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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    New Jersey

    Hardwood Floor - Oil or Water-base Polyurethane?

    We recently renovated our kitchen and installed hardwood floors (even though I wanted tile, but was overruled by my wife...don't get me started...). After sanding, staining, and sealing, the floor guy has offered, at the same price, either 2 coats of oil polyurethane or 2 coats of water-base polyurethane. After researching on the internet it seems everyone has a different opinion. Some say that oil protects better, others say that's not the case and besides, it's a longer, messier and smellier job so it's not worth the trouble.

    So, as with many of my other big questions, I turn to you my brothers and sisters of the DBR for advice. Has anyone made this decision recently? If so, what did you decide to do and why?
    Rich
    Cameron Crazies Do Not Storm The Court

  2. #2
    I had my floors sanded and refinished before I moved into my new place. I'm 99% sure that the floor guy used oil polyurethane, but it wasn't a choice I got.

    I'm very happy with the floors and the finish.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    New Jersey
    Quote Originally Posted by HaveFunExpectToWin View Post
    I had my floors sanded and refinished before I moved into my new place. I'm 99% sure that the floor guy used oil polyurethane, but it wasn't a choice I got.

    I'm very happy with the floors and the finish.
    So, you were out of the place when they did it. One of the issues is that the oil-based will keep us out of our house for 4 days while the water-based only 2 days since it takes the oil so much longer to dry.

    Thanks for your input.
    Rich
    Cameron Crazies Do Not Storm The Court

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Walnut Creek, California
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    So, you were out of the place when they did it. One of the issues is that the oil-based will keep us out of our house for 4 days while the water-based only 2 days since it takes the oil so much longer to dry.

    Thanks for your input.
    Ask them which will wear better given the harshness of chair legs, assuming you have a breakfast table on that floor.

    My water based urethane has worn off where the chair legs are.

    Then ask, which is easiest to patch.

    I think the answers are different.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    New Jersey
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim3k View Post
    Ask them which will wear better given the harshness of chair legs, assuming you have a breakfast table on that floor.

    My water based urethane has worn off where the chair legs are.

    Then ask, which is easiest to patch.

    I think the answers are different.
    OK, those are good questions. We have hardwood throughout our house and my wife is a felt fiend. No furniture comes into our house without felt on the bottom so I'm not so concerned about chair legs. I'm more concerned about foot traffic and a dropped utensil here and there. I'm also concerned about water damage but, as I said, I lost the battle for tile.
    Rich
    Cameron Crazies Do Not Storm The Court

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Indiana
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    We recently renovated our kitchen and installed hardwood floors (even though I wanted tile, but was overruled by my wife...don't get me started...). After sanding, staining, and sealing, the floor guy has offered, at the same price, either 2 coats of oil polyurethane or 2 coats of water-base polyurethane. After researching on the internet it seems everyone has a different opinion. Some say that oil protects better, others say that's not the case and besides, it's a longer, messier and smellier job so it's not worth the trouble.

    So, as with many of my other big questions, I turn to you my brothers and sisters of the DBR for advice. Has anyone made this decision recently? If so, what did you decide to do and why?
    Does the oil base contain volatile organic compounds?

    This may not apply to you, but I had a similar decision when staining our outdoor decks. The oil based stains were more durable, but were made with volatile organic compounds (VOC). The water based stains were more "green" but were not as durable. I found a company that used an agricultural oil base instead of petroleum oil.
    http://www.timberoxgreen.com/about.php

    I am not sure if there is a similar concern with sealing hardwood floors.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Southern Pines, NC
    What about the maintenance people at the CIS? That floor takes an awful lot of punishment, but it may be too costly for home use.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Topeka, KS

    Oil v. Water

    I had about 1,300 square feet of wood floor on the lower level of my 80 year old house refinished 9 years ago. I sealed (no stain) them myself with 3 coats of oil-based goo (not a hard job at all - used a watering can and a special wool applicator on a mop handle to smooth it out). They look almost as good today as they did their first month. Very very tough stuff. The higher gloss is harder (for both water and oil-based sealers). I did the first two coats high gloss and the third semi-gloss to cut down on the wet look, which I didn't like.

    HOWEVER, the stink as the floors were drying drove the wife and me completely out the house for the first week. It took nearly 6 months before guests quit asking about the funky smell from the VOCs.

    I've seen episodes of TOH where they've used the water based stuff. If I ever refinish my floors again, I'll use the water-based sealer.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    my wife is a felt fiend. No furniture comes into our house without felt on the bottom
    Rich, I really like your wife. She and I could be good pals. I also agree w/her about the tile, it's hell on the legs and back.
    I would go with the oil-based, even with the four days and the initial smell. You really want something hard in such a high traffic area.
    Look into the Haan Floor steamer (allergybuyers.com), about $115 and worth every penny. It works beautifully on all kinds of floors. I have sealed cork in my kitchen but I have used the steamer on wood, too. Takes a bit more time and once in a while you might want to mop the floor first (large spills, fun with pets) but those floors are truly clean. Buy an extra set of pads if you do get the Haan and they can be put in the washing machine but not the dryer.
    Such an exciting toipic! Does your wife watch Hoarders, on TLC? It's just the most hilarious show ever!!!!

  10. #10
    I also am getting the floors refinished, and I was told to use boat sealant. Has anyone done this?
    My Quick Smells Like French Toast.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    553 miles north of Cameron
    You should thank your lucky stars that your wife is smart enough to overrule you on the tile floor option. Ceramic tile is horrible for the kitchen, or rather for the person who has to stand in the kitchen for hours preparing the meals and cleaning up. It's very hard on the legs and feet. It is also unforgiving when you drop glassware or dishware. Just this past week I dropped a wine glass and it shattered into a million pieces. So go NOW and give your wife a big ole sloppy kiss and tell her she is the best, smartest person ever.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by TheRose77 View Post
    You should thank your lucky stars that your wife is smart enough to overrule you on the tile floor option. Ceramic tile is horrible for the kitchen, or rather for the person who has to stand in the kitchen for hours preparing the meals and cleaning up. It's very hard on the legs and feet. It is also unforgiving when you drop glassware or dishware. Just this past week I dropped a wine glass and it shattered into a million pieces. So go NOW and give your wife a big ole sloppy kiss and tell her she is the best, smartest person ever.
    Does he have to break a wine glass?

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    We recently renovated our kitchen and installed hardwood floors (even though I wanted tile, but was overruled by my wife...don't get me started...). After sanding, staining, and sealing, the floor guy has offered, at the same price, either 2 coats of oil polyurethane or 2 coats of water-base polyurethane. After researching on the internet it seems everyone has a different opinion. Some say that oil protects better, others say that's not the case and besides, it's a longer, messier and smellier job so it's not worth the trouble.

    So, as with many of my other big questions, I turn to you my brothers and sisters of the DBR for advice. Has anyone made this decision recently? If so, what did you decide to do and why?
    From "Understanding Wood Finishing" by Bob Flexner, arguably an industry expert in wood finishing.

    Water-based: Minimal fumes, very scuff-resistant, moderate water resistance, raises the grain of the wood.

    Oil-based: Excellent water resistance, very slow curing, severe dust problems, tends to yellow.

    For oil-based finishes the curing time is very much related to temperature and humidity. You can decrease the curing time by thinning the varnish (polyurethane) but you then need to add more coats for the same amount of protection.

    IMO, you'll want more than two coats of poly. I use 3 coats on shelving units and such and they aren't subject to nearly the same amount of use as a floor. Another data point, when we installed our hardwood floors the pre-finished boards we used had 7 coats of a silicon oxide poly, for extra wear protection.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    New Jersey
    Quote Originally Posted by hughgs View Post
    when we installed our hardwood floors the pre-finished boards we used had 7 coats of a silicon oxide poly, for extra wear protection.
    That would have been good to know, but the floor is already down so that ship has sailed. Oh well.
    Rich
    Cameron Crazies Do Not Storm The Court

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    New Jersey
    Quote Originally Posted by weezie View Post
    Does your wife watch Hoarders, on TLC? It's just the most hilarious show ever!!!!
    Haven't seen it. We're HGTV junkies. We both enjoy Spice Up My Kitchen and Bang for the Buck. I also get a kick out of Renovation Realities. Her dream is to have some room in our house done by Candice Olson.

    And while I agree this topic isn't gangbusters, I don't know of anywhere else where I can write a question of any type and get some thoughtful answers based on real experience. Nothing wrong with that.
    Rich
    Cameron Crazies Do Not Storm The Court

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    New Jersey
    Quote Originally Posted by TheRose77 View Post
    So go NOW and give your wife a big ole sloppy kiss and tell her she is the best, smartest person ever.
    While the sloppy kiss sounds all well and good, I will NEVER admit defeat!
    Rich
    Cameron Crazies Do Not Storm The Court

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    That would have been good to know, but the floor is already down so that ship has sailed. Oh well.
    Yes, I realize you can't use a pre-finished product, but the point was that two coats of poly doesn't seem like enough. Plus I would be weary about the curing time if they are using a thicker application.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    Haven't seen it. We're HGTV junkies. We both enjoy Spice Up My Kitchen and Bang for the Buck. I also get a kick out of Renovation Realities. Her dream is to have some room in our house done by Candice Olson.

    And while I agree this topic isn't gangbusters, I don't know of anywhere else where I can write a question of any type and get some thoughtful answers based on real experience. Nothing wrong with that.
    Try this magazine web site:

    http://www.finehomebuilding.com/

    There's also a blog area and I think there's a bulletin board area.

  19. #19
    I emailed the guy who redid my floors and this is his reply...

    For hardwood finishes it depends on two factors: 1-type of species and 2- style of living for the home owner
    Oil Base: Pros:can reach maximum performance in 2 coats (residential) use and 3 for (commercial), it penetrate deep into the wood and more resilient against cleaning chemicals.
    Cons: hard to apply, takes a long time to dry and it smells more.
    Water base: Pros it dries fast, very litlle smell to it, very easy to apply. Cons: it takes minimum 4 layers to reach the durable level, less resistant to cleaning chemicals and does not penetrate enough into the wood

    so for active family who has Oak wood Oil base beat water base hands down

    I hope this answers your question

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    New Jersey

    A Decision!?

    So, with all of your comments in hand, I spoke to my floor guy and we discussed a "hybrid finish" alternative. After sanding and staining, they apply 1 coat of Bullseye shellac sealer (http://www.zinsser.com/product_detail.asp?ProductId=31) which creates a barrier coat between the stained wood and the first coat of polyurethane. It also brings out the charactersitics of the wood that a water-based poly alone wouldn't and acts as an additional protective coat to the floor. Then they apply 2 coats of Bona Traffic water-based poly (http://www.bona.com/en/US/Bona_produ.../Bona_Traffic/), which is supposedly very good for high traffic areas such as a kitchen. It is also indoor air quality certified, whatever that means.

    So, between the shellac sealer and the water-based poly we get 3 coats without the smell, inconvenience, and time of an oil-based job. Sound good to everyone?

    If I have your approval I can go give my wife that kiss I owe her.
    Rich
    Cameron Crazies Do Not Storm The Court

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