Floors are not just something you walk on in your home. They are one of the biggest investments you will make and can set the mood, define a space, bounce or soak up light, impact how you feel and give that sense of pride in your home that most of us seek. There are a multitude of flooring options and often, homes combine a few of these. Importantly, who lives in your home, how hard working the surface needs to be, and the way the floors flow with the rest of the interior, will affect your decisions about floor finishes. The type of flooring you select can increase the liveability and energy use of your home.
For some of us, the way a floor feels underfoot is also a critical decision.
Our old girl, built in 1948, is as solid as a rock. The builders installed a combination of Pine and Tasmanian Oak boards. When we moved in the second owners had laid slate to the entryway and hall, and these had seen better days. We eventually lifted that to discover the oak boards, but the tar used to lay the slate had damaged them. This resulted in aggressive sanding to get the tar off, which led to thin boards. The bedrooms had ugly carpet which we also lifted, to find good condition pine boards. We used a clear finish to all of these.
Over time, the boards of course became more worn and needed to be refinished. In our journey to deciding what to do about this, we looked into all sorts of options and so I am sharing some tips on choosing eco friendly floor finishes for your timber floors. The best choice of floor finish for you will offer the floors protection against wear and tear, moisture and dirt, as well as giving you a look you love.
If you have followed along with our renovations, you will know we have painted our timber floors. The reasons we decided to use a floor paint were:
- Easy to DIY
- It was cheaper than sanding and polishing and the thickness of the boards in the living areas would not have taken another sand anyway
- We could not afford to replace the floor across the whole house
- We love the look of the white/grey Scandi floors
- We could get an eco friendly, low VOC product to do this, which is easy to use and quick drying, meaning we did not have to move out during the process
We used Berger JetDry Aquatread as it was recommended by some fellow bloggers. There are quite a lot of brands who have a dedicated floor paint, including Porters and Feast Watson.
Painting your floors is a great way to cover up less than perfect boards, mismatched boards and boards with different colours. It creates an opaque finish so you can no longer see the grain of the timber, so it is a particular look. When choosing colours, consider the fact it will be covering large areas. I chose the silver light colour because I wanted a calm, light and airy feel, but did not want to go white. The grey works with my style. We found it very easy to use, no major tools or techniques were needed and it was very quick drying. We are hopeful that it will last well and will report back on that over time. The paint we used had no smells and was easy to wash up in water.
A wood wash, or liming wash, will give a tint to the timber and unlike paint, penetrates into the wood, so that you can still see the grains and marks of the natural timber. It will create a change in colour, and you may need to finish with a clear coat of some type in some cases. This is especially good for a coastal or scandi vibe, but there are a variety of colours. Use a wash that can be used on floors. I looked at the Porters Wood Wash which was lovely, but decided not to go that way. We have also used the Feast Watson Liming White on an old barn door and liked the look. You can build the opacity with these products, so the depth of colour can be changed depending on number of coats. Look for water wash up products with low VOC’s.
Floor oils are a traditional way to finish a timber floor. These are flexible finishes which penetrate into the timber. When our new boards for the hallway were delivered they needed to sit in the house for 2 weeks to aclimatise. This is so they have less chances of bowing or cracking when installed. Each house has its own environment and a new floor will undergo movement after sanding and finishing are completed. This can be affected by humidity, weather and the use of air-conditioners and heaters.
Oils penetrate deep into the timber and highlight and deepen the colours and textures of the timber. High solid oil can give you a high quality finish and also be enviromentally friendly. Natural oils are also available in coloured versions to change the colour and tone of the timber. These tend to be non-splitting, non-toxic, easy to repair and patch if needed, and allow the beauty of the timber to shine through. You can sometimes add a water based top coat as well. We have worked for a long time with Livos, who offer a range of fantastic floor oils and we can highly recommend these, including the Kunos oil. In my research I found a number of eco friendly oils, including Osmo and Synteko. Do some research and be sure that the oils are really low or zero VOC before using, and that they will suit your needs.
Polyurethane – Water-Based
This is basically a water based alternative to the traditional petroleum based products for a clear finish on your timber floors. They are quick-drying and being water based, are environment-friendly and therefore a much healthier option. There are no strong chemicals in a water-based polyurethane floor finish, which means it does not have a strong smell and gives you a more natural look. These products are best for light coloured timbers because they minimise yellowing. They are very hard wearing. They are not recommended for use over timbers that are oily in nature, such as brush box, blackbutt, jarrah, spotted gum, teak and other hardwoods that have a natural oiliness or waxiness. These timbers need to be well aged and allowed to dry out to allow the finish to penetrate, otherwise the natural oils in the timber will repel the water-based products and lead to lack of adhesion, resulting in peeling and delamination. Porters, Intergrain, Cabots and a range of brands offer a water based option.
There are many options in salvage yards and speciality timber flooring businesses, to add a reclaimed timber floor. This ia a great way to get a beautiful look when creating a new floor, or replacing boards. The Historical Timber Floor Company have an amazing range of flooring from a range of sources including bridges and jetties. Choosing your floor finish is a personal thing when it comes to looks, but the impact on your environment and the way it will hold up to traffic are both important decisions.