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Water Based vs Oil Based Polyurethane Floors

Water Based vs Oil Based Polyurethane Floors

So, you’re looking to refinish your hardwood floors, but don’t know if you want to go with an oil base or a water base, and you want to know which option is better? Well, the simple answer is, it depends. Both options have their lists of pros and cons. Most people will give you their opinion on this subject, based on their preference. But everyone’s tastes are different, and polyurethane finishes are not one-size fits all. We are here to give you the features of both, so you can make an informed decision for yourself, and have a hardwood floor that you will love for years to come. Let’s take a look at the two types of finishes.


Water Based

When it comes to refinishing hardwood floors, something to keep in mind is that you can make your floors more “on trend” based on the type of polyurethane you use. Water based polyurethane, for example, has more of a flat/raw look to it which is more on trend in 2021. It would be nice to be able to modernize your floors with only a different type of polyurethane, versus completely replacing your floors.

Here are some of the features of water based polyurethanes:

  • It gives the “trendy” raw look to the floors
  • It dries much faster than oil based
  • It doesn’t smell as much as oil based
  • It is typically more expensive than oil based


Oil Based


Although it is nice to have your floors be on trend, some people would argue that a good hardwood floor never goes out of style. With that in mind, oil based does give off more of a shine than water based polyurethane will, giving it that classic look, however it tends to last significantly longer than water based, keeping your floors looking better for longer.


Here are some of the features of oil based polyurethanes:

  • It gives more of a “shine” to the floors
  • It requires less coats than water based, but takes longer to dry
  • It leaves an amber-colored glow to the floors after it is dry (avoid on white washed and gray hardwood floors)
  • It is cheaper than water based, and typically lasts longer


While they are significantly different finishes, with different looks, care recommendations, and life expectancies, they are both great options for your hardwood floors that thousands of people are happy with every year. They both have their positives and negatives depending on how you look at them, but they ultimately have the same goal of protecting your floor while making it look good.


If you are still unsure, it will never hurt to call a professional to have them come over, look at your wood floors in person, and get their opinion based on their experience, your lifestyle, and what you are looking for, then coming up with a solution together.

With all of this information, hopefully you can now make an educated decision on which type of polyurethane is best for your floors.