Choosing a Finish for your Wood Floor

Speedwell Design Center
February 28 2014

Polyurethane is the most popular finish for floors. Confused on which finish is best for YOUR wood floor or project, water-based or oil based polyurethane? They are both durable, good looking, tough enough to handle constant traffic and are resistant to almost everything. Though there are differences. As for durability, some experts maintain that oil-based polyurethane is still the standard for performance, especially for high-traffic areas. That said you can't go wrong with either.

The water-based polyurethane has less fumes, low odor, DRYS FASTER and has a clear finish [as far as repainting color of stain]. You can recoat them in two hours. Also cleaning your tools is easier; just use water! Start your project early in the morning and you'll be able to sleep in that room at night. However, because water-based dries quickly, you must work fast to maintain a "wet edge" during application or you'll end up with visible lap marks where wet polyurethane was applied over dried or partially dried finish. And you can't go back and work waterborne polyurethane, even when it's wet, or you'll leave marks in the finish.

The oil-based polyurethane has a stronger finish and is more SCRATCH RESISTANT. Great if you have dogs or cats walking on your floors! Oil-based polyurethanes will leave an amber glow, but require FEWER COATS. Though the five-hour wait between coats and twelve-hour [or preferably twenty-four hour] wait after the last coast will make the room unusable for a few days... and you'll have to deal with a strong odor.  Although oil-based poly emits noxious fumes, it can be worked when wet; That means you can go back and correct mistakes — a crucial advantage for the beginner!

Natural Maple wood floorBoth the water and oil-based polyurethanes offer good protection; the biggest difference will be in the appearance of the finish. Do you love the natural look of maple? Then apply a water-based polyurethane. Although the water-based poly appears milky in the can, they go on clear and remain clear. Water-based poly will accent the character of your wood without giving it the amber tint of an oil-based poly. That said... some woods, such as oak, the amber tint of an oil-based poly is desirable. Though for a red-oak floor or a stained floor, use either type of finish.

Although you may be leaning toward the water-based, they do COST TWICE as much as oil-based polys. Also they won't give wood the rich glow that oil-based polys will give; Some people consider the water-based cold looking.

Most water-based polys contain only 30 to 35 percent solids, compared with the 45 to 50 percent solids in oil-based products. Since these solids create the protective finish, you need to apply four coats of water-based, as opposed to two or three of oil-based poly. And if you go with water-based polyurethane you may need to apply additional coats every two years or so.

There's debate over which finish is harder, but some experts maintain that hardness isn't necessarily a good attribute of a floor finish. You want a finish that will flex along with the floor. And a super-hard finish shows scratches more readily. You'll prolong the protective life of any finish by eliminating its number 1 enemies, dirt and grit. Sweep or vacuum the floor often to protect to finish and put rugs in high-traffic areas. Call our showroom at 973-538-9090 in Morristown, New Jersey, today to select rugs for your floors!

Tauari wood floor

If you're doing your project yourself, before applying any finish, vacuum twice and use a tacrag on the entire floor. Or to MAKE LIFE EASIER, have Speedwell Design Center in Northern New Jersey install and finish your wood floors! 

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