Your hardwood floor is the main feature of your home, and finish is the final touch. Polyurethane is the water-resistant layer your contractor applies to protect the wood and give it a beautiful sheen. Water-based polyurethane finish is the best polyurethane for hardwood floors, and many consider it the future of polyurethanes. High-level water-based polyurethane is as durable as oil, easier to apply, and better for you, your family, your pets, and the environment.
In this post, you’ll find out why the best polyurethane for hardwood floors is water-based and how it compares to oil-based polyurethane. By the end, you’ll know the most important factors to consider when it comes to floor finishes and the brands we recommend.
Oil Vs Water-Based Polyurethane: Past, Present, and Future
In the past, oil-based polyurethane was the standard finish for protecting and bringing out the beauty of the wood. As water-based alternatives were introduced, oil proved to be superior in almost every way. In the 1990’s, water-based finishes were especially terrible. They peeled, felt rough, and had a dull grey look. They weren’t much better in the early 2000’s, either.
Today, you can buy a water-based finish that’s better than oil-based polyurethane. What’s the difference between then and now? Advancements in waterborne technology. Water-based formulas have progressed to be more chemically efficient. Not only are they eco-friendly, but they’re also highly effective.
The finish of the future?
Water-based polyurethane has taken the lead over oil-based finish. One main reason is due to the health risks of products with high VOCs (volatile organic compounds). OSHA and the EPA list and label oil-based products with high VOCs as potential health hazards. Since 2007, states such as California, Oregon, Colorado, Ohio, and Utah have enacted legislation that restricts or bans the use of oil-based polyurethanes. Many other states are doing the same thing. As time goes on, you can expect more VOC limitations and restrictions to come into effect. On a national and state level, the outlook favors less toxic, water-based products.
Low VOCs Improve the Health of Your Home
One major benefit of using low-VOC products is improved air quality in your home. VOCs are one of the the main contributors to indoor air pollutants. When you breathe them in, they can cause headaches, dizziness, and nausea. And exposure, especially over time, may lead to the onset of diseases, such as cancer and permanent brain and neurological damage.
All oil-based polyurethanes are combustible, odorous solvents that emit toxic chemical fumes as they dry. Off-gassing of VOCs occurs until the finish is 100% cured, which can take up to 21 days. Anyone in the space will come in contact with these chemicals as they off-gas.