When it comes to finishing products for hardwood floors we recommend either 2 coats of oil based polyurethane or 3 coats of water based floor finish.  The question then arises: “Which one is better?”. Oil Based vs. Water Based Floor Finish? Both oil based and water based polyurethanes are equally durable when it comes to protecting hardwood floors from everyday wear and tear.  The finish gives the floor its color and luster so this becomes a personal preference.


The appearance is the biggest difference between oil and water based polyurethane. Oil based polyurethane has an amber appearance, a medium to dark brownish-yellow color which will darken over time.  The water based polyurethane has a lighter appearance and remains clear.


Another major factor to consider when choosing the surface finish is the smell. Oil based polyurethane gives off powerful fumes that should not be inhaled. For this reason we recommend that the costumer along with pets stay out of the house while refinishing the floors. Water based polyurethane has less of an offensive odor by comparison and it’s safer for customers and pets when applying the finishing coats indoors.


The curing time for oil based polyurethane takes 24-48 hours before it would be safe to walk on with socks on.  Whereas the water based polyurethane is safe to walk on with socks on after 4 hours.  However, we recommend waiting 3-4 days before moving furniture back on to the floor to avoid any scratches.  The same time frame applies when it comes to allowing pets to walk on the surface


Another quite important factor is the thickness and hardness of each surface finish. The oil based polyurethane is thicker and softer, whereas the water based product is thinner but harder.  We suggest applying 2 coats of oil based polyurethane because it’s more vulnerable to incur dents, and 3 coats of water based because it’s more likely to scratch.


Our company uses top grade products for commercial water based polyurethane BONA Traffic HD which can be twice as expensive as the oil. Therefore, it’s usually a $1 more per square foot and is mostly used when a natural look is required or for grey or white washed floors.  The oil base polyurethane our company uses is Masterline and Bona Woodline.


As stated before, choosing the floor finish is a personal preference and the finished look can be a deal breaker. The other factors are just as important when deciding on the finish. Our company always achieves excellent results whether coating with oil based or water based polyurethane.


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