Maple Hardwood Floors: Oil or Water-Based Polyurethane Finish?

When finishing your newly installed maple hardwood floors, you are stuck on the issue as to how to finish it up for there is a couple of good choices available for you. What is better and what is best for your floor? Polyurethane is a polymer complex used for finishing wood floors and metals. Construction builders apply this not just for attractive finish, but it also makes your material, particularly the floor, more durable. Polyurethane comes in different types, but the most common are the water-based and oil-based solution.

Water-based Polyurethane


Water-based polyurethane produces a clear finish. You can apply the coat and reapply the next coating in just a couple of hours. If you need to coat it 4 times and you have started in the morning, you will be able to sleep inside your newly finished room at night on the same day. And since it does not produce a foul smelling odor, an open ventilation is not a requirement. However, you may still open up your room to fresh air to help dry up the coat easily. When it comes to cleaning up, water–based polyurethane does not require any special cleaning solution. Using soap and water will do.

Another big difference is the way it affects the color of your wood. With water-based polyurethane, the wood preserves its natural color. So if you love the way your wood appears, then you should go for water-based polyurethane.


It only contains 30 to 35% of solid additives which is a helpful substance in keeping your floor more durable. And because of that, you will have to re-apply the coating every 2 years or so because it easily wears out. Water-based polyurethane also does not give wood an extra polished finish; it will not make your floor shine as much as with the oil-based solution.

Another problem with water-based polyurethane is that it not only costs twice as much as the oil-based polyurethane, it is also not widely available. You need to apply the coating 4 times as recommended to get a quality product which makes it more expensive.

Oil-Based Polyurethane


Oil-based polyurethane produces a beautiful shining effect on your floor and since it has 40 to 45% solid substances, it is more durable than the water-based finish. This means that you do not have to re-coat your maple hardwood floor often, and it can last up to 25 years with careful maintenance. It creates a smooth finish which can make your floor look more appealing and clean.


Oil-based polyurethane takes 8 to 15 hours to dry on each coating, which means that you need to evacuate the room for a couple days or so to finish. It also produces a foul smell that has a harmful effect on the respiratory system because it contains a substance called “isocyanates” which is a toxic substance when inhaled. Therefore, you need good ventilation when using this product. Another disadvantage is the cleaning process. When cleaning up oil-based polyurethane, you are required to buy solvent and other cleaning chemicals since it does not come off with water.

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