Users sometimes become hesitant about which polyurethane to use on hardwood floors, and they do not always find experts to suggest them. For durability, professionals have long recommended oil polys for floor finishing, though they contain more VOC’s. But they are gradually getting fond of water based polyurethane for more safety and reliable durability. Some waterborne options like Bona Traffic HD, Bona Mega, and Rust-Oleum have snatched significant attention from industry experts and users. This article will help you understand more about water based polyurethane as floor finish.
Why Use It – Is Water Based Polyurethane Good for Floors?
Both oil and water based polyurethanes are smart floor protectors. But why do waterborne models are gaining more popularity over time? Simply because – easy application, fast dry, easy cleanup, eco-friendliness (low odor & VOCs), quick curing, no yellowing, very clear and shiny, natural beauty enhancement, and reliable durability.
These are a few of those qualities that played the role in making water-based polyurethane one of the best hardwood floor finishes . Although some say oil polys should be preferred for long durability, a few high-tech waterborne polys are challenging to their oil-borne counterparts at this point.
Top Water Based Polyurethanes – Shortlisted and Reviewed
We have an integrated research approach for every topic to analyze the product and bring the reality out of the box. In light of this, we learned that while waterborne polyurethane is good for many floors, it has never been considered the best finish for high-traffic spots. Oil-borne polyurethane, acid-cured finish, or aluminum oxide finish are preferred for the purpose.
However, with the advancement of technology, we have recently come across some excellent waterborne polyurethanes, specially designed for and effective in high-traffic spots. As of now, water polys are suitable to most floors. Choosing the right option for the job is your job. We have shortlisted a few to make the job easy for you. It will help find the answer to the question: what is the best water based polyurethane for floors?
Best Overall – Bona Mega Wood Floor Finish
Best for High Traffic – Bona Traffic HD
Long Lasting – Rust-Oleum Varathane
Best Indoor – General Finishes High Performance
Best Indoor & Outdoor – Deft Water-Based Oil-Modified
Fastest Curing – Minwax Ultra-Fast Dry
Best for Natural Beauty – Varathane 200241H
Best Single Coat – Rust-Oleum Triple Thick
Best Marine – TotalBoat Gleam Spar Varnish
Something Exceptional – Duraseal Water Based
What is Waterborne Polyurethane?
Considering the content, we mean Waterborne Polyurethane Dispersions (PUDs). These are the coatings and adhesives using water as the primary solvent. Low VOCs and fast curing are their excellence with properties identical to solvent-based formulas. They are air-dried coatings and adhesives with applicability to flexible and rigid substrates like floors, fabric, plastics, leather, metal, paper, and shoes.
Pros and Cons of Water-Based Wood Polyurethane Finish
The final step in finishing a wooden floor is applying polyurethane to protect and beautify the surface. The sheen may be chosen based on your preference, but choosing the type of finish demands justification. Like every wood finish, water-based polyurethanes have some advantages and disadvantages.
- Among positives, it includes eco-friendliness, health safety, fast dry time, clear outlook, wood grain and beauty visibility, and reliable durability.
- The negatives it contains are unavailability of rich amber glow, more transparent and prone to show the scratches, fewer solids, less lifespan, and a little expensive.
Indoor or Outdoor: Where to Use Waterborne Polys?
It is always better to apply water solvents for indoor wooden tasks, including floors. If it is an area with too much gathering, you can use high-grade water-based formulas. But when it comes to outdoor wood projects, we recommend oil-based solvents with high UV-resistance, aluminum oxide finish, or moisture-cure urethanes, considering the conditions.
Use of Waterborne Polyurethane Coatings
We’ve covered the most conventional use of water poly throughout the article – finishing wood floors. But the use is not limited to floors only! It includes leather surface, plastic, textile coating, vinyl coating, film coating, paper coating, graphic art, ball, rope and thread, ink, glass fiber, and overprint varnishing.
Waterborne Polyurethane Dispersions: Market Size
According to MarketWatch, the Global Water-Based Polyurethane Dispersions market is getting larger with the support from growing chemical and advanced material industries. The market was expected to reach over USD 2061 million by 2020, which came true. It is further forecasted to grow at a CAGR over 8% for the 2020-2025 period, which is truly immense.
Touching Up (Patch) by Water Polyurethane
If the damage (be repaired) or stains are minimal, you may refinish only the damaged part, not the entire floor or respective wooden surface. Sanding down the area, cleaning with solvents (patches), and applying water polyurethane is what you can do. If a complete consistency in color and sheen is your concern, refinishing the entire surface is the only solution.
Dry Time, Curing Time – Water Polyurethanes
Regular dry time in between coats for standard waterborne urethanes is 2 hours to 4 hours. When the solvent is formulated with the fast-drying feature, in no way, it takes more than 2 hours. More precisely, the fastest-dry waterborne solvent takes 1 hour to less than 2 hours.
Curing is a different thing. Do not confuse drying with curing. Curing means being fully ready for use. Standard curing time for waterborne polys is between 24 to 72 hours, mostly dependent on temperature, humidity, weather, wood, and application process. But if you ask the safest benchmark for curing, we say 5 to 7 days.
Polyurethane vs. Polycrylic
Either oil-based or waterborne – Polyurethane can be any of the two, while Polycrylic is only waterborne. Polycrylic and waterborne polyurethane have minimal differences, considering the primary solvent chemicals; instead, they are similar in many ways. But regarding durability, some waterborne polyurethane significantly beat the polycrylic solvents.
But, oil-based polyurethane has quite a distinctiveness from polycrylic. Polycrylic dries faster but lasts much less than oil polyurethane. A project being built to last long should use oil-based polys. But if it is necessary to get the project done faster, polycrylic is the right option (be ready to compromise with durability). Polycrylic is less smelly, eco-safe, and does not tend to yellow. So, polycrylic should be your choice over oil-polyurethane, where you consider safety first.
How long does water based polyurethane last?
By “Durability” of polyurethane, we mean its performance (life) against scratch and peel. A mid-grade water-based poly is less durable than oil-based alternatives – 2 to 4 years at best. But if you apply high-grade water urethanes (expensive too) like Bona Traffic HD or Duraseal, expect significantly high durability- from 10 to 20 years.
How many coats of water based polyurethane should I use?
3 coats are standard for water-based polys, as long as it’s not a thicker poly like Rust-Oleum Triple Thick. For high-traffic spots, four or five coats are great. It is alright to apply a maximum of four coats in a day, considering the drying speed.
What’s the best applicator for waterborne urethanes?
Brush is the most suitable and used polyurethane applicator amongst all. But an enormous availability will probably feel you confused about what brush to choose. Fortunately, any brush with enough (dense) soft bristles such as Pro Grade Soft Bristles is a good choice for applying waterborne solvents.
Do you need to sand between coats of water polyurethanes?
Not always, but at least half the time, you will require to sand the coat of a waterborne solvent before applying the next one. Where the wood object has a smoother surface or the urethane has decent self-leveling, sanding may not be essential.
Water-based polyurethane has never been the professionals’ choice. But it’s always been a suggestion from experts who have a serious concern about public health. By the combined effort of every stakeholder and technological advancement, waterborne polyurethane finish has become a massive industry across the world.
And it’s not just about that; it’s about ensuring adequate product quality and effectiveness to provide long-term protection. Now, being a proven savior for any wooden surface, including floors, experts highly recommend it.