Over the past few years, we’ve noticed that more and more homeowners are opting to have waterbased floor finishes applied to their wide plank floors, as opposed to some alternatives like oil-based polyurethane finishes or European oil finishes.

So what’s the reasoning behind this trend? In this blog post, we’ll dig into a few different reasons why homeowners are increasingly choosing waterbased floor finishes over other options. 

What is a waterbased finish?

First, let’s define what a waterbased floor finish actually is.

When we say waterbased floor finish, we are referring to a waterbased polyurethane product. 

So what’s the difference between a water-based polyurethane finish and its most popular alternative, an oil-based polyurethane finish? Water-based polyurethane finishes use water as the base for carrying its polyurethane solids, whereas oil-based finishes use mineral solvents and petroleum as the vehicle for the polyurethane solids within the product.

Reason #1: Water-based finishes are more environmentally friendly

Since they use water to carry their polyurethane solids rather than solvents, waterbased floor finishes are more friendly than their oil-based counterparts. 

Unlike most oil-based polyurethane finishes, many of the waterbased polyurethane finishes on the market today have no or low VOCs (volatile organic compounds). VOCs are gasses emitted by the chemicals in the finish that can be harmful to the environment and the health of people if inhaled over a long period of time. Understandably, homeowners are increasingly choosing products that cause less harm to themselves and the environment when selecting a wood floor finish.

Over the past several years, certain states in the U.S. have passed regulations limiting the amount of VOCs in certain products, including wood floor finishes.

The smell emitted during application of certain products is a result of VOCs, and you’ll notice that this smell is much less pronounced during the application of a waterbased finish than an oilbased finish due to the presence of less VOCs. 

Reason #2: Water-based finishes can be just as durable as oil-based poly finishes

The technology that goes into developing waterbased polyurethane finishes has advanced over the past few years to the point where many of them are just as durable as, if not more durable than, their oil-based counterparts when applied correctly. 

One of the downsides of waterbased floor finishes, however, is that in order to achieve this durability, several coats of the finish must be applied to the floor. Application of a waterbased finish usually requires three or four coats, as opposed to only two coats for most oil-based poly finishes. 

Reason #3: Waterbased finishes dry clear…

…which is especially important when you have a floor with a beautiful color and rich hues that you want to show off, like American Cherry. On the other hand, oil-based polyurethane finishes tend to take on a yellow or amber hue over time as the floor is exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. 

Reason #5:  Waterbased finishes dry more quickly than oil-based alternatives

While an oil-based polyurethane finish will usually take 24-48 hours to dry in between coats, a waterbased product will usually take only about two to three hours to dry in between coats, meaning that you can usually put your floors back into use more quickly than you would with an oil-based polyurethane finish. 

Exact drying times vary from finish to finish, and keep in mind that a waterbased product will require more coats to achieve the same durability as an oil-based polyurethane product.

Should you choose a waterbased wood floor finish?

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer as to which finish to choose for your floor––it’s all about your preference. Make sure to discuss the pros and cons of different types of finish with your wood floor contractor to find the one that will best suit your lifestyle and needs. If you need help deciding which type of finish is right for you, contact us to chat with a wood floor professional. 

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