if you try.


Wax is less popular than polyurethane but can be found in some homes. Wax is just like it sounds. When finishing, a layer of wax is applied to the stain and wood, creating a protective, waterproof coating. Floors with wax finishings are a chore to keep up. However, wax finishing has a distinct look; some homeowners just love it!

If you can easily scrape up the top layer of your floors, you probably are working with wax. The wax in the corners of the rooms will be the easiest to recognize and scrape up. Lots of very old wood floors were sealed with wax.

Before starting any project, take the time to research how your floors have been finished. In most cases, if your floors were finished a certain way, you will need to use the same product. Otherwise, you will have to strip the floors down to the raw wood and start over. This is a common practice when a homeowner wants to change the color or style of the way a floor was stained.

Buffing, sanding, and repairing hardwood floors can be done without professional help, but often the projects are out of the scope of most homeowners. Make sure you get your facts straight before starting a large project like this, as things can quickly become very expensive and time-consuming. We suggest talking to a hardwood flooring specialist before projects like buffing or refinishing your floors. We would love to help you!

If you are in New York or Florida, we would love to help you with any of your hardwood flooring issues. Call us today!