I am planning to refinish my hardwood floor at home. One of the
contractors said he is going to use water-base polyurethane for the
finish coating. I heard somewhere that oil-base coating is much better
than water-base urethane. And water-base ployurethane tends to be more
toxic and could trigger allegric reaction. Is it true? I don't want to
get my kids sick. I don't know whether I should ask the contract to use
oil-base coating for the finish. Any comments would be appreciated.
would seem to me that water quick dry would be the better of the two on the
alergy/toxic thing...once it's dry I would think the products are the
same...yet everybody I talk to that has gone through major remodeling tells
me that the "pros" are sticking to oil. As far as I can tell it comes down
to predicability of the final color but will be curious to see what other
posts come in on this one.
I am a big fan of water base for furniture. The ease of application and the
clear coat are really attractive. I had the floors in my rental unit done
with water base and find it not as durable as oil base. I did not notice any
My floors are done with water base. The main difference I've noticed
between mine and my neighbor's (oil based), is that mine have not
yellowed over time. I've not had any durability issues, but I have no
kids, no pets, etc. I always thought water based was less toxic as
well - you know, fewer VOCs, etc.
Just my $0.02, I'm certainly no chemist.
You can't digest the plastic, so it's certainly not a toxicity issue once
_either_ is cured.
Water-based still has some problems with white/blue cast, something we're
not accustomed to, having seen warm amber finishes most of our lives. It is
also less flexible, so microcracks might become an issue more quickly.
Drops and pet nails might be more of a problem with water.
Wife noticed the bluish cast of WB poly on some dark wood but that's
the only time. Posters have commented about the odors and longer dry
time when using oil based on floors. WB can be tinted with dyes for
the ambering if desired.
Waterbase is actually more pliable than the oil when cured.
It is also more durable. The commercial products only.
You can peel off dried finish from the container and it is flexable,
oil is brittle.
How do I know? I am a pro floor finisher for the last 21 years.
BUT the pro finishes are not sold to the general public, and you
cannot just walk in off the street. The distributors will not sell to
The pro finishes go for $60 to $100 per gallon, not the Home Depot
quality. I believe Bona "Traffic" is the most durable along with Basic
The finishes use a different process to apply than oil. This is why
most old timers do not use it, unwilling to change.
I use both types of finish, depending on the look the customer wants.
I do sell it on the internet, but will not mention the site here out
Just do a Google search to find it.
I REALLY like 2-3 coats of McCloskey Gymseal or Waterlox Original on
floors. They are oil base varnishes with Tung Oil. They're durable,
easy to apply, look GREAT, and nowhere near as bad smelling as oil
polyurethanes. Both are also repairable, a nice feature on floors. I
usually lightly sand with 220 grit in a 5" ROS between coats.
Both will impart an amber tint, which is nice on pine, oak, and darker
woods, but may be less desirable on maple, ash, or birch.
The only downside to me is cost. Both run about $44 a gallon.
I used the oil based Varathane Floor Finish Poly. It dried fairly
quickly, surprisingly (I had wanted to go w/water based because it
dries faster - I was working by myself and didn't want to be shut out
of my house while the oil stuff was drying; I was talked out of the
water based stuff, and was glad for it in the end).
Comparing oil based poly to water based poly on oak, the oil based
stuff looks better. The amber hue poly adds becomes oak.
I actually compared the two finishes side by side. I never really
paid attention til I got the two side by side, showing a customer the
differences so she could make her choice of finish.
As others have said, I think you've got the toxicity thing backwards.
They behave differently when applying them. If the contractor you have
chosen wants to do water-borne, it might be because that's what he's
familiar with and good at. If I really wanted a solvent-borne finish,
and my contractor wanted to do WB, I'd ask to see floors he has done
with both types. (Well, no, I wouldn't; I'd refinish them myself, but
that's another story.)
Water-borne, although it does have some volatile solvent, has much less
solvent content than solvent-borne. I can't imagine where you got the
notion that it would be more likely than solvent-borne to cause
allergic reaction; I think the opposite would be the case.
As to whether solvent-borne is "better," I don't really think so. There
are some people who will swear that it has better long-term durability;
others will swear there is little or no difference in durability.
Personally, I like water-borne because it is more pleasant to apply (in
terms of odor and fumes) and because it fully cures in days rather than
<pedant>BTW, "oil-based" and "water-based" are really misnomers when
talking about polyurethane coatings.</pedant>
It is my humble opinion the water based finish is more durable and I put it
on *most* of my floors. At least my subcontractor does. Especially maple
floors. However, that being said, I am building a house now that will have
American cherry floors and will more than likely have them use an oil based
finish to bring out the richness of the cherry wood. Water based finishes
are clear and has no amber richness in it. You can add amber additive
though but any time you add something, you run the risk of it not being the
same. We call it "batch" difference. The reason I don't use it on maple is
my clients want the stark clarity of the white maple and don't want to
darken (amberize) it. This is my theory. There are many others. <g>. Once
either of the finishes (oil or water based) cures, there is no danger of
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