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Hardwood - The Hard Facts

Bona Craft Oil 101

February 25, 2020


For twenty years, the gold standard in wood floor coatings has been Traffic, a water-based two-component polyurethane finish from Bona. Traffic's list of performance benefits is impressive: resilient, durable, relatively clear, resists ambering, environmentally friendly and low-scent. We have put down millions of square feet of the stuff--including over a maple floor at the Huntsman Cancer Institute that was featured in Bona's promotional artwork!

Recently, Bona has introduced a new penetrating-oil finish called Craft Oil. And it's a game-changer.


Unlike a traditional polyurethane finish which is basically a film of plastic bonded to the top of your hardwood floor, penetrating oil finishes are buffed into the wood. While Craft Oil (and other penetrating oils) cure hard, they don't offer the same level of day-to-day protection as Traffic. Unfortunately, that's as far as most homeowners are willing to look.

But take a second glance at the benefits of an oil-finished floor:


  • Aesthetics: Because the floor hasn't been laminated, more of the organic texture of a wood floor is visible when finished with a penetrating oil. You can feel the texture underfoot, too--it's a subtle but noticeable luxury. And oil-rubbed floors tend to look better as they age (more on that later) rather than simply collecting damage and turning yellow.


  • Health: Craft Oil, like most new penetrating oils on the US market, is derived from soy beans other plant matter and is an ultralow- or zero-VOC product depending on color. Not only does this mean better LEED certification, it also means a healthier environment in your home, both during and after construction.

  • Seamless Repairs: Repairing one or a handful of planks in a poly-finished floor will almost inevitably result in visible seams in the finish around the repair; the only way to avoid this problem is to re-coat the entire floor. New poly finish over a repair is typically is a slightly different color and sheen than the surround area due to oxidation and UV exposure as well. Penetrating oil can be blended seamlessly regardless of repair size, and color variance can be blended out from a repair as well to avoid a hard color line in the floor.

  • Aged to Perfection: after a few maintenance re-coats, a poly floor will start to look milky and like it's been covered in a thick layer of plastic--because it has. And re-coating a scratched and stained poly floor doesn't fix any of the damage; you're just coating over it. Oil-finished flooring will develop a deep patina with regular maintenance and look better as it ages, and each re-oiling will hide or remove much of the day-to-day wear most people encounter in their homes.


There's no question that a penetrating oil-finished floor requires more frequent professional maintenance than its poly-finished counterpart. Most penetrating oil floors (whether it's Craft Oil, Tung oil, hard wax, Woca or Rubio Monocoat) need to be re-oiled every 2-4 years depending on wear and UV exposure. Most homeowners balk when they're informed of this level of intrusion. But the truth is that a Craft Oil finish means fewer dollars and hours spent on maintenance. 

This chart illustrates typical maintenance cost and on-site time (e.g. disruption of your home) for a polyurethane-finished floor versus a Craft Oil-finished floor. This example assumes a 1,000 square foot house, with 600 square feet of that flooring uncovered by rugs and furniture. Year 0 is the initial finish (or refinish) of the floor.

Polyurethane should be re-coated every 5-10 years depending on foot traffic in a typical residential application. This example suggests a re-coat every seven years, with a full refinish required at year 21 to sand out two decades of dog claw marks, dropped dishes, and 4-5 coats of finish in order to return the floor to new condition. The entire floor should be re-coated to avoid finish seams, which means moving your furniture with every maintenance coat.

Craft Oil needs re-oiling every 2-4 years; in this example, we're allowing for three year recoat intervals. Because there's no seaming, Craft Oil can be re-oiled around furniture and area rugs. We suggest a three-service cycle (e.g. only re-oiling the uncovered 600 square feet at years 3 and 6, then moving furniture and re-oiling the full floor at year 9).

Prices listed are approximations, but assume that the full polyurethane sand-stain-and-poly-finish required at years 0 and 21 runs about $6.00/sf. Because of some extra sanding and prep required, Craft Oil might come in around $6.60/sf on that first sand job--but that's the only time the floor will need to be sanded down to bare wood.

From there, a poly deep clean (required to eliminate contaminants that might inhibit the new coat of finish bonding to the existing coat) and re-coat runs about $2.50/sf, while re-oiling runs around $1.00/sf.

Craft Oil comes out on top in every category. It's a little more expensive up front, and you will have hardwood floor technicians in your home more frequently, but look at the numbers over 21 years:


  • Dollars spent: $17,000 with poly maintenance versus $11,600 with Craft Oil.
  • Hours of on-site labor: you can expect 192 hours of technicians in your home with a poly floor versus 146 with Craft Oil.
  • Furniture Moving: clearing the entire floor for every poly re-coat means four rounds of moving furniture in and out versus three rounds for Craft Oil (on the three-service cycle). 


Penetrating oil offers a safeguard for textured wood flooring, too. Wire-brushing, as shown here, usually costs extra (either prior to new flooring installation or as a site-textured option). If your wire-brushed or hand-scraped floor is finished with poly and the finish wears all the way through to the wood, you're pretty much stuck with refinishing the entire floor back down to bare wood and starting over--sanding out the texture you paid extra for in the first place.

Using Craft Oil on a textured floor means you'll already be in the habit of regularly re-oiling your floor (and a quality wood floor contractor will remind you when it's time for scheduled maintenance). In other words, the maintenance inherent to penetrating oils means you should never "wait too long" between re-oils and the floor will never need to be resurfaced, keeping your original texture in good condition for decades.

Finally, as mentioned above, should you accidentally drag a piece of furniture across two or three planks other otherwise cause minor damage to a limited portion of the floor, Craft Oil allows for local or spot repairs without having to put down finish across an entire plank or multiple planks. This unobtrusive, "seamless" repair is both less time-consuming and less visually obtrusive compared to local repairs on a stained-and-poly-coated floor.

Consider Craft Oil and other penetrating oil-finished floors like a precision kitchen knife or hand-crafted instrument. With a little regular maintenance, it's a lifetime product--and a lifetime of savings!

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