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May 15th, 2024

There are several aspects to consider when deciding between an oil-based polyurethane or a water-based polyurethane.


Oil-based poly will darken with an orange/yellow tint over time, while water-based poly will remain clear through its lifetime. This amber tint produced by oil-based poly is subtle when applied to a hardwood floor. However, it will still darken over time. Many prefer the “ambering” of oil-based polyurethane as it adds a rich depth charm. However, this is a personal preference.


Fumes emitted during the curing time of oil-based poly are much more pungent than those of its water-based alternative that has little to no smell while used. When using and curing oil-based poly, proper breathing equipment is recommended until the area is dry and adequately ventilated. Vacating the site is recommended during the application of oil-based poly.


The preferred poly is a much-debated subject when it comes to durability. Oil-based poly, generally preferred for its longevity, is thicker and provides more protection to your hardwood floors. The water-based poly is applied in thinner coats however is a more complex finish. The thickness of the water-based poly can be resolved by adding an additional coat. You can discuss this with your hardwood flooring professional in most instances.


Water-based poly wins the race regarding drying time with an average “walk-on” time of 4 hours. Oil-based poly generally takes 10-12 hours of drying time. With any project, this may vary depending on many environmental factors.

With many differences between the two finishes, you can always break the tie by contacting a local floor professional to assess the area you are looking to refinish. They can help you determine the best product for your space.

If you live in New York or Florida, we would love to help you choose the brands and styles that make the most sense for you. Please reach out to us anytime for any of your flooring needs.