Shown is the Limited Species and Member’s Choice award winners in the 2011 National Wood Flooring Association Floor of the Year contest by Matthew Marwick, of Precision Floor Crafters. Marwick used Tung oil to coat and seal the river-recovered wood installed in a central Fla. private home. Photo courtesy the National Wood Flooring Association.

Oil-based wood finishes are the current rage and this year’s National Wood Flooring Association’s Annual Convention and Exposition in San Diego was heavily dominated by oil-based finish products.

There’s little guesswork as to why oil finishes have regained notoriety. Natural oils have been the key to a long and successful resurgence for oil finishes. Flooring installers have known for decades that oil-based finishes truly bring out the rich, authentic color of a wood floor or project.

Oil finishes have a multitude of benefits, from deeper wood penetration to leaving behind natural looking surfaces, to enhanced durability that requires less intrusive maintenance. But while oil-based finishes returned to popularity in a variety of uses – including award-winning applications at NWFA for the 2011 Wood Floor of The Year Contest – the root of the comeback can be traced back to China, home of the Tung tree.

Tung oil is made from pressed seeds from the nut of the Tung tree. In the 14th century, Chinese merchants used Tung oil to waterproof and protect wooden ships from the eroding powers of the sea. There are even mentions of Tung oil appearing in the writings of Confucius in around 400 B.C.

Tung oil is considered a drying oil much like linseed, safflower, poppy and soybean oil and is known to have a slightly golden tint. Tung oil, a vegetable oil, can wet the surface while allowing it to penetrate even the densest woods. Further, Tung oil will not yellow with age.

While oil finishes are making a return in a big way, not all are alike. Although Tung oil is a superior drying oil, resin-modified Tung oil makes one of the best possible finishes for surfaces such as wood floors. These types of finishes permeate the pores of the wood and build up a coating that both guards and strengthens the flooring.

Many professionals are turning to resin-modified Tung oil-based finishes for their projects. One such example is Matthew Marwick of Precision Floor Crafters. He was recognized by the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) and awarded two 2011 Floor of the Year Awards in the “Limited Species” and “Member’s Choice” categories for his use of river-recovered wood in a private home in central Florida. Resin-modified Tung oil finishes were used to coat and seal the floors in the project.

Tung oil has been depended on for decades by many industries in the United States, including the paint & varnish, automobile and printing ink industries. Additionally, because resin-modified Tung oil finishes penetrate like raw oil, they will not become fragile or have a plastic appearance. They are also easy to restore and re-coat.-Kellie Hawkins Schaffner, vp Waterlox Coatings Corp.