When Should You Choose Waterbased Polyurethane Finish Over Oil-Based?

When does it make sense to use waterborne polyurethane hardwood floor finish instead of an oil-based finish? There are some crucial differences between the two which it’s essential to understand which makes water-based poly finish the better and sometimes even the necessary choice over an oil-based poly product in certain cases. When applied correctly, waterborne polyurethane can offer all of the same benefits as oil-based polyurethane. Here are a few of those cases in which you’d most likely want to use a waterborne polyurethane specifically instead of oil-based:

When should you choose waterbased polyurethane finish instead of oil-based polyurethane?

Applying waterbased polyurethane finish

#1: You don’t want the finish to yellow. Oil-based polyurethane finishes are notorious for yellowing with age. However, waterbased polyurethane stays clear over the lifetime of the finish; it doesn’t have the chemical makeup that would cause it to amberize like oil-based polyurethane. This is especially important when trying to create whitewashed or graywashed hardwood floors and in any situation where you want to highlight the natural color of the wood. It can be important when you’re working with maple floors as well if you’re going for a light or natural look, since maple will already naturally yellow with age.

#2: You need the finish to dry quickly. Waterbased finishes dry and cure much more quickly than oil-based polyurethane finishes, which also means that you can apply multiple coats in one day. This is great if you have to adhere to a tight timeline for whatever reason, including customers moving into a new home or needing a job to be completed with ample time time before another trade comes in to complete their end of the project. Whereas two coats of water based poly can usually be applied in one day, each coat of oil-based poly will typically need a full 24 hours to dry under optimal conditions. You can put the floors back into service much more quickly with a waterbased poly finish. 

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#3: If VOCs (volatile organic compounds) or smell are a concern. Waterbased finishes usually have lower VOCs than their oil-based counterparts and are therefore more environmentally friendly and emit less of an odor. 

If you’re concerned that the finish won’t be as durable with a waterbased product, not to worry – they often are on par with the durability of a traditional oil-based polyurethane finishes.

Despite these differences, if you’re used to working with oil-based polyurethane finishes, make sure to keep in mind that a water-based poly will need to be applied in more coats than an oil-based product, and that it will typically need to be recoated more frequently than an oil-based poly.

Now, which product should you select for your project? We have many in waterbased hardwood floor finishes in stock which you can browse here, but today we’re focusing on one product specifically.  

Loba 2K Supra Waterbased Hardwood Floor Finish

Loba 2K Supra is an extremely durable waterbased polyurethane finish. Last year, we hosted a Lagler/Loba event in which the instructors demonstrated the application of various Loba products. See the above video for a demo of various Loba products recorded live during the event.

Loba 2K Supra is a two-component waterborne polyurethane finish with exceptional hardness, high elasticity and excellent chemical resistance. It’s even suitable for use in high traffic commercial areas. It can even be used to recoat factory finished UV cured wood. Here are some more features of Loba 2K Supra finish: 

  • Waterborne polyurethane formula for extreme wear resistance
  • Excellent build through high solid content
  • Easy to use, no foaming, no lap marks
  • Since it’s waterbased, it’s non-yellowing
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