Urethane-based finishes come in three general varieties: oil-modified urethane, moisture-cured urethane, and water-based urethane. According to WoodFloorsOnline.com, oil-modified urethane is the most frequently used product for refinishing wood floors and is comprised of petroleum, synthetic resins and other ingredients that help form a moisture-resistant film. Oil-modified urethane takes approximately eight hours to dry after application and will grow more amber in color with age. Moisture-cure urethane is much more difficult to apply than oil-modified urethane and also has a much stronger odor. It relies on taking humidity from the air to cure or dry. Lastly, water-based urethane finishes produce the least amount of odor and dry the fastest (taking approximately two to three hours). However, they are also generally the most expensive style of urethane-based finish.
Varnish, which is resin dissolved in a liquid, is another good choice for refinishing your wood floor. Varnishes have traditionally been produced from natural ingredients such as vegetable oils; however, they are now typically made from the chemical vinyl-alkyd. They are generally easy to apply and produce a shiny, transparent film coating once dry. Conversion varnishes (also known as Swedish finishes, as that is where they originated) are another type of varnish. Conversion varnishes utilize two different components to work effectively: an alcohol-based sealing component and an acid-based curing component. They can be a bit trickier to apply than regular varnishes.
WoodFloorsOnline.com recommends using an oil-based penetrating sealer for refinishing wood floors. These types of sealers are generally made from linseed oil or tung (a type of tree) oil, and may include additives to help improve durability and to speed up the drying process. Penetrating sealers should be allowed to soak into your floor's wood, and then the excess should be removed with a rag or buffed in with steel wool.
Wax is the oldest and perhaps the best overall product for refinishing wood floors. It is the least expensive, easiest to apply, easiest to maintain and fastest drying wood refinishing product available. You simply need to spread thin coats of the wax over your floor and then buff until the desired level of sheen is reached. For best results, use wax on your wood floor after applying a sealer or stain.