Choosing a floor finish

Written by Matt

Why do we recommend water-based floor finishes?

Choosing a floor finish to coat a wood floor? There are basically two types of polyurethanes available; oil-based (solvent-borne) and water-based urethane (water-borne). Oil based products were originally the standard in the industry until the development of water-based floor finishes. Evolving over the past few decades with the demand for a safer, more eco-friendly product. Water-based finishes are now the first choice for wood floor refinishing contractors in Nanaimo, BC. Here are some of the advantages of water-based polyurethane.

choosing a floor finish
Choosing a floor finish

Eco-Friendly, Healthier & Safer

Perhaps the greatest advantage to the homeowner is there will be virtually no exposure to VOC’s(volatile organic compounds)with a water-based product. VOC’s are unsafe for people and pets and found in oil-based finishes which contain a petroleum-derived substance known to be carcinogens. These finishes emit strong fumes for at least 24 hours after application or until the coat has fully dried.

A more natural alternative is to use water-based floor finishes. These products are far safer for the health of home owners, tenants and the contractors who apply them. These days on Vancouver Island, oil-based polyurethanes are not recommended due to the exposure to strong fumes and VOC’s. Oil-based polyurethanes are also very flammable whereas the water-based is not, making it safer as well as healthier.


Water-based floor finishes have evolved as manufacturers develop better chemistry delivering greater resistance to abrasion. Improved binders and additives have now made water-based floor finishes the most durable coating systems for wood flooring. Top shelf products like Loba and Bona have been tested to be up to 5x as durable as oil floor finishes. Vancouver Island Floor Finishing recommends the best quality products for long-lasting endurance. We recommend protecting your floor by frequent cleaning dirt and grit, placing throw rugs on high traffic areas, and feet protectors on furniture.

Faster Dry Time

Water based finishes are known for their fast dry times so 2 coats of finish can be applied in one day. In ideal situations, homes can be occupied in as little as 4 hours. A 3 coat oil based coating system can take several days to dry and a few days for fumes to evacuate the home. Slower drying times may be an advantage for do it yourself and inexperienced tradespeople as they are more forgiving and allow time to correct mistakes when coating. For this reason, water-based finishes requires a higher level of skill to apply. I’ve been using water-based polyurethane for many years and find that these finishes look and perform extremely well in all situations.

Clear Finish Maintains Original Color

Water-based floor finishes are clear coats that maintain the natural color of the wood and highlight the grain. Oil-based finishes are known to darken the colour of many wood floor species. Over time, and with UV exposure, the oil finish changes colour to a yellowish amber tone. It is a matter of preference whether this is desirable or not. With a water based finish, however, you will know from the beginning what colour the floor will be, as water based finishes discolour only slightly. This is especially necessary for keeping a natural look on wood like maple, whitewashed, and lightly stained floors. Also, if you are applying a stain before finishing, the colour will be maintained without arborizing over time, which is common with oil and solvent based finishes.

More useful information…

Vancouver Island floor finishing

Wood floor restoration, supply and installation on Vancouver Island, BC.

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