Water-Based Finish vs Oil-Based Finish: A Comparison

 Left to Right: Water-Based Finish, No Finish, Oil Based Finish. Wood Type: Oak

Left to Right: Water-Based Finish, No Finish, Oil Based Finish. Wood Type: Oak

Floor finishes come in two major varieties: water-based and oil-based. Most of our customers choose to go with an oil-based floor finish, but it’s something everyone should consider before they begin their next hardwood flooring project. Read on to learn about some of the differences between the two finish types so you can make an informed choice when the time comes to refinish your floors.

 

Oil-based floor finishes are by far the most popular choice with our customers, and the reason for this is fairly self-explanatory. Oil-based finishes are much cheaper than their water-based alternatives. It’s simply easier to produce oil-based finishes in large quantities, and oil-based finishes have been the more popular choice traditionally. 

 

The oil-based finish gives a floor a warm amber hue which a lot of people love. When a customer tells us that they want their floors to “glow”, we immediately recommend the oil-based finish. It ultimately comes down to personal preference: oil-based finishes leave a warm glow while water-based ones tend to be produce a light and even look. Keep in mind that the water-based finish can add up to be considerably more expensive than the oil-based finish.

 

"The colors are very reserved, but nonetheless beautiful."

 

Whenever a customer chooses a water-based finish, we ask them to provide a reason for their choice.  People choose water-based finishes primarily for aesthetic reasons. A water-based finish gives wood a "light" feeling that some people adore, so they’re willing to pay a little bit extra to have a floor that’s unique. The colors are very reserved, but nonetheless beautiful. For some, the aesthetics of a water-based floor finish are worth the price. Occasionally, the “green” qualities of a water-based finish are enough to sway a customer that values the environmental impact their hardwood floor project will have.

 

"A water Based Finish is going to hold up to wear and tear much better than an oil based finish will"

 

A water based finish is going to hold up to wear and tear much better than an oil based finish will. Each finish requires a slightly different application technique. An oil-based finish can have a very strong smell that will eventually completely fade, while a water-based finish will have less of a smell to it during the initial application. 

 

Water-based finishes dry quicker but require more coats while oil-based finishes require less coats but take considerably longer to dry. Different brands of finish vary in terms of drying time so it’s not responsible to give precise times here, but the general rule applies. As always, don’t hesitate to consult us if you have any questions about anything you've learned.