This question is the most common question we have among homeowners that plan to install or refinish their hardwood floo r. These two finishes have major differences and should be discussed in details. We will do side to side comparison here to get better idea about two.

Lets start from the look:

  • Oil-based material has yellowish warm color. Once applied, it makes hardwood to stand out more and make entire room look warmer. Oil-based finish tend to darken with time, so we always recommend to move furniture once in a while. In general you can see some differences couple years after application. Once applied with any(except white stain) color stain, it saturates and deepens a color. If you apply it with white stain, you would get dull yellowish color.
  • Water-based material has white to transparent color. Final result looks a bit dull but more constant throughout the entire floor. If your hardwood has a lot of shades due to knots or material character, water-based material would cover some of them for you. If used with any stain, final result gets way more dull. It is recommended to use water-based stain only with light or white stains. Latex(water-based material) also has better UV protection, but still can be affected by strong direct light – it tends to fade out with time.


  • Oil-based material has lesser durability, but thicker structure. Water-based finish, in another hand, is more durable, some manufacturers even use special aluminium-oxide formula to make it extremely durable, but material itself is always applied in thinner layer. In general it takes 3 layers of oil-based finish to finish the job or 4 to 5 layers of water-based finish. The bottom line is – both materials have very similar overall durability, but from my personal experience, I think water-based finish overall is more durable that water-based.


  • As for a price, in general it depends on manufacturer, but as a rule of thumb, water-based finish is a bit(10 to 20 cents per sq ft) more expensive.

There are few steps that might help you to decide.

  1. Do you want to apply stain? If so, is it white? Use water based then. Dark? Choose oil based.
  2. Do you want to get warm yellowish look? Use oil. Like dull\light white floors? Pick water-based finish.
  3. Pets? Small? No big deal. Big? Think about shifting towards water-based.
  4. A lot of direct light? Then move furniture around at least once a year, or pick water-based.