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  • Beverlly Gonzalez

Oil-based Vs. Water-based: Selecting a Polyurethane for your Floors.

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Deciding what polyurethane to use is imperative for your floors. But first, what is polyurethane? The polyurethane works as a protectant layer that can prevent scratches. Its consider a liquid plastic that forms a pleasant finish on wood and comes in water-based and oil-base. Selecting one can be difficult unless you know the pros and cons. Below you’ll be able to understand which polyurethane will best suit your house.

Oil-Based Polyurethane


  • Leaves a rich golden glow when applied.

  • More cost-effective than water-based.

  • Only needs to apply twice

  • Oil-based is more durable than water-based.

  • Best suited for Walnut, Brazilian Cherry, and Maple to bring out the beauty and color of the wood.


  • Your floors will amber over time (turn yellow)

  • Has a strong odor

  • Takes up to 8 hours to dry and causes the project to take longer

  • The Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) levels are high, which means that is not environmentally friendly.

  • More susceptible to dents

Water-Based Polyurethane


  • Provides a clear coat, meaning the true color of the stain is more visible.

  • Has little to no odor.

  • Takes up to 30 minutes to an hour to dry which allows the project to finish quicker.


  • More expensive than oil-based.

  • Must apply three layers to create a protective finish.

  • More susceptible to surface scratching.

Type of Stain

The type of stain determines what polyurethane is recommended in using. If you want gray, white, or a white-washed stain for your floors, you must use a water-based polyurethane. Applying oil-based will turn the stain of the floors yellow. Wood that has a natural light color to them is best to apply water-based because the clear coat will allow their natural color to brighten. Applying an oil-based will turn their natural color yellow.

Custom Parquet floors being refinished

When refinishing your floors, you should consider if you have pets, what type of stain, and the amount of time you want the project to finish. This can help you determine what the best polyurethane will be best for you. If you have pets, it is recommended to add 3 coats of oil-based or 3 coats of Bona Traffic HD water-based. The type of stain can determine the type of polyurethane because if you want to go with a gray or white-wash color, oil-based will only turn it yellow. Water-based will get you the gray or white-wash tone you desire because it is a clear coat that is being applied. If you’re considering a quick project and do not have enough time, water-based is the best solution because it dries up quicker than oil-based. If you’re still unsure what polyurethane to use, contact us and one of the flooring specialists can assist you.

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