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Photo: Courtesy of Bellawood/Lumber Liquidators
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The Lowdown on Top Coats

Comparing the durability of brands is nearly impossible. Manufacturers may tout the number of finish coats, but the thickness of the coats varies, meaning a floor with three layers may have a thicker coat than one with seven layers. Bring samples home and try to scratch them to get an idea of how they'll wear over time. As for sheens, higher glosses intensify color and grain but make scratches and dents more visible; satin or matte comes closest to matching the look of a site-applied polyurethane. Once the flooring is installed, a family with kids and pets can expect to maintain the floor in high-traffic areas with a screen-and-poly every five to 10 years. Sanding and restaining may be needed only every 15 to 30 years.

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