6 tips for choosing a parquet varnish

7 min

Natural parquet is one of the best types of flooring. In addition to its environmental friendliness, parquet has many other advantages – durability, wear resistance, noble appearance, etc. But do not forget that natural wood is a rather capricious material that does not tolerate moisture and direct sunlight. Thus, in order to protect the floor covering from the influence of unfavorable factors, extend its service life and emphasize the exquisite natural texture, it is necessary to cover the surface with a special varnish. Read about which varnish for parquet to choose and what nuances to pay attention to when choosing in this article.

What influences the choice?

If you use the services of specialized teams, the choice of varnish will be their task. However, if you decide to do the work yourself or control the stage of material procurement, you need to know what nuances you should pay attention to when choosing a coating:

  • The degree of load on the room. The higher the permeability in a given room, the more durable the coating should be. It is reasonable to choose a separate type of varnish for rooms such as a bedroom and a nursery, and separately for the kitchen, corridor and living room;

  • Durability of the coating. To understand how high-quality the composition is in front of you, first of all, you need to understand that “varnish” is a common name. In fact, this is a solution that includes varnish and solvent. The varnish content is indicated as a percentage and can be 5-35%. This number is called “dry residue”. The greater the number of dry residue, the more expensive and better the composition. Formulations with the highest varnish content are labeled “pure polyurethane based”;

  • Gloss level. The final finish can be matt, semi-matt, silky-matt, semi-gloss, glossy. In this case, everything is individual, but I would like to say about some of the features of the glossy surface. Firstly, gloss can glare, which can have a negative effect on the organs of vision. Secondly, such a coating is more suitable for interiors in a classic style. Thirdly, any coating will wear off a little over time. In this case, abrasion will be uneven and more noticeable in the passageways of the room. On gloss, such places will instantly catch your eye and you will need to update the coating to eliminate the imperfections;

  • Drying speed. There are varnishes that can dry in a few hours, while it is possible to apply several coats in just one day. Other formulations can dry from 24 to 48 hours. You should pay attention to this factor if you are limited in time, as well as when choosing an artist. After all, some unscrupulous teams promise to complete all the work within 24 hours, while using varnishes, which by default cannot dry out so quickly. As a result, either the coating will have defects, or in fact, the composition that you wanted will not be used, or only one layer of varnish is applied;

  • Color spectrum. There are varnishes that are neutral, that is, they do not change the shade of the wood after application. And there are compounds that “set on fire” the color of wood, painting it in more saturated shades and emphasizing the structure;

  • Environmental friendliness. This is a very important parameter that determines the harmlessness of the composition for human health. Indeed, some formulations throughout the entire service life are capable of emitting harmful vapors into the environment. The safest are water-based varnishes, which are even devoid of an unpleasant odor;

  • Type of wood. Be sure to consider the compatibility of the varnish and the type of wood from which the parquet is made.

In addition to the above, all compounds differ in their chemical composition. Consider the features, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each individual group.

Priming varnishes

Please note that the primer is not a stand alone coating. This is a kind of intermediate coating that is applied to the base in order to:

  • ensure the uniformity of the shade of the topcoat if tint varnish is used;
  • ensure a higher degree of adhesion of the coating to the base;
  • reduce the consumption of the topcoat. The primer varnish, filling the pores of the wood, significantly reduces its absorption, as a result of which you will need less expensive finishing varnish;
  • for neutralization and isolation of natural oils of exotic wood species;
  • to reduce the adhesive effect of the topcoat. If varnish is used not on water, but on any other basis, getting into the joints of parquet boards, it will glue the fragments together. If you pre-coat the surface with a primer varnish, this can be avoided;
  • when it is necessary to minimize the moisture content of the parquet. Each finishing compound is applied under specific conditions, which include ambient temperature and humidity, as well as the moisture content of the wood itself. If the degree of dryness of the parquet does not correspond to the required parameters, the final coating may have defects in the form of bubbles and foam. To avoid this, it is recommended to apply a preliminary coat of primer varnish.

Primer varnishes are quick-drying. Before purchasing such a composition, be sure to make sure that its base coincides with the base of the finishing varnish. For example, under a water-based varnish, it is necessary to apply an aqueous primer, etc. Some modern types of varnishes do not require preliminary application of a primer, which will be indicated on the packaging.

Water-soluble varnishes

Water-based varnishes contain a solvent, an emulsifier and, accordingly, water. It is because of the presence of water that they dry much longer than varnishes on a different basis, because water takes time to completely evaporate.

The drying process of the water-based varnish is sequential – first, the process of water evaporation occurs, and then the solvent begins to evaporate. Accordingly, with a decrease in the aqueous portion, the concentration of the solvent increases. When a certain concentration is reached, the solvent begins to break down the binding components and evaporate. After that, only a varnish film remains on the surface.

The percentage of solvent in the composition can be different. There are varnishes without solvent content, with 5% or 15%. This parameter does not affect the degree of adhesion to the base. Note. that many experts recommend applying a primer under a water-based varnish without fail. This should be done in order to reduce the amount of the composition falling between the wooden dies, which can subsequently lead to the formation of unpleasant squeaks. Water-based varnishes have the following advantages:

  • They are safe for health;
  • There is practically no unpleasant smell, which makes it possible to carry out work without the need to evacuate all household members from the apartment;
  • They are non-flammable, which is important in rooms with an increased level of fire hazard;
  • Have an affordable cost.

As for the disadvantages:

  • Increased exactingness to the choice of tool. It is recommended to apply water-based varnishes only with a roller. He, in turn, should be soft enough, but not have too long pile;
  • Low coefficient of wear resistance. If a frankly cheap water-based varnish was chosen for work, then the coating will really wear off very quickly. But, if the varnish is expensive and of high quality, it can be safely used in rooms such as rest rooms;
  • Long drying process;
  • Incompatibility with wood species such as beech, pine and hornbeam.

Anhydrous polyurethane varnishes

These formulations dry much faster than water-based varnishes. As soon as the solvent evaporates, the composition will cure.

Polyurethane varnish can be one-component (PUR) or two-component (DD). The base of the varnish can be acrylic, urethane or solvent. In most cases, various aromatic impurities are added to the formulations to neutralize the pungent chemical odor. Polyurethane varnishes can be called universal, because they can be used both in rooms with low and high traffic. The coating is strong and durable. Apart from this, there are other advantages:

  • UV resistance;
  • Heat resistance;
  • Elasticity;
  • Resistant to moisture;
  • Not exactingness to the microclimate of the room.

The disadvantages include:

  • The ability to glue the dies when falling into the gaps between them;
  • Demanding quality of parquet drying. The moisture content of the wood should not exceed 8%, otherwise the coating will bubble;
  • If water gets on the surface of the varnish before it is completely dry, it may lead to the formation of foam or bubbles.

We can say that polyurethane varnish is the best choice for covering parquet in any room.

Alkyd varnishes

Or oil-based varnishes. The main component is alkyd resins, which are obtained from natural materials.

It can be wood, linseed and other oils. In addition, the composition includes white spirit, the concentration of which can be high or low. The latter option is more preferable because it is less toxic. Alkyd varnishes have the following advantages:

  • They do not have an adhesive effect and do not flow into the joints of the parquet, which completely excludes the possibility of creaks;
  • The composition has high penetrating properties and allows you to change the shade of wood and make it more saturated;
  • Not sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity in the room.

Now about the disadvantages:

  • Due to the ability to penetrate deeply into the structure of the tree, it is possible to subsequently change the color of the coating only after sanding the surface. In this case, it will be necessary to remove a layer of several millimeters, which will lead to a thinning of the dies, and therefore to a decrease in the technical characteristics of the parquet;
  • The drying process of alkyd varnish must take place under strict observance of the recommended temperature and degree of humidity, otherwise the coating may become wrinkled;
  • It often takes at least a day to completely dry the composition;
  • The wear resistance of the coating is the lowest in comparison with other compounds, therefore alkyd varnishes are most often used not for parquet, but for pieces of furniture.

Formaldehyde varnishes

They are the varnishes of acid rejection. Provides the most durable and wear resistant coating. The composition of the varnish includes formaldehyde resins, which completely evaporate from the surface after the final drying of the composition.

That is why they do not pose a health hazard, but have a pungent chemical odor. Therefore, work must be carried out using personal protective equipment – a respirator, and in a well-ventilated area. The advantages of formaldehyde varnishes include:

  • High level of adhesion to the base material;
  • Resistance to temperature and humidity changes in the room;
  • No need for preliminary priming of the floor;
  • Suitable for use in high traffic areas.


  • Very strong and unpleasant odor;
  • Strong bonding effect.
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Passionate about DIY for over 10 years and all the new tools, I give you through this blog all my advice, tips, tests in all areas: carpentry, electricity, masonry, gardening, home automation ...


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