Yellowing on hardwood floors; is there a finish that would prevent it?

Q: Regarding urethane for hardwood floors, I just finished reading your oil vs. water text. I think I am partial to oil. I have new, beautiful, truly brown walnut flooring that I do not want to yellow. I cannot get my hands on the Circa 1850 Bowling Alley urethane. Do you think that the yellowing or amber-color that happens with oil-based is from the yellow in the wood?

If so, I should be OK because this wood has no yellow in it. Or, do you think that the urethane itself is what ambers? If that’s the case I might have to go with the water-based, which I do not want to do.

A: The finish itself ambers. Fabulon also uses the safflower resin which resists yellowing. Walnut will darken on it’s own and personally I prefer the rich colours from an oil based finish over the water borne. To use water borne on this wood, you may have to use a sealer first because of the oils seeping from the wood. A lot of guys on a list I belong to are from the U.S. and use a universal sealer called Waterlox, which I believe is a de waxed shellac. Never used it myself but it needs to be applied in thin coats.

Related Q: My hardwood floor in my living room is 8 years old, it’s 3/4 red oak, clear finish. I just installed the same hardwood in my kitchen and the rooms run together, open concept. Now the problem is that the living room floor must of changed color from the sun or aged, as they don’t match. Is there something I can do to bring the original color back? It looks like it yellowed.

A: Personally, I would have put a header across the kitchen doorway so the 2 rooms were separate. The new wood and finish will be lighter than the older for a while, but given time will darken up to the existing floor. If the old floor is finished with solvent/oil based products and you use a water borne on the new floor, it will never match.

Related Q: We have a floor that’s in relatively good condition, but has yellowed with time. We were trying to see if screening would effectively correct this or if full refinishing is necessary. We’re trying to be budget conscious, so if screening partially works, we could do that in certain places and refinish in others.

A: If the finish has yellowed it is most likely a solvent or oil based coating, though there are water based coatings designed to amber because some don’t like the sterile look of non-yellowing finishes. Oil based coatings can give a warmer look to wood. Some of these finishes such as Poloplaz Primero also contain blockers to help protect from the ultra violet rays. In short, if you want to get rid of the yellowing the floor will have to be sanded to bare wood and finished with a good quality water based coating, not found at the building center, or you could use an oil based product like the one I mentioned above.