The last step of any (raw) installation or refinishing project is the application of the polyurethane finish. The finish is the key factor in determining the durability and longevity of any flooring project, and is essentially the only thing protecting your hardwood from the wear and tear that it receives every time you walk on it. Choosing the correct polyurethane finish to best suit your needs is a crucial step, and we highly recommend any homeowner considering installation or refinishing services to be as well informed as possible on their available options. Today we'll explore your two main choices: oil-based polyurethanes and water-based polyurethanes, the pros and cons of each, and why it's important you have a heavy hand in the decision making process.
Oil-based polyurethanes have been around forever and are a tried-and-true product, which is why they're still extremely popular today. They're also considerably less expensive than water-based polyurethanes, which makes them ideal for short-term homebuyers, rental properties, and anyone looking for a budget-conscious option. While their longevity and durability rank amongst the best, they do, however, have a few drawbacks compared to their more modern, water-based counterparts.
Oil-based Polyurethanes: Pros and Cons
*Hard, durable, and long-lasting finish
*Inexpensive (retails right around $20/gallon)
*Self-leveling and user friendly
*Generally less health-friendly and less environmentally-friendly (they're not permitted for use in the state of California)
*Longer dry time (8-12 hours before walking on floors is permitted, once the final coat is applied)
*Longer curing time (approximately 5-7 days to reach 90% hardness [when furniture can be moved back onto the flooring], and 14 days to reach 100% hardness [when large area rugs can be moved back onto flooring])
*Prone to ambering (over time, floors will develop a darker, amber color)
*Highly susceptible to sunlight damage (ambering can be accelerated or intensified in areas where sunlight hits the flooring)
Water-based polyurethanes, while newer, are fast-approaching the popularity of the classic oil-based version. Though they fare as the more expensive option, they offer long-term benefits ideal for homeowners looking to invest in their home, and get the most value in the long-run.
Water-based polyurethanes: Pros and Cons
*Hard, durable, and long-lasting finish
*Generally more health-friendly and more environmentally-friendly
*Shorter dry time (45 min-2 hours before walking on floors is permitted, once the final coat is applied)
*Shorter curing time (approximately 2-4 days to reach 90% hardness [when furniture can be moved back onto the flooring], and 14 days to reach 100% hardness [when large area rugs can be moved back onto flooring])
*Less prone to ambering (over time floors may develop some ambering, but it's very subtle by comparison)
*Less susceptible to sunlight damage
*Pricier than their oil-based counterparts (retails right around $75/gallon)
*Much trickier to apply; because they dry so quickly, water-based polyurethanes are more susceptible to application errors. It's imperative you hire a professional who is experienced in applying water-based polyurethanes.
Because we at Hamilton Hardwood understand that the needs for each homeowner differs from the next, we always aim to inform you about your options, and we'll happily apply whichever type of products you decide best suit your needs. You should certainly be leery of anyone trying to steer you down one specific path, and with anyone providing you with only one option on materials. (We can think of only a few reasons why other companies do this: they're either using crappy materials in order to maximize their profitability, or they don't have the skill-set needed to properly apply all types of finishes. Yes, it happens, and more often than you'd probably think.) Your contacted service provider should be as forthcoming as possible about the materials being used in your home, and you, the homeowner, should be researching these materials as well. The more you know, the better off you'll be!
If you ever have any questions about the materials being used in your home, please don't hesitate to ask us how we can answer your inquiries, or help you become better informed.
Peace, Love & Wood,