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Hardwood Refinishing Product Tips

Water-Based Versus Oil-Based Polyurethane Floor Finish

Water and oil-based polyurethane both provide good protection; however, the biggest difference is their appearance. Polyurethane is actually the most durable hardwood refinishing product out of the two.

There is a continued debate over which finish is the hardest, and some maintain that hardness isn’t necessarily a good thing in a flooring finish. There needs to be some flex with the floor, and a super-hard finish will show scratches more easily.

Water-Based Polyurethane


  • Provides a clear finish with very little odor.

  • If you love the look of maple, use a water-based polyurethane finish.

  • Water-based finishes dry faster, typically within two hours. This allows you to apply multiple coats in a single day.

  • Cleans up with water.


  • Water-based polyurethane costs twice as much as its oil-based counterparts.

  • Unable to provide the rich glow that oil-based polyurethane does – some even say they are cold looking.

  • Some waterborne polyurethane goes on so clearly that you need to mark each layer as you go.

  • Most water-based polyurethane contains only 30 to 35% solids, compared to the 45 to 50% solids in oil-based finishes.

  • When applying to floors, you will have to apply additional coats every few years.

Oil-Based Polyurethane


  • It leaves an amber glow and needs fewer coats than water-based polyurethane.

  • Cheaper than water-based polyurethane.

  • Contain 45 to 50% solids, which offers a more protective finish.

  • Require less maintenance.


  • The five-hour wait between each coat and the 12-hour wait after the last coat is applied will ensure a room is out of commission for several days.

  • You will need ventilation as it has a strong odor.

If you would like to make an appointment to discuss a hardwood refinishing job, please do not hesitate to contact Affordable Hardwood Services at (615) 241-8504 today if you live in or around the Nashville, TN area.