A lot of people get their floors refinished without even knowing the product that is being applied. Over the past 15 years, the trend has changed in preferred products for finishing hardwood flooring with polyurethane.
It used to be that the use of oil-based polyurethane was the most common and most durable option. It had a thick “build”, which took time to wear through. Over time, though, oil-based finish turns orange, and like I said, it does wear through to the bare wood after many years of traffic. It takes 12-24 hours in most cases to dry, per coat; and it has a strong smell with high VOCs, which isn’t ideal or safe for families or owner-occupied projects.
Have an orange, “glass-top” looking floor which has varying levels of shininess depending on the traffic? It was likely coated with oil-based finish, many years ago.
If you have this floor refinished, and the contractor uses a water-based finish, you should know that there are several differences, some that you might not anticipate, seeing as water-based poly is now a more durable and more expensive product than oil-based finishes.
First, it isn’t as thick. It doesn’t have a visible build. In fact, you often can feel the grain of the wood to some extent, even after finishing. “Glass-top” will no longer be. However, it doesn’t break down at the rate that oil-based finish does.
Also, it dries within a couple hours between and after coats. It doesn’t smell nearly as bad, so you can still occupy the home while it’s being coated.
And finally, it can never match existing or adjacent oil-based finishes, because it doesn’t change or darken in color over time. It will be a clear coat over the stained or natural floor, and remain that color through the life of the poly.
If you like the look of oil-based finishes, with Wolverine Flooring and most reputable flooring companies, you do have the option to choose oil-based finish, instead of water, but we recommend the water-based polyurethane to all of our customers who plan to live in the home with the project.
To read more about preparing for a flooring project such as refinishing wood floors, click here.