Oil or varnish? Choosing a covering for a wooden floor


  • Parquet varnish

    • The advantages of varnishes:

    • Disadvantages of varnish:

    • Myths about varnish

  • Traditional parquet oil

    • Oil advantages:

    • Oil Disadvantages:

    • Myths

    • Soft wax oil

    • Hard wax oil

  • So what to choose: varnish or oil?

Users who have opted for wooden floors need to take care of the finishing coat, which will protect the wood from moisture and mechanical stress. Let’s figure out how to choose the best coating option for a tree.

Parquet flooring Oil or varnish

Parquet varnish

A topcoat that forms a hard protective film on the surface of the wood. The varnish practically does not penetrate into the depth of the board, therefore, after a while, if necessary, the coating can be completely sanded off and a new one can be applied.

According to their composition, varnishes are water, alkyd, acrylic, primer, polyurethane, formaldehyde. All these varieties have certain properties, so they are selected in accordance with the functional purpose of the room and the expected load. In addition, oils or polymer resins, a solvent, various pigments or additives may be present in the composition. The most environmentally friendly varnishes are water-based, but they are also the least resistant to mechanical stress. For example, in Germany, solvent-based varnishes are prohibited, as they are considered harmful.

Parquet after covering.jpg

The advantages of varnishes:

  • Wear resistance. Using varnished floors, you wear out the varnish film, which can withstand up to 20 thousand movements. High-strength varnishes, if properly applied and maintained, can last up to 10 years or more without restoration. In terms of durability, there is nothing better than varnish.
  • Resistant to surface moisture. You can spill some liquid on the parquet flooring, and after you pick up the moisture, there will be no marks on the surface. There are cases when lacquered floors withstood severe flooding without any consequences.
  • The lacquered surface can have varying degrees of gloss (high, medium and low), or it can be completely matte. There are ultra-matt varnishes that do not reflect the sun’s rays.
  • Ease of care. Various contaminants are easily removed without leaving marks on the coating.
  • In case of wear of the lacquered surface, the product is sanded and a new layer of lacquer is applied.

Disadvantages of varnish:

  • No direct contact with wood. Most users who choose hardwood floors say it is important for them to walk barefoot on the floor. This means that tactile sensations are important to them, it is important to contact with the natural texture of wood. The varnish creates a dense film that deprives a person of direct contact with the tree.
  • Varnish is the most expensive type of coating. According to the standard, the coating should have a thickness of 90 to 100 microns. To create such a layer, you need to apply at least three coats of varnish and one more, a primer coat. That is, a total of four layers of coating are applied. This requires certain material and time costs.

Myths about varnish

There is a widespread misconception that an increase in the number of layers of varnish coating to 9-10 allows you to completely protect the tree from external influences. This is not so, especially since such a thick varnish film forms a layer that is very different in its properties from wood. In this case, the adhesion between the surface of the parquet and the first layer of varnish is broken, and such a varnish coating peels off over time.

Traditional parquet oil

This is a product made on the basis of natural vegetable oil or a mixture of oils (sunflower, soybean, hemp, linseed). Natural oil penetrates deep into the structure of wood, as experts say, impregnates. Almost nothing remains on the surface of the wood. Oil is applied to the surface of the board with a spatula and the wood is saturated until it retains its ability to absorb. The excess is then removed with a soft cloth and the floors are polished – by hand or by machine.

Different types of wood have different ability to absorb oil. For example, beech absorbs more than other species. Oil enhances the texture of wood, fully revealing its beauty.

The oil does not oxidize, does not decompose, over time it penetrates deeper into the wood. It also leaks out of the surface over time. Unlike varnish, oil does not form a surface film, penetrating deep into the structure of the tree. Therefore, you are not walking on a protective film, but on the tree itself.

Parquet tinting

Oil advantages:

  • Upon contact with a surface covered with natural oil, all the natural warmth of the wood is transferred, the structure and pores of the wood are felt.
  • Environmental friendliness of the coating. However, it depends on the specific composition, since natural oil can contain various additives – varnishes and hardeners (in small quantities).
  • Oil treatment of the floor is much faster and easier than varnish. All work can be done by yourself, without having grandiose experience in the field of repair work;
  • Like varnish, the oil finish does not require any special maintenance.

Disadvantages of oil:

  • Various contaminants, including stains from spilled drinks, are difficult to remove, as they easily penetrate the open pores of the wood.
  • To preserve the original appearance of the floor, it is worth applying a new layer of oil with a regularity of 1-2 years.
  • The oil does not impart wear resistance to the wood. Resistance to mechanical damage is provided by the wood itself. The oil protects only against decay.
  • The oil cannot be completely sanded down to apply any other coating.


  • Oil repels water. In fact, even water droplets can leave stains on such a floor if they are not removed in time. The drops stand for a few minutes, then capillary absorption into the pores of the wood takes place.
  • That the coating can be restored locally. In fact, experts do not advise trying to restore the type of coating on your own – to clean off the dirt and reapply the oil. It is better to entrust the removal of damage and stains to professionals.

Floor covering with oil

Soft wax oil

It is a mixture of natural oils (olive, jojoba, linseed) with beeswax. Oil saturates the wood, and wax closes the pores on its surface, protecting it from the penetration of contaminants. It is important to remember that this type of coating is applied differently than a regular parquet oil. The wax coating should not be rubbed into the wood as is done with oil.

Compositions that combine wax and oil are applied with a roller, brush or brush in strict accordance with the instructions – usually about 40-45 grams per 1 square meter of area. After applying the composition, it is left to dry. And in no case do they rub it into the floor, so as not to remove the wax film. To maintain the protective properties, regular (1-2 times a year) renewal of the surface wax layer is required.

Benefits of Soft Wax Oil:

  • Retains the natural beauty and texture of wood
  • Environmentally friendly coating: the material is created on the basis of natural vegetable oils and wax with a low content of solvents, is almost odorless and quite comfortable to work with.
  • With proper care, it allows for longer than film coatings (varnish or oil with hard wax), to use parquet with heavy loads without regrinding and restricting the passage of premises.

Disadvantages of Mild Wax Oil:

  • The coating requires constant cleaning and maintenance. To restore the wax film, you need to use the recommended care products on an appropriate basis.
  • Without systematic maintenance, the appearance of the floor quickly deteriorates. Dirt adheres to the soft wax, after which it becomes necessary to clean and remove the dirt along with the wax and re-treat with the soft wax oil.

Soft wax oil

Hard wax oil

It is a mixture of natural oils with vegetable (carnauba or candelilla) wax. Having caught the trend towards the naturalness of wooden surfaces in time, the manufacturers offered a coating that completely imitates natural wood, but has the protective properties of varnish. In fact, this is a solvent varnish containing oil-wax components. After drying, a film-like protective coating is formed, similar to varnish.
Oil with hard wax is applied in two thin layers (not 3-4, like varnishes) with a roller or brush and does not require polishing with a disc machine.

Benefits of hard wax oil:

  • The matte surface gives the impression of an all-natural wood with seemingly open pores (in fact, they are closed).
  • Tactile: Due to the thin finish layers, the texture of the wood can be felt to the touch.


  • The presence of a protective film means that there is a full-fledged barrier between you and the wood – a film covering.
  • Cleaning and maintenance is carried out using compatible polishes that delicately clean the surface during washing without disturbing it.
  • Despite the possibility of periodic replenishment of the worn-out wax on the surface in case of complete wear to bare wood, a complete re-grinding of the room is necessary, just as with the varnish layer.

So what to choose: varnish or oil?

In fact, there is no definite answer to this question. As we can see, these coatings require different maintenance and care. The best solution is to choose the coverage depending on the functional areas. In areas with the least traffic, such as a bedroom or study, you can use an oil coating. If we are talking about a country house, then oil-coated boards can be used, for example, for finishing the second floor. For a hall, kitchen or living room, especially if a large number of visitors are expected, it is better to choose a varnish coating. varnishing.

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About Leona Smith 115 Articles
Hello! My name is Silke and this is my travel blog. I want to show you fascinating places off the beaten track, give you a gentle introduction to history and culture, and help you get around Berlin. After 13 years in Sydney and Andalusia, I now live in Berlin, Germany. I am a travel writer, translator and book author. Read more about me here.

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