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Oil vs Varnish - Things to Consider...
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Oil vs Varnish - Things to Consider...

There are so many options when choosing a finish to enhance and protect wood that things can often get confusing. Here are some factors worth considering before making a final choice.

Drying Times:

If you have limited time to complete your project then a water-based varnish like Biofa Ireland’s VOC free and non-toxic Hard Oil Aqua or Wood Varnish Industry is ideal, as they can be recoated in a matter of hours. This means floors can be walked on sooner and an unexpected change in the weather cannot scupper your outdoor project! Oils on the other hand can take significantly longer to dry.


Oils protect by permeating the wood deeply, while varnishes work by forming a layer on the wood. Oil can be ideal for wood that gets wet frequently. Products like Biofa Ireland’s non-toxic Weather Protection Oil or oil-based Exterior Wood Glaze/Varnish prevent water ingress and keep the wood protected. Hard Wax Oil or Universal Hard Oil keeps floors that are heavily trafficked not just protected, but makes them easier to restore than a varnish finish which can be scratched. Most of Biofa Ireland’s oil and varnish products also protect from UV rays which can make wood yellow.


This is very much a matter of opinion! Oils tend to bring out the natural richness and grain of the wood and tend to darken it. Varnishes on the other hand darken the wood less as they are layer forming, but they do not bring out the grain in the same way.


In short, there is no definitive answer. If drying times are key then go for a water-based varnish, if wet weather protection is vital then perhaps an oil or oil-based wood glaze is the best choice. If you want a protective layer on top of your wood go with a varnish and if you want that rich lustre of your hardwood floor to impress your guests, then oil is a great choice.

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