Which type of polyurethane is better for refinishing hardwood floors – oil-based or water-based polyurethane?

We offer both options, but I usually recommend oil basedoil vs water based polyurethane - Dark hardwood oak polyurethane over water based because:

1. It looks better

2. It lasts longer

3. It costs less.

So, it seems like a no brainer, right? Well, usually it is a simple decision, but there certainly are some exceptions and different customers have different needs.


So, let’s explore this a bit further.


Please note that this article may contain affiliate links.

Advantages of oil-based polyurethane.

water vs oil polyurethane1. Oil based polyurethane looks better. It has a more depth – both in color and shine and it looks the way we expect hardwood to look. Water based polyurethane has both a duller color and a duller finish.
As you can see from this picture, the difference is pretty dramatic. The water based polyurethane (left) is lighter and duller than the oil based poly on the right.





water vs oil based poly over timeThe other issue, when it comes to appearance, is that over time the polyurethane amberizes and darkens a bit…usually giving it a richer look while the water based poly just continues to get duller over time.


Please note that some people have commented that above picture is misleading because the samples shown are not on the same wood (the one on left looks like maple and the one on right looks like oak so it exaggerates the difference in water vs oil based poly.) This picture (on the right) is from one of my customer’s houses where the previous owners used oil based poly on right and water borne poly on the left. This is not the best picture (esp due to the flash), and it’s time for them to refinish the floors, but it demonstrates the point.


Here are some more pictures – both from the same house. The are both white oak. The one on the left is white oak 5″ using water based poly (Bona Traffic). The one on the right is 2 1/4″ white oak strip using oil based poly. Note: on red oak (which is lighter than white oak), the water borne poly looks even paler.
Water borne poly (Bona Traffic) on white oak Oil based poly on white oak

bona traffic water based polyurethane on white oak

oil based poly on white oak











Also, you can click on these two pinterest pictures to see the impact of water vs oil polyurethane on oak and yellow pine.


2. Oil based polyurethane lasts longer than water based. There is no contest on the durability between the 2 options. Water based polyurethane has lower VOC’s – which is a bit of an environmental benefit (more aborefinish oil based polyurethaneut that in a moment) – but because it has lower VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), it doesn’t last as long. Water based poly is thinner, and you often need 4-5 coats to equal the durability of 3 coats of oil based.


While I do not have detailed analytical studies, most customers who call me to refinish their floors and previously had water based poly, call me after 5-6 yrs vs. most customers that call me to refinish their oil based polyurethane call me at around the 10 yr mark. And, at those points in time, the water based poly looks way worse than the oil based – in fact, it’s usually peeling off and the hardwood is starting to look gray.


What’ s also interesting is that almost all of my customers who have had water based polyurethane tell me they would NEVER do it again. They felt misled by their previous flooring contractor. While sanding and refinishing is not terribly expensive, it can be rather inconvenient if you live in the home. You need to move all the furniture out and often go away for a week. So, if you’re going to go though the hassle of refinishing your floors, I recommend doing it right so it last longer.


3. Oil based polyurethane cost less than water based. The water-based material is more expensive, so often you will pay around 10-25% more. But, on top of the initial cost, you also need to consider that you will need to redo the whole job sooner…you will probably redo them almost twice as often.


Now, there are several benefits to water based polyurethane and in some circumstances, water based poly is a great option.

Advantages of water based polyurethane:

1. Water based polyurethane dries faster. In my opinion, this is the largest benefit of water based polyurethane. Usually, water based jobs can be done in 2 days and you can walk on it that night; oil based can take 3-5 days (pending on humidity) and you need to wait at least 24 hrs before walking on them. This option can really make sense for commercial businesses such as restaurants or stores as longer drying time means the store is closed, and there is a true business cost to that. But, for regular homeowners, usually, it’s worth waiting the extra 2-3 days in order to have the job last longer.


Brazilian Cherry Jatoba Hardwood Westchester countyI have many customers who are in a rush to move into their new home, but I always recommend that it’s worth delaying move in by a few days and get their floors done right. If they don’t, they will spend more time and money paying for this later. For customers already living in their home, I recommend that they do this while they will be away for a while. I would rather wait 6 months for their next trip and have them pay less and do it right with oil based. Why do I feel this way? Because they will be happier and save money. I rely on happy customers who recommend me to their friends and come back to me years later for the other flooring in their home.


westchester maple flooring species water based poly2. Water based polyurethane doesn’t smell as bad. Because of this, many co-ops are now requiring their homeowners to use water based poly. I think this is a bit of a shame, but I understand it due to all the neighbors. For a regular house, it will not make much of a difference to your neighbors, and I will also point out that both water based and oil based poly smell, and I still recommend that customers go away or stay somewhere else while this work is being done.


3. Water based polyurethane is a bit better for the environment…but it does depends on how you look at it. Since water based polyurethane has lower VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), it is a bit better for the environment. As mentioned above, the VOC’s are lower not non-existent. And, importantly, this environmental benefit only has an impact during the DRYING time. Once the poly is dry, there is no difference in smell, off-gassing, etc. And, yes, I did validate this with the manufacturer – and they offer both water and oil based (and they make more money on the water based so they have no reason to mislead here).


water vs oil based polyurethane for hardwoodNow, the skeptical New Yorker in me always sees both sides of the equation. So, I will point out that while water based is a bit better for the environment, remember that it doesn’t last as long and the floors will need to be redone in a few years, thereby eliminating that benefit. Furthermore, this will lead to an earlier demise of the wood, which in turn will result in more cut trees…so everything has a flip side.


Because water based polyurethanes only contain 30-35% solids (vs. oil based contain 45-50%) solids, you will need to add more coats of water based poly. Water based poly tends to cost more than oil based poly. And, when you add in an extra 1-2 coats, your cost will increase further. Among water based polyurethanes, most experts agree that Bona is the best brand, and specifically Bona Traffic line. This product definitely costs extra, but if you are going to use a waterborne polyurethane, Bona is the way to go.


maple hardwood flooring from US4. For Natural maple hardwood, water based poly tends to look better, especially over time. Maple is lighter than oak, and with oil based poly, it really does tend to yellow a lot over time. Generally, maple (without a stain) looks better with water borne poly. The majority of homes in Westchester are made with oak hardwood, and that is followed by older pine floors. I would guess that this applies to around 5% or less of the floors in our county.




gray hardwood floor refinishing westchester county4a. For white washed and gray stained floors, water based poly is a must. Oil based poly will turn these floors yellow and look tacky and they will continue to amberize (i.e. yellow over time). Bona Traffic is the best option for these floors as it is stronger/lasts longer vs. other basic water borne polyurethanes and Bona traffic yellows the least so your gray or white washed floors will look better longer. Bona Traffic is definitely more expensive, but also worth it! If you’re going to go through the expense of a gray or white washed floor, you might as well have them last longer.


Video – Oil vs water poly and advantages of oil based polyurethane

This is a 2 part video blog. Part 1 discusses the advantage of oil based polyurethane and Part 2 discusses the advantages on water borne poly.

Video – Oil vs water poly and advantages of water borne polyurethane

Flooring poll

Oil vs water based poly - Which do you prefer?


oak hardwood with walnut border - oil based poly

Other useful flooring articles:


Oil vs water borne polyurethaneWhat brands of poly do we use?

While I do not recommend attempting to Sand and Refinish your hardwood floors yourself (as I have seen countless disasters), I do feel comfortable in recommending polyurethane so that you (or hopefully) your installer uses top quality products. This will help with the outcome and longevity of your floors. But, remember, if you don’t have a great installer and top notch equipment, the job will never come out well.

Water borne polyurethane – Bona Traffic HD

When it comes to water borne poly, there is no dispute, Bona Traffic HD is the best in the market place. It looks great, dries quickly, and doesn’t amberize. It’s perfect if you’re staining your floors gray, or white, or just going for a natural super clean look. It costs more than Bona Mega, but it’s worth it as it looks better, lasts longer and amberizes less.  Bona Traffic HD is the only product we use with gray or white washed floors.


Oil based polyurethane – Duraseal Polyurethane


When it comes to oil based poly, we typically use Duraseal. It comes in different finishes, but most of our customers prefer the satin finish.  Duraseal Satin Polyurethane 1 gallon


For more info, check out my Ebook – Discover the 6 Secrets to Refinishing Hardwood floors.

6 Secrets of Refinishing hardwood floors ebook


Buy me a coffeeDid you find my tips helpful? If so, feel free to buy me a coffee and support my blog



Do you need a local flooring pro?  Find one here.

Do you need a local flooring contractor

Did you find my advice helpful?  If you’d like to help support me and my blog, here’s an easy and FREE way.  If you are buying anything from Amazon and use my affiliate link, at no additional cost to you, I may get a small commission (just click here) if you buy within 24 hrs.  Thank you for your support.


Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors



Oil vs water based polyurethane - which is better for hardwood floors

polyurethane for hardwood water vs oil




Oil based vs. water based polyurethane : Which is better for refinishing your hardwood floors?




190 Response Comments

  • New Rochelle Real Estate  December 7, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Love your new website. Wow, I didn’t realize what a big difference the type of polyurethane can make.

  • Lord  September 24, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Oil-based polys may be more durable than water-based ones in general, but what about high-end water-based finishes like Bona Traffic HD that specifically claim 3x the durability under abrasion testing?

    • TheFlooringGirl  September 29, 2012 at 1:30 am

      Good question. The oil ones will still last longer.

      • Ginger Lange  January 25, 2013 at 6:55 pm

        Most of the big flooring companies whose websites I’ve read say that Bona Traffic HD is hands down the most durable urethane on the market—if it’s applied correctly by an experienced person. Done wrong, it’s a mess. I’m in Tennessee and most of the flooring companies that I’ve talked with say that they stick with oil because it’s what they know how to apply.

        • TheFlooringGirl  January 26, 2013 at 9:41 am

          Hi Ginger. I’d have to agree that Bona Traffic Master HD is the best of the water based polyurethane. That’s the one we use when we use water based polyurethane. That being said, the oil based polyurethanes last longer. My guys use both, so it’s not a matter of which they feel comfortable with – it’s a matter of which one lasts longer and looks better, and looks better for longer.

          • Ben  September 2, 2016 at 3:43 am

            I understand this is a flooring article… But water based is good for doors. No one is walking on them. It’ll last a long time. Oil vs Water look is also a factor. Oil adds yellow. Yellow isn’t desirable all the time. Water will give it a hint of color. I just did five Doug Firs and they look amazing and they are entombed in the water base. It’s more expensive for a reason.

          • TheFlooringGirl  September 3, 2016 at 3:13 pm

            Ben – Yes, that’s a good point. Wood on walls – doors or paneling – gets less traffic (LOL) so you’re right you can get away with most types of poly (and probably fewer layers).

    • Home owner  August 7, 2015 at 12:45 am

      As a flooring company told me, water based polyurethane is harder and so technically resists abrasion better, but oil based polyurethane penetrates and therefore adhears much better to wood, which means it is less likely to delaminate and flake off.

      • TheFlooringGirl  August 8, 2015 at 9:50 pm

        This really isn’t correct. First, they both penetrate equally (and the penetration is not that deep). Generally, the oil based is harder than water borne. It takes more coats of water borne to equate to oil based. Bona Traffic HD is the highest quality and water borne poly and with 3 coats is fairly comparable with oil based, but it does cost substantially more. Where you may be getting confused is that water borne hardens and cures faster than oil based poly.

      • Wood lover  August 22, 2016 at 11:51 am

        I realize this is an old post but I wanted to comment. Homeowner…you are absolutely right about oil penetrating. Not only do I work with wood, refinishing furniture almost constantly and hardwood floors often, but I have become almost a near nuisance interrogating hardware stores salesman, woodworking professionals, cabinet makers, etc. Oil seeks to penetrate whereas water based poly dries on the surface of wood. I have searched far and wide for someone experienced to tell me the contrary but to no avail. This is the reason that you can put water based poly top of oil based poly (only after it fully cures) but not the opposite. Although I have come across websites to the contrary, oil based poly cannot just sit on top of a sealed surface (i.e. water based poly) as it looks to penetrate wood which it cannot do on top of an already solid surface, i.e. water based surface. This is also the reason oil based coatings do not require a sealer (as they seal on their own) whereas sealers are recommended for use with water based coatings.

        • TheFlooringGirl  August 25, 2016 at 7:20 am

          Wood lover – Thanks for you comment and perspective. Yes, that makes a ton of sense. Thank you for adding to the conversation.

  • shelley  October 1, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    i can’t do any oil, i have a severe allergy to it. i was suppristed to find out the water based one also have poly in it. no matter i must do water based in order to be able to live in my house. sooo which water base do you recommend for longest lasting. also, can you tell me why i have black spots coming up on my floors. this is happening in all areas, trafic and non traffic.

    • TheFlooringGirl  October 1, 2012 at 8:43 pm

      Hi Shelley. If you have to use a water base, Bona traffic is a good choice.

      Regarding the black spots, that’s hard to say without seeing it. It could be that you have water damage and if so, that will not sand out. So, if that’s the case, you would need to get more wood there, weave it and and then refinish. Or, you could use a darker stain to cover it. It is also possible that you are just talking about the natural knots that hardwood has in which case there is nothing you can do about it except stain with a dark color to cover it up. You might want to consult a local expert near you.

    • Safe Mama  August 6, 2013 at 12:07 pm

      We are building a home and we are using Moocoat. It is totally FREE of any VIC’s and if the Europeans, Canadians and Aussie’s are loving you know it’s great! I have researched it extensively and talked to the owners and it is a wonderful non chemical flooring alternative. It is a known fact that chemicals cause cancer. Our bodie re the environment yet the own here touts Polyurethne, how sad when there is a Great and safe alternative for our children, babies ( who crawl all over the floors), and selves. I hope more contractors start using this product. Who cares if you have to redo the floors after a few years if it keeps my kids safe. That is the proper perspective and I am a skeptical American.

      • TheFlooringGirl  August 7, 2013 at 6:28 am

        Safe Mama – Yes, I have heard of this product and have heard that it does not work well nor last long. I agree that keeping children safe is important, and this is why it’s best to do this work while you are away or before you move in, regardless of which product you use. Once the poly has dried, there is no difference in health impacts. And, yes, I do think think it matters if you need to refinish the floors more often. First, this is bad for the environment as you are wearing though the wood twice as fast. And, yes, it will cost you more money, and unnecessarily, and yes, it’s extremely inconvenient. I understand your point of view, and we can agree to disagree. Everything in life is trade-offs, and this may be the better solution for you, but I don’t think it’s the better solution for most homeowners.

  • Christine  October 12, 2012 at 2:48 pm


    Great article…

    IYO…what would be a better choice in dealing with a large dog and nail scratches? Does it matter?

    Also, would a matte option make more sense?

    • TheFlooringGirl  October 12, 2012 at 11:55 pm

      Christine – For sure, I would recommend oil based for dogs.

  • Kristin Kassis  November 20, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Hi there – our floors were done 8 years ago… two kids later, they need some buffing and a fresh top coat. We use a Poly Oil and it looks great – still does minus the scratches. We are getting new furniture so this is a good time to completely freshen the room. I was considering non-toxic, water-based products but am back to wanting oil for looks and durability. What is the best oil-based product with the lowest VOC rating? Thanks!

    • TheFlooringGirl  November 21, 2012 at 12:13 am

      Hi Kristin – I agree…I would go with the oil based poly. I don’t know the answer to your question. You may want to go to the manufacturer sites and see if you can get that specific info. But, in general the lower the VOC’s, the less long it will last. Personally, I would focus on what’s going to look best and last. Once it dries, the VOC’s are irrelevant. Hope that helps.

    • TheFlooringGirl  November 21, 2012 at 12:13 am

      Hi Kristin – I agree…I would go with the oil based poly. I don’t know the answer to your question. You may want to go to the manufacturer sites and see if you can get that specific info. But, in general the lower the VOC’s, the less long it will last. Personally, I would focus on what’s going to look best and last. Once it dries, the VOC’s are irrelevant. Hope that helps.

    • TheFlooringGirl  November 21, 2012 at 12:13 am

      Hi Kristin – I agree…I would go with the oil based poly. I don’t know the answer to your question. You may want to go to the manufacturer sites and see if you can get that specific info. But, in general the lower the VOC’s, the less long it will last. Personally, I would focus on what’s going to look best and last. Once it dries, the VOC’s are irrelevant. Hope that helps.

  • brad  December 3, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    Hi, nice article!
    My house was built in 1919 and has maple floors, I just finished sanding a small dineing rm and I found after ripping the carpet out it seems that their must of been (guessing) a 8×7 square throw carpet that someone actually varnished around and left the floor unpertected under the carpet for many yrs. After sanding their is now a 8×7 square shadow in the middle of the floor, shadow actually looks darker and better, whats the best option to blend this, I thought of useing a light stain on 1 out every 4 boards or so before applying oil poly, any suggestions???

    • TheFlooringGirl  December 3, 2012 at 2:02 pm

      Brad – Oh that is tricky. Maple seems to be more light sensitive than oak. Over time (and it may take many yrs), the rest will probably catch up. The floor darkens from the light and without the poly, it’s kind of like going to the beach without sunscreen. I think your gut is the right one – add a stain on some of them and do every few boards or so. If it still looks awkward, maybe put an area rug on top while the rest of floor darkens a bit more/catches up.

      I don’t think I would mix types of poly, but maybe you can apply a slightly thicker coat in this area. Not sure if that will help. Just my thoughts.

      • brad  December 26, 2012 at 3:18 am

        Debbie- thx for your reply! I ended up doing small test areas with waterbased and oil based poly both semi gloss, bona oil woodline was the clear winner with its richnes/shine and the way it brought out grain of the wood!

        Shadow concern in previous post is not a issue and blended beautiful. cant wait to refinish kitchen floor this spring

  • Ken  February 23, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    We have parkay flooring in our foyer and dining room. We are sanding it and want to put something real durable like a gym finish. According to your comments it seems we should use an oil based poly and do three coats. s this correct and what brand do you reccomend? Thanks

    • TheFlooringGirl  February 24, 2013 at 11:19 am

      Ken – Yes, I would recommend oil based poly and 3 coats. A satin finish will show dents/scratches better than glossy. (Technically, durability is the same, but is shows less with less gloss). Lenmar is a good brand of poly and I’m sure there are many others.

      • Emery  May 19, 2013 at 8:25 pm

        Gloss will show the dents and wear….not satin. The shiner the floor the less forgiving it is. Over time with traffic the sheen will wear down and have less shine. The areas that do not have as much traffic will stay shiny. Therefor the wear seems dramatic. Since satin finish is duller the wear does not seem as dramatic. Satin finish requires less maintenance.

        • TheFlooringGirl  May 29, 2013 at 7:35 pm

          Emery – Yes, I completely agree! We are both saying the same thing. And, thank you for your added context. I couldn’t agree with you more.

  • Dustin  March 8, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    It appears that in the sample picture above, both samples are not oak. It looks as if the one on the left is most likely water based poly on Maple, and the one on the right is oil based poly on Red Oak

    • TheFlooringGirl  March 9, 2013 at 9:05 am

      Dustin – Thanks for your comment. Yes, it does appear this way, but I’ve been told they are the same “wood.” However, all of the stain samples are “fake” and not on real wood. The best way to view this is on real wood on your own floor. Every floor looks different based on species (e.g. red vs. white oak), grade and age. While I can not attest to the validity of these samples (since I didn’t create them), in my experience, they do approximate the color difference you see in the poly between water and oil based, especially over time.

  • lori  April 20, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    had brazillian cherry on site finished floors sanded and water based put on lift marks everywhere 4 coats on when can he redo with oil based and how many coats does he have to do now he is sayinf only one because of the other water based ones

    • TheFlooringGirl  April 21, 2013 at 7:39 am

      First, if you are switching from water to oil or vice versa, I believe you need to wait a minimum of 30 days in between. I’ve heard it’s safer to wait at least 6 months. You should call the manufacturer to get their advice on this and number of coats. And, I would seek the advice of your installer. 4 coats of water is prob equiv to abt 2 of oil. However, if you are screening, you are removing one layer, so you will prob. need to add 2 coats of oil.

  • terry  May 8, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    two things i would like you to address first i understand that most prefinished companies use aluminum oxide in their finish but if you contact them ,and i have they talk about substantial duarbility compared to after market oil base,( they all use water based) and then you never mention the overwhelming results from a taber test comparison that shows incredible wear resistance because how flexible water is compared to the brittle nature of oil based. not to mention the odd discoloration it puts on some exotics, and cant even be used on some woods

    • TheFlooringGirl  May 8, 2013 at 8:31 pm

      Hi Terry. Yes, first of all most prefinished hardwoods use aluminum oxide and that is what gives them extra scratch protection, regardless of whether they use water or oil based poly. Aluminum oxide can not be added onsite in someone’s house; it can only be applied in the factory. It is the aluminum oxide in those cases, not the poly that is giving it extra protection. Also, BTW, most prefinished, but certainly not all, do use oil based. But, again, it’s not the poly, nor even the number of layers that is making the difference – it’s the aluminum oxide. Not sure what you mean about odd discoloration on exotics. Usually, discoloration is caused from sun/windows, though more often than not for the exotics, the colors darkens over time from light. That has nothing to do with the poly.

  • Emery  May 19, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Sorry to say that the picture you used to show the difference between oil and water are actually 2 different species of wood. The one you say is water base is a maple and the one said to have oil base finish is oak. Looks to be quarter sawn. I do however agree with you on the aspect of durability and looks. Oil gives a nice amber look and makes the floors glow. It also penetrates and is much thicker. However oil base on maple will yellow very quickly. I prefer water on maple. Other than that I’m an oil guy all the way.

    • TheFlooringGirl  June 1, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      Emery – I agree that the samples look like different woods and one looks like maple, but it does approximate how the colors look. I so agree w/ you on the beautiful amber glow from the oil based. And, I also agree, that oil often does not look on maple for the exact same reason. Excellent point!

  • jackie  July 1, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    For kitchen floor which one will be better? Is oil based safe for kitchen floor since it is more combustiable and flammable?. In case of fire does oil based produces more harmful smoke? Please reply

    • TheFlooringGirl  July 4, 2013 at 8:17 am

      I would recommend oil based poly for the kitchen as it will hold up much better. I honestly don’t know if there is a difference in the smoke if your kitchen catches on fire. You could call the manufacturers about that. That is a very rare occurrence but if it does happen, I would recommend leaving the house.

      If you’re asking me whether one is more likely to catch on fire, I doubt there is much of a difference at all. It’s wood, so I guess wood could catch on fire. But, I would think the cabinets would catch on fire way more often and easily than the wood floors.

  • Royster  July 5, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Been refinishing gym wood floors for 16 years. We like to refinish every year to give each season a fresh new look. We also find no issues with screening off a oil based finish & changing over to a water base. We find that trying to go from water to oil does not work well & we experience issues with the finishes not bonding (peeling). We have to sand the floor to change over from water based to oil. 2 coats of water base is all that it takes as long as we apply within 3 hours. The only issue we find with water based is that the finish is not clear through to the wood. Tends to refract the lights over the floor as you look directly down at the surface. We do love the fact we can wet clean the floor with an automop or clean up after events with a damp water process because the finish is no longer water soluable.

    • TheFlooringGirl  July 6, 2013 at 5:30 am

      Royster – Thanks for your input. Yes, I agree, usually it’s best to stick with either oil or water (oil and water don’t mix, right?). Certainly, if you do change, you should wait a long time (e.g. 6 months or more), but in general, yes, it’s best to stick w/ type and use it. And, yes, when you are screening often, it can help with the upkeep on of the floor. I recently did a post on that topic, too.

  • Dee  July 7, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    I just read your advice on oil vs. water-based poly and I am so thankful for your wisdom. I probably should have known that the hardest-working guy is the one who recommended the oil-based poly. I just felt skeptical because I felt like he was basically saying I only had 3 options of stain and at one point he recommended just adding paint thinner to get a lighter color than the medium brown he had on hand. That made me nervous. But I like the idea of using the poly because it will SHOW the character of these old floors that we reclaimed from an old schoolhouse. Is that accurate?

    • TheFlooringGirl  July 7, 2013 at 7:29 pm

      Dee – Thanks so much. Yes, you should be able to get that look with the oil based and it will hold up longer which is even more important if your floors are older (and may have limited number of sandings ahead of them).

  • Natalie Ceja  July 15, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Are their pads or protective products out there that can be placed under the feet of furniture, that really work, to minimize scratching the floor? I’ve bought some in the past but they still scratched the floor.

    • TheFlooringGirl  July 20, 2013 at 4:49 pm

      Natalie – Yes, there are felt pads that work better…but I am not an expert on felt pads. Also, it seems that there are some types of furniture that scratch less. You may want to go to a furniture store and ask them for advice.

  • Tracy Gage  July 28, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Can you tell me how long I should keep my family out of the house after having the floors refinished with oil based poly? Our contractor insisted we use oil-based and now I am feeling worried because I have a one year old baby who spends most of the day at home with me, crawling around on the floors. I understand oil poly is longer lasting but at this point I think I made a huge mistake as keeping the air in our house healthy far outweighs the look of my floors. How long would you recommend we stay out of the house? I have terrible allergies and asthma but so far my two children don’t. I have searched all day on the web and so far your site has been the most informative. Can you share your opinion and experience re: health and air quality here? Thanks!

    • TheFlooringGirl  July 30, 2013 at 7:44 am

      In the long run, there is no difference in air quality – once the floors have dried and smell has gone away. It does take a bit longer for the smell to dissipate for oil based poly. You may want to call a manufacturer of poly to get their opinion, but I would guess maybe 3-4 days. Open the windows to help the air circulate. Hope that is helpful.

  • Jim the Builder  August 5, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    I have heard about using aniline dye to color my oak floors, instead of stain. They offer me water, alcohol or oil based dye. What do you recommend for the dye base and what do you recommend over it? I have heard of some using boiled linseed oil over the aniline dye and under the poly. Thanks.

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 24, 2013 at 9:35 am

      You know, I’m not an expert on aniline dye, but I was just discussing this with an installer. This is a great option if you want very dark/super ebony floors. It’s more expensive and more challenging to do. If you do use it, this is an instance where you need to do water based poly on top, otherwise, it won’t stick properly. Be sure to do at least 3 coats water based poly.

  • Toby  August 13, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    I am not the most leading expert, but I have been refinishing floors for for 30 years. Oil based poly is hands down by far better than water based. Only a fool with no experience would claim otherwise. Everything you state is true, especially the environmental part. It does not make any sense to have less VOC’s if you just have to apply it more often. Common sense? Our government doesn’t have any! Keep up the good work!

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 14, 2013 at 6:04 am

      Toby – Thank you so much. Yes, and refinishing less often prolongs the wood for longer as well. I so agree.

  • Tribotech offers Pin on disc machines in various models and in various configurations  September 5, 2013 at 4:58 am

    It’s awesome to have all the info on this site. I didn’t realize what a big difference the type of polyurethane can make.

    • TheFlooringGirl  September 7, 2013 at 5:34 am

      Thank you so much. I’m glad it’s helpful.

  • Lainy  September 14, 2013 at 12:44 am

    We are looking for a contractor to refinish the floors on a house we purchased. We want them done before we move in. Some tell me oil poly is better and others say water based poly is better. Your website has been very helpful. I originally thought the oil based was better and you proved it. The contractors who quoted higher, used water based
    . My question is, I have 2 small dogs. the one dog is 13 years and has some accidents once in a while. I use Natures Miracle for cleaning. How will this affect newly refinished floors? I watch him carefully and confine him in the kitchen (has linoleum) when we leave the house the other dog,puppy (2 yrs) and upon leaving the house I put him in his crate.
    Also, I am confused on what Brand and type of oil based poly to use on the floors.Every contractor says the product they use is the best. I want my floors to last a long time This is the first time we have a project done like this.What is the best poly coating to use on floors that will last?
    Thank You

    • TheFlooringGirl  September 15, 2013 at 7:52 am

      Hi Lainy – Yes, there are probably many great oil based polyurethanes. They may even be regional. I’m not sure. We usually use Lenmar or Hartco. I’m sure there are other great polyurethanes as well. Regarding cleaning products, I’m not an expert and you may want to call the manufacturer. If it has oils or waxes in it, I would definitely stay away from that as it can degrade the poly finish.

  • Jeff Fritzson  January 2, 2014 at 9:22 am

    HI Debbie – thanks for sharing this both for my personal knowledge and my clients. It is always great to have a third party expert like yourself help clients maximize their investment. This will provide them great information to make a good decision for their homes.

    • TheFlooringGirl  January 2, 2014 at 11:41 am

      Thank you so much, Jeff. I’m so glad that this is helpful. This is especially important for those moving into new homes.

  • Kat Palmiotti  January 2, 2014 at 10:50 am

    Debbie –
    This was a very helpful overview of the differences between oil-based and water-based. I have to say that based on the oil based lasting longer, looking better and being less expensive, that is definitely the way I would go!!!

  • Christine Smith  January 3, 2014 at 8:36 am

    Debbie….as always, some great information here so people can make an informed decision.

    • TheFlooringGirl  January 3, 2014 at 2:17 pm

      Thanks so much Christine and thank you for sharing on Google Plus. I really appreciate it.

  • Ken  May 31, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    I am surprised that you state Poly Urethane Amberises over time – as on the Poly’s I have read the labels and they say that is false – even on their websites. At least you are honest about it. I used Poly Urethane on furniture and YES it most certainly yellows – I cant say that this is any benefit – I would argue that it is detrimental to the quality – so my question is ; is there anything other than Poly to coat the floor with and get good durability ?

    • TheFlooringGirl  June 1, 2014 at 5:13 am

      Ken – That is really interesting (and surprising) that the products claim they don’t amberize. Almost all do to some extent. I believe it’s just part of the oxidation process w/ light. In my experience, you don’t notice is as much w/ dark stains. And, water borne poly amberizes much less.

      With many colors, the amberizing, in my opinion, does not look bad, but there are some customers that really dislike this. It’s really a matter of opinion. If you are doing a color that has white wash or gray of some sort, the amberizing or yellowing looks really bad, and this is an instance where you really want to use a water borne poly rather than oil based as it will look much better.

  • Jane  July 1, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Hi Debbie, Love your site! We have had our floors done recently with Polyurethane satin (solvent or oil based, not sure..). If in the future we wanted to change to a water based product (like Bona Traffic), would it work to re-sand the current poly off and put down the water based product? Are there any potential problems in doing that? thanks for any advice!

    • TheFlooringGirl  July 4, 2014 at 9:27 pm

      Hi Jane. Thx so much.

      Yes, you can definitely resand your floors and change over water based product (or even vice versa). If you do a full sand & refinish, you can do this at any time. If you are doing a screen & recoat (where you are not sanding, but you are just buffing and adding another coat of poly), it’s ideal to wait at least 6 months before you change from oil to water. Hope that helps.

  • Evan  July 29, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Hey Flooring Girl-
    Looking to find a great poly oil based that I can spray on a huge oak tabletop with a large inlayed motif. It is a tribal council table and seats 14 members. Like everyone, I need long lasting durability and abrasion resistance. I’m am after a clear semi gloss or satin. what would you recommend? I’m here because I thought floor finish would be a good start for toughness! Thanks in advance for any tips.

    • TheFlooringGirl  July 31, 2014 at 5:23 am

      Hi Evan. You know, I’m not sure if it would be ideal to use a flooring product on tables. I would recommend that you ask the manufacturers about this. It’s possible that they have different blends. I’m not sure. Personally, I think Lenmar is a great brand and so it Hartco, but there are probably others that are good, too.

  • Rolfe  August 11, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Thanks for the help on my wood floors…. very good and accurate information!

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 13, 2014 at 7:33 pm

      Rolfe – Thank you so much. It was a pleasure speaking with you on the phone. I hope you can find someone local to do a great job.

  • DJ Prole  August 14, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    HI, our Polyurethane Coating has been flaking off our floors, is this toxic if eaten? we are worried about our pets and baby

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 16, 2014 at 9:10 pm

      Hi DJ. I would guess that would not be healthy if eaten in the same way that it’s not healthy to eat paint. I would dry to sweep it up. I kind of doubt the dog or cat would eat it, but for babies that explore and learning things through touch and eating, it could be more of an issue. Maybe place the baby on an area rug until the time you can go away and refinish the floors.

      You could call some of the companies directly to see their thoughts and advice.

      All that aside, if your poly is flaking off, it’s probably time to refinish the floors. It could be that whoever did the floors (if they were done recently) did not do them correctly.

  • Bruce Andrew  November 7, 2014 at 2:14 am

    Hi Debbie – it was really great to read your comments on oil versus water based polyurethane. My previous home was originally done with oil based and when I had another room done the contractors recommended water based – the floors looked rather dull compared with the oil based floors. I moved house (this one built around 1925) six months ago and lifted the old carpet in the lounge to discover a beautiful matai (NZ native tree) floor that had been polyurethaned many years ago. I am getting it sanded etc next month and your comments have assured me that oil based is the best way to go. Again many thanks – Bruce, Auckland NZ

    • TheFlooringGirl  November 9, 2014 at 1:15 pm

      Bruce – Thank you so much. That means the world to me. Oh, and I’ve never seen those types of floors. Must be native to your area, and not very common here in the US. Congrats on your new home and great discovery.

  • Joe I  December 1, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    Hi Debbie, first of all might i say how inciteful your article was. I have found it extremely helpful being a long time researcher of the best finishes to use (you definitely know your stuff). My wife and I just bought a home and i am currently redoing the floor. After stripping away the tacky finish that was currently there, i found that the foyer is oak and the dining room and living room appear to be some type of Puritan Pine. So two things, do you recommend a sand sealer if you keep the floors natural (no stain at all) and more importantly, what are your thoughts on water based oil-modified poly? I have read many different reviews stating that it is about as durable as regular oil-based with the positive properties of regular water-based such as odor and such. Being as we are not staining them, your article was swaying me to just go with oil given the added ambering properties, however i still like the idea of the clean-up, dry time and less odor of water based thus the water based oil-modified. What would you say?

    • TheFlooringGirl  December 2, 2014 at 6:26 pm

      Hi Joe. Thx so much for your comment and question. BTW, Puritan Pine is a stain color…I think you may mean that you have some species of pine. Either way, pine is softer than hardwood, so I think that the oil based poly is the better way to go. I will ask my head foreman what he thinks on modified water/oil based. My guess is that is is somewhere in between the two. He has used it at times, but often to get a desired color and/or to go on top of water based (i.e. to make it darker. I don’t know instances where it would be better to solely use it, but I’ll ask him and get his thoughts. I am not surprised that you are reading mixed results. It seems to me that the drying and curing time would be faster, but lower durability.

      • Joe I  December 2, 2014 at 8:47 pm

        Debbie, Thank you so much for your feedback, ahh yes i guess it would just be pine then, thank you for the clarification. Yes that would be excellent, after your article I definitely think i am leading more and more towards the regular Oil. Thank you VERY much again! Joe

  • Jean  December 23, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    I wish you were down in NJ… I am putting in white oak and I think I want a waterlox finish (tung oil). I would love to hear your opinion on it.

    • TheFlooringGirl  December 27, 2014 at 8:35 am

      Thx Jean. Wish we lived closer to each other. Waterlox is a good product but rather expensive. I would do a search online to see if you can find some good pictures of wood with this finish.

    • Natalie Kiernan  March 29, 2016 at 2:37 am

      How did it go with the Tung Oil?
      I am researching it for new white oak floors. Learned its not scratch resistant. Did you use it? How does it look? I want to keep the color of white oak common grade.

  • Diane  February 13, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    Debbie, Thanks so much for your informative website. It has really helped me out a lot. You just don’t know how much.I live in Virginia otherwise I would call you for an estimate to do my floors. I’m going to try to do it myself. I’m terrified to us the drum sander and was wondering if I use the random orbital sander from Home Depot would it do the same job to sand the finish off but just take longer? I’m going to use the Lenmar poly and they have on their instructions to”remove all sanding dust with a DRY cloth”. Everywhere I read say to use a cloth with mineral spirits on it. Do I use the mineral spirits on the cloth? Someone above asked the question about if I’m not going to stain after sanding should I use their sealer for the first coat? Then two coats of the uncut poly? Ideally I should stay away from the house a week after the last coat, but approximately how many days after the last coat will I be able to safely (or tolerate) the smell? Thanks so much for your time and input.

    • TheFlooringGirl  February 22, 2015 at 6:01 pm

      Diane – Apologies for the delayed response. I was away. First, let me say that if you rent equipment from Home Depot, no matter what, your floors will not come out the same. Their machines are lighter and inferior and you will not have the proper weight on the floor so there is no way that you can get a professional finish. That doesn’t even factor the skills of the person using the machine. If you just use the orbital sander, your results will be even worse as this is just used for the buffing and not the sanding.

      I would recommend that you hire a professional refinisher in your local market. If you can’t afford it, then just have them do a smaller section…reapply the money you would spend on renting the equipment and the materials. Then, later when you have more money, do more.

      Most people that I’ve spoken to that refinished their floors (or tried to) would NEVER do it again.

  • Joann  April 8, 2015 at 2:18 pm

    Your site is fantastic, thank you! I am having my floors sanded as I speak and was going to have the water poly used, but not now. My question is about cleaning- I have cats and love to use a whisk type broom (handmade) for sweeping up the hair, works great. Will this scratch the floor? Second, do I need a special attachment when using a vacuum? The attachment I have has a brush but it is not really soft. Lastly, what do you recommend as a cleaning product? Thank you very much!

    • TheFlooringGirl  April 10, 2015 at 6:14 am

      Joann – Thx so much for the compliment. I would definitely stay away from brooms, esp a whisk type broom (regardless of type of poly). That will scratch of the floor. I’m not an expert of vacuum attachments, but in general be careful and soft is better. You may want to research this online and/or call a manufacturer. they may recommend staying away from vaccuums all together or they may know right attachment. But, in general, softer is better. Try swiffer.

      Bona is a great cleaning product that I would highly recommend.

      • Joann  April 11, 2015 at 9:45 am

        Debbie, thank you for taking the time to respond!
        I will try the Bona and I will keep my broom cleaning in the kitchen!

  • rachel halpern  April 29, 2015 at 12:32 am

    Never read such an informative column.Had bona traffic applied on brand new oak floors 3 years ago. It’s peeling in so many areas not necessarily all high traffic areas. Have you ever heard or seen that before?

    • TheFlooringGirl  May 3, 2015 at 10:51 pm

      Rachel – It is most likely because the floors were not properly sanded. They need to sand 3 times finer and finer grits. If the stain and/or 1st coat of poly does not adhere/absorb properly it can peel prematurely.

  • dana  May 16, 2015 at 2:35 am

    So, it sounds like its the lighter colors that will yellow with oil based poly. But, is there a dividing line or shade as to when you need to worry about that?

    My place has a lot of windows and light that I need to be concerned with that. Are there any other woods other than maple that I have to worry about yellowing a lot?

    I have a rental that I’m considering in putting in wood flooring in the less trafficked rooms like living room and bedrooms upstairs. And, in a previous post, you wrote about using lighter colored floors to hide scratches.

    It seems like I’m facing two conflicting choices. If I go with a lighter color to hide scratches, then I have to use water based poly which isn’t as durable. But, if I go with something darker which will work with oil based poly, then scratches will pop up more with that.

    Do you have any recommendations for a wood or shade so I can have the best of both worlds- something light enough so scratches won’t show but not so light that I’d need to use water based poly for it?


    • TheFlooringGirl  May 16, 2015 at 3:21 am

      Dana – Yes, oak is a great solution. It’s light (just a bit darker than maple) and works well with oil based poly (as well as a wide range of stains). The graining hides the scratches better than most woods. Hickory is another option, but more expensive and a bit “busier.” oak is very reasonably priced and widely appealing.

  • Helena  August 9, 2015 at 7:11 am

    Thanks a lot for your helpful tips.I have to pay my contractor additional money to resand and apply a dark stain since the color that I chose(gunshot) did not cover up the black spots on my floor. He did not demonstrate stain samples on my floor before application.I was given a stain chart to make a choice.

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 11, 2015 at 8:04 am

      Oh sorry to hear that, Helena. We always test for our customers and we also warn them when the stains may show through and encourage people to either do a darker color…or else we can repair the wood/weave in. (that costs a bit extra. obviously) but if it’s only a couple of areas, it’s usually worth it to get the color you prefer.

  • Jennifer Malone  August 21, 2015 at 10:42 am

    Hi there. Wonderful article and comments. We just had our floors done throughout our home with water based poly. I am finding them very difficult to clean. There are spots from water and dog slobber that I cannot get up. We have tried Murphys Oil Soap and Bona. I never had this problem with oil based poly.

    Do you know if this is a water based poly phenomena?

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 22, 2015 at 6:19 am

      Jennifer – That is very possible. I would call the manufacture of the water based poly to see their advice. It could also be that it’s a faulty batch. If you don’t know the brand, call the ones that did your floors.

  • Annelise  August 27, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    I just returned from vacation after getting my very old (150+ year old) oak floors done. I had requested oil finish but they used water. They look awful and will need to be redone. I am not paying them until fixed or another company will do it… Does the water coat need to be re-sanded off before the oil coats can be applied? Or can they put oil coats directly on the new water coats?

    Thank you in advance for your help!

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 28, 2015 at 6:41 pm

      Annelise – You are best off starting from scratch and getting 3 coats of oil based poly. And, if your floors are that old (which is cool), chances are they are pine. If you have a stain, it’s best to use conditioner, too.

  • Maureen  August 29, 2015 at 7:31 am

    Love your article. Thanks you for the information. Is there a ‘compromise’ between satin and gloss finishes? Where you can get a little gloss but not so much it shows scratches and dents?

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 29, 2015 at 9:56 pm

      Maureen – Thx. First, there is semi-gloss and that is in between glossy and satin. But, your description of some sheen sounds like satin.

  • Carole  September 22, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    Trying to pick a med/dark stain for my oak floor. which meets this criteria the best: Spec walnut, med brown, provincial. Or other. Duraseal

    • TheFlooringGirl  September 26, 2015 at 7:21 am

      Carole – Those would be the exact ones I would test. Take a look at how the stains look on your own floor and then choose. Personally, I prefer special walnut a bit more as it’s brown (i.e. doesn’t have red undertones) so it’s more neutral. But, the stains look different on different people’s floors.

  • Marty  September 25, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    Fabulous web site! Great information! My oak floors were refinished with 2 or 3 coats of oil-based 6 years ago. Now have damage (caused by blue tape applied by bathroom remodel contractor to hold down ram board) in the entryway. All floor companies recommend sanding the damage, and applying oil-based to the damage or entire entryway. Followed by rescreen (buff and coat) of entire floor so the entryway will blend in with living and dining rooms. HOWEVER, and here is the question — one company told me that high quality water-based poly will adhere better to the existing oil-based floor when rescreening. The other 4 or 5 companies who provided estimates all said to stick with oil-based as that is what is already on the floor. Is the assertion correct that water-based will better adhere to floors in a rescreen than will oil-based — on an existing oil-based finish? P.S. I live in Washington, DC or I would hire you. 🙂

    • TheFlooringGirl  September 26, 2015 at 7:17 am

      I would agree with the majority – You’re best bet is to sand and refinish that area and do oil based to match what you had. Yes, you may need to screen & recoat to blend, and I would still recommend oil based to be consistent. I believe that is your best bet. While you may have found a water borne poly that can adhere well to oil based (and many will work after 6 months), it probably will not look consistent.

      Oh, and you might have been the one calling me yesterday from a 202#. I kept trying to pick up (I was driving) and my cell phone wasn’t working correctly.

  • Connie  September 26, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    Thanks for all the helpful advice. I am refinishing my red oak floors. I’ve stained them w/ an oil based Minwax stain. Is it imperative to use a oil based poly over oil based stain? I used oil poly before, but had a lot of trouble w/ bubbles. I know oil is more durable, but it seems to be more difficult to work with. In the interst of time, will water based poly adhere to oil based stain?

    • TheFlooringGirl  September 27, 2015 at 4:30 am

      Connie – You can use either type of poly over stain. The bubbles that you’ve seen before are generally due to poor mixing and/or application. (you may have the same issue on water borne poly). Also, water borne poly is thinner and tends to show imperfections of wood (and/or sanding) more.

  • Jean  October 7, 2015 at 10:41 am

    We’re having our red oak floors redone and new flooring added. I’m sure an oil-based product was used before (20 years ago) because of the luster and amber tone. I’m not pleased with the “dull” finish of the Bona samples created for us. So we want to ask about using oil-based again. What are your favorite oil-based products for red oak? And would you say that a flooring expert who is great with water-based should also be great with oil? Or are they two different specialties?

    • TheFlooringGirl  October 8, 2015 at 6:54 am

      Jean – The color selection depends on your preference and style of home. Here in NY, dark is most popular and stylish e.g. jacobean, 50/50 blend ebony/jacobean, dark walnut, followed by light (generally natural or golden oak). In terms of finish, I prefer satin finish on oil based products. Generally, installers can do either oil or water borne poly well. The sanding part is the same process.

  • Heather  October 20, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    Thank you for this fantastic explanation of the pros and cons of oil vs water floor poly. My general contractor was insisting that I get water because I am pregnant. Thanks to your article, I know that I want oil and that it is perfectly safe for me, and my fami!y, after it dries. I would have been so disappointed and angry if I had allowed them to use water based products. My beautiful quarter sawn red oak floors would have looked horrible.

    • TheFlooringGirl  October 23, 2015 at 7:02 am

      Heather – Yes, after it dries, no difference. If you are pregnant, you should be out of the house no matter what type you use.

  • Deborah  November 9, 2015 at 7:09 am

    I wish I had discovered this site years ago ! Here is my question..I had red oak floors installed and chose special walnut stain..My contractor put an oil based finish for the first coat and I got nervous about the fumes and so he put water based for the second and third coat….How will this wear ? I went with a satin finish and there is hardly any sheen..Thank you so much..

    • TheFlooringGirl  November 9, 2015 at 9:43 am

      Deborah – I don’t think this is such a hot idea to mix oil and water. I don’t know how long it will last. Assuming there is no reaction and no adhesion issues (and there may be issues), then it depends on what grade of water poly he used. Bona traffic lasts longer, but most of the other ones won’t last as long as oil. It’s hard to say how long it will last, but I suppose eventually you will find out.

  • ed  November 9, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    Thanks for the info. Does the bona traffic have any color? I like the color of the white oak strip with bona traffic you showed. Was that stained and then treated with bona? Or does the bona go on absolutely clear? Thanks for all the info.

    • TheFlooringGirl  November 11, 2015 at 1:25 pm

      Nothing is absolutely clear, but Bona Traffic has the least amount and it’s virtually clean.

    • TheFlooringGirl  December 3, 2015 at 7:30 am

      Trevor – Thx for the added info and link. I appreciate that. And, yes, we have done this method as well. I think the issue comes in when you mix the poly and do some oil and some water.

  • Paul Baker  December 8, 2015 at 11:29 am

    What is the best and safest way to clean hardwood floors with a water based finish?

    • TheFlooringGirl  December 12, 2015 at 8:49 am

      I would recommend using bona hardwood cleaner.

  • Mike Schreiner  December 23, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    We just had a friend do our floors with water based poli. It looks AWFUL!!! We want to do it ourselves now.
    Do we now have to sand off the waterbased poli before applying the new oil poli?

    • TheFlooringGirl  December 24, 2015 at 6:59 am

      Mike – I wish I could say I’m surprised, but I’m not It’s very rare for floor sanding to come out well when it’s not done by professionals and not done w/ professional machines. The ones you can rent at home depot are very low quality.

      Chances are the sanding is not done well and hence it will never look good/nor stick until it’s redone. I would bring in a professional and see what they think. Certainly get their opinion.

      Generally, if you just want to “sand off” the poly, you would be screening or buffing and chances are if you haven’t done this before you won’t get it right (no offense). But, I have a hunch the issue is earlier in the process and you will probably need to start from the beginning.

  • margo  January 7, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    I have a section of flooring that needs to be refinished. it is a large space of approximately 1500 sq. ft. it was refinished years ago using a water-based polyurethane. The other part of my apartment, separated by a wall and door has an oil based polyurethane which is in excellent condition. The floors in both spaces are red oak.I would need to get special permission from my co-op to use an oil based poly. Are there good points to make? is there materials I can provide to convince them?

    • TheFlooringGirl  January 9, 2016 at 7:00 pm

      Margo – I hope that you are able to do your top choice, but if they have a rule, they may not allow it. Your one argument can be that water based actually has higher VOCs than oil based. But, usually co-ops are doing this due to the smell (as a courtesy to neighbors).

      We generally use Fabulon for oil based poly. Here’s a link on Amazon. Fabulon Professional Floor Finish Heavy Duty Super Satin – Quart

  • Brian  January 13, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    I am building a new house and asked my flooring contractor what he was planning on using for the hardwood. He said that he uses 2 coats of oil based and 2 coats of water based with the top coats being the Bona Traffic HD. I was looking for information about using a hybrid system like this and couldn’t find much information. Any thoughts?

    • TheFlooringGirl  January 13, 2016 at 10:50 pm

      This would not be my recommendation. I’m guessing you’re contractor is doing this to save money. I would recommend 3 coats Bona Traffic.

      • Brian  January 14, 2016 at 7:08 pm

        When asked, he said that he used the oil to enhance the grain, but he didn’t like the look of the oil alone because it made the wood (hickory) look too yellow. He also said that the water based alone looked too flat so that is why he used the hybrid system. I’m still a little skeptical and slightly worried about the floor de-laminating between the oil and water layers. I’m not sure what to do given that he is highly recommended from a few different builders that I have talked to.

        • TheFlooringGirl  January 15, 2016 at 8:16 pm

          Brian – His method may work. If he feels confident about it, that is a good sign. Just make sure he has a warranty on it and you’ve discussed in case you have some issues.

  • Rica  March 19, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    Can I wait 5 days after staining to apply Poly U?
    Because I have to leave town right after staining is finish and have to do Poly U application when I get back. Will it be a problem for delaying that long?

    • TheFlooringGirl  March 19, 2016 at 8:59 pm

      Rica – That shouldn’t be a problem, as long as no one/no pets walk on the floor during that time.

  • Joe  April 2, 2016 at 8:35 am

    Interesting article. My question would be considering the long term health effects that the application of polyurethane would have on the health of the installers after years of applying the oil based poly. I know that breathing protection is available, but for those of us actually applying, we know that they are bulky, uncomfortable and difficult to keep from sweating on the floor. I agree with looks of poly, but I consider my health as a factor for using the Bona traffic HD over the poly, as I am off the next day to constantly breathe fresh finish and not he dried finish.
    Really enjoyed your article and professionalism on the responses.

    • TheFlooringGirl  April 10, 2016 at 11:18 am

      Joe – Thx for your input. You know I hadn’t thought about it that way before. I’m going to talk to my guys about this next week and get their thoughts on this.

  • Dal  April 10, 2016 at 10:44 pm

    I believe it’s been a couple years since you wrote this piece on oil vs. water. Is there still no oil based poly that can be used on a gray stained floors without affecting the color? White oak specifically.

    • TheFlooringGirl  April 12, 2016 at 4:51 am

      Dal – Right, there is no oil base that will work well with gray. It was add a yellow tint and continue to yellow over time. It doesn’t matter if it’s white oak or red oak. You should use Bona Traffic with gray hardwood floors.

  • Brian Dwyer  May 21, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    Excellent information about oil vs water based polyurethane. We chose oil based for our hardwood floors which are being refinished right now. Yes the oil based does smell strong, but we would much prefer to get the best durability and so the tradeoff is worth it. I did try to use the Vote Feature on your website and of course chose Oil, but it came back with invalid entry so you may want to look into that….or could be my browser so not sure.

    • TheFlooringGirl  May 22, 2016 at 11:32 am

      Brian – Yes, I agree and think it’s worth it.

      Thx so much for the feedback on the vote function. It sounds like I have a glitch, so I’ll need to see if I can figure that out. Thanks for letting me know.

  • Geeta  June 2, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Hi, we have had red oak installed in our new build house. We are not staining the floor and need to decide on water or oil finish. Which one will hold up better? I have read that the water based finish has a duller look. Is that correct?

    • TheFlooringGirl  June 8, 2016 at 6:27 am

      In general, oil will usually hold up better. But, if you want to do water, Bona Traffic is the way to go as it holds about equally as well as oil based. (It is more expensive, though). If you do a cheaper water based product, it won’t hold up that well.

  • Katy  June 12, 2016 at 8:25 am

    I moved into a totally renovated apartment two weeks ago. The wood floors were sanded and sealed.(I don’t know what product) I have opened the windows to get fresh air in. I must have an allergy to the floor coating that i never experienced before. I feel fine when outside, or at work, but when in the apartment i am all congested and feel sick. How long will this lingering floor coating last and impact my health?

    • TheFlooringGirl  June 12, 2016 at 11:08 am

      Sorry to hear that Katy. It is unusual, but some people are extra sensitive to smells…or just anything.

      I don’t know what was used, but generally, by 30 days all smells are gone.

      But, but because you are in an apartment, maybe the circulation isn’t as good. I would suggest fans w/ open windows and/or borrow exhaust fan. I hope that helps.

  • Barbara  August 4, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    I have bamboo floors. Will the oil based finish work or would you recommend the water based poly?

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 6, 2016 at 8:19 pm

      Barbara – Generally bamboo is done with water based polyurethane not oil. It looks better that way. I think oil would turn it very yellow and not sure how it would be absorbed. Try bona traffic. That’s your best bet.

      Please also note that many bamboos can not be refinished and it is very challenging to do, so be sure to have an installer who has experience sanding bamboo.

  • Ron Searle  August 12, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    IS there a suitable product to apply to a light colored wood prior to using a water-based poly, to give it the same appearance you would get with oil-based ploy?

    • TheFlooringGirl  August 14, 2016 at 1:35 pm

      Ron – There are some water based polyurethanes that have an amberized tint. I believe Bona makes one.

  • norm lazure  August 31, 2016 at 6:55 pm


    I am a general contractor and have a floor contractor who works for me. Hw swears by oil base poly and I do as well. However lots of high end customers are asking for dark stained hardwood floors with a matte finish. Wecannot find matte finish oil base poly only water based and the satin finish oil base has a little to much shine for interior decorators and high end jobs. Does anyone make an oil base poly with a matte finish

    Norm L

    • TheFlooringGirl  September 3, 2016 at 3:17 pm

      Norm – That is odd…most oil bases have a matte finish option. Try Duraseal or Fabulon.

  • Mary Ann  September 19, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    Hello Debbie,
    I am refinishing my red oak floors in my Colorado home. They were done with Glitza 17 years ago. Is Glitza a type of oil-based poly and do they both amberize equally? I love how well the Glitza finish has held up to lots of traffic and dogs. I wish it didn’t yellow so much. I’m wondering if adding a very light brown stain would tome down the yellow over time …. but then there is the dog issue.
    Thanks for your great website!!!

    • TheFlooringGirl  September 20, 2016 at 2:23 pm

      Mary Ann – I’m not familiar with Glitsa. It may be a regional brand and/or not readily available here. But, in general oil based poly will amberize over time and in general, the darker you go with a stain, the less you notice it. I hope that helps.

  • AJ  September 23, 2016 at 11:41 pm

    Fantastic information and well written responses here. Thanks. I have come full circle as I was all in on oil based yet thought my professional indicated water based. Given the dog and my (likely correct) opinion that oil based was more durable and provided better depth to oak floors, i was surprised and looked into the toughest of water based and came up with Bona traffic/HD or Vermont naturals 3500. The latter of which fueled further research on family safety ,VOCs etc. I surmise it may be less “toxic” in certain areas but likely no less harmless. As it turns out my floor guy was talking oil all along. It will be significantly more costly +50% product and labor for Vermont as it will require more coats per him. Back to oil 100% as you got me through the health concerns! I did speak with a reputable floor dealer who sells/installs it all, has dogs and the Vermont Naturals in his own house 3yrs and he loves the durability and the fact it can be spot fixed if necessary (although he hasn’t needed to). Curious of your opinion/experience with this product for recommended waterbed applications?

    • TheFlooringGirl  September 24, 2016 at 4:38 am

      Hi Aj. Thank you for your comments. I’m not familiar with Vermont Naturals. It doesn’t appear to be sold in my county. It seems that it’s more available in paint stores than flooring stores and looks like it’s used more for furniture than floors.

  • Richard  October 24, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    Hi Debbie
    Great article, it is a bit dated now but hope you are still responding. I am installing antique heartwood pine floors. They will be 4.5 inches. Wondering if you think oil or water would be better on pine flooring. Thanks

    • TheFlooringGirl  October 25, 2016 at 6:45 pm

      Hi Richard – I would probably do oil based poly with that wood as it will give it a warmer look and a thicker coating. Heart pine one of the hardest pines, but it’s still a bit softer than oak. I guess I’m just used to seeing it with the oil based poly, especially as that’s how most pines are done. It just looks like it goes best.

      On the other hand, if you want a lighter look, then use Bona Traffic HD water borne poly.

  • MIke  November 14, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    Our builder is using two coats of Loba Hybrid. Have you ever heard of this and is it good?

    • TheFlooringGirl  November 16, 2016 at 4:02 pm

      No, I have never heard of this, so I can’t comment on the quality. But, in general, I’m not a fan of hybrids. BTW, there are some polyurethanes that are regional and only sold in certain areas of the country.

  • Dean  December 18, 2016 at 7:15 pm

    I had a contractor come in and install 300sq ft of wood floors and refinish another 300sq ft. He blended them and everything. I was happy with his work and whatnot through the entire process.

    He applied the coat of stain and 2 coats of water based poly.

    He told us after 24 hours we could move our furniture around but just don’t slide it around, and maybe another day or 2 to let the dog back on it.

    It’s been a week and I’m finding a ton of scratches from the dog AND my rolling chair (I’ve since ordered silicone wheels for my chair).

    I told him this (after we paid him), and now he’s saying this is uncommon but if we want he can come out and apply a coat of “Bona Traffic Water” to the 600sq ft for $750.

    Am I screwed? Is this guy just running me to the cleaners? We’ve already spent $6,000 for all this work and I’m afraid that my floors will look like s**t in 3 months. Should I get the Bona Traffic put down?

    • TheFlooringGirl  December 19, 2016 at 10:45 am

      Dean – Sorry to hear this.

      First, I would always recommend that you do 3 coats of poly, especially on water borne poly.

      Second, it sounds like you may have had a lower grade water borne poly on 1st 2 coats…but you will have to find out if that’s the case. This is me simply interpretting what you wrote as it sounds like Bona traffic will be an upgrade to what you had.

      Third, it sounds like the contractor gave you bad advice. I would have waited 3 days before putting furniture back and 2 weeks for the dog (this is what I would tell my customers and what I have on this site. So, that was bad advice.

      Now, most likely putting an additional coat of poly and using Bona Traffic will solve your issues and I would recommend it. And, I would have recommended it even if you didn’t have the scratches yet. The cost of $1.25/sf is actually pretty reasonable as Bona Traffic costs more.

      The issue though is that the contractor didn’t tell you this before and gave you bad advice. So, you may want to go back and see if the contractor would give you a discount for the bad and misleading advice. (BTW, you could call someone else local to get an estimate to see if they think this would solve the problem and get an estimate as rates vary across the country and then go back to the contractor).

      • Dean  December 22, 2016 at 11:17 pm

        He used Bona Mega.

        At this point, if I’m going to have him do the coat of Bona Traffic, it’s going to need to be after the holidays, so I’m going to just let the holidays pass and see if the scratches are just “normal” and I’m just freaking out since it’s new to me.

        • TheFlooringGirl  December 23, 2016 at 12:58 am

          Dean – Understandable. Yes, traffic is much better than mega. And, I would say that 2 coats of mega is insufficient.

  • lobna  January 20, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    we just did our floors ( today was the last coat of the sealer) and planning the painting , when can i safely get the painting done on the house without any damage to the floors.

    • TheFlooringGirl  January 24, 2017 at 9:50 pm

      You should wait at least 4 full days before starting the painting (assuming it’s oil based poly). If it’s water based, should wait at least 3 full days.

  • deborah480@yahoo.com  February 8, 2017 at 8:24 am

    Hello and thank you for this site. I have referred to it often and find it very helpful ! my question is, what does oil modified mean ? I asked my contractor to use oil based bona clear coat and found come to find out he used oil modified .. thank you !

    • TheFlooringGirl  February 8, 2017 at 10:12 am

      Hi Deborah. Thanks for your kind words. In general, oil modified means a mix of oil and water. Generally, these formulations aren’t as good/strong as using oil only or water only. But, I’m making a general statement here. In general, I would use/recommend Bona water borne poly.

      I think Bona may have an option that is more amber, and if that’s the look you’re going for, it can do the job. I’m guessing that’s maybe what you meant or what your installer used. It’s hard to say. In general, Bona products are good. If he used a form of Bona Traffic, then you should be good. I hope that makes sense.

  • Denine  February 15, 2017 at 2:59 am

    Hi – I read in your informative article here that for white-wash stains you recommend water-based finish only. Because of the durability issues, the floor refinisher recommends oil-based finishes, as you do. My color choice for our red oak ’89 floor refinishing (2nd x) is a mix of about 40% Daly’s stain “Frost” and 60% “Fog Mist”, which looks darker/more red on the red oak than it does in this sample: So, it appears to be a mid-white wash, not grey, but more of a taupe. Do you think I can get away with an oil-based Glitsa on top? I will anticipate some yellowing, but how soon would it be noticeable?

    • TheFlooringGirl  February 15, 2017 at 9:29 am

      Denine – You definitely want a WATER BORNE poly for ANY whites or grays. Oil based will turn it yellow…right away. And, it will get more yellow over time. You should use Bona Traffic HD. Check out this article (and you can buy it online if you want to save money). Best brands of polyurethane.

      In my article for oil vs water based, I generally recommend oil based..but for standard colors and especially dark colors. If you read the article more closely, you’ll see that for any white or gray, you need to use water based.

  • owen  March 20, 2017 at 5:08 pm

    is there a best poly to waterproof a hardwood floor? not sure if that product exist? thanks

    • TheFlooringGirl  March 21, 2017 at 2:21 pm

      Owen – No, there is no way to waterproof your hardwood floors (especially as hardwood can also get water from below and sides). But, putting polyurethane on them will give you a protective layer (and prob oil is a bit better for that). But, this protective layer will only help you for minor spills. If you have standing water (and for a long time) they can get damaged, no matter what you use.

  • Lexie  March 27, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Believe it or not , I have 3 boys and 3 girls. We also have an active 2 year old female Boxer in our home. Our oak floors were finished with a water based finish 6 years ago. It still looks great. They used a satin sheen and added a hardener to the finish. They sealed the floor and applied 2 coats and it looks great.

    I think it comes down to maintenance rather than which finish is stronger. By the way we don’t remove our shoes, but we sweep dust and debris away twice a week. takes only 3 minutes to do but the floor doesn’t get scratches from sand and dirt.

  • TheFlooringGirl  March 29, 2013 at 6:21 am

    Lexie – I’m so glad to hear that. I agree that maintenance is key, and I have a separate post on that. It’s actually a combo of the poly and the maintenance. Also, satin sheen tends to look better longer, so good call on that. And, lighter colors tend to last longer.


Leave A Comment

Please enter your name. Please enter an valid email address. Please enter a message.