Best Water Based Polyurethanes for Floors – [Reviews & Guide 2019]

Wooden floors are designed or constructed to look very good and last long, longer than most forms of flooring. They give interior spaces a cozy and natural warmth look which beautifies the environment. However, if one does not take care of their hardwood floors, they might end up causing wear and tear due to constant use.

Keeping your wooden floors nice and neat is important and giving it a glossy finish would bring out its luxurious nature. Polyurethane products are just the best solution for your project. It helps protect your floors while keeping it neat for a long period of time. In this article, we are going to look at some of the water-based polyurethane you can get your hands on in the market.

Product NameCoverageRecoat dry (hours)SheenSize (liters)MaterialPrice
Bona Mega Wood Floor Finish

Editor's Choice

125-150 sq ft per quart2,5 - 3satin, semi-gloss, gloss3.79Polyurethane View on Amazon
Minwax 710330000 Water Based
125 sq ft per quart
2gloss, satin, semi-gloss3.79Water Based View on Amazon
General Finishes

125-150 sq ft per quart3flat, satin, semi-gloss, gloss3.785Water Based View on Amazon
Bona Traffic HD
350-400 sq ft per gallon2 - 3satin, semi-gloss, extra matte3.48Water, Polymer(s), and amorphous silica View on Amazon
RUST-OLEUM FBA
185-370 sq ft per gallon4satin, semi-gloss, gloss, matte3.78Water Based View on Amazon

1. Bona Mega Wood Floor Finish Satin– Best satin polyurethane for floors

Bona Mega Wood Floor Finish Satin is a water-based polyurethane solution that is used for wood floor finishing. It is a solution for people that are on a budget but require the full specifications and requirements of a quality water-based poly. It is made available in semi-gloss, satin and gloss. The Bona Mega Wood Floor Finish Satin has been tested and proven to work accurately while meeting all the standards of water-based poly.

The application of this product is very easy. To get the best results, try applying three coats with sanding in between or not. It is also advisable to apply it on a humid or warm day.

Pros
  • It has a low odor.
  • It dries quite fast.
  • The application is very easy.
  • It has a glossy look but it is not slippery.
  • It is durable.
  • The finishing looks great on the hardwood.
Cons
  • It needs regular reapplication because it wears off after a while.

Overall Impression

We found out that this product is low in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) content making it user and environment-friendly. Applying two coats of Bona Mega Wood Floor Finish Satin on top of the sealer is enough to restore the glossy nature of your wooden floor. We noticed that it gives off a slight odor immediately it is applied but since it is water-based, the odor would disappear in a short period of time. This product works well on all kinds of wood and hardwoods and it keeps the floors where it is applied, free of scratch.

2. Minwax 710330000 Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane– Fast drying polyurethane

Minwax 710330000 Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane is a chemical that forms a protective coating that is crystal clear and ultra-fast drying for interior wood. It is manufactured with the sole purpose of use on interior wood surfaces such as panels, cabinets, doors, trims, and hardwood floors. The coating of this product is fit for use on bare wood in both waterborne or oil-based stains and it cleans up easily using just soap and warm water.

Recoating does not take time because this product has little amounts of Volatile Organic Compounds and it can be done within two hours after the first application. Compared with most solvent-based products, Minwax 710330000 Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane dries fast, has low odor and is very clear, forming a protective layer around the beauty of your project.

Pros
  • This water-based poly dries easily.
  • It has little or low odor.
  • It is easy to clean with just soap and clean water.
  • High resistivity to scratching and abrasion.
  • It protects the beauty of your wood.
Cons
  • May cause eye irritation during application.

Overall Impression

Minwax 710330000 Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane is available in satin, gloss, and semi-gloss. All these types of finishing would give your wood a more luxurious look while protecting the beauty. This product gives off its best result when it is applied in three coats using a more applicable tool such as a lambswool applicator or a foam brush. Sanding is advised so that users can get a uniform surface. After sanding, clean the surface and then wait for it to dry. To get the full durability of this product, avoid heavy traffic for about 72 hours after application.

3. General Finishes High-Performance Water-Based Polyurethane– Best for Interior and Exterior

This General Finishes High-Performance product is a Water-Based polyurethane, produced and manufactured by General Finishes. It is rated as one of the most durable and hardest products available in the market. It helps protect all underlying stains which prevent discoloration and fading. It also includes a UV stabilizer that helps the surface which is applied on to be resistant to sun rays or sunlight.

Unlike most water-based poly, the General Finishes High-Performance Water-Based solution can be used on floors. It is resistant to scrubbing, scratches, bruises, etc with low or no odor. The application is very easy as this product sticks and glides easily on any surface without any bubbles showing up. This water-based poly dries very quickly in no time and sometimes, it doesn’t require more than 2 coatings. This is a perfect finishing product for both professional and DIY enthusiast.

Pros
    • It is one of the most durable forms of water-based polyurethane.
    • It has a UV stabilizer to protect your surface from the sun.
    • It can be used on floors.
    • Perfect for beginners.
    • It is very easy to apply.
Cons
  • It is quite expensive.

Overall Impression

The General Finishes High-Performance Water-Based Polyurethane is a product that is thick during application so you do not have to worry about rough brush marks. Although it meets all the necessary standard features of a water-based poly, it is more on the expensive side. Professionals advise that coating with this product should be done twice thereby saving you money, time and skills. If you are planning on using it outdoors, you might still decide to go for it because most users have reported using it successfully on their exterior and outdoor-based projects. I totally recommend this product.

4. Bona Traffic HD Commercial Satin– Best polyurethane wood floor coating

Bona Traffic HD Commercial Satin is a water-based residential and commercial hardwood floor finish which is Manufactured by Bona. If you want your project to have a premium finish while remaining durable and beautiful, this is the right product for you to use. It is designed specifically to be used in residential and commercial hardwood floors where there is a heavy flow of traffic.

It is certified by GREENGUARD for indoor air quality. It can be used in various places such as offices, shopping malls, stores, garages, theaters, etc. and due to its low VOC content, it is not harmful to the person applying the coating. A minimum of two coatings is required to get the best results while a third coating should be applied if it’s used on a commercial or residential surface which has a large flow of traffic.

Pros
  • It comes with a hardener.
  • It is durable in nature.
  • It dries as fast as 2-3 hours.
  • It is resistant to scratches and stains.
  • Once used, no sealer needed on a stained floor.
Cons
  • Users sometimes start to see scratches after a period of time.

Overall Impression

The Bona Traffic HD Commercial Satin significantly outperforms most polyurethane finishes in durability, chemical resistance, low amount of VOCs, odor, and color. This solution tends to give your hardwood floor a natural wooden color or stained glossy feel which beautifies the finished project. This water-based polyurethane will not change color over time or get yellow and the indoor air quality is certified by Green guard which is a plus on your side. I fully recommend this product to anyone who is in search of getting the best water-based product for their hardwood floors.

5. RUST-OLEUM FBA 230031 Varathane Gallon Gloss Waterborne Diamond Floor Finish– Best polyurethane floor finish

The RUST-OLEUM FBA 230031 Varathane Gallon Gloss Waterborne Polyurethane comes in a one-gallon packaging just like all the other products on the list. Due to the unique formula which was derived by the RUST-OLEUM, it is perfect for hardwood floors whether they are dark or light. The RUST-OLEUM FBA 230031 Varathane Gallon Gloss Waterborne Diamond Floor Finish is characterized by its high resistivity to stains, scratches, and abrasions as well as its superior durability.

The company also tested and made sure that no cleaning products would react with this product. Users can clean the finished floors with various cleaning chemicals which would not affect your work. The RUST-OLEUM FBA 230031 Varathane Gallon Gloss Waterborne Diamond Floor Finish is also used to repair dented or stained floors. Professionals advise that coating with this chemical twice will restore any surface to its original taste while giving it a glowing or glossy finish.

Pros
  • It gives off little or no odor.
  • It dries off quickly within 2 hours.
  • Can be used to cover stains and repair dented surface.
  • Works on all wooden surfaces including hardwood.
  • It can be cleaned with any cleaning product.
Cons
  • It can form cloudiness due to high humidity.
  • Might slack on deeper scratches.

Overall Impression

If you want a product that can meet your expectations as a water-based poly while giving you the features of a standard waterborne poly, you can opt-in for the RUST-OLEUM FBA 230031 Varathane Gallon Gloss Waterborne Diamond Floor Finish. It has superior quality, scuff resistance, and abrasion resistance. It is also stain-resistant and it does not react with any cleaning product you can find in the market. It dries up fast and recoating can be done within a day.

Buyer’s Guide

Why is Purchasing a Good Water-Based Poly Important?

Whether you are a DIY enthusiast, a professional woodworker or a hobbyist, Purchasing a quality water-based poly is not only needed but absolutely necessary. If you make use of Low-quality water-based poly, you can make mistakes which can lead to loss of materials, time and an increase in difficulty when trying to achieve your desired project. Take your time and make research on the product you decide to buy and invest in the one that meets all your needs and specifications.

A good water-based poly is very affordable but it is important that you compare different products and their prices before you make any decision. If you have different products available, rest each and every one of them on a sample strip of wood so you can determine the texture, color, scent, durability, drying time, etc. Once the decision is already made, try as much as possible to buy more than you feel you need. You do not want to run out of polyurethane in the middle of your project.

When is it Recommended to Use Water-Based Polyurethanes rather than Oil-Based

If you are using a whitewash, gray stain or greige or gray blend

    • When you are using any of these, use only water-based poly. Using an oil-based poly will turn these yellow and so is using a low-quality water-based poly just that it won’t be as bad as oil-based polys but they will have an amber-like appearance which will turn yellowish over a period of time.

If you decide on refinishing maple and going natural

  • Maple is far lighter than oak and it is more sensitive to ultraviolet rays and sunlight, so if you decide on using an oil-based product, it will change its color to yellow and look faded or outdated within a year.

If you want a more natural and lighter look

  • It is recommended to use water-based poly rather than oil-based poly because you want to avoid yellow coloration on the floor.

If it’s on short notice

  • When using a water-based poly, it can go a long way to save you 1-2 days of wait and you can get to rearrange your properties back to their original state. Since it dries faster than oil-based poly, your pets can be able to make use of the floor sooner and they tend to prevent scratches over a period of time.

When Odor is a major factor

  • This could be as a result of you or your family member, preferring a font or rather reduced odor. You would also want a Polyurethanes which is low in VOCs if you live in an apartment, are concerned about the Neighbour’s or if you have younger ones that are in danger when exposed to VOCs.

When is it Recommended to Use Oil-Based Polyurethanes rather than Water-Based

If you want a very dark stain

  • If you decide or prefer dark stain, oil-based poly is the way to go. This tends to look better and make your finishing more attractive.

If you are on a budget

  • Oil-based poly is much more affordable compared to water-based poly, especially if you are comparing the oil-based poly to a high-quality water-based poly.

If you make use of dark species

  • Woods such as Brazillian Walnut or Brazillian Cherry are often dark and sometimes red and they tend to look better and richer when coated with oil-based polyurethane.

FAQ

How to apply water-based polyurethane?
The method or mode of application for water-based poly is very conversant and almost “the same”, with an oil-based poly. Start out by applying a very thin layer of coating with a cloth, foam or a fine brush. Try as much as possible to work with the grain then avoid raising the grain by applying too much coating. The first coating dries within two hours and after that, you can apply the second coating. There is no need for sanding before application just as it is done with oil-based poly. Plan on using 4coats of water-based poly on the floor and 3 coats of water-based poly on light projects.
How many coats of water-based polyurethane on hardwood floors?
Professional woodworkers recommend a minimum of 3 coats of water-based poly. This is because water-based poly coats are thinner with harder layers than oil-based poly.
How long does it take for water-based polyurethane to dry on hardwood floors?
For oil-based poly, it usually takes up to 30 days to fully cure but for water-based poly, it usually takes about two weeks to fully cure. Meanwhile, you can start walking or moving furniture 24 hours after the coating has been applied.
Which is better oil-based or water-based polyurethane?
Water-based poly is clear while oil-based poly has an amber hue shade. Water-based poly will remain clear while oil-based poly will continue to darken and amber over a period of time for the lifetime of the hardwood floor. Water-based poly takes a much lesser time to dry than oil-based poly and it can be recoated up to 4 times in a day, unlike oil-based poly. When it comes to features and specifications, the water-based poly tops the chart but it is much more expensive than oil-based poly. If you don’t mind the price, you should consider going for water-based poly because it is far better than oil-based poly.
How to thin water-based polyurethane?
If your poly or vanished is water-based and it seems too thick for use, thin it down by adding water to the product, not more than 10% of the total volume. Users can also thin solvent-based poly by adding 10% mineral spirits (i.e. If it is legal in your region or state).

Conclusion

A polyurethane coating is essential for a hardwood floor because it provides a layer that acts as a protective cover so that you do not wear out your product. Water-based poly is as effective as oil-based poly and they provide a lighter and clearer color impact. We have gone through the various products we believe are the best when it comes to water-based polyurethanes and we hope to have helped you come to a decision. If you haven’t made up your mind yet, you can consider researching further on your choice.

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