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How To Choose Between Oil Based Or Water Based Polyurethane for Hardwood Floors

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Most hardwood floor owners understand the importance of caring for and protecting their home’s hardwood floors. However, it can be especially confusing when it comes to selecting the appropriate coating to seal the wood from stains and damage. You’ve probably come across both water-based and oil-based polyurethane coating, but are completely unaware of which is more effective for your floors.

Seawest Hardwood Floor has compiled a guide on everything you need to know about the differences between the two polyurethane options to ultimately determine which is best for your hardwood floors.


Durability is one of the main features hardwood floor owners look for in a coating product to ensure the longevity of their investment. Oil-based polyurethane is far more durable than the water-based, even though water-based polyurethane has certainly evolved with better solutions to be more durable. Oil-based polyurethane can protect floors for up to 10 years. However, if you use a high-quality water-based polyurethane brand such as Bona Traffic, your hardwood floors can last and remain protected for equally as long.


You may notice a stark price difference when just looking at the two different polyurethane products; however, there is much more to consider than the initial cost. Water-based polyurethane may cost 2-3x more than an oil-based coating. However, an oil-based coating may require additional visits from contractors to ensure the coating has dried effectively, which can raise the price. Water-based polyurethane does have a much faster drying time, however, it must be applied quickly and correctly to avoid overlapping lines or bubbles.

Wood Colour Change

The colour of hardwood floors can change over time, depending on the coating. Water-based polyurethane does not alter the colour of the wood, as it dries clear and is meant to keep the colour consistent. This is especially the case with certain types of woods with an appealing inborn colour such as a gray, white or light wood. An oil-based polyurethane coating finish is more suitable for woods with a dark or light yellow undertone, as the oil-base can darken the wood to produce a more visually appealing amber tone over time. Many hardwood floors prefer this as it can enhance the natural colour of the wood. Both finishes produce a sleek look with long-lasting durability when properly cared for.


Oil-based polyurethane does have a higher level of VOC toxic fumes, which can permeate the air for about a week. Everyone that resides in the home should vacate it for this period of time for their safety and ensure proper drying. The water-based polyurethane is not completely odour-free, however, its odour level is very low and the area does not have to be vacated.

Seawest Hardwood Floor is the most trusted Vancouver hardwood floor refinishing service for efficient and effective services. If you need an entire hardwood floor restoration or just hardwood floor repairs in your home or commercial property, our hardwood floor professionals will handle it for you! Contact us for our refinishing services today!