Understanding surface finishing
Although there are many options for hardwood floor finishes, many manufacturers of pre-made quality hardwood flooring choose to apply some form of surface finishing followed by a top coat designed to seal in colour and provide protection against the elements. The surface finishing usually consists of a stain that can achieve a number of different purposes.
One common use of stain is to allow wood floors to emulate another species of wood. Ebony, for example, is a very dark-hued wood, almost black in some cases. It can also be prohibitively expensive. Consumers who want the luxurious look of ebony without the cost can choose a more affordable species and arrange to have it stained to resemble ebony.
This strategy should be used with care, however. Not all species of wood take to stain equally well. The resulting colour may not be as dark as desired and may even veer into unwanted hues, such as dark reds, depending on the species and stain in question. In addition, there is more to a wood such as ebony than colour. It also has a particular grain pattern. To truly emulate ebony, care should be taken to choose a base wood with a similar looking grain.
Surface finishing is usually followed by a top coat. The most common options for top coats include urethanes, both water-based and oil-based, and finishes that actually penetrate the wood instead of floating on top.
No matter what the choice of surface finish and top coat, floorboard sanding will abrade them off. This is actually an advantage because it allows homeowners to make decorating changes if desired.