Wood is greatly enhanced by a good varnish, the grain is accentuated and the colour deepened. You can also get a really hard wearing finish as well. However what to choose?
Most builders will use a polyurethane finish as this is cheap to buy, however they are not really cheap. Polyurethanes are commonly applied in a number of coats and in between them the surface should be lightly sanded. This give the ‘key’ for the next layer. So you will need to do at least two sanding tasks. First to get the surface level and prepared and secondly after the first coat (and subsequent coats). So this takes time and hence money.
As well as requiring more sanding there is also the environmental and social costs of using a smelly, high VOC, petro-chemical based chemical on your home’s floor.
So an alternative?
Commonly people used a Hard Oil and then waxed this to give a wearing layer. These natural products work by allowing the oil to set rock hard in the wood to make it really resilient and the wax protects this with a disposable layer. This system also requires sanding between coats of hard oil and there is the on-going maintenance of the waxing.
The real alternative…
I believe the best solution is a Hard Wax Oil where the hard oil and wax are pre-combined. This has a load of advantages. Firstly it is simple, it is also very hard wearing and natural but possibly most important, it is economic. No need for sanding in between coats. Just prepare your floor (last sanding grit of between 120 and 150), put on a layer and leave to dry (this is between 4 and 12 hours depending on product), then put on another coat and leave to dry (12 hours). Done!
None really apart from you need to put it on really thinly and this goes against the grain of those used to polyurethanes. If you put it on too thick it won’t dry.
The best one?
Having spoken to a range of floor fitters they recommend Osmo Polyx Oil. Others on the market can leave tram lines on the wood where you overlap on application.