I got the first layer of finish down on the floor this week. Photos are a little hard, they tend to make the finish look more colored than it is. When it dries, it is actually clear.

I like to use a product from Germany called OSMO hardwax oil.

As its name implies, it is made from natural plant oils and wax. I find it has several advantages over the standard polyurethane finish that most folks like to use. For one, it smells like cooking oil, and has very low VOCs. So you don’t need to move into a hotel for several days while the finish cures, or worry about your floor outgassing for months inside the house.

This finish is super easy to apply. I suspect almost impossible to screw up. You can see in the photo, all I’m using is a cleaned-out shampoo bottle to drizzle oil onto the floor, and a rag to rub it in. It goes on a lot like stain, where you just rub in a very thin coat. Ideally, the floor should feel almost dry where the finish has just been applied- a thick coat is not needed. No sanding is required between coats.

The finish is not sticky at all during application. So, if a stray hair, fuzz bit, gravel nib, or crawling insect finds its way onto the freshly applied finish, no big deal. It will not stick to the finish, embed, or create a mark which would require sanding or buffing later.

This product does not seal the floor in the plastic-ey way that polyurethane does. The wood can breathe, so it allows the floor to develop a beautiful reddish patina over time, which I like.

The other really important bonus of this type of finish is that it can be spot-repaired. So, if there is a cat barf incident, wine is spilled, or some other localized disaster occurs, the floor can be sanded and the finish blended at that spot. No need to sand and re-do the whole room. In the last historic home I owned, I used this finish throughout the house and found it to be really robust. In fact, I never had it damaged by cat barf, wine spills and the like. Even in the kitchen, it held up beautifully.

One tradeoff of this finish compared to poly or Swedish finishes is that it is matte, not shiny (though I understand it can be periodically waxed to gain luster). I will say that shiny floors are pretty. But, they also show scratches, which is less ideal if you have pets or kids, slide chairs, wear shoes in the house, or do anything other than pad around in clean stocking feet and baby the floor.

Now, my goal is to get coat #2 down this week!