CLEAR hardwood finishes? -- moisture cure, etc.

I now have a new unfinished red oak hardwood floor installed in an apartment that I will be renting out.
What I want is a truly CLEAR finish to put down on the new unfinished flooring.
I have extra flooring that I have set up so I can test various finishes. I have already tested a number of stains and, if I have to, I will go with one of those. But, what I really want is to be able to put a completely clear finish over the new unfinished hardwood flooring. I like the way it looks now and I would like to be able to keep that look and coloration. All of the so-called "clear" polyurethane finishes I have tried so far are not really clear. They are amber color, and they also stain and darken the wood grain.
Here are my two questions:
1) I am interested in clear Moisture Cure Urethane (one brand is made by Garco) -- but I can't find anywhere to buy it. It is supposed to be truly clear. I know it is super volatile and maybe that's why it is not easily available. I can apparently buy it online, but then I have to wait 4 to 14 days for it to arrive. Does anyone know where I can go in person and buy this stuff? I am in New Jersey near Philadelphia, PA.
2) I haven't tested out water-based polyurethane products yet. I get the impression that they can be more clear than oil-based polyurethane. MinWax sells a clear water-based base coat and a clear water-based polyurethane that goes over the base coat. The clear base coat is supposed to seal the tannins (or something like that) in the wood so it doesn't darken, and then hopefully the top coat won't darken the wood when it is applied.
Are water-based polyurethane finishes okay for hardwood floors? Are they durable enough compared to oil-based polyurethanes? Are there any special cleaning requirements or instructions for water-based finishes that are different than for oil-based polyurethane finishes?
Can I later cover a water-based polyurethane finish with an oil-based polyurethane finish? I think the answer to that one is "no", but I thought I would ask anyway.
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Replied to in alt.home.repair
dadiOH
JayB wrote:

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Thanks. I did forget to mention when I posted this here that I had already posted the same message in the alt.home.repair newsgroup.
I usually don't like to post the same question in two different groups, but someone in the alt.home.repair group suggested that I check out this group and maybe post my questions here.
My latest frustration is that I just went to 3 stores (Home Depot, Lowes, and Ace Hardware) looking for clear MinWax Water-based Polyurethane Base Coat and clear MinWax Water-based Polyurethane for the top coat -- and none of the 3 stores had either one.

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I just checked and the exact names for the products I am trying to find are: 1) Minwax Water Based Polyurethane for Floors Professional Formula; and, 2) Minwax Water Based Polyurethane for Floors Base Coat.

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JayB wrote:

Find a real paint store. And don't restrict yourself to Minwax--there are many brands of decent floor finish. Most waterborne polyurethanes will dry clear rather than yellowing. They will all change the appearance of the wood a bit though compared to the unfinished appearance--spill a little water on it and you'll see the same change.

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JayB wrote:

Regarding the urethane, the Minwax site says, " This item can only be special ordered at one of our retail locations in New England and Upstate New York. "
FYI, it also says, " Imparts depth and warmth, enhancing natural wood grain." Not what you want since you don't want warmth and grain enhancement.
--

dadiOH
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I'm a furniture guy not a floor guy but I can tell you that for natural color on Red Oak you should add some stain. Some woods darken but red oak will fade to white. Just use Minwax Natural. It looks like nothing but the color change you get from wet or a clear finish but it will stay that color. Raw oak will fade. If you put on a truly non- yellowing finish you likely won't be happy if you have much sun hitting the floor.

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Thanks. I have been testing some stains to see how they look. I bought 6 different ones and tried them on a test section made up of left over wood pieces this morning.
From memory, I think the 6 colors that I tested are:
Golden Oak Natural Ipswich Pine Colonial Maple Sedona Red Golden Pecan.
I think that Natural, Colonial Maple, and Golden Pecan were the 3 that I remember looking the best. I'll check again tomorrow when I am at the property where I did the test.
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I respectfully disagree. I have an unstained red oak hardwood floor I installed in 1990. It has not faded. It was finished with a waterbased Swedish finish then and we had it sanded & refinished with a similar product 2 years ago by the same guy who did the original finishing.

The answer your first two questions is yes, and no to the third, depending on the product of course. I would suggest trying to buy a professional product rather than a big box store stuff.

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I'm glad your experience has been good but Red Oak "can" fade in sunlight. Here is one reference, at the bottom of the page under disadvantages.
http://www.ehow.com/about_5382791_red-vs-white-oak-flooring.html

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On Sat, 7 Nov 2009 14:58:38 -0800 (PST), "SonomaProducts.com"

Not disbelieving here, but I have a sunny staircase made of red oak. After 18 years it doesn't appear to have changed color at all and if it has it is not disagreeable. My cupboards are red oak too. Certainly cheaper than cherry. For a floor I'd prefer the harder quarter-sawn white oak, much better at water resistance too.
Varathane is an excellent clear finish for floors--the ad says "Tough enough to skate on."
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Could be perception. Could be UV protection in the film finish. Could be yellowing of finish offsets fading of wood. etc. etc.

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