There are two different types of protective layers of Polyurethane that are used on the hardwood floors to make them glow and protect them from scratches and decay. Both water and oil based polyurethane have their advantages and some disadvantages, and before you choose any of these, it is important that you know all the basics about them and also know their merits and demerits as well. This will help you decide better and will also educate you related to your choices.

Before discussing the types of polyurethane, it is important to know what it is and what it does, and what are the benefits of using the polyurethane on your hardwood floors. The polyurethane is “a protective layer that protects the upper part of the hardwood floors from being damaged due to scratches, dust, or other environmental factors, it enhances the life of the hardwood and makes it last longer.” This protective layer is applied over the hardwood floor to help them glow and shine and renovate the look of your entire hardwood floor.

Below are some of the benefits of using polyurethane on your hardwood floors:

  • It protects the hardwood floor from water spills and makes the wooden floor water-resistant. If hardwood absorbs water or moisture, it will decay faster, and your hardwood floor will fall apart in no time. The long life of your hardwood floors is ensured by this water-resistant property of the hardwood.
  • It also protects the wood from temperature changes and fire. It makes the hardwood fire-resistant. This protects your hardwood from catching fire. A hardwood that is polished with polyurethane is less likely to catch the fire as compared to an unfinished or non-polished hardwood.
  • Polyurethane also enhances the look of the hardwood and makes it shiny. This protective layer makes your hardwood look beautiful and also helps it reflect a more colorful shade.
  • Polyurethane also protects the hardwood floor surface from scratches of animal claws, heels, and shoes. Exposed hardwood can easily get scratches, but a polyurethane protects the hardwood by forming a complete layer of oil or water-based materials. These materials protect the surface of the hardwood and make it look beautiful all the time and also last longer.

Now, let’s talk about the two types of polyurethane materials that are available. There are two different types of polyurethane finishes, one contains water and the other contains oil. This is the basic difference between these two types of polyurethane refinishes. Each of these materials has advantages and disadvantages. In the article below, I have explained every major advantage and disadvantage of oil and water-based polyurethane.

Oil-based Polyurethane

Here are some of the advantages that come with oil-based polyurethane:

  • Enhanced look

Oil-based polyurethane enhances the look of the hardwood floor. It is made up of oil-based materials and they provide a shiny look to your floor. They increase the depth of your hardwood color and make it look more colorful and exotic. Applying this on your old hardwood floors will also make them glow and will change their look as well.

It works with both new hardwood floors and old floors that need renovation or need some touching to make them look even better. One of the best things about these Oil-based polyurethane finishes is that they can be used on all types of hardwood species and they can enhance the look of any hardwood species that you want

  • Long life

If the enhanced look of your hardwood floor is not a reason for you to use them, this option will surely satisfy you. The lifespan of Oil-based polyurethane is more than water-based polyurethanes. They are stickier and can penetrate your hardwood floors. This stickier habit of these Oil-based polyurethane makes them last longer.

This long life of Oil-based polyurethane means that you will not have to redo all of this again and again. This is one time and long-term solution for the look and protection of your hardwood floors.

  • Protection

Oil-based polyurethane refinishes can better protect your wood against scratches, temperature changes, fire, molds, and pests. They provide long-lasting protection to your hardwood floors. Oil-based polyurethane refinishes create a thick layer of protective materials above the hardwood of your floor. This completely covers your hardwood floor and when a scratch happens, it only impacts this upper layer of the protective materials and not on the hardwood of your floors.

Apart from scratch protection, it also enhances the fire-resistant ability of your hardwood floors. The thick layer of Oil-based polyurethane helps prevent the changes in the temperature of and that is how it burns slowly. This provides more protection in case the fire breaks out in your house and can easily be controlled.

It also makes your hardwood floors become water-resistant and prevents absorption of water into your hardwood by forming a thick layer of water-resistant materials over your hardwood floors. This helps protect your hardwood from water stains, water absorption problems in your hardwood floors. This is important because if your hardwood floors absorb water, it will show signs of swell, and will attract molds and pests that will destroy your hardwood floors easily. This can seriously damage your hardwood floors and you can prevent this by applying an Oil-based polyurethane finish.

  • Low Cost

Oil-based polyurethane refinishes are low cost. The cost of all these materials and applying them on the floor is cheaper as compared to the water-based hardwood floors. This is what makes Oil-based polyurethane a more attractive choice to many customers. You can get a lot of the benefits of Oil-based polyurethane at a marginal price as compared to the price of water-based polyurethane refinish. So, if you are looking for an affordable way to renovate or refinish your hardwood floors, Oil-based polyurethane is the best choice for you.

Below are a few disadvantages of oil-based polyurethane refinishing

  • Bad for the environment

Oil-based polyurethane refinishes are made with different types of chemicals that are potentially harmful to the environment. As you know that they can last longer, which means they need more time to decay and they will remain in our surroundings for hundreds of years. Think of oil-based polyurethane refinishes as a product similar to plastic materials. They are useful and have many benefits, but they are hard to destroy and will be present in our environment for a long time as a pollutant. Also, the byproducts that are made during the process of creating Oil-based polyurethane refinishes are potentially harmful to the environment.

  • Takes a longer time to dry

Oil-based polyurethane refinishes take a longer time to dry. As you know that they are made with chemicals and they form a very thick layer of protective materials over the surface of the hardwood of the floors. This thick layer takes a longer time to dry out if compared to the fine thin layer of the water-based polyurethane materials. So, if you are looking for a quick-drying option, you should not choose the Oil-based polyurethane refinishes.

  • Has a bad smell

One of the major problems with Oil-based polyurethane refinishes is that they have a bad smell. To kids and adults, this smell can be annoying in the early days. This smell fades away over time but it takes more time to fade away and till that you will have to experience this bad smell.


Here are some of the advantages of water-based polyurethane refinishes

  • Quicker Drying Speed

Water-based polyurethane refinishes form a thin layer over the surface of hardwood floors. This thin layer of the water-based polyurethane refinishes materials can quickly dry. This takes less time to dry as compared to the thin layer of the oil-based polyurethane refinishes. This quick-drying speed of the water-based polyurethane refinishes means that you will be soon able to walk over your floor. So, if you want a quick solution then you should choose water-based polyurethane refinishes.

  • Scent

Water-based polyurethane refinishes have a better scent than oil-based polyurethane. They are made with natural and eco-friendly materials that provide it a better scent. Your house will smell better once you have applied this water-based polyurethane refinish on your floors. If you want your floors not to smell and be pleasant in the early days of the refinishing, you should opt for water-based polyurethane refinishes.

  • Eco-friendly

Water-based polyurethane refinishes are eco-friendly. They are made with natural materials and not with plastic materials. That is why they are better for the environment. So, if you are an environmentally conscious person, you should choose the water-based polyurethane refinishes for your hardwood floors.

  • Protection

Water-based polyurethane provides all the protections that oil-based polyurethane provides. The thin layer of water-based polyurethane protects your hardwood floors from being scratched. The water-based polyurethane protects your floors from being burned by creating a coating over your floors that is fire-resistant and repels fire and helps your hardwood to not catch the fire as normal wood does. This protects your houses from being burned.

The water-based polyurethane creates a water-resistant layer over your floors and prevents the hardwood of the floor from absorbing water. This protection from water absorption enhances the lifespan of the hardwood floors. Apart from these, water-based polyurethane also protects from pests, molds, and other environmental factors that can damage the surface of the hardwood floors.

  • Looks and feels Natural

The feel and finish of the water-based polyurethane are natural and fine. They look very pleasant to the eyes and warm. They feel very fine and natural as compared to the oil-based polyurethane. This is because the water-based polyurethanes form a very thin layer that protects the hardwood but also allows the hardwood to show its original color. This thin layer also helps preserve the natural feel of the hardwood floors.

Below are some of the disadvantages of water-based polyurethane

  • Costs more

The cost of water-based polyurethane finishes is more than oil-based polyurethane finishes. They provide a more natural look and feel but they also cost more. So, if you are looking for an economical and affordable finish, you should opt for the oil-based instead of water-based polyurethane.

  • Less protection

As you know that water-based polyurethane forms a very fine but thin layer over the surface of the hardwood floors, this thin layer means low protection. If sharp objects touch the floor, there are chances that they will penetrate through this thin layer and cause scratches over the surface of the hardwood floors. Also, a thin layer provides less protection against, water, fire, and pests. So, if you are looking forward to having more protection, you should not choose water-based polyurethane.

  • Short lifespan

The life of water-based polyurethane is very short. They are water-based, and they interact with environmental moisture and other factors and soon vanish. That is why they are short-lived, meaning that you will have to redo them again and again. So, if you are looking for a long-term solution, you should opt for oil-based instead of water-based polyurethane.

Which one you should use?

The final decision is yours, but to make it easier to choose, here are some suggestions based on your need:

  • If you are looking for a long-term solution to your hardwood floor refinishing, you should choose oil-based polyurethane instead of water-based.
  • If you are looking at having a natural look and feel for your flooring, you should choose water-based polyurethane.
  • If you want a darker shade and want to enhance the color and deepen it further, you should use oil-based polyurethane.
  • If you want to preserve and protect your floor from fire, scratches, and water spills, it is better to choose oil-based polyurethane.
  • If you want your hardwood floors to smell better and dry quickly, you should choose water-based polyurethane because they dry very quickly, and you can use them soon after that.

Based on these merits and demerits of these materials, you should choose the one that suits your needs.