Water Vs. Oil Flooring Finish

If you search the internet on who’s or what type of finish is the best you will get many different answers. A main question people have is what is better water-based finish or oil based finish. This article will be based on true facts and not anecdotal facts. To truly decide which finish is best for you, you must first know about the different finishes and what their pros and cons are.

About Waterbased Finish

Waterbased finish is called waterbased since the traveling agent is water. The polymers and bonds left behind are called the “solids”. These solids are what form the layer between your feet and the wood – it is the protecting part of the finish. These solids left behind are what give your floor different attributes such as color, depth and sheen.

Waterbased products have many different products within:

  • 1 part component
  • 2 part component
  • UV

1 Part Component Finishes: These finishes use oxygen as their cross linker. The reaction happens as it dries and is a much less effective bond. While this finish is still a very good finish it is on the lower end of the waterbased market. 1 Part finishes tend to have less stain and durability resistance.

2 part Component Finishes: These finishes use a crosslinker or a hardener to create their reaction and bonds. They tend to be a much stronger bond since they do not rely on air to create their bonds. The stain and durability on these finishes are at a much higher threshold. usually 2 part finishes are considered “commercial” or for families with lots of foot traffic.

UV: This finish is a one part component out of the bottle but does not rely on air to cure it. This type of finish needs to have a special UV light to meld the bonds. Since there is no drying time and the bonds that are created are so strong this finish has extreme durability and resistance to stains. For in h ome applications this finish is the strongest there is on the market.

Some Attributes of waterbased flooring finishes:

  • Durable
  • Much less toxins in the air while curing
  • Cures very fast
  • Dry to the touch within 1-2 hours
  • More environmentally friendly
  • Does not yellow overtime (think orangey look)
  • Appears thinner than oil
  • Multiple sheens: transparent, matte, satin, semi-gloss, gloss

How The finish is applied and works:

Waterbased finishes are either rolled on or applied with a t-bar. These finishes should be about 1.25 mils thick after curing and when wet about 3 mils. Proper application is not difficult and should be easy to achieve. The wear layer is a little thinner than oil since the polymers in waterbased flooring products tend to be more durable, the thickness is not needed. You will notice that the floor does not look as thick if using a matte or satin compared to an oilbased product. This is because the lower the sheen the less depth the wood has. Oil products tend ot have more sheen.

As you can see just using a “waterbased” product isn’t enough – you would need to know what kind of waterbased product. All waterbased products are good and offer great protection.

About Oil Based Flooring Finish

Oil Based finish is basically what it says, an oil based finish that once dry offers thick coating on the floor. The carriing agent in this product is *******. Oil based products are pretty durable and get most thier durability from a thicker application.

There are a few different types of oil products. Some are 1 part and others are a 2 part oil with a iso hardener to speed up the drying/hardening process

1 Part Oil Finish: One part oils take a round 8-12 hours to dry depending on the climate and air movement. You need to screen and coat these finishes as they do not have crosslinkers to attach to the previous coat.

2 Part Oil finish: These are a newer type of finish and use Iso as their hardener and typically are penetrating oils and usually take more maintenance verse the 1 part oils or a waterbased finish. These are generally dry within 6-8 hours.

Some attributes of oil based products:

  • Curing takes around 14-30 days
  • Walk in socks on after 24 hours
  • Yellows over time and gives the ambered look
  • usually has more depth to the wood and looks thicker
  • Multiple sheens: satin, semi-gloss & gloss
  • much higher smell and VOC’s than other finishes

How oil is applied and works:

For the 1 part finishes you apply using a t-bar, roller or lambswool. The finish levels much better than waterbased products. Due to the leveling of this product it is generally better for first time sanders to use. For the 2 part finishes us will usually use a trowel and then buff the excess off the floor. The finish is penetrating ans there is no film on the top.

Oil is one of the older finishes on the market, it is easy to apply and has a amebered look that some people really enjoy. The finish gets its durability by having more mil thickness on the floor. Oil-based finishes per thickness is not as durable as water.