Is wax or urethane best for wood floors?

Q: We have 1930’s oak floors, waxed, but with areas of water damage. I like wax (I strip and wax every year or so), but should we change to poly or whatever is current? My husband is wanting to avoid the chemicals involved in the waxing. We have poly in other new/addition areas, but I really like the old waxed wood. What is best for the wood, wax or polyurethane floor finish?

A: It is difficult to answer a question like that. What is best is partly determined by the conditions the floor will face and what your personal tastes might be. I would think the only chemical in wax your husband might want to avoid is mineral spirits, which is the main solvent in all waxes and oil-based finishes. The problem with wax is that it really isn’t very durable and spots whenever you spill something on it.

A good quality polyurethane such as Poloplaz Primero or Poloplaz 202 commercial grade water-borne urethane (if you prefer less color change and low odor) or a true penetrating oil finish such as Waterlox will give much better protection from spills and general wear than wax will.

Should I use wax instead of urethane?

Q imported from our old site, Face Lift Floors: I have just bought a new home that is approx. 100 years old. It has pine plank flooring which has a thin layer of worn paint on it. I would like to remove the paint, and I was wondering if waxing the floor would be a good option to varnishing?

A: You know, if there was nothing else on earth to finish floors with, then waxing would be the way to go. When I first started in hardwood flooring, I loved waxed floors. They take work to keep them looking good. They are not very resistant to water spills. A satin finish polyurethane best emulates a wax look. It will be easy to care for and you can simply wipe up spills.

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