Lacquer or oil?
If you’re investing in a timber floor for your home, your flooring specialist will likely suggest lacquered flooring, with many customers unaware there is a viable alternative – European style oiled floors.
While lacquer is a low maintenance, cost-effective and hard-wearing product that can be resilient if well looked after (i.e. protected with floor mats in high traffic areas), oil also has its merits as this article will explore.
Oil is the lesser chosen option these days – especially when considering the cheaper, easier to maintain lacquer pre-finishes that are readily available. Despite this, it offers versatility in both finish, shine and maintenance. Oil can also be highly customisable, depending on which brand of product and oil combination you choose.
Ultimately, your choice will come down to your lifestyle, your colour and finish preference and the lifespan you want to get out of your new timber floors.
Generally, lacquer comes in one colour with one shine level, pre-selected and applied by the manufacturer. This will generally be a high gloss, gloss, matt or satin finished lacquer.
Oil is highly customisable (particularly the European style – link to products) as it is applied after installation, so you can choose the shine level of the oil (again – high gloss, gloss, matt or satin) to best suit your colour choice and décor. We recommend talking to your installer about getting small samples of each finish and colour and comparing them in your home, as this will help you make the perfect choice.
Below - lacquer finished in 12A
Below - oil finished in 29A
Engineered floors are designed now with a cross-layered multi ply to facilitate movement, meaning these types of materials can now last decades if well-maintained. Higher quality floors of 4mm or more in veneer can also be sanded back - normally around the seven to 10 year mark. This can usually restore the original colour, or achieve a new colour to suit your chosen décor. This can be done on both oil and lacquered floors.
Once a pre-finished lacquer flooring is installed, little to no maintenance is required, other than cleaning of spills. However, if your lacquered flooring becomes scratched (think pets, kids’ toys, loose stones or sharp objects in shoes or heavy objects dragged across the floor) – you’ll have limited options to repair the damage.
Aside from a handful of remedies which are often ineffective (i.e. an almond stick, damp cloth and an iron), the only real way to restore lacquer flooring is to completely sand the floor back, recolour and relacquer or oil (note - we always recommend this is carried out by a professional!).
Nowadays, there are two types of pre-finished oil flooring:
Type one: a pre-finished product able to be installed like lacquer, but still requiring maintenance (care products and recommendations vary from brand to brand)
Type two: the European style, which comes oiled and usually requires a hard wax or some type of sealing oil after install. The advantage of this is easier maintenance and the ability to repair scratches and wear in high traffic areas using a maintenance oil. In fact, oiled floors may not require a great deal of maintenance at all in low traffic areas.
Budget is another factor to consider as oil can be more expensive, as it requires an extra step to oil your floor after it is laid. This can come in between approximately $8 to $20 per square metre.
So what’s the verdict?
If you have kids, dogs or an environment that will result in higher wear and tear on your floors, oil will give you the benefit of being able to on-the-spot fix those inevitable scratches. Scratches in lacquer are mostly impossible to repair without replacing a reasonable section of floor, which is not normally worth the cost involved. Generally, to fix scratches in a lacquered floor, you would wait until the floor has weathered to a point where it can be sanded back in its entirety, or even replaced.