Design & DIY

What’s the best way to protect pine floors?

Pine floors

What is the best protective coating for pine floors? —Romano Del Tin, via e-mail

To minimize scratches and scuffs on a pine floor, water- or oil-based polyurethane is one option. Steve Maxwell, the technical editor of Canadian Home Workshop magazine, recommends a product with a satin finish to hide defects (high gloss accentuates flaws). Another option is hard wax oil, or a pure oil, such as tung oil.

Which is best? It depends on what you’re looking for, says Alex Fournier, owner of A.F. Wood Floors in Whitby. Oil gives the wood an old-fashioned look, while polyurethane has a more “refined” appearance. Polyurethane hardens to a film, is better for wear-resistance in general, and requires fewer coats than oil, says Fournier.

On the other hand, if it gets scratched or worn, polyurethane is harder to repair than oil, says Maxwell. With an oil floor, you just rub on more oil. Polyurethane requires careful sanding and multiple reapplications, or it may look patchy.

Ian McKay, co-owner of K & I Exclusive Pine Flooring in Collingwood, highly recommends staining the floor first, with an oil-based stain such as Minwax. “I harp and preach on this all the time,” he says. A stain will give the wood a “country look,” and scratches won’t appear out of place. “The key is in the stain. Then you can mark and mar the floor as much as you want.”

While Maxwell warns that you’d have to repair scratched areas of a stained floor with more stain, and Fournier argues against staining pine, everyone agreed that, in general, scuffs and dents can enhance the look.

“Hey, let your floors get worn out,” says Fournier. “Some people pay extra to get a hand-distressed floor.”