Sustain Color and Support the Finish
Sealers penetrate the wood and enhance its color. Sealer is the first product used in the finishing process unless staining is desired. When sealer is applied without staining, it will give the wood its “natural color.” Only one coat of sealer is usually needed. Sealers have very little “build” and therefore aren’t to be thought of as a means of protection. However, a good sealer will:
- Promote good adhesion for the finish
- Penetrate the wood so the finish won’t
- Prevent side-bonding and panelizing(more on side-bonding and panelizing on the common problems page)
There are many different types of sealers on the market, but the three prominent ones are oil-base, water-based, and de-waxed shellac. There are quality products found in all three types, but there is a slight color variation to each one.
Water-based: These sealers are moderately easy to work with, very forgiving, have a low-odor and have very short dry-times. The short dry-times can cause them to be tricky to apply without having prior experience. Water-based sealers are also more expensive than oil-based and shellac. Despite their higher cost, they are quickly growing in popularity and are becoming an industry standard. For the most part, they leave the wood the lightest in color. Some people prefer the amber color of oil-based sealers. And while manufacturers are working to create sealers that can offer the yellow hue, it might be better to go with an oil-based sealer if this is the look you want.
Oil-based: Oil-based sealers are less expensive and give wood a rich, amber color. However, they tend to have longer dry-times and strong odors that can linger for days. Before the innovation of water-based products, oil-based sealers were the industry standard. Although longer dry-times can be a disadvantage to professionals, they make them easier to apply for those with little finishing experience.
Wax Free Shellac: Because basic shellac is made from little more than alcohol and the cocoon of a particular insect, its history dates back over 1500 years. Its beauty and effectiveness are the reason it’s still around today. Its advantages are it’s fast drying, compatible with just about any finish, is moderately priced and has a deep, warm,color. Because of their moderate price, rich color and great compatibility, shellac products are quickly regaining popularity as wood floor sealers with professionals.