Wood has been used as flooring for centuries. The way that it was originally maintained was the use of oil. It has only been within the past century that polyurethane and other finishes have started to be used. Each type of finish that is applied to wood have their benefits and drawbacks. Penetrating oil finishes are the same.
You will normally see penetrating oil finishes on higher-end custom floors. It is done to raw wood that has been installed and sanded on site. A benefit of using oil is that there are no VOCS and it is considered an "natural" finish. Over the years, there have been modifications to the formulation to make it absorb better and faster than in years past. This process has been used in Europe for many years and everyone knows that it does require some maintenance to keep it up. Once a floor has been finished, it will repel water for a period of time because it penetrates into the pores of the wood flooring creating the color and wear layer. Oil will only last so long on the surface, so the floor will need to be oiled again to maintain its durability and finish.
Because it doesn't really create a hard surface finish, it is more exposed to damage from staining and physical damage. The benefit of oil with physical damage is that cleaning the area and applying more oil to the area makes scratches just disappear. Since it doesn't have a surface coating, there is no sheen to match or blend with.
If you consider doing penetrating oil finishes, there are benefits and problems. Take in consideration how you will use your floors and what your life is like. It is a green, easy to maintain, and beautiful finish for wood flooring It also will require maintenance oiling it again every so often and it won't have the same stain and wear resistance as a floor with a surface coating. Whatever you may choose, choose wisely.
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