Oil-Based Versus Water-Based Timber Floor Coating: What Should You Choose?

December 4, 2015

Now that you own an attractive timber floor, you probably wonder how to protect it for it to retain its ideal condition over the years. You can select between an oil-based polyurethane and a water-based polyurethane for your timber floor coating. While both provide excellent protection for a wood floor, they differ in their characteristics and application methods.

Information About Water-Based Polyurethane

Water-based polyurethane dries quickly, which reduces the time you need to stay off your timber floor. In addition, since more than one coat is required for maximum protection, the fact that the coats dry quickly lessens the time that the professionals require to complete all the coats. In comparison to oil-based polyurethane, the water-based version is safer for the environment during the drying stage as it contains fewer volatile organic compounds to release into the air.

For maple and other light shades of timber, you may prefer the water-based polyurethane when you wish to enhance the timber's natural colouring since the oil-based ones add an amber tint to the timber. In addition, we suggest the water-based coatings also for white-washed or grey tones of wood floors since you will not wish to alter these colours.

One downside of water-based polyurethane is the fact that it will cost more to apply to your floor. Since it takes at least four coats of this type of floor coating to provide adequate protection, the total amount of product that the professionals need is higher than with the oil-based timber floor coatings. The professionals allow each coat to dry thoroughly before they apply another coat. Another downside is the fact that water-based polyurethane may dull with time.

Facts on Oil-Based Polyurethane

One way that the oil-based polyurethane differs from the water-based one is the amber tint it provides to timber floors. In addition, you receive a richer colour and sheen with an oil-based polyurethane compared to the water-based. This alone may be enough for you to select an oil-based coating for your timber floor, but you should learn some additional info before you make your final decision. Your wood floor will require two to three coats of the oil-based polyurethane for proper protection.

You must remember that with the oil-based polyurethane that it will continue to deepen in its amber colour over time, which may or may not be ideal for your particular wood colour. In fact, you may not wish to impart the amber shade at all on certain types of wood, such as the maple, grey or white-washed tones that we mentioned earlier. With oak timber, though, oil-based coatings are ideal since they enhance the oak's natural tones perfectly.

A major downside with oil-base polyurethane is the fact that each coat takes about five hours to dry and with the last coat, you will need to wait about a half a day before you walk on it. In addition, oil-based has a stronger odour than the water-based does, which may make a difference to you.

Now that you understand the differences between the oil-based and water-based options you have for timber floor coating, you can make an informed decision on which one you prefer. Keep in mind that both options provide equal protection for your floors when professionals apply them correctly.

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