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Wax Instead of Poly for my Hardwood Floors

June 25, 2016

My finisher is doing all in his power to dissuade me from using a wax finish instead of polyurethane. Am I nuts to want wax? The floors are 5" select grade quartersawn white oak. This is from the studs out and foundation up restoration of an 1840s Greek Revival. I understand the advantages of poly and have had many poly floors. What I expect out of the wax finish is more depth, ability to maintain it without sanding, and to let it age and patina. I do want some shine which I believe buffed wax should be capable of providing. I've asked for the floors to be coated with Danish oil, stained, than waxed. Sample boards shown...with poly because my finisher hasn't provided any with wax. Might be time for a new finisher.

Comments (22)

  • ritasj
    Flooring treatment has evolved over time to accommodate our busy lives with an easier method of keeping our floors clean and shiny...if you are old school and willing to take the hands on care ...and prefer the look...you may be right..finding a finisher that gets it ....may be better...I grew up in a household where a special machine for buffing the waxed floors was right next to the vacuum in the utility closet... Can't be sure that what we get today for flooring is the same thing as then....but I do know that any thing out of the ordinary seems to cost twice as much and is difficult to get any one who knows how to do it...that being said if I was doing a strict restoration I would take your path to make it more authentic...
  • Bookwoman

    "I grew up in a household where a special machine for buffing the waxed floors was right next to the vacuum in the utility closet."

    So did I - it was a 1920s NYC apartment and the floors had a lovely depth to them. But it did require a lot of work. Once a year the floors would be cleaned (don't ask me with what - I was a child), then paste wax applied and then everything buffed. I remember a lot of moving around of furniture, and once in a while I got to help with the buffing machine. :-)

    In any event, Cancork will probably be along shortly to give the best answer to this question.

  • leelee

    My family had to go rent a buffer machine. Have you even looked in stores to see if they sell floor wax--the real floor wax?

    Wax will not protect the floors the way urethane will. Drops of water can leave spots. If a planter leaks then the damage could be permanent fixed only by re-sanding.

    I love the look of real hardwoods with a buffed wax finish but I'm not willing to be that devoted to my floors.

  • Scott

    Wax is available. The time required to keep up a wax hardwood floor doesn't bother me. It's all about the depth of the finish. This is where I started.

    This is where we are. No, buffing will be pleasure.

  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting

    The wax needs to be polished thts where the depth comes from so you wiil need to polish at least once a year my uncle did his floors with a wax finish it took many applications of wax with polishing inbetween to achieve a depth of finish which could withstand family traffic it still needed a cleaningperiodically and waxing and polishing and i know the hardwood i grew up with was a wax finish and once a year all the floors were waxed and polished and us kids slid around in big heavy wool socks to buff it. So FYI not an easy thing to live with in this century

  • Scott

    I'm good with maintenance and hard work and I appreciate the feedback. As long as the floors have depth and a warm glow I will be very happy. I have plenty of stained samples with poly. Now to see a sample with wax.

  • PRO
    Sophie Wheeler

    You're nuts. And you are romanticizing something that no one in their right minds wants to live with. Great grandma burned the buffer in the bonfire when she didn't have to deal with that anymore and you bet she wouldn't ever go back. She bought sliced bread and bar soap too instead of taking hours and hours to make her own.

    Do tung oil if you want depth of finish and some actual protection for the wood. Wax will have white spots everywhere that damp shoes walk on it, and you will make yourself crazy trying to keep it looking good.

  • Rusty Empire

    Whoa! Please, please read up on more modern floor finishing methods (yes another thread discussing Hardwax Oil finish). Brands out there? Information? Too vast to cover here in a brief paragraph. Simply google the term and discover an alternate to poly that makes way more sense and has the warm glow you prefer.



  • Scott

    Sophie hit the nail on the head. Romantic thru and thru. I've used linseed oil on antique heart pine floors and thought it was dull. Wear is what I mostly recall seeing in the old wax floors I've redone with poly. I'll water test a wax sample and see what happens. i. Fought back the cedar clapboard siding and lush button light switches and raw brass switch and outlet plates. The look on the electrician's face was priceless.

  • ritasj
    Just curious...are you going to live there?...no underlying admonishment here ...just curious...this looks like a terrific place to live...even tho the people who live in these kinds of homes are not usually the ones who restore them..but I think they would appreciate the waxed floors too..I can't remember any horror stories as a child of water damage but lifestyles are very different now...we all pretty much want everything easy and carefree and women are not so stay at home these days ...never mind finding someone to help in the home that even knows how to care for things with love let alone want to....sigh...
  • Scott

    Thought I would post to let you know in the end I am using a coat of danish oil, stain, and three coats of statin oil based poly. I was never able to find any finisher who could provide a sample of a wax finish or a conversion varnish finish which I was also interested in seeing. Wax has a following especially in historic renovations and the varnish seems popular in the NW, neither appear to be options for me here. I went so far as to contact the area distributor for Glista to get a contractor referral. No luck. All the flooring is quarter sawn white oak. 5" wide downstairs and 3" wide upstairs, extra long, select grade.

  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting

    With an oil based finish be prepared for a smelly space fora long time

  • Scott

    The odor of a fresh poly finish to me is like a new car smell. Pulling down horse hair water damaged plaster ceilings and walls where critters have lived for decades...now that's kind of yucky.

  • Scott

    Here is a sample pic of the color in case someone might be interested. Stain was from Duraseal.

  • PRO
    Mahnken Cabinets

    Rubio Monocote (sp?) is what you are looking for all of the depth and easy maintenance

  • ritasj
    Always hard to tell from pics ...but what you have done really brings out the pattern and distinction of the wood beautifully..and happily no big maintenance issues
  • mramsey

    I have an old heritage building with fir floors and a wax finish, it's some but not that much work to keep up, but it's definitely a shabby chic kind of look. At home we have the hardwood factory finished modern stuff... next to no work and looks pretty nice, but probably too shiny for you. I get the romantic aesthetic of the mellow wood look but even in our shoes off household it would be too much work. As a sort of compromise, we have wood countertops finished with a european wax stuff called Osmo, it's holding up well with minimal upkeep, maybe it would work for your floors. Check them out at http://www.osmona.com/index_test.html 

  • Scott

    The finished product. 1 coat Danish oil, 1 coat stain, and 3 coats urethane.

  • Amyzing

    Looks good! Are you adding crown moulding?

  • Tilley Russell

    Scott - I face the exact same dilemma right now with quartersawn white oak flooring. Please tell me: What is the purpose of the first coat of Danish Oil? What was your Duraseal stain color? Why did you choose oil based poly vs water base? Why 3 coats - is that standard for oil based poly? I thank you in advance for your reply.

  • Scott

    The Danish Oil highlights the grain and acts as a wood conditioner so the the wood will take the stain evenly. I'm glad I used it.

  • jupiterii

    I wax my hardwood floors with Johnson's paste wax and buff with a machine I bought on Amazon. Floors look great with 2 coats of wax. Cheaper than having them refinished and spills and scratches can be wax/buffed out easily. Once a year is plenty for my floors, a big family may need it more often. I never regret doing this. Though you have to love this finish/idea of this, as it is more work.

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