Varnish is a term that has come to mean almost any kind of wood finish, but it is a specific thing. It is typically composed of a thinner, a drying oil, and a resin. The product is brushed onto wood and allowed to dry. It will then form a hard protective coating over the wood. In this way, it acts similarly to polyurethane. Varnish tends to refer to the look of the finish instead of a specific product, but it is a range of products as well. Varnish was largely replaced in popularity by polyurethane over the past few decades. That change has reversed somewhat, and varnish is trending. Why is it now making a comeback?
Varnish is making a comeback for several different reasons. Varnish is popular with many new hardwood floor customers because it dries quickly, it protects against UV damage, it preserves the original look of the wood, and it is mostly nontoxic. Polyurethane comes in water-based and oil-based varieties. Oil-based polyurethane and varnish both yellow somewhat over time and are common when refinishing hardwood floors. They have a slight amber hue to them that many people find desirable.
Furthermore, polyurethane does not completely protect the wood itself from sun damage. It typically comes in gloss or semi-gloss. It doesn’t come in as many luster variations as polyurethane. However, it doesn’t impart much of a color to the wood. Polyurethane and oils will often deepen and enrich the color of the wood. That’s a very desirable quality for many people, but if you want to preserve the original look of the wood, varnish is the way to go. Varnish is a great option if you have wood that’s not stained.
Varnish has a very high percentage of solids and very low water content. It is also very resistant to UV damage and very water resistant. So, it’s a natural choice for any outdoor application. Decks, porches, and balconies can benefit from its use. Even if it’s indoors, wood that is exposed to a lot of light can also suffer UV damage. If you have large windows, you could get UV damage on the floor. If you want to utilize lots of natural light, you should consider varnishing your floor.
The Bottom Line
Varnish is growing more popular for indoor uses because it is typically very low in VOCs and often costs less than polyurethane. Its ability to block UV damage is its most utilitarian feature. Which one works for you will depend on your specific floor needs. Hardwood floor companies in Rockville are getting more requests for this product all the time.