Natural wood is ecological, but it has to be treated if you want to keep it looking good for a long time, especially if the woodwork has to face the rigours of the weather. Indoors, bare parquet could be dangerous for obvious reasons.
You always have the option of buying prefinished parquet, which will save you the finishing work: manual labour, odour of the product used, long wait before walking on the floor.
If you decide to treat your wood on your own, it’s preferable to avoid synthetic products in favour of natural products, such as varnish without solvent. Don’t play with your health. A toxic product can release noxious vapours for several months, even if your nose can’t detect them.
There are four major type of wood finish: varnish, lacquer, oil and wax.
Varnish stays on the surface of the wood. It has a strictly protective role. Perfect for furniture, applicable for parquet. However, you have to be patient when the time comes to refinish, because you have to sand the entire surface.
Lacquer gives the wood colour, thus changing its aspect. The veins disappear. Lacquer offers three finishes: flat, glossy and shiny. It is useful for all woodwork, both indoor and outdoor, except parquets. To get a transparent effect, opt for a wood covering. You will get a new tint without losing the veins. But you will have to refinish it about every five years.
Oil is for indoors only. There is surface oil that is perfect for parquet given its protective role. There is penetrating oil which brings out the beauty of the wood, making it ideal for doors, windows, walls and esthetic panels. Simply apply a coat in places where the oil wears out the fastest over the years and your maintenance is done.
For the inside, there is wax that is applied over a penetrating oil. But wax wears out quickly. And if you decide to use another product, you have to remove all of the used wax.
In addition to these finishing products are sub-products. Oil and water-based lacquer, resin varnishes and water varnishes, hemp oil, carnauba wax, castor oil, soybean oil.
Linseed oil and beeswax are recommended for maintaining parquet and staircases, plus wax for the walls and ceiling.
For a job well done, don’t cut the steps short. Follow the basic rules: take the time to shop around before you make a choice, find out about the required maintenance for the various products based on your level of patience, do the preparation work before applying a finishing product and in the time required, respect the drying period between each coat.
Consult your local cabinetmaker or hardware store. Today, most of them are sensitive to ecological issues. If not, the Internet is filled with information on the subject.
As for us, we recommend Bruno Gouttry’s work if you have a thing for books. It is among the leading references that we consulted.
J’entretiens mes boiseries (volets, parquets, meubles…) Bruno Gouttry, Terre vivante, 2012, 94 pages