July 21, 2024
Which is better, water based or oil based polyurethane for wood floor refinishing?

If you’re planning to refinish your hardwood floors, one of the most crucial decisions you’ll have to make is whether to use water based or oil based polyurethane. The choice can be challenging, but let’s take a closer look at the differences between these two types of finishes.

Oil-based polyurethane is an old option that has a reputation for durability and color depth. It dries more slowly than water-based polyurethane, which can be an advantage if you need more time to work with the finish. However, it has some downsides too. It emits high levels of VOCs, which can be harmful to inhale, and it turns yellow over time, which can be a concern if you want to maintain a lighter color for your floors.

In contrast, water-based polyurethane is a relatively new option that has gained popularity in recent years. It’s known for its low VOC content, quick drying time, and clear finish that won’t yellow over time. It’s also easy to clean up with soap and water, making it a popular choice for DIYers. However, water-based polyurethane is less durable than oil-based, which means it may not hold up as well against scratches and wear and tear.

So, which one is better? Well, it depends on your priorities. If you’re looking for a finish that will last a long time and don’t mind dealing with higher VOCs and a longer drying time, then oil-based polyurethane might be the way to go. If you’re more concerned about indoor air quality and want a finish that won’t yellow over time, then water-based polyurethane could be the better choice.

Some flooring professionals suggest using a combination of both types of polyurethane. For instance, you could use oil-based polyurethane for the first coat to provide a deep color and durable base, then use water-based polyurethane for the subsequent coats to provide a clear finish that won’t yellow. This method can provide the best of both worlds in terms of durability and appearance.

Ultimately, the choice between water-based and oil-based polyurethane comes down to personal preference and priorities. It’s important to conduct research and seek guidance from professionals to determine what will work best for your specific project.

It’s also worth considering the environmental impact of your decision. While oil-based polyurethane is known for its durability, it can also take longer to break down in landfills and release more harmful VOCs into the environment. On the other hand, water-based polyurethane is less harmful to the environment due to its low VOC content and quick drying time.

Another factor to consider is the maintenance of your floors. If you opt for an oil-based polyurethane finish, you may need to sand and refinish your floors more often due to its tendency to yellow and lose its shine. In contrast, water-based polyurethane maintains its clear finish for longer, which means less maintenance and a longer lifespan for your floors.

Ultimately, the decision between water-based and oil-based polyurethane comes down to your individual priorities, including the level of durability, appearance, environmental impact, and maintenance. It’s crucial to do your research, consult with flooring professionals, and weigh the pros and cons of each option before making your decision.

At the end of the day, regardless of whether you choose water-based or oil-based polyurethane, the most crucial aspect of refinishing your hardwood floors is to ensure that you use high-quality materials and follow the proper application techniques. This will ensure that your floors look beautiful and last for years to come.

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