Brands of Polyurethane that I highly recommend
When it comes to sanding and refinishing your hardwood floors, there are 2 main components: 1) The quality of the workmanship and 2) the quality of the materials (i.e. the polyurethane). In this article, I’m going to discuss the highest grade polyurethanes. The polyurethane is the coating that gives your floor its protection. Generally, you would want to add 3 coats of polyurethane for the best longevity.
The brand of polyurethane will have a huge impact on how your floors look as well as how long they last. There are two main forms of polyurethane – oil based and water borne poly. You can read more about them in this article: Oil based vs water borne polyurethane. I’m going to share the best poly brands for both forms. This article also provides links so that you can check out the products further and even purchase them online.
This article is outlined as follows:
- Best brands of water borne polyurethane
- Best brands of oil based polyurethane
- Brands of polyurethane I’d stay away from
- Quick Comparison Guide on Water based vs Oil Based Polyurethane (pros and cons)
Water borne polyurethane Recommendations:
Bona Traffic HD (Heavy Duty) is hands down the best water borne polyurethane on the market. It has the highest durability and is considered commercial grade which means it’s great for busy restaurants and retail stores, and will certainly hold up in your residential home. Bona Traffic definitely costs more, but it is worth it. If you ask almost any experienced flooring professional, they will agree.
Bona Traffic is a 2 part product. It comes with a hardener that you mix in, so it becomes very hard and durable. It has has a contemporary and upscale look as it doesn’t have the yellow glow that you see in oil based polyurethane. And, compared to other water borne polyies, it just looks cleaner and more natural.
Bona Traffic is the best product for gray and white wash stains, as well as maple as it amberizes (or yellows) the least vs any other product. Also, if you want your oak floors to be as light as possible (and the least yellow), this is the best option.
In addition, Bona Traffic is environmentally friendly. It has very low VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) – less than 150. It has low odor. It’s GreenGuard certified meaning it’s safe for children and pets and it’s school certified.
What’s the difference between Bona Traffic and Bona Traffic HD?
Often the terms Bona Traffic and Bona Traffic HD are used interchangeably (I often catch myself doing this, especially when I’m speaking with a customer). Bona Traffic HD is a little better than the original Bona Traffic. It costs a bit more, but it’s not a significant difference in price. And, I will say that both are top-notch options.
Here are the benefits of Bona Traffic HD (vs original Bona Traffic):
- Lower odor
- Slightly lower VOCs (Bona Traffic is 150 VOCs and Bona Traffic HD is <125 VOCs)
- It dries and cures a bit faster, especially over the the 1st 24-48 hours. (This can be a big benefit for households with dogs as well as those in a rush to move into a new home as the movers are less likely to scratch the floors).
You can learn a bit more in this video on Bona Traffic vs Bona Traffic HD
StreetShoe would be my 2nd choice water borne polyurethane. It used to be the gold standard (and we used to use it) until Bona Traffic came along. It’s a strong polyurethane and last much longer than virtually all water based polyurethanes on the market. It costs a bit less than Bona Traffic (and more than your basic polyurethanes) as it’s a higher grade.
Bona Mega is a mid grade water borne polyurethane. We use this when our customers want (or are required by their co-op) to use water borne poly, but their budget won’t accomodate Bona Traffic. It’s a good water borne poly. There are certainly better ones out there (see above), but there are certainly many many lower grade ones out there.
Generally, if you are getting a much lower price on refinishing using a water borne poly, chances are the installer is using an inferior water borne product. See below for some polyurethanes that are lower grade and I would try to avoid.
Oil based polyurethane Recommendations:
Duraseal oil based polyurethane
We recently switched to Duraseal for oil based poly. Duraseal recently reformulated so it’s harder and has the best durability among oil based polyurethanes. It doesn’t react or peel and it has low VOCs (compared to other oil based poly).
Duraseal comes in 5 gallon buckets or 1 gallon cans.
Fabulon oil based polyurethane
Fabulon would be my 2nd choice oil based poly. We used to use this, and it’s a good brand. But, as they and Duraseal recently reformulated, we found Duraseal to be superior.
Polyurethane Brands I would avoid:
Generally, if you are getting a much lower price on refinishing (while comparing the same type of poly (i.e. water or oil) and same scope of work, chances are the installer is using an inferior polyurethane.
Aside from scope of work (i.e. area to be done, stain vs natural, # coats poly, furniture move, carpet rip up, etc.) there are basically 2 components that go into the price: 1) workmanship/skill of labor and 2) grade of polyurethane. And, often, these 2 go hand in hand – lower skilled workers tend to use inferior polyurethanes (both to cheapen their cost, and they may not have easy access to/knowledge of the higher grades of polyurethane. A higher skilled refinisher cares about the quality of the polyurethane and its durability. They rely on repeat on referral business.
Here are some polyurethane brands I wouldn’t use:
- Mixwax (Minwax is fine for stains, although I prefer Duraseal over Minwax for stains. I would not recommend Minwax for polyurethane)
- Last N’ Last (and don’t be fooled by their supposed “15 year warranty.” If you read it, you’ll see that it doesn’t really cover anything.
- Anything really cheap…you get what you pay for.
Comparison on Water Borne Polyurethane vs Oil Based Polyurethane (Pros and Cons):
Water borne Poly
Oil based Poly
Other useful articles on Polyurethane:
- Oil based vs water borne poly – which is better?
- How long does it take to refinish hardwood floors?
- Which sheen level is most popular? Which holds up best?
- How to prevent scratches in hardwood floors and maintain your hardwood
- Recommended cleaning products and accessories to maintain floors and reduce scratches.
Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors
Which are the best brands of Polyurethane for floors? Which do I recommend?