The Differences Between Polyurethane and Wax Floor Finishes

When deciding on a finish for your hardwood flooring, there are a variety of factors to consider. Each type of finish has its own distinct characteristics and advantages. So, should you go with a polyurethane or wax finish? There is no correct answer, but here is some information that should help simplify the decision process.

Polyurethane Hardwood Floor Finishes

Polyurethane floor finishes are available in two primary types, oil-based and water-based.

Oil-Based Polyurethane Hardwood Floor Finish

Consisting of natural linseed oil, synthetic resins, and a plasticizing solvent, oil-based polyurethane floor finishes are extremely durable. This finish also darkens over time, giving your hardwood flooring a warmer tone.

The Advantages of Oil-Based Polyurethane Finishes

  • Long-lasting
  • Not overly costly
  • Moisture resistant
  • You can choose the precise amount of sheen and/or glossiness
  • There are oil-based finishes available suitable to nearly any amount of foot traffic

Additional Points to Consider

  • Should not be at home during application process
  • Minimum drying time of 24 hours between coat applications

Water-Based Polyurethane Hardwood Floor Finish

Excluding linseed oil, water-based polyurethane finishes consist of the same basic elements that make up oil-based polyurethane finishes. This finish will always retain its transparency, and has a thinner consistency compared to oil-based poly.

The Advantages of Water-Based Polyurethane Finishes

  • Simple application process
  • Quick drying
  • Safe for you to be home during application
  • You can choose the precise amount of sheen and/or glossiness
  • There are water-based finishes available suitable to nearly any amount of foot traffic
  • EPA approved
  • Little to no VOC’s
  • Options for non-yellowing products

Additional Points to Consider

  • Although drying process is quick, it is best not to move furniture onto the flooring for up to 48 hours
  • Not conducive to spot repairs
Water-based flooring finish

Wax Hardwood Floor Finish

Wax finishes maintain the natural look of your hardwood flooring, but they can also be mixed with stain for those trying to achieve deeper tones. Before polyurethane finishes came into existence during the middle of the twentieth century, wax finishes had long been the go-to choice. Although wax finishes can be used in many types of flooring projects, they are more commonly applied within older classically styled homes.

The Advantages of Wax Finishes

  • Can be mixed with stain
  • Fully permeates through the hardwood flooring
  • Flooring can be walked on shortly after application

Additional Points to Consider

  • Not as durable as polyurethane finishes
  • May need to be refinished over time
  • Ideal for areas with lower foot traffic
Floor finishing

Which Hardwood Flooring Finish Is Best for My Home?

As we mentioned earlier, there is no correct choice when it comes to deciding on a hardwood flooring finish. Each type of finish possesses unique aesthetic traits while also differing in overall form and function. With over 75 years of industry experience, E_M Custom Flooring & Installations can provide you with professional insight and advice to aid in your decision. Our flooring installation experts pride themselves in achieving 100% customer satisfaction upon the completion of any flooring project. Contact us today or stop by our showroom and we will help ensure your new flooring endeavor is a success.

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