Make any absolute statements as the proper preparation, application and environment is vital to the successful outcome of any finish application. However, there are new technologies on the market that are using new cross linking resins that flow out and give you an equal hardness to oil based poly’s. In contrast, penetrating finishes sink into the wood so when you touch the floor surface you are actually touching wood. You can also try a diluted mixture or Murphy’s Oil Soap (1/4 cup to 1 gallon of water) or a specific Bona cleaner for your floors. Part 1 discusses the advantage of oil based polyurethane and Part 2 discusses the advantages on water borne poly.
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. After all, all wood floor companies can say the same things before they start working on your house, even if they can’t all deliver them. The problems with oil based poly are that tends to yellows with age, and it’s really bad for the environment and indoor air quality, which means it’s bad for the people using that air. One day, I’ll take care of it. The floors are nearly 100 years old and they certainly do have a lot of character!
One of the designers used as a source for this blog understood the VOC requirement for LEED IEQc4.3 to be 275 g/l or less, meaning that no solvent-based polyurethane could be specified. Seeing its market disappearing, Zinsser (Bulls Eye), with the help of some woodworking writers, turned shellac into a sealer, even introducing a dewaxed variety (SealCoat) that was marketed for use under polyurethane. Thank you, Laurel :-)Luckily, the tile store where I bought the wood floor is still in existence, so I’ll ask them for recommendations on refinishing the floor.
It was so much easier to apply than regular polyurethane (which he had done in the past); the finish was not only easy to apply, both coats are put on within hours of each other so the completion time is minimal. Over time, the oil poly will darken and amber while water-based finish will hold it’s color better. Thank you for this fantastic explanation of the pros and cons of oil vs water floor poly.
The plastic” look that’s sometimes ascribed to finishes like polyurethane and catalyzed lacquers has to do more with incorrect application of these finishes than the finish themselves. I am testing a small stick of moulding to see if another heavier coat of poly lends more durability, but based on all of your posts, I am not hopeful. This is a durable finish that’s a step up in toughness and longevity from water- and oil-based polyurethane. Here’s a more updated shot of the wood – that first one was right after we got the tar off using 20 grit. While not necessary, Polyurethane for Floors can be sanded between coats for maximum smoothness.