You would use oil-based poly because it produces a different color effect
(waterborne results in a very pale, non-grain-enhancing appearance, though
there are ways to modify this) and has generally better resistance to things
like spilled water (think of a dog dish that sits on it wet overnight).
Waterborne is faster to dry, faster to build, and generally more resistant
to abrasion if you use good stuff, and you may well prefer the appearance.
I have some good points and some difficulties (from our experience).
Overall all though, we'd use it again.
1. looks great
2. dries really fast
Now, these benefits can cause some difficulties in certain cirumstances.
Our living room floor had VERY thin hardwood, we sanded down as much
as we could without sanding the floor away and even though it appeared
we had all of the old finish off, tiny bits remained. This caused the
finish to not have an even look and appear yellowish in some spots. In
this case an oil-based would have worked better to cover the remaining
old finish. Upstairs the hardwood was slightly thicker and less worn so
we didn't have to sand the floor down to toothpick thickness, got all
the old finish off and it looks beautiful. Don't get me wrong, our
living room still looks great, no one so far has noticed but us, but it
is not near as nice as the upstairs.
My dad did our upstairs for us when he had a couple days off. It
happened to be 36 degrees celsius outside which meant it was over 40 in
our non air conditioned upstairs. The Verathane was drying so fast that
it was VERY difficult for him to get it even. He had to work like
insanely fast so one stroke didn't dry before the next and look all
streaky. He said under those circumstances, the oil-based was easier to
work with because of its slower drying time. Now, it was much cooler
when he did the downstairs so he didn't have the same issues, it went
Oh, and because it dries so fast you don't have as much time to extract
fuzz and hairs that may get in it, so make sure check it after every
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