Can you leave your hardwood floors unfinished?

can you leave hardwood floors unfinished

 

Pulling back the belt sander after tearing off the old worn-out surface of a wood floor is very satisfying. My clients are stunned to see their old, dented, scraped, and faded wooden floors returned to a pale, clean and virgin state. Before long, the question comes. Can you leave hardwood floors unfinished?

You can’t leave hardwood floors unfinished. Unfinished floors are easily and permanently stained without a good layer of protection. Even without staining, the surface discolors very quickly. The surface is soft and liable to dents and scratches.

The next question would always be “can I keep them looking like this.” For the first 10-12 years of my hardwood floor refinishing career, the answer was always, unfortunately, no!

Well, thanks to the ingenuity of modern lacquer companies, that has changed.

Today, I have the pleasure of talking about a finish that everyone seems to be loving. That is, giving your floor the RAW WOOD effect… or bare timber… or natural… or unfinished… Honestly, there are so many ways of describing this finish, and it’s difficult to stick to one. Most ways of saying it has been taken up by wood floor finish manufacturers, calling their product one of these terms.

For example, in the video below, I use Blanchon Intensiv’ Bare Timber. There isn’t much difference between most of these bare wood products. However, I have noticed the white pigment in Bare Timber to be slightly less blotchy than in other lacquers. This is imperceptible to most people.

An Easy-To-Do Whitewash Finish

You will be pleased to hear that achieving this stunning and elegant finish is very easy! A matter of changing lacquers. I say this in contrast to staining your hardwood floors which is exceptionally hard for beginners (I highly recommend avoiding staining if you can, it’s so easy to screw up).

All you need to do is ‘pony up’ a few more bucks for the Natural Lacquer. Unfortunately, these lacquers are a fair amount more expensive than regular lacquers. The reason for this is that these lacquers use Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) for the pigment. Other cheaper white pigments react with the tannins in the wood and can turn a yellowy green. Titanium Dioxide is more stable and doesn’t cause this problem. It’s just more expensive.

To prepare the floor, you need to follow the same sanding methods outlined on this website and in my youtube videos. Be sure to sand deep enough that all the UV damage has been removed. Otherwise, that yellowness will shine through the lacquer.

These lacquers have around a 4-6% sheen, which is as low as you can get! It looks like bare wood that has been sanded to maybe a 240 grit (which you shouldn’t do, otherwise you have adherence issues with the finish.)

Ultra-low sheen finishes hide a multitude of sanding sins, you will be pleased to hear. This is a very modern and contemporary finish.

Applying a Raw Effect Lacquer To Your Wood Floors

As for applying the finish, the following information applies to all but Bona Traffic HD Naturale. I will cover the Bona system after.

Blanchon Intensiv Bare Timber
Pallmann Pure
Loba Invisible Protect AT (Amazon Affiliate link)
… I’m blanking on the others now.

The first coat goes down very thick. I estimate roughly 7m² per liter or 75ft² per quart or 300ft² per gallon(US gallon).

Ensure that all windows are closed and there is no draught. If it’s a sunny day and you have light hitting the floor directly, cover those windows up with a towel or something else that will sufficiently block out the light.

You may want to leave window handles open, so you can pull the window open once the coat is done.

It dries very quickly on the first coat (hence the above precautions). It’s important to get the finish down as quickly as possible, without any imperfections.

In order to prevent dry lines, you need to roll the lacquer in lines that are no more than 3 feet wide. Brush the lacquer onto the boards at the edge of the room, at the ends of the boards, and down the side of the room. See Below.

Bare Timber Loba Invisible Application Demo

Keep working in strips like this until you have reached the door. Once the coat is down you will find it dries to the touch fairly quickly.

Recoating

You apply 3 coats of the lacquer. You only need to lightly sand after the second coat, therefore, you don’t need to wait so long before putting on the second coat. Still, I would give it an hour and a half to 2 hours before getting the next coat down.

For the third and final coat, I would give it 4 hours before rubbing it back, maybe 2.5 – 3 hours if you have fans blowing on from immediately after you finished applying the previous coat.

It’s as easy as that!

The great thing about this finish is that it is very convincing. I mean, people really think it’s bare wood! My clients often tell me, after I have applied a finish like this. That they don’t want to walk on it or are afraid of spilling on it, even though it’s finished with 3 coats of a 2 component lacquer. That’s the same level of protection we put on school floors!

 

 

Ben Osborne is the owner of HowToSandAFloor.com. He is a professional wood floor refinishing specialist with 15 years of experience. Ben is responsible for almost all the content on this website. He also owns a floor sanding and restoration company.

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  1. Hi Ben

    Thanks for publishing this blog. I’m excited to restore my floors. Do you think you can direct me with links to possible blogs you have on how to sand pine floorbards(Very common in Australia)? And how to fix squeaky floorboards? I ripped up our carpet to find untouched pine floorboards with no varnish nor scratches.

    Also, with wide gaps is your sawdust/resin mix enough to close them?

    Looking to do a the ‘raw’ effect/ ‘whitewashed’ look on them!

    Thank you so much and looking forward to your reply!

      1. Ben. .ty loved the video.. plan on following these instructions .I wanted to let you know that the music was a bit to loud on the second half of the video.. when you were showing the floor after it was done.. I was struggling to here what you were saying over the music .perhaps you will want to turn it down in future videos..

  2. Hi Ben, how can you achieve a whitewashed look with the Bona Traffic HD system? Would you recommend using Nordic Seal first? We have pine boards. Thank you

  3. Hey Ben- is there a us product that you would recommend to get this effect? I have seen Sherwin Williams CAB acrylic lacquer mentioned. I really like your end product but I can’t find the blanchin intensive product in my area. Any suggestions would be great!

    Love the videos!

    Thanks,
    Trey

  4. I’m in USA. Sorry. Where do I buy this product. Is this great for 120 Yr old soft pine floors. Very old house. Just sanded floors back to original wood.
    So glad to have just found all your wonderful videos. Thank you

  5. can we sand bevelled edge hardwood floor – installed 20 years back, am hearing 45 degree sanding would remove the bevelled edges, and also heard from a contractor, it might make noise when you walk and make it loose if we sand down too deep to remove bevelled edges, what’s the best to do this here, reason is, the adjacent rooms have got newly installed white oak 3/4 inch floor has no bevelled edges or lines that you see in olden day floors…

    1. I have sanded hundreds of floors with a beveled edge, some have a big bevel and some have a small one, some need a deep sanding and some don’t need such a deep sanding. Sometimes the bevel gets removed entirely, sometimes it looks like the floor hasn’t been sanded. The fact that there is a bevel is NOT a reason not to sand the floor. When the floors are slightly uneven, some of the bevel disappears and some of it doesnt, and so we offer to sand it down a bit more so its all gone and it looks more consistent.

  6. What’s the deference in high gloss finish and something else like the other says it has oils in it.

    1. The glossiness is just to with how much matting agent is in it. You can have glossy and matt oil products and glossy and matt poly products. The level of sheen doesnt really effect how durable the finish is or how slippery it is.

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