Hardwood flooring can provide aesthetic and functional benefits to homeowners. In addition to adding classic beauty and warmth to interiors, the material is typically durable, long-lasting, and easy to maintain. Applying a topcoat after the initial installation and refinishing the surface periodically will extend the life span of the wood. Review this brief guide to learn about the differences between water-based and oil-based topcoats and how to decide which is right for your home. 


Both water-based and oil-based topcoats consist of polyurethane, which is a type of liquid plastic. However, water-based products use water as the base for the polyurethane rather than petroleum and solvents. This gives the substance a thinner consistency and typically results in quicker drying times.

However, a flooring contractor may need to paint multiple coats to create a sturdy protective layer over the wood floors, which can result in longer application times. Without multiple coats, this type of topcoat may not be as durable.

hardwood flooring

Water-based polyurethane has a milky-white appearance but dries clear and is typically odorless. However, this can make it difficult to see where it has already been applied, which may make it more challenging to create an evenly coated surface. 


Oil-based polyurethane consists of petroleum and mineral solvents. It's a popular topcoat option for hardwood flooring, as it has a thicker consistency that forms a more durable film over the surface. Applying more than one coat can provide an even harder shell and stronger protection against scratches, scuffs, and dings.

It's available in both brush-on and spray-on versions, making it easy for flooring contractors to apply. Since it doesn't require as many coats as its water-based counterpart, application may be quicker. When applied to horizontal surfaces, it levels itself out before curing to provide a uniformly smooth finish. Oil-based polyurethane often leaves a slightly yellow, gold, or brown sheen on floors, which can deepen the color of the wood and enhance its beauty. 

Since oil-based polyurethane has superior scratch resistance, it's excellent for high-traffic areas of the home, such as entryways, halls, and living spaces. However, since it may emit chemical odors, make sure you ventilate your home by running fans, using air purifiers, or opening windows during the curing process. 


When you need a dependable topcoat for your hardwood flooring, contact Monroe Floor Resurfacing. They provide floor refinishing services to homeowners throughout Rochester, NY. They'll ensure your floors stay attractive and durable for years to come. Call (585) 953-6926 to get a quote on a polyurethane topcoat application, or visit the website to learn more about how they can improve the beauty and integrity of your floors.