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Which are the best Polyurethane brands for floors? Which do I recommend?

Brands of Polyurethane that I highly recommend

Best polyurethane brands - reviews of polyurethane brands. Most durable water based and oil brands

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.

 

Best brands of polyurethane for your floorsThe 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)

Please note that this article may contain affiliate links.  You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.

 

Best water based polyurethane brands for hardwood floors in October, 2019

1. Bona Traffic HD (High grade) best polyurethane for floors

 

2. Loba 2K Supra (High grade) best polyurethane review

 

3. Street Shoe (Med-high grade) best polyurethane for hardwood floors

 

4. Bona Mega (Mid grade) best polyurethane

 

 

Best oil based polyurethane brands for hardwood floors in October, 2019

1. Duraseal oil (high grade) most durable hardwood floor finish

 

2. Fabulon (med high grade)  

 

3. Lenmar (medium grade) best polyurethane for floors

 

Water borne polyurethane Recommendations:

Bona Traffic HD

best brands of polyurethane for hardwood flooringBona 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.

hardwood floor polyurethane brands

 

 

best polyurthane that avoids the bad smellBona Traffic is a 2 part product.  It comes with a hardener that you mix in, so it becomes very hard and durable. It 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.

best brands of polyurethane for hardwood floors

 

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.

 

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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

 

Bona Traffic is available in semi gloss, satin and extra matte finishes.

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StreetShoe Polyurethane

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.

Streetshoe - one of the best brands of polyurethane for hardwoods

 

Bona Mega

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 accommodate 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.

Bona Mega polyurethane

 

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.

 

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

 

 

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).

 

best brands of oil based polyurethane

 

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.

best brands of oil based polyurethane for hardwood floors

 

Polyurethane Brands I would avoid:

best brands of polyurethane according to the prosGenerally, 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:

  • Minwax (Minwax is fine for stains, although I prefer Duraseal over Minwax for stains.  I would not recommend Minwax for polyurethane)
  • Absco
  • 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.

 

Frequently asked questions about polyurethane, floors and steps

What is the best polyurethane for stairs?d

You would use the same brand and type of polyurethane for you steps as the res of the floors.  The best and most durable finish for water based polyurethane is Bona Traffic HD and for oil based poly, Duraseal. 

 

The steps generally get the most traffic and wear and tear (along with hallways), so it’s even more important to have a high grade finish in these areas.

 

How many coats of polyurethane should you put on the steps?

Generally, I would recommend 3 coats of polyurethane to protect your steps as they are high traffic areas.  However, if you are planning to add a carpet runner on top, then 2 coats of poly can suffice.

 

Does Polyurethane make your steps slippery?

Generally, no, unless the polyurethane is applied improperly.  Contrary to what some believe, the finish sheen (semi gloss, satin, or matte) does not make a difference. This is a false perception.  But steps can be slippery due to their nature.  There are 2 main things that can reduce the slip resistance:

  • most durable finish for stairs and floors; anti-slip resistantBona Traffic HD has an anti-slip line which is a bit less slippery (as it has some more grit.  It costs a few dollars more, but worth it if you are concerned.

 

  • Add a carpet runner to your steps. This is great for safety, noise reduction as well as home decor. They are especially helpful if you have dogs, toddlers or old members of the family.

 

Of course, adjusting your shoe wear can also help (e.g.wear slippers with some traction rather than socks.

 

What is polyurethane?

Polyurethane is an elastic polymer that creates a protective barrier between the external environment and wood.  It protects the wood spills, oils (from your feet), dirt and variety of other things.

 

Polyurethanes are versatile, modern and safe.  They come in a variety of forms such as insulation, furniture cushioning, carpet padding, mattresses, liquid coatings, adhesives, shoe soles and many more items.  As it relates to hardwood floors, polyurethane comes in a liquid form, and later hardens and cures over time for a durable finish.

 

 

Comparison on Water Borne Polyurethane vs Oil Based Polyurethane (Pros and Cons):

water vs oil based polyurethane comparison chart

 

Complementary products that will prolong the life of your hardwood floors

 

Color consultation for Westchester County

 

Other useful articles on Polyurethane:

 

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

 

Check out my Ebook – Discover the 6 Secrets to refinishing hardwood floors.

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148 thoughts on “Which are the best Polyurethane brands for floors? Which do I recommend?”

  1. I am putting down a Prefinished Solid Maple floor. It has a 50 year warranty but I was considering of putting down a layer or 2 of water based poly. Do you think this is a good or bad idea?

    1. Eric – No, this is not a good idea. The purpose of getting prefinished wood is to avoid the need to refinish. And, screening prefinished wood is tricky if you’re not experienced. And, in the process, you will probably remove some of the aluminum oxide which is what is giving the wood protection and void the warranty. Not sure the benefit of doing this. So either get the prefinished wood you love, or do unfinished wood and refinish it. Doing a hybrid costs more and leads to poorer results.

  2. Heya,

    Thanks for putting this out and for all the info – much appreciated! I’ve got an odd situation where I’m looking at doing a penny floor and am hoping to use a water based poly to finish it (rather than epoxy – working with epoxy as a rank amateur DYI scares me and I’m also not find of the high gloss finish).

    I’m also hoping to avoid grouting the pennies (purely aesthetic reasons, and because I apparently like making my life harder than it needs to be) and to use the poly to fill in between – though I’m far from sure this is possible. Street shoe looks like the best option so far based on your reviews and my level of idiocy but:

    Will it work over the pennies?

    Will it work to fill the gaps between pennies if I do several thinner coats? Or am I in dreamland?

    Any advice is appreciated….

    Thanks!
    meg

    1. Meg – I seriously doubt this will work. Poly is meant to go over wood and penetrate it. I can’t imagine it being thick enough for penny/penny rounds, and you would need many coats. But even so, I can’t imagine it sticking. And, it would probably cost you an arm and a leg. You usually grout these.

      Call the manufacturer, but I seriously doubt it will work and you will probably need to redo your floors.

  3. I have a question and you indicated your blog posts were the best place to ask them. I am painting a piece of vinyl flooring to use as a rug under my dining table. I have the painting part done and now need to find the best top coat. It turned out really beautiful and I would really like to see it last and I am willing to spend the money to do so. Do you think the Bona Traffic HD could be used on paint over vinyl?

    1. Suzette – To be honest, I would not expect paint over vinyl to last, no matter what finish you use. I can not in all honesty recommend a product/brand to do something it’s not designed to do. It may work, it may not. Most likely this is a better choice than other options, but not sure if any option is good. Hopefully your paint isn’t white…as any poly will change the color. I would recommend that you call the manufacturer (Bona) and ask their tech department.

  4. Hi Debbie,
    Your flooring advice in the beginning of our Brooklyn brownstone renovation was peerless and don’t know what we would have done without it. I also got an assessment from your contact in Brooklyn as well as a couple of others, though we ended up having to go with our contractor’s sub. At the time I did trust he knew what he was doing, but in hindsight i shouldn’t have. In brief, we had the third floor (older floors) sanded and tinted with Bona Nordic Seal to even out the look of the “mismatched” rooms and because i love the look on old wood, and that turned out great. On the parlor floor we did white oak in a herringbone pattern which looks awesome (contractor’s guys did a great job there). However, I specified Bona Traffic HD Commercial Extra Matte for that floor (no color/stain), and we are having some issues. The same sub already has made several mistakes previously that we let go.

    But the parlor level flooring, looked a little too light and not finished (i’ve seen pics of what the product should look like, it should have very slight sheen 10 % to be exact)
    (this architect used the same wood and product for this house (his), he confirmed in email as well as in the story.)
    , ours looks sort of sticky and “furry.” but it was covered up for the rest of the construction/painting/kitchen install and the paper was just removed. Straightaway our architects noticed lots of streaks which they thought were uneven sanding. And, again, I just thought it didn’t look right. Yesterday we had the flooring guy come back to take a look. He seems to think he used the Nordic Seal (which he was NOT supposed to do on this floor) and that’s what made the streaks. That makes a lot more sense.

    To get to the point, we would like the floor we asked for and paid (a LOT) for, white oak finished in the traffic HD commercial extra matte. I’m having a couple of guys (including hopefully your recommendation) come in and assess the situation and give an estimate. And contractor is going to have another guy come take a look (we’re pretty sure he will cover the cost since it’s clearly an error no matter what).
    here are some pix:
    streaks:
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/p8fczwclazpw3no/streaks.jpg?dl=0

    floor in general.
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/n4vvxt2t1dua1w6/unnamed.jpg?dl=0
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/itepp1k9v9d08mr/unnamed-1.jpg?dl=0
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/fu5kqwl4937q2vj/unnamed-2.jpg?dl=0
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/51sdelam5hstr1f/unnamed-3.jpg?dl=0

    I spoke to your colleague at Tribeca Flooring today and he suggested that maybe the flooring sub didn’t properly mix the two-part Bona poly product.

    I’m so bummed because this reno has been going on for over a year, and we were really almost done. We also have big plans at the end of sept and october and need to be done by then, and are having stuff like largenfurniture delivered.

    my questions are,
    do those pictures look to you like the plain bona traffic hd comm. extra matte, no nordic seal beneath, correctly applied?
    Or does it look like the tinted sealant has been used?

    What would your advice be at this point?

    If we need to sand the floors all the way down and refinish, is there a way to cover the (black) kitchen cabinets, black and white walls, furniture, appliances, many lights, etc so they aren’t covered with horrible wood dust forever?
    What do you know about “dustless” sanding? It sounds great.

    Thank you soooo much for any advice or opinions you can offer!!
    Michelle Cohen

    1. Hi Michelle – Yes, I remember speaking to you on the phone. Yes, the floors look streaky in that area. It is very possible that they used nordic sealer (based on color), but someone needs to look at that in person. But, it doesn’t look like that’s the cause of the streaks. It almost looks like there is some oil on the floor there, but no idea how that could have happened.

      So sealers are used all the time…and are not a cause of streaking. It could be how the poly (w/ hardener) was mixed for sure. And, I understand that if they didn’t follow instructions that is a problem and it doesn’t look right.

      Chances are it will need to be fully sanded and refinished. If there is a sealer, that is the only way to solve as that is the bottom layer.

      Yes, dustless is awesome and will severely reduce the dust. It’s great, and does cost extra and it’s important that your brownstone has enough power. But, if you can do it, go for it! And, I wouldn’t worry about furniture (which can be moved and seal the doors and all cabinets with plastic. That is all doable. and, while nothing is 100% dustless, any extra dust that may settle can be dusted with a feather duster. The dustless machine will probably take care of 90-95% of dust.

      I hope that helps.

      (I deleted the link to curb as it seemed to be showing a 403 error).

  5. When did fabulon reformulate or change its recipe. I’ve used it for over 15 years , never a problem till 6 months ago. Now I got people telling me I need a sealer before I put poly down. This was never the case.

    1. Donald – I forget exactly – maybe a couple of years ago. But, bear in mind the inventory on the shelves in some places can last a while. If you’re using a stain, no sealer is needed. If I were you, I would simply test using Duraseal and see if that seems better.

  6. What about Pro Finisher by Parks Water Based Polyurethane for floors, Professional Grade?
    I just sanded my stairs & landing & don’t have a lot of choices of products in my area. We are preparing to sell our house.

  7. Hi. Hope u can help me with this. I have some originally prefinished Brazilian cherry that was then sanded and stained dark ebony several years ago. We want to add some to another room that currently has tile. The contractor recommended we buy unfinished Brazilian cherry for the new area, then sand and go natural over the whole house. This sounds fine. We have kids and dogs and were planning on doing 3 coats of Bona HD. but we are stuck on the sealer. Bona recommends Natural or Intense for Brazilian cherry. I’m concerned Intense will make it go darker. But there are some cloudy-looking issues w Natural. What are your thoughts? Any other things we should keep in mind considering I’m trying to blend an old wood w a new one? We’d like the floor to remain as light and not-red as possible. Thx for your help! Great site!!

    1. Carlos – The best advice I can tell you is to get a great refinisher who is willing test the combos. The important thing here is to match as close as possible. Now it will probably never match exactly because the brazilian cherry changes color over time/darkens. Now when you resand, it will be lighter, but most likely the older area will still be a bit darker. My gut tells me intense on new area since it will make it darker, so the fact that the rest of the floor is naturally darker from age, it may be closer. and, prob naturale in old area. But test to see which looks most similar. You won’t know until the floor is sanded (even in a small area) and test.

  8. Hi, GREAT product info here that my contractor confirms. I am installing reclaimed plank pine that after planing looks mostly new. I am most worried about dents and nicks being a softwood and then color as I do not want it to age to a deep amberish patina over time…like doug fir does. What do you think I should use, Poly or water in the two brands you recommend?

    1. Paul – thx. If you don’t want it to yellow/amberize/orangize (just made that up), then go with Bona Traffic HD. It is equally as durable as oil, but will look lighter, less read, less orange. Do 3 coats. Note the wood is still soft…you can’t change that. The poly is more for scratch protection, not dent protection. So if you drop stuff on it, it can dent either way. I hope that made sense.

    1. Dawn – I’m planning to do an article on Loba soon…I just need to find the time. Loba is also a good option. It’s newer, so it hasn’t stood the test of time yet. We have used on several jobs and so far, so good, but we don’t yet have info on long term durability. Both Bona and Loba are good options, but Bona is a bit safer as it has stood the test of time.

      1. Does Loba turn white oak any less yellow than Bona? Looking to keep as natural color as possible. Thanks so much for you quick response!

          1. Hi Debbie, I am considering using Bona traffic HD on new flooring which is a mix of white oak and red Oak. Being concerned about ambering and wanting only a little bit of warmth I’m giving waterbase consideration. Somewhere I thought I read that these water-based urethane’s will over years go hazy, cloud or dull quicker than oil based poly, is that true even for a Bona traffic HD?
            Thank you for your help.

          2. David – Yes, that happens in the low grade (and sometimes mid grade) water borne polyurethanes. You should be good with Bona Traffic.

            Note: If you go natural (regardless of poly), it will highlight the differences between the 2 species. If they are in different areas/different floors, that’s fine. But if they are next to each other, it will show more. The way to combat that is to go darker with the stain. The darker you go, the less of a difference you’ll see.

            Of course if you prefer natural, then go for it. I just wanted to make sure you are aware of this.

  9. Stephen Van Osdell

    Have you heard of Poloplaz Supreme and if so, what is your opinion? It is what my installer wants to use.

  10. Stephen Van Osdell

    No, it is oil based. For water based, he uses Bona Traffic. Also, found another installed in town who is using the Poloplaz oil also.

  11. Is discoloring around/under area rugs a concern at all for Duraseal? Leaning towards Duraseal satin over Traffic HD for 1941 red oak with provincial stain. However, I’m concerned about discoloration around area rugs because the rooms get a lot of sunlight.

  12. Hello, I got two bids for my hardwood floor refinish. One uses Bona Traffic, and the other uses Arboritec, both waterborne. Which one is better?

      1. Thank you for your reply. To update, my bidder says he can use Bona if I want, but Arboritec is ceramic and Bona Traffic is acrylic, and he believes the ceramic is stronger and lasts longer. Your opinion? Thanks.

  13. I’ve had a problem installing a water based poly in a large room (14′ x 26′).
    After I made my first pass (maybe 12″ wide), when I returned to make the following pass the poly had already dried sufficiently to make blending the two nearly impossible. Is there a way to slow down the drying time of the poly or am I doing something wrong?

    1. Barry – No, you can’t slow down the drying time (unless you switch polyurethanes). It’s more challenging for DIYers to work w/ water borne poly, so you may also want to consider hiring a professional. You can also try contecting the manufacturer for their recommendation on best practices.

  14. ANTHONY E DiFONZO

    I am spraying poly on a large table. I’m currently using oil based Minwax. The finish is troublesome. Would you recommend Dura and thin it for use with an LVLP spray gun?

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