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What is the difference between oil and water based finish on hardwood floors?

Refinishing your hardwood floors is one of the easiest ways to refresh their look while adding value to your home. Investing in your wood floor’s protection will extend the lifetime of hardwood flooring. However, before refinishing your hardwood flooring, you need to decide between oil and water-based polyurethane finish. Both have merits and offer an upgrade in protection. The problem is that you can only apply one. So let’s look at what you can expect with both types of polyurethane finish.

Which Offers More Color Options for My Kitchen Wood Floors?

Before deciding if you want water-based or oil-based polyurethane, you really need to think about the color scheme you have in mind. Neither offers more colors, but they both offer a different tone of colors. In general, oil-based polyurethane shades are much warmer with a widener depth. The result is that you will get a much richer color that continues to darken and grow richer as it sits and permeates the wood.
If you opt for a water-based finish, you may be shocked to see that it dries clear. What you see is what you will get. The good news is that the polyurethane will stay a consistent color. So you don’t need to worry about being surprised by the tone of your Minnesota home’s wood floors in a few weeks.

Does Water-Based or Oil-Based Polyurethane Protect Floors Better?

There is no clear winner in this category, but oil-based will tend to have more staying power because of how it dries. An oil-based polyurethane finish tends to be much thicker. This is mostly positive but the extra density means that it is also a bit softer to the touch, making it more likely to dent than a water-based finish.
On the other hand, the water-based finish is thinner and dries much harder, making it easier to scratch. If you are the average Minnesota family that has pets and kids, this might not be a good choice. Scrapes are easier to create than most people realize, as moving furniture, pet nails, and kids’ toys can all lead to small marks that deepen over time. In addition, since the water-based finish is thinner, it takes more coats to protect your floors. Usually, a contractor will recommend that you have it coated three times minimum. More coats will take more time, sometimes a 4th coat could be necessary for a water-based finish. 

Does Polyurethane Have Lingering Odors?

While both oil and water-based finishes have an odor that will stick around for a while, it may be hard to choose on these criteria alone. If you are extremely sensitive to smells, then water-based might be a better option for this one reason.
Water-based finish tends not to be as strong smelling as oil-based finishes. However, you should be aware that both types of polyurethane will still leave behind an odor. Oil base takes about 2 weeks longer to cure, and we expect the odor of oil to linger 1-2 weeks longer than water. Because water-based will likely need more coats, the time that the smell lingers could be not that much different in the long run.

Does Oil or Water-Based Finish Dry Quicker?

In theory, a water-based finish dries quicker than an oil-based finish, and you can place the second coat on the same day, but that is rarely possible due to scheduling. However, keep in mind that it will require three or four coats, so the job will still take more than two days. On the other hand, the oil needs about 12-16 hours to dry, so it is usually recommended to let it dry overnight and apply the second coat the next day.
While we can work with both, at Dave’s Floor Sanding, we recommend oil-based polyurethane finishes for wood floors in Minnesota because it is a tried and true solution. Oil-based products generally have a longer lifespan.
If you are thinking about refinishing your kitchen floors, contact Dave’s Floor Sanding today to discuss your options.