Taking proper care of your hardwood floors involves refinishing every ten years or so. How often you need to refinish your floors and the process involved depends on which of the two compounds you choose to put down; Oil-based polyurethane(poly) or water-based poly. Each type of poly has different pros and cons and can be the best for a given situation. They have different price points, should be applied to different floors, and take different amounts of time to dry. Depending on how important each of these facets is to your specific situation, you may want to choose oil or water based poly to refinish your floors.
First, and maybe most importantly, water-based polyurethane is two to three times more expensive than oil based poly. It has fewer VOCs (volatile organic compounds), smells less, and is clear. The higher price point is amplified by the fact that you need more layers of the poly to protect your floor, thanks to the more watery composition. Whether or not you’re getting what you pay for is really determined by how important the advantages of water-based poly are to you.
The entire process of applying water-based polyurethane to your floor takes far less time than its oil-based counterpart. Up to four coats of water-based poly can be applied in one day, whilst oil based poly can be only be applied once every 24 hours. Another 24 is needed before you can walk on your newly refinished floors with socks on. The wait is quite worth it, however, since generally oil-based poly is more durable and lasts longer. It takes a top of the line water poly (the Bona brand is often cited) to compete.
The type of wood floor you have is the other important factor to take into account. When deciding between refinishing products, oil-based polyurethane slightly yellows with age over time, while water goes on clear. For a majority of wood products the yellowing is rather indistinguishable, but for maplewood or white/grey washed floors I would highly recommend using water-based poly.
In general, I would recommend going withan oil-based polyurethane. The overall refinishing quality and durability are much higher. For specific situations, however, I would say to go with water-poly. If you own a business and closing shop for more than a day or two is a serious hit, then go with the quick option. The same goes for very light colored wood floors; oil would yellow over time which can look pretty gross. Like I said earlier, there isn’t a right or wrong answer every time. Figure out your situation and make the most informed call! We’ll be there to help no matter which one you pick.