Wood Whiz

Oil based polyurethane

Oil based polyurethanes for hardwood floors

Oil based polyurethanes for hardwood floors

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Top Choice

Top Choice

Zar Exterior Oil-Based Poly Ultraviolet

Zar Exterior Oil-Based Poly Ultraviolet

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Top Value

Varathane Ultimate Polyurethane Oil Based

Varathane polyurethane Oil Based

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Top of Line

550 VOC Polyurethane by DuraSeal

550 VOC by DuraSeal Polyurethane

Choosing the best polyurethane for hardwood floors is a difficult task. It requires that you know what to look for in your product so it will last longer and provide better protection from spills, scuffs, scratches, and abrasions. There are a number of different criteria that you should be considering when selecting the best oil based polyurethane products for your hardwood flooring. We will go in-depth into how to select the right product for your needs in order to find the perfect balance between cost and quality!


Wood Whiz- Eric Hawkings

Welcome to woodwhiz.com. My name is Eric Hawkins. I love all things wood. After getting a degree in engineering, I followed my passion of working with wood in different capacities like woodworking, staining, polishing, oils, crafts, finishing, refinishing and much more. Read More

Criteria for selecting an Oil-Based Polyurethane:

 1. Dry time: Dry time is a critical factor when comparing oil-based polyurethanes. Longer dry times can lead to extended exposure to humidity and moisture, which could potentially cause the finish of your flooring to deteriorate over time. And not to mention the long waiting hours which can delay the whole project.

 2. Finish: When selecting an oil-based polyurethane, it’s important that you choose one with the specific qualities desired in your hardwood floors such as satin or gloss finishes, durability against scuffs/scratches/abrasions. An oil-based poly with a high sheen may not provide good durability against scuffs and scratches but might do better in higher traffic areas like clinics where patients often wear shoes indoors.

 3. Cost Efficiency: The most important consideration is what your budget allows. Oil-based polyurethanes range in price due to factors like quantity, brand, quality etc.

 4. Durability: Durability is important when considering selecting an oil-based polyurethane. Some oil-based poly are designed for high foot traffic like a manufacturing facility or busy restaurant while some are more resistant to scratches and abrasion. It is important to check the manufacturer’s recommendation about what they think would work best on your hardwood flooring.

 5. Eco Friendly: Eco-friendly products may be a consideration for some people; unlike other types of finishes, the solvents used in some oil-based polyurethanes will evaporate completely and leave no harmful residues behind while some may have a very strong smell and not very eco friendly.

In our review process of evaluating the best oil-based poly, we have taken the above 5 criteria into account, tested each product and generated a list of the top-rated products for your consideration. We have compared each product on these factors and have come up with honest and unbiased reviews on the ones that we think are best.

Top 5 Oil based polyurethanes

Our Top Pick - Zar Exterior Oil-Based Poly


Zar Exterior Oil-Based Poly Ultraviolet

Our Top pick is the Zar Polyurethane Wood Floor Finish. Relying on the exhilarating properties of a state-of-the-art formulation, ZAR Oil Based Polyurethane Wood Finish – is The Fastest One with dry time of just 2 hours.

It comes in multiple finish options to accommodate any style you might desire. It is also a great value for its price point and the amount of polyurethane you get with each purchase.It is fast drying allowing you to finish your project quickly. It outperforms similar exterior oil-based polyurethanes by two-to-one and presents a clear and smooth surface.

It has a low viscosity to allow for quick dry times and thus should be applied in at least three coats. It also comes in three finish types; gloss, satin finish and matte.

This polyurethane was designed to tackle heavy-traffic areas and outdoor needs. It is equipped with ultraviolet absorbers and antioxidants that work to prevent sun damage to your outdoor wooden deck and hardwood floors. Its formula also enables it to experience adverse weather conditions and perform like marine urethane.

This product has four size options; pint, quart, gallon, and an 11-ounce spray can.It is designed to withstand typical household weathering such as scuffing and staining. It is also optimal for office and gym spaces due to its smooth and durable surface.

  • Two-hour dry time

  • Good for heavily trafficked and heavily weathered areas

  • Strong finish

  • Smooth finish may become slippery and present safety issues

  • Does not tint or stain wood much

  • If not used properly, can be too thick


Varathane Ultimate Polyurethane Oil Based

Varathane oil based polyurethane

Varathane Ultimate Oil based polyurethane has maximum durability.It enhances the color and grains in your naturally beautiful wood flooring than other oil based polyurethanes.

 A dark golden hue settles into the wood and becomes richer with time. However, it should be used on darker wood or pre-stained wood to ensure a sophisticated look.

This polyurethane presents less odor and is permitted in every state, even those with tougher environmental protection laws.

It has a quick dry time of four hours. Minimal amounts of the polyurethane soak into the wood due to its high viscosity, which creates a durable semi-gloss finish in only two coats.It is useful as a heavy-duty adhesive and sealer.

You also won’t have to worry about sanding between coats because of its self-leveling formula.This product is specialized for in-home use and resists abrasions, scratches and stains and is suitable for hardwood flooring It is one of the more expensive options, but it is also one of the most durable and cost-efficient in the long run. You will not need to recoat as often as you would with other polyurethane options.
  • High viscosity for thick and durable coating

  • Four-hour dry time

  • Low odor

  • Semi Gloss finish

  • Should not be used on pre-treated wood

Varathane Ultimate Polyurethane - High durability


550 VOC by DuraSeal Polyurethane for floors

This polyurethane is durable and tough enough to withstand heavy traffic. It is designed to stand up against stains, dirt and spills while protecting the rich color it gives to your wood flooring.Its versatile and can be used even on wooden floors.

This option is highly durable due to its slow set-up period. Its cost effective incase you want to skip the sealer and use more coats of Dura Seal instead. It takes eight hours to dry between coats. You’ll also have to wait 30 days before you can replace your furniture and return to using the area for heavy foot traffic.
This product comes in three finishes; satin, gloss and semi-gloss.

It is only available in gallons, which covers approximately 500 square feet. The price point for this product is reasonable for the large amount of polyurethane that you get with each order.

  • Highly durable finish

  • Good value

  • Multiple coats required to reach advertised durability

  • Only good for large scale projects


DEFTHANE Interior/Exterior Oil-Based Polyurethane 450 VOC

Deft Defthane Interior Exterior Clear Polyurethane Satin

This product is ideal for areas that are expected to experience direct sunlight and weathering. Its formula prevents water, sun and wind damage. It is equipped with UV absorbers along with UV inhibitors that protect your wood flooring from fading and discoloration.

This polyurethane works with both bare and pre-stained wood, making it ideal for any DIY or other projects. It enhances the grain and color of finished and unfinished wood and presents a smooth and glossy surface.It is durable and designed to work indoors and outdoors. It is also waterproofed and durable for wood above waterlines.

Not Environment friendly: Due to presence of some strong chemicals, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has banned its shipment to AK, CA, HI and NH.

  • Highly durable indoors and outdoors

  • Can be used on treated and untreated wood

  • Waterborne polyurethane

  • Only comes in quarts

  • Not environmentally friendly or purchasable in states that have environmental protection laws due to its strong smell


Fast-Drying Polyurethane by Minwax

Minwax 13022000 Super Fast-Drying Polyurethane For Floors

Minwax fast drying polyurethane is designed specifically for indoor wood flooring. Minwax polyurethane is clear and fast, low odor, drying protective topcoat used for floors.Its formula makes it durable and long-lasting, even when faced with heavy foot traffic.Its thin body also reduces the amount of time between recoating jobs, making it less durable over time than other polyurethane options.

This polyurethane is also a viable option for other indoor jobs, such as coating furniture or doors. It can be applied to finished and unfinished wood giving them high gloss.It can add a lot of value to wooden floors

Its low viscosity allows it to have a shortened dry time. Multiple coats are required to reach its advertised durability.


  • Fast drying time

  • Specialized for floors  

  • Easy to clean up

  • Glossy and clear finish

  • Floors are free from scratches and scuffs

  • Higher rate of defects from thinner paint

  • Bubbling and durability issues


Marine Coating Spar Varnish by Rust Oleum - Best polyurethane floor finish

Rust-Oleum 207008 Marine Spar Varnish, Quart

This option is for outdoor wood flooring needs.

It is specifically designed to withstand weathering, such as water and sun damage. This polyurethane is equipped to resist UV, salt and mildew damage.

Its formula also enables it to be flexible, allowing it to expand and contract with the wood as the weather changes.

Its two-hour dry time enables you to quickly see how it enhances your wood’s natural beauty and coloration.

This product is only available in quart sizes, approximately enough to cover 150 square feet.

  • Weather resistant

  • Quick dry time

  • Clear finish

  • Designed for use on outdoor or highly weathered areas

  • Only comes in quarts


Marine Coating Spar Varnish by Rust Oleum - Best polyurethane floor finish

Fabulon Polyurethane Heavy Duty Satin Hardwood Floor Finish

This product features a high polyurethane resin content the increases its lifetime durability.

It has a high viscosity that is applied in thick layers. In only a few coats, the polyurethane is thick enough to withstand heavy foot traffic and resist stains and scratches.There is no need for sanding before application

Its thick layers also enable you to go longer between recoating your hardwood flooring than you would with other products.

This product presents a smooth finish that does not need to be waxed. It is  great for DIY projects, low maintenance polyurethane option,  that is designed for heavy-duty use.

  • Larger amounts of polyurethane which ensures more durability

  • Never needs to be waxed  

  • Expensive

  • Only comes in gallons


Lenmar Polyurethane Wood Floor Finish

Lenmar Polyurethane Wood Finish - Quart - Satin

This polyurethane is designed with household flooring in mind. Its formula allows it to resist household chemical spills and cleaners, marring and scuffing.

It is ideal for commercial, residential and gym floor coating. It presents a smooth and long-lasting surface that will withstand heavy use.

It also dries smoothly and moisture does not cling to it when the humidity is high. This makes it a great option for gym floors to prevent athletes from sticking to its surface while in play.

It applies smoothly and features a self-leveling formula that ensures a superior flow. It has a high viscosity and presents a thick body polyurethane that creates maximum film build.


This option comes in one-gallon containers and covers approximately 500 square feet.

  • Smooth finish

  • Good for high traffic areas  

  • Comes only in gallons

  • Thin, you’ll need multiple layers to prevent damage


Polyshades Stain and Polyurethane for floors in 1 Step by Minwax

Minwax 613850444 PolyShades - Stain & Polyurethane

This polyurethane works double-time to protect and stain your wood simultaneously.


It changes the color of your wood, enhancing its natural grains and staining it with a rich golden-brown hue. Each coat that is applied darkens the wood and adds another layer of protection.

This product can be used over other polyurethane finishes, making it easy to apply without worrying about previous finishes already in play.

This polyurethane requires that you condition your wood before use to ensure its color is evenly applied to your flooring. It should be applied to your flooring with a natural bristle brush to help you evenly coat your surface. It only requires two coats and has a six-hour dry time. It also has two finishing options; satin and gloss. It works well with refinishing as well.


  • Stains and protects

  • Can be used over other products  

  • Longer drying time

  • Protection power is linked to staining, you may end up with darker wood than desired.


Wipe-On Poly by Minwax

Minwax 40900 Wipe-On Poly Oil-Based Polyurethane Finish

This option is ideal for small jobs that require hands-on details

It is applied with a cloth and rubbed on by hand. It is designed to reach difficult corners, fix unevenness and fill in scratches, scuffs or dents in the original polyurethane coating.

Its clear and hand-rubbed finish prevents dripping and brush marks from appearing on your surfaces. It provides moderate protection and should be used to finish small jobs and patches.

It requires three coats that should be applied two or three hours apart. It also features options of gloss finish and satin finish. It comes in both water-based and oil-based options. The oil-based polyurethane comes in a 580 grams per liter container.


  • Hand-rubbed smoothness

  • Comes in both water-based and oil-based options  

  • Can be used on bare wood in both waterborne or oil-based stains  

  • Should be used for small jobs only

  • Only moderate durability

FAQ's about Oil-Based Polyurethanes

For woodworking oil-based polyurethanes are abundant and easy to use, but there area few questions surrounding their application and how they age. Read on for more information about these amazing products.

Typically a finish will last around 10 years, with good care up to 20. The amount of sunlight and the amount of use that the piece in question gets will determine the overall life. Some finishes can last up to 30 years with good care, but 15 years is a typical mid point. At a minimum you can expect 10 years of life out of a good finish. You might have to touch up once in a while and when necessary you just sand it down and apply another layer to refinish the piece.

Oil-based polyurethane are not completely waterproof, but they are water resistant. It can be used outside and in places that get wet, but should not be used in places where water will pool and sit for long periods of time. For general use it’s close enough to waterproof and it does seal wood to prevent damage. A sealed deck won’t rot and the side of a house won’t get damaged, but you wouldn’t want to use it to seal wood at the bottom of a pond or in a water feature.

An oil-based polyurethane will darker or apply an amber hue to wood over time. This often leads to a richer look, but can be frustrating if you want your wood to look exactly like it did when you made or bought the piece. The darkening process can be slowed by limiting the amount of sun exposure, but generally you will notice a slight darkening effect over time. Sanding down the old coats before applying new ones when resealing the piece in question will reverse the effect for a time.


You can use tung Oil with polyurethane and it’s actually a great way to get the best finish. tung oil helps create a more rustic yet rich look, making it look like you put in more time than you did on your finish. Many professionals prefer a mixture of tung and linseed oils to be used with their polyurethane.

You do not typically sand the final coat of polyurethane when finishing a piece. Many people do thin the last coat and then buff it to a smooth finish. Sanding unless done with a very fine grit and done extremely lightly will lead to a cloudy finish that ruins the effort put into the piece. This makes it even more important to sand the lower layers to ensure a smooth finish.

Oil-based polyurethane does yellow a tiny bit, but modern versions do so less than older ones. The yellowing is of a light amber hue, and light coats with proper drying time between them lead to less yellowed pieces than improperly applied coats. The yellowing effect will get a bit darker over time, so plan for this process to take place.


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