If you're planning to finish your floor to enhance its beauty or prolong its life, accomplish your goal by applying either a natural-looking stain or durable epoxy. Learn the pros and cons of each finish before you begin, or you may end up with unexpected results.
Stain provides an attractive natural appearance to flooring. Because stain permeates the surface, you don't have to worry about a flawed finish marred with roller marks or brushstrokes. Properly stained floors should remain durable for a long period of time as long as they are sealed with a polyurethane finish.
While stain works well with softwood floors, it doesn't always work well with hardwood floors, because their wood grains are so dense. You can use a thicker, slow-absorbing gel stain to generate a more uniform finish; however, you may not get the results you expected. The same complications apply to nonporous concrete and tile floors. If you choose to stain any of these surfaces, try testing on an inconspicuous area before committing yourself to the project.
Epoxy gives flooring an attractive glossy appearance and provides an incredibly high degree of durability. Epoxy floor finish is a two-part material consisting of a resin and catalyst. Once the two parts are added, the mixture begins a hardening process that ultimately results in an enduring finish that can withstand the weight of a car. Epoxy is available in a wide variety of colors and well-suited for wood, tile, vinyl and concrete floors.
While epoxy bonds well to primed wood and tile, it will not bond to untreated concrete floors. Before a concrete floor will accept epoxy, it requires a chemical etch. Unlike stain which requires relatively little preparation, epoxy flooring often calls for extensive prep work. In addition, because epoxy finishes are so durable, they are difficult to paint over. If you decide to apply an epoxy floor finish, be sure you can live with results for a long period of time.