When used for parquet flooring, the wood material is particularly vulnerable due in particular to its exposure to heavy traffic and the risk of water splashes in damp rooms (bathroom and kitchen) or stains (kitchen and dining room).
For these reasons, protecting your wooden floor becomes essential if you want it to retain its beautiful aesthetic appearance, which is often the reason for choosing this material. Among the many possible solutions, we will detail here the two most frequently used because of their recognised performance, namely the application of an oil or a parquet sealer.
The expected aesthetic appearance as well as the questions related to the daily maintenance of the parquet floor are the other important questions to ask when choosing the finishing system.
What are the characteristics of oiled or sealed floors? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? A brief overview.
An oiled parquet floor is by definition a wooden floor protected with a vegetable oil or a so-called "hard" oil. This treatment can be carried out in the factory but also in situ by the end user, by brushing once the wooden floor has been laid.
Impregnated with these products, the wood flooring is then more dimensionally stable. It will show less deformation due to shrinkage and swelling of the wood in the event of humidity variations, although these variations are minimal for interior rooms with generally stable humidity levels. Such oil protection can be recommended for floors laid in rooms with high humidity or temperature variations.
The major advantage of an oiled finish is that the surface feel and the natural appearance of the wood are preserved. Only the colour tone is changed by an oiled effect that darkens the wood. A drawback is to be noted with regard to the rendering in the case of tannic woods such as oak or chestnut. Unexpected reactions can occur when applying an oil, such as the tannins contained in these species rising to the surface. The floor then takes on a very dark colour in certain areas containing a lot of tannin. This often happens on old oak floors.
In terms of composition, the products called "vegetable oils" respect a mixture of raw materials of vegetable origin (linseed oil, Chinese wood oil, soya oil, etc.). Whereas the products called "hard oil" are mostly oils modified by synthetic resins giving them a hardness higher than that of a simple vegetable oil. They then lose their 100% ecological character and their interest in an environmental approach. Today, the terms hard oil and crude vegetable oil are deliberately confused for commercial reasons.
The application of an oil on a wooden floor will give a matt or even satin finish if you take care to multiply the number of oil passes. Two or three passes are generally sufficient to obtain optimal protection and to saturate the wooden floor. Care must be taken to work in thin layers. It will also be essential to wipe the successive passes well to avoid any excess oil on the surface which could cause drying problems. If the applied oil is not sufficiently wiped off, the floor will have a sticky or sticky finish.
The major difference between an oil and a sealer is that the protection will be stronger over time and more colourless with a parquet sealer (also called parquet varnish). Varnishing a parquet floor will waterproof the wooden floor while retaining a certain flexibility to allow it to breathe. Multi-layer application, generally two or three coats, allows the material to be deposited which, once dry, will form a real colourless barrier to water and household stains. The pearl effect is maximum and avoids the need to wipe off coffee or grease stains immediately after they have formed. Water or stains no longer penetrate the wood within a few minutes and can therefore be wiped off up to 24 to 48 hours later without leaving a trace. Daily maintenance is very easy. The pearl effect and protection against stains are better in the case of sealed wood floors.
The other big advantage of a wood floor sealer is that this type of product now makes it possible to obtain a completely colourless finish on all types of wood, even on tannic woods such as oak or chestnut parquet. This is not possible with oil. Available in matt, satin or glossy versions, they allow to obtain much more varied finishes that correspond to today's expectations. By choosing a matt finish, it is possible to obtain an almost invisible finish.
The penetrating power of a parquet sealer also gives wood flooring better resistance to abrasion and scratches. Their smooth surface finish ensures that they do not "catch" dust or other dirt brought in from outside.
Another major development is the composition of wood floor sealers. For a long time formulated in solvent phase, these products generated indoor air pollution. Now, some manufacturers, such as Anova Bois, offer parquet sealers in aqueous phase, which are odourless and VOC-free. These sealers (or parquet varnishes) have an environmentally friendly profile and are ideal for use in all interior rooms (kitchen, living room, children's room, etc.). This is the case of the Parquet Glazer VP500 .
In order to better understand the differences in the field of daily maintenance of wooden floors between an oil and a parquet sealer, a distinction should be made between routine maintenance (frequent household chores) and medium/long-term maintenance.
An oiled parquet floor should be the subject of particular attention in the choice of cleaning products. In fact, all conventional and aggressive detergents are to be avoided as they would alter the oil, thus reducing its protective power. The product to be preferred for the maintenance of an oiled wooden floor is black soap, which will also help to nourish the oiled floor a little more. In addition, an oiled parquet floor should be treated with frequent and careful routine care. Care should be taken not to leave a drop of wine, grease or coffee on the surface of the wood for too long, as this could penetrate the wood. At this point, you will no longer be able to remove it by simply wiping it off with a sponge. You will have to "de-incrust" the wood with a cleaner (oil remover and degreaser) or sand it down.
In the medium term, an oiled wooden floor should be "re-oiled" every one to two years in the case of frequently used rooms (kitchen, dining room, bathroom) to maintain good protective properties. In rooms such as bedrooms, the frequency of renovation is more in the order of 2 to 5 years.
A sealed parquet floor will require less attention in everyday life because it is more impervious to various kitchen stains or water splashes. A grease or coffee stain can be removed with a simple damp sponge stroke even after several hours of stagnation. The maintenance of a vitrified parquet can be done with a sponge broom just moistened with a mixture of warm water + black soap for example. For these reasons, daily maintenance is very simple.
In the medium to long term, a sealed wooden floor requires renovation only according to the constraints it has received (exposure to sunlight, abrasion, scratches). It lasts an average of 5 to 10 years (more in favourable cases) depending on the rooms in which it is laid (bedroom, kitchen, dining room, bathroom, corridor, etc.). It should be noted that a renovation of a sealed parquet floor will be done by sanding the surface down to the raw wood for the most damaged surfaces and only a simple ginning for the least damaged surfaces. Sanding a vitrified parquet remains affordable. To find out more about vitrifying parquet, you can consult our guide How to seal a parquet floor?