wood flooring finish

Which One: Two Component vs One Component Waterborne Finishes

One Part Component Finish Overview

The newest big thing in hardwood flooring is one component or 1k finish. While this finish has been around for a while now, there are newer versions that are quite popular among contractors for many factors. If you are to open a hardwood flooring magazine almost all the advertising is for one component finishes. If a homeowner gets a bid, over half will be for these types of finishes. While these finishes are popular, some are better than others and this article will go into the different options.

New vs Old One Component Waterborne Finish

Before we begin this whole section about one component finish, you must first realize most of the newer finishes are a new formula that is actually better. The main factor is that technology is changing. The newer finishes utilize better raw materials and newer raw materials that are better. Older 1k finishes used more fillers and acrylic materials that were weak but easy to use. With newer pure blend polyurethane materials companies such as bona, arboritec, glitsa and duraseal are able to offer stronger than ever one component finishes.

Advantages of  Using 1 Component Finishes

Contractors and homeowners will find that there are real advantages of using a one component finish. While some do not fit certain clients and others do you have to do your own research and see what works for you.

      • 1k finishes typically are half the VOC’s
      • Less smell
      • Less waste, more eco friendly
      • Residentially rated

Disadvantages of a 1 Component Finish

      • Longer time to cure
      • Typically not very chemical resistant
      • Will wear faster if your house is high wear

Two Component Finish Overview

2k or two component hardwood flooring finishes are great finishes for many reasons. These finishes are a more of a commercial grade finish that tend to have properties that businesses and shops need – even gym floors. Some of these properties include drying times, chemical resistance and durability long term for lots of traffic. Businesses do not have time typically for things to dry and most jobs with a tight timeframe need to be done overnight while no customers are in the shop and need to be ready the next day for use. This is why 2 component waterborne finishes are great, this finish can dry in hours! While some of these qualities matter for businesses and shops, sometimes they will not for homeowners.

Why 2 Component Waterborne Finishes are Meant for Commercial Businesses

While some contractors like to use 2k for homes, these finishes are meant for shops. They were made for fast cure times to get businesses back up and running. These finishes are harder/stronger for a lot of traffic. While they work great in homes, typically homes get very little traffic compared to businesses and typically, common concerns of wear/scratching is more about the wood than the finish (read more below about this)

Advantages of  Using 2 Component Finishes

No one can deny that 2k or two component finishes have some serious advantages over one component finishes in hardwood flooring. Some of those advantages are:

      • Fast drying, sometimes in 24 hours
      • Multiple coats in a single day
      • Super durable
      • Best adhesion

Disadvantages of a 2 Component Finish

      • More VOC’s
      • Harder to use
      • Some product waste

Case Study Findings of 1 Component vs 2 Component Waterborne (water based) Flooring Finishes

Wood Flooring Supply actually hired a 3rd party to run some test on these finishes. We were really not worried for the findings from brand to brand but more category to category. These tests can be hard to draw conclusions from and company a will tell you something while company b tells you another. This is why we commissioned our own test to get raw data that would let us make our own conclusions. The different hardwood flooring finishes were tested with a taber abrasion machine. While this machine can be said to not be perfect, it is a way to test finishes in a scientific way.

What we found was that 2k or two component finishes were about 15-20% stronger than 1k or one component hardwood flooring finishes.

Why Hardwood Flooring Janka Rating Matters Most

This will be a total shocker to most people. All the above things the wood hardness matters most to the performance of your floor. Before we even get into that performance is realative… ok moving on. Most of these finishes we are testing are all within 15%-20%  of each other. This means we are basically splitting hairs what is best.

Typically you are not scratching wood flooring finish. Unless you are reckless, scratches are not scratches. Most things are DENTS. Yes, most “scratches” are really a homeowner denting wood or making an impression in the wood. Most if not all waterborne (water based) flooring finish is super malleable and moves with wood. A floor that is hickory will typically look and perform much longer than a birch floor. Reason being that hickory performs longer is birch is soft and hickory is American concrete. Performance does not typically come down to finish type UNLESS you are a store or a place with serious traffic that gets hundreds of people each and every day.

Why Film thickness of Flooring Finish Matters

No matter if you use 2k or 1k products on your hardwood floor – thickness matters. If the flooring finish is put on thin, it will not perform as good if you put the flooring finish on thicker. The concept is easy, a thicker 1k finish will out perform a thin 2k finish application. Now, this is harder to know what is good and what is bad, but typically rolling or using a liht weight t-bar ensures great application rates. NOTE: if you are a homowner, waterborne (water base) flooring finish will appear thin either way compared to oil-based finish & thick compared to penetrating oil, listen to your contractor.

Hardwood Flooring Sheen Matters – Real Science

After Janka hardness mentioned above, I think sheen is the next biggest factor in a wood floor finish performing to your liking. 10 out of 10 times on a hardwood floor finish that is matte will look better and almost brand new year after year. Matte or Satin just out perform better to your eye. Wood flooring finish is measured by gloss at a 60 degree angle. This measurement is how much light bounces off the floor back to your eye (or measuring tool). The mor elight the glossier the floor is.

When you have more light bouncing off the floor the more your eye can see issues with the floor. These issues might be a minor imperfection and appear like the floor is wearing or damaged. A matte finish will hide so much more since you are only seeing maybe 10% of light vs 60% from a semi-gloss finish. Matte finish literally makes your floor look brand new longer.

Why All of This is Subjective and Relative to certain Situations

The last point is you really need to decide if you have a lot of traffic and if you do a lot of maintenance. Woah, maintenance?? By maintenance I mean cleaning floors daily, not using shoes & having mats at entries/exits. The more maintenance you do and the less of the traffic really dictates if you need 1k or 2k. Grandparents with no grandchildren who take off their shoes will have great success with 1k finish, in fact it might last longer than some houses/stores with 2k finishes.

Lets Sum All This Up!!!

I can’t tell you if you need 1k or 2k waterborne finish. But what it really comes down to this flow:

  1. Pick the hardest wood you like
  2. Pick the lowest sheen you like
  3. More finish coats than less

After doing all those 3 above, you can honestly choose 2k (2 component) or 1k (one component) flooring finish and you really will have success with both. All finish options these days are great, perform well and last a long time. Stay with major brands and you will have a hardwood floor you love.

2 thoughts on “Which One: Two Component vs One Component Waterborne Finishes

  1. Johnny U. says:

    Great Article, you are a spot on with your suggestions. The only thing I might add to this is that I believe 2 k vs 1k finish durability is higher than 15% to 20% you suggest. I believe 2k vs 1k finish durability difference is at least 30%. The hardener increase durability and helps with adhesion more than people think. Thank you for a great article.

    1. Our findings say 20% however, lab tests are not always 100% accurate. The thing we do know is that 2k products are better than 1k products in every category besides leveling.

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