“What’s the best finish?” It’s a common question on wood flooring jobs today. But wood floor pros didn’t always have much choice in the matter. Before the 1940s, there were pretty much two options: shellac or varnish, with waxing recommended for each. However, a pamphlet from 1953 titled “How To Finish Wood Floors … Old or New” sheds insight on how finish decisions were made in the 1950s, just as new floor finish technology was emerging. The pamphlet notes the introduction of the “floor seal” within “the last decade.” Unlike shellac or varnish, floor seals penetrated into the wood. “Then,” the pamphlet continues, “in 1948, the first major advance in floor finishing occurred with the development and introduction of Fabulon, a totally new type of floor finish created by the same chemists who originated one of the country’s finest bowling lane finishes.” As the pamphlet lists the pros and cons of each finish option, it calls Fabulon the “Modern Method”—no waxing or filler required. “Fabulon, easily applied by brush or roller, dries tack-free within 15 minutes,” it states, “...ready for the second coat in one hour.” Fabulon was also touted as “impervious to dirt, grime, wear and common stains.” So, while the debate over the right finish continues today, the choice 70 years ago was a little simpler—but no less critical, as the pamphlet ominously stresses: “This choice should be carefully made, for upon it may depend whether the newly finished floors will be a source of pride and satisfaction … or a painful reminder of a task performed in vain.”
Scroll through the full pamphlet "How to Finish Wood Floors ... Old or New" here.