Posted by          Flooring, Hardwood Flooring    February 27, 2016

Depending on the type of floor you install, you may have to choose between a water-based or an oil-based polyurethane floor finish. What’s the difference? Which is a better fit for your home and your lifestyle?What’s Better, Water-Based or Oil-Based Polyurethane Floor Finish

Water-based polyurethanes

Water-based polyurethanes enhance the natural color of whatever flooring you are installing. It provides a clear finish and has low odor. Water-based polyurethanes are quick drying, with most applications being able to dry in around two hours. If you start early enough in the day, you can apply the recommended four coats in one day, and be living in the room as early as the next day. Clean up is also an easy process. Simply use water to clean your tools.

Cost

Water-based polyurethanes will cost more than their oil-based comparisons. Most water-based polys contain only 30 to 35 percent solids, compared to 45 to 50 percent with an oil-based. Since these solids give the protective finish, you need to apply four coats of water-based compared to two or three coats of the oil-based. You’ll also have to apply water-based polys on a more frequent basis, every two years or so.

Protection

Both water-based and oil-based polyurethanes provide good protection for your floors. The biggest difference between the two is the look. Water-based is a great choice if you want the natural wood look to shine through, as is the case with woods like maple. For a lighter wood, like oak, a water-based polyurethane may leave the floor boards too light, making the amber glow of an oil-based polyurethane a better choice.

Odor

Water-based polyurethanes have lower odor, lower levels of drying time. Due to the small quantities of solvents in a water-based formula, there are some VOC emissions just after application and during the drying time, yet these to down to near zero after just a few weeks since no SVOC (semi volatile organic compounds) being in use.

Oil-based polyurethanes

Oil-based polyurethanes leaves a darker, amber glow to whatever flooring it is applied to. While oil-based polyurethanes require fewer coats, it does take more drying time between coats, with a recommended five hour wait times between applications. Also plan on waiting at least twelve hours before the last application and moving furniture back into your room. Oil-based polyurethanes also have a stronger odor to content with during the application process.

Cost

Oil-based polyurethanes will cost less than their water-based comparisons. Most oil-based polys contain 45 to 50 percent solids. Since these solids give the protective finish, you need to apply fewer coats (two or three) than water-based products. Also, You’ll also have to apply oil-based polys on a less frequent basis.

Protection

Both water-based and oil-based polyurethanes provide good protection for your floors. The biggest difference between the two is the look. Water-based is a great choice if you want the natural wood look to shine through, as is the case with woods like maple. For a lighter wood, like oak, a water-based polyurethane may leave the floor boards too light, making the amber glow of an oil-based polyurethane a better choice.

Odor

Oil-based polyurethanes have a higher odor and longer drying times. With oil-based polyurethanes, low VOC emissions exist after application and curing, but SVOC emissions are higher for a longer period of time due to the nature of the product.

The Verdict

Both water-based and oil-based polyurethanes provide you with a finish that will stand up to all your family can dish out. The important factor is to eliminate dirt on a regular basis, as grit can dig in, scratching and wearing the finish down. Sweep or vacuum the area often, and use throw rugs in high traffic areas.


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