The main difference between these two finishes is their color. Oil-based is amber, while water-based is clear. This means if you stain your wood with water-based poly, it will maintain its color over time. But with the oil-based poly, it does change color with time.
The duration for drying
For an oil-based polyurethane to dry, it takes time, meaning you can’t apply more than one coat in a day. However, water-based take poly around six hours to dry, implying that it dries faster. With it, you can do several layers in a day and still walk on it the very day.
If you want a floor finish that won’t irritate you or won’t trigger your allergies, it’s best to work with water-based polyurethane. This is because it doesn’t have a strong smell which can react with your nasal system. You can even be in the house while the application is going on.
The oil-based though it has an irritating odor with its chemical components, which is not safe for both humans and pets. If you’re to apply this type of polyurethane, ensure you cover your face and body well. The smell also takes time before disappearing, so it’s best to adhere to safety tips while applying oil-based poly.
Density and feel
The oil-based polyurethane is denser and soft, unlike the water-based, which has a lesser density with a rough feel. It shows that if you use oil-based, it won’t get scratches or dents easily. However, if you want the water-based poly to last, consider applying at least three coats for the best results.
To buy a five-gallon of water-based polyurethane, you’ll spend around $350, which is expensive than the oil-based, which goes for $150. However, the prices vary according to the brand you’ll use and where you buy from.
There are certain floorings that you can’t apply either water or oil-based polyurethane. For example, if you use oil-based poly on gray hardwood flooring, it will turn yellowish. Also, the water-based polyurethane can only work with light-colored floorings like pine.