Q: We had new wooden floors installed in our kitchen/living area in 2000. We were advised by the contractor to use a tung oil finish, saying it would last longer and be durable, and because we have a southern facing 12’x9′ window, for reduced fading. I hate it! It has faded, scratched, spotted and can’t be cleaned with traditional cleaners.
I feel we are abusing it. How can we better care for it to restore our floors luster and condition. If necessary, what is involved in having someone refinish it? What would be more suitable?
A: Tung oil on it’s own won’t work, as wonderful as it is. I had to get into this when a customer with 3700 feet of new pine wanted it stained and finished but didn’t want polyurethane or wax! What to use then?
I tested 6 so-called ‘penetrating oils’ and had a lengthy consult with a technical adviser with Lee Valley. He explained that pure tung oil would take 2 days per coat to dry and I would need 10 initial coats, all of which would have to be repeated every 3 months. That’s not going to happen.
Then I found Waterlox which has tung oil as one of the top 5 ingredients in the product along with Mineral Spirits, linseed oil, another resin and I forget what else. This product was different from all others which had to be applied, left to soak 20 minutes and all the residue removed with a cloth (which was practically all of what had just been applied). With Waterlox you apply a good coating and let it soak in. Next day apply another and then another on hardwood and 4 coats of softwood. Excellent penetration and water resistance. No need to buff between coats to gain adhesion. There are no adhesion issues. After the second application it starts to build a film that stays on the floor surface. Touch ups are simple. Clean the board or area well and apply a thin coat to affected boards. I also finished some floors with this product while major renovations were ongoing. In spite of the pounding over 1 year, this floor appears to need only a good cleaning and another coat. I was impressed. It also offered a brilliant way to stain pine since I was able to add the stain to the Waterlox at 4 parts WL/1 part stain and just mop it on. I couldn’t have done a more even stain on pine, and since I didn’t have to apply and wipe off the stain as a separate step it saved me hours and hours on my hands and knees. You may need to contact them to see if it is possible to apply their product over what you have without a full sanding. I suspect it can work. http://www.waterlox.com
Polyurethane is a good choice to, but somewhat different that this penetrating oil. Certainly a harder surface than WL, however the general upkeep with Waterlox is so easy any home owner can do it themselves and not have to call in a professional every so many years to buff and coat the floor again.