Polyurethane is a protective coating that covers and seals the wooden floor underneath. It imparts a shiny, gymnasium-like floor. It can and does look great.
However, over time and with traffic it scratches. But polyurethane does its job. The scratches are in the polyurethane and not the wood. If the polyurethane is scrapped up and a new treatment applied, the wood will appear as good as new.
A well trafficked floor in a Tampa home
Here is a natural light shot of the passage from the living room into the dining room. The polyurethane finish is about ten years old.
Daylight brings out the blemishes
Scratches in the polyurethane "pop" in the refrection from a window opposite the photographer.
It doesn't take much light to reveal the floor's traffic
Here again the light from the living room windows highlight the scratches.
Oil Treated Floors
Fine wood floors treated with oil are coming back into style. There are several reasons.
It's much more natural
The finish is more likely to resemble the natural look of the wood. Wood is full of oil that actually moves throughout fibers of the wood for many years, giving it renewed life. Applied on the surface, oil complements the natural oils in the wood to protect and beautify. Like fine leather, oiled floors can become more beautiful over time.
Repairs are much easier
A scratch in an oil-treated floor can be spot repaired. Simply apply a widely available repair paste. With polyurethane, you have to remove the polyurethane from the entire floor, sand the entire floor and reapply the entire room's polyurethane treatment.
Refinishing is much easier
Similarly, refinishing the entire floor requires only that the old oil be removed and a new coat of oil applied.
The main entrance to Addison/Dicus in Tampa
This floor is a little older than two years. It's from Addison/Dicus' Aria collection and it's called Smoked Oak. It gets 45+ hours of steady traffic each week.
Closeup of the floor lit by light from the front door and window
As you can see the wood looks very natural and shows little if any traffic damage in spite of being a busy passageway.
The same view as above at a slightly different angle.
This is not to say that one floor is better the other. It all depends on the purpose and look you are designing to achieve. But a good floor can last for several generations and it pays to know what to expect years from now.