Water vs Oil Based Polyurethane
Find out which finish is the best for you project
Water-based or oil-based polyurethane. They’re both durable and good looking, but there are differences. We’ll help you decide.
Both water based and oil based poly offer good protection; the biggest difference is in appearance. If you love the natural look of maple, apply a water-based (waterborne) polyurethane. They appear milky in the can, but go on clear and remain clear.
They’ll slightly accent the character of your wood without giving it the amber tint of an oil-based poly. (However, some woods, like the oak shown, cry out for that amber tint.) Water-based finishes dry fast—most within two hours—so you can apply several coats in a day and use the room that night. They have minimal odor and clean up with water too.
But water-based polys have their trade-offs. It will cost twice as much as oil-based polys. They won’t give wood the rich glow that oil-based polys impart; some even consider them cold looking. When I applied waterborne poly recently, I found that it went on so clear I had to use a bottle cap to mark each 8-in. wide swath of finish as I went.
Water base vs Oil base
Call us for any questions and we can make sample at job site for better understanding.