Top 6 Best Water Based Polyurethane for Floors in 2020

After you’re done with installing wooden stairs and floors in your house, it’s time to protect them against scratches and spills that occurs during day-to-day use. A polyurethane coating on woods gives you the perfect protection against all these in addition to an increase in the durability of the surface.

When you apply a poly coating, you’ll notice all the colors and grains in your wood getting enhanced. But the best water based polyurethane for floors can do a lot more than that. It will not only make the furnishing look stunning but will also make the wood durable by providing a clear protective coating to its surface.

This article will tell you all you want to know about furnishing your hardwood floors and stairs with the best polyurethane in the market.

Best Water Based Polyurethane for Floors

Preview
Best Choice
Varathane 200241H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane, Quart, Satin Finish
The Runner-up
Minwax 64444444 Polycrylic Protective Finish Water Based, quart, Semi-Gloss
Best Value
Varathane 200261H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane, Half Pint, Satin Finish
Minwax 710330000 Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane, gallon, Satin
Bona Mega Wood Floor Finish Satin 1 Gallon
RUST-OLEUM 230231 Satin Water Floor Finish
Title
Varathane 200241H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane, Quart, Satin Finish
Minwax 64444444 Polycrylic Protective Finish Water Based, quart, Semi-Gloss
Varathane 200261H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane, Half Pint, Satin Finish
Minwax 710330000 Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane, gallon, Satin
Bona Mega Wood Floor Finish Satin 1 Gallon
RUST-OLEUM 230231 Satin Water Floor Finish
Editor's Rating
4.9/5
4.9/5
4.8/5
4.8/5
4.8/5
4.7/5
Prime Status
-
-
Best Choice
Preview
Varathane 200241H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane, Quart, Satin Finish
Title
Varathane 200241H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane, Quart, Satin Finish
Editor's Rating
4.9/5
Prime Status
The Runner-up
Preview
Minwax 64444444 Polycrylic Protective Finish Water Based, quart, Semi-Gloss
Title
Minwax 64444444 Polycrylic Protective Finish Water Based, quart, Semi-Gloss
Editor's Rating
4.9/5
Prime Status
Best Value
Preview
Varathane 200261H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane, Half Pint, Satin Finish
Title
Varathane 200261H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane, Half Pint, Satin Finish
Editor's Rating
4.8/5
Prime Status
Preview
Minwax 710330000 Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane, gallon, Satin
Title
Minwax 710330000 Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane, gallon, Satin
Editor's Rating
4.8/5
Prime Status
Preview
Bona Mega Wood Floor Finish Satin 1 Gallon
Title
Bona Mega Wood Floor Finish Satin 1 Gallon
Editor's Rating
4.8/5
Prime Status
-
Preview
RUST-OLEUM 230231 Satin Water Floor Finish
Title
RUST-OLEUM 230231 Satin Water Floor Finish
Editor's Rating
4.7/5
Prime Status
-

Ready to shop the perfect polish that suits your needs? Out of dozens of water-based polyurethane options, we have picked only six to make your task easier. Have a look!

#1. Varathane 200241H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane

Varathane 200241H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane, Quart, Satin Finish
1,838 Reviews
Varathane 200241H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane, Quart, Satin Finish
  • Protects indoor wood surfaces such as furniture, windows, cabinets, trim and more
  • Water based formula dries fast and cleans up with soap and water
  • Dries to the touch in 30 minutes with coverage up to 125 sq. ft., recoat after 2 hours
  • Durable formula provides outstanding stain and scratch resistance with excellent clarity
  • Satin finish provides a classic and natural look

Pros

  • Boasts a very fast drying time
  • Doesn’t have a strong odor
  • The coating is scratch-resistant
  • Holds its natural color for years

Cons

  • Applicable for the interior purpose only

First up in our list of the top polyurethane for floors is the Varathane finish. The company is pretty well known among professional woodworkers as one of the most reliable polyurethanes in the market.

This particular item is a quart-sized water-based poly coating that is designed for interior applications only. You’ll notice a beautiful satin finish on your hardwood floors after you coat them with this poly.

Varathane is perfect for all types of woodworks, especially that faces high traffic since it provides the most rugged finishing. The liquid is not overly thin, and so you might want to experiment with it if you have a DIY mindset. However, we’ve found that most people are quite happy with three coatings of it.

Give your wooden stairs and floors an elegant look with this polyurethane formula. It is also very easy to clean with soapy water and a mop. The finish is also scratch-resistant to a great degree. It will be many years before you see any sign of wear on the finish.

A good thing about water-based poly is that they dry quicker than oil-based ones. And this item dries even faster than average water-based finishes.

If you hate that pungent smell coming out from wood varnishes, you’ve got great news. The Varathane Ultimate Polyurethane has very little odor since it dries up quickly.

A common complaint we hear from many users of water-based poly is that sometimes they notice the coating fading into a yellowish hue. Well, Varathane guarantees its polish will maintain the natural color of wood for years on end.

Verdict
The Varathane water-based poly is an affordable option for any woodworker. Its fast-drying time will allow the user to recoat within two hours only. Besides, it’s color maintenance, and scratch resistance features are very reliable indeed.

#2. Minwax Water-Based Polycrylic Protective Finish

Sale
Minwax 64444444 Polycrylic Protective Finish Water Based, quart, Semi-Gloss
431 Reviews
Minwax 64444444 Polycrylic Protective Finish Water Based, quart, Semi-Gloss
  • Protects and adds beauty to interior wood surfaces including woodwork, furniture, doors and cabinets
  • Crystal clear finish is ideal for use over light woods like maple, ash and birch as well as over Minwax Water-Based Wood Stains
  • Ultra fast-drying formula allows for quick recoats in 2 hours
  • Water-based formula allows for easy soap and water clean up
  • Available in gloss, semi gloss, satin, matte and ultra flat

Pros

  • Provides good clarity and glossy finish
  • Amplifies the natural look of the wood
  • Doesn’t produce odor and dries quickly
  • Can also be applied on vinyl floors

Cons

  • Sometimes the finish might take easily cleanable milkfish color

When applying any coating on wooden surfaces, we all look for the perfect outlook and clarity. And since we’ll be talking about poly coatings for hardwood floors and stairs, we must look for the best option available.

The Minwax polycrylic finish is one of the less expensive items on our list with the most value for money. Minwax is well renowned for producing top-quality coats for floors and stairs. So, you can easily keep it on your priority list.

This version of polyurethane has a clear semi-gloss finish that gives your wood a shiny glow. Once applied, it won’t overwhelm the color of your floor but will result in a natural wood look.

Moreover, this finish also dries very fast without much residual odor to make you annoyed. This means you don’t need to air the room after applying the coating.

Apart from hardwood floors or wooden stairs, you can apply the Minwax polycrylic on other antique items, previously finished furniture, and even on vinyl floors! It has a protective sealing that can hold up to a lot of wear and tear for a very long time.

This water-based polycrylic finish can also be cleaned very easily with any basic dishwashing soap and water.

Verdict
Minwax polycrylic protective finish is an inexpensive easy to apply coating that gives the perfect touch to your wooden surfaces. Its versatility of application will make the product a must buy.

#3. Varathane 200261H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane

Varathane 200261H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane, Half Pint, Satin Finish
1,838 Reviews
Varathane 200261H Water-Based Ultimate Polyurethane, Half Pint, Satin Finish
  • Protects indoor wood surfaces such as furniture, windows, cabinets, trim and more
  • Water based formula dries fast and cleans up with soap and water
  • Dries to the touch in 30 minutes with coverage up to 31.25 sq. ft., recoat after 2 hours
  • Durable formula provides outstanding stain and scratch resistance with excellent clarity
  • Satin finish provides a classic and natural look

Pros

  • Gives off very little odor while applying
  • The formula dries off quickly for the next coating
  • Scratch, stain, and abrasion-resistant durable coating
  • Easy clean feature with soapy water

Cons

  • The tiny can is only enough for a single room’s floor

This Varathane poly is almost the same product as the first entry in our list except for the size. Its polyurethane comes in an affordable Half Pint packaging. Due to its unique formula, this water-borne poly is perfect for all hardwood floors, stairs, and furniture, whether light or dark.

Characterized by high abrasion, stain, and scratch resistance, the Varathane Ultimate Poly has higher durability than many of its competitors. It has a water-based formula, which means it will dry faster than most polyurethane finishing. You can also recoat it within only two hours.

The half-pint item can also cover an area of 31.25 square feet, which is enough for a single room’s floor. It has a satin finish that beautifies the natural look of wood and makes it more attractive.

If you are worried about the yellowing of the coating, then be assured that it will provide a crystal-clear finish that will never fade into yellow. Its rugged and reliable finish will give any wooden project an elegant design that you can appreciate highly.

For the first time DIYers, it is a great option to do some experiment with since the formula is thin enough for applying multiple coatings.

Verdict
The Varathane 200261H half pint poly with satin finish is a great option if you’re a DIY type of person. This option is cheaper and more user friendly. Besides, you can experiment with it by applying multiple layers within a short time too.

#4. Minwax Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane

Minwax 710330000 Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane, gallon, Satin
623 Reviews
Minwax 710330000 Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane, gallon, Satin
  • Lower in odor than traditional solvent-based polyurethanes
  • Protects and adds beauty to interior wood surfaces including woodwork, furniture, doors, cabinets and floors
  • Dries quickly
  • Cleans up easily with warm water
  • Recommended uses: woodwork, furniture, doors, cabinets, floors

Pros

  • Protects against scratch, UV-ray, chemical damage, etc.
  • Nonflammable finish and protection against all weather
  • Dries up fast for applying the next coating
  • Combined advantage of both oil and water-based poly

Cons

  • May affect people with breathing problems while applying

This second item from Minwax has a crystal-clear finish that protects the natural appearance of the floor and stairs. Minwax is an oil-modified polyurethane, which means it will combine the warm look and durability of traditional oil-based poly and the odorless, fast-drying convenience of waterborne finish.

We highly recommend this product since it protects the wooden surface from scratch, wear and tear, chemical damage, and UV rays. Besides, this finish is non-flammable and will protect against most weather conditions.

Also, this polyurethane has some volatile components which help the coating to dry very fast. You can recoat the next batch only two hours after the first coat.

However, the final coating should be left for at least 24 hours before you can use it lightly. And for getting the perfect durability, we suggest you use it after at least 72 hours of application.

This Oil-Modified Polyurethane should be applied with proper caution for people with breathing problems since it emits gas. Work in a well-ventilated area for added safety.

Verdict
If you want beauty and clarity on your furniture, cabinets, floor, and stairs, then this Minwax finish is a great choice since it has got advantages of both oil-based and water-based polyurethane.

#5. Bona Mega Waterborne Wood Floor Finish

Sale
Bona Mega Wood Floor Finish Satin 1 Gallon
164 Reviews
Bona Mega Wood Floor Finish Satin 1 Gallon
  • An oxygen-crosslinking polyurethane (OCP) waterborne formula.

Pros

  • The coating has the easiest application
  • Made with an oxygen-crosslinking formula
  • Most budget-friendly satin finish
  • Perfectly safe and environmentally friendly

Cons

  • May have to apply more than three layers to get an extraordinary result

This water-based finish is one of the budget-friendly options in our list of best water-based polyurethane for wood floors. Proven to perform great even in high traffic areas, the Bona Mega poly is the perfect overall poly you can get.

This 1-gallon pack of waterborne wood floor finish has the highest coverage among its competitors. You can easily coat an area of at least 600 square feet with this item. It doesn’t matter if the floor is 50 years old, a three-coat application of this finish will make it shine bright like a brand-new floor.

The Bona Mega formula emits close to no odor during application and is low in VOC gas. So, your pet is perfectly safe, even on a freshly coated floor. Besides, if you happen to have any kind of breathing problem, you can still apply it without any difficulty.

Another specialty of this polyurethane finish is that it has an oxygen-crosslinking formula that uses the oxygen present in the atmosphere. Aa a result, you get extraordinary performance out of each of its coatings.

It is available in satin that shows you the beauty of your wooden floor by enhancing its natural color. Give your floor an amazing finish with this polyurethane.

According to our research, you’ll get the perfect result when you put three coats of it with sanding in between.

Verdict
The quality, safety, and budget-friendliness of any finish matter a lot when it comes to refurbishing floors in a home. This Bona Mega Wood Floor Finish ticks all the points in this respect. So, if you want to cover all the floors in your house in medium-range pricing, this is the one you should pick.

#6. RUST-OLEUM 230231 Satin Water Floor Finish

Sale
Bona Mega Wood Floor Finish Satin 1 Gallon
164 Reviews
Bona Mega Wood Floor Finish Satin 1 Gallon
  • An oxygen-crosslinking polyurethane (OCP) waterborne formula.

Pros

  • Dries quickly with almost no odor
  • Works great on stained and dented surfaces too
  • Its UV absorption ability gives unbeatable protection
  • High traffic formula leaves wood to its original state

Cons

  • Covers less space per gallon than competitors

Last but not the least, this Rust-Oleum is also a Varathane product. We can easily crown this one as our best brand water based polyurethane for floors picks. Not only us, but even professionals also advise this finish for most people.

The Rust-Oleum 230231 is characterized by high resistance to scratches, stains, abrasions, and chemicals. No matter which cleaning chemical you use on its finish, nothing will take its shine away.

Used to repair stained or dented floors, this satin water-based finish can also be applied on wooden stairs, furniture, doors, etc. Its high traffic formula will restore anything to its original state with a glowing finish.

If you want to make your wooden floor shine with all its natural wooden color, there is no better alternative than the Rust-Oleum floor finish. Its satin coating will provide a superior finish to any wood surfaces.

This polyurethane is also highly durable with scuff resistance ability. Besides, it emits very low odor so that it is easy for people with breathing problems to apply it. It also cleans quite easily with just water and soap.

Verdict
If you want to meet all your expectation with a polyurethane finish, then Rust-Oleum is a good choice. Since any sort of volatile substance is absent, the finish is very much safe to apply as well. The no odor, fast-drying, and high traffic formula make Rust-Oleum an all-rounder poly finish.

How to Choose Water Based Polyurethanes for Floor?

Wood can be very expensive, and they are also quite delicate. So, you gotta make sure you are taking care of it properly. Since there are lots of different kinds of polyurethane available, you need to consider your options carefully.

Water-based or Oil-based

First and foremost, water-based and oil-based are the two types of polyurethane finish available in the market. Which type you’ll choose for your hardwood floor will depend on the result you want to obtain from the furnishing.

Water-based poly provides a more crystal-clear result and doesn’t hinder the natural beauty of the wood. Besides, they also dry very fast and have a negligible odor. Additionally, this type also prevents wood from drying out since it provides adequate hydration.

Oil-based polyurethane, on the other hand, was used most commonly for wood finishing jobs since they used to offer more durability. If you want a glossier type of finishing on your wooden stairs and hardwood floor, this type is for you.

Typically, more expensive than its water-based counterpart, the oil-based poly can expand and contract based on the exterior temperature. This keeps the wood protected in all weather conditions. That is why this finishing is mostly used for exterior wood furnishings.

Smell

You don’t want to apply a poly coating in your home that smells horrible. Most polyurethane coatings smell awful and can be toxic as well. That is why people with breathing problems are dissuaded from using it.

Even if someone, who has no such problems, should take precautions like wearing masks and working in an airy place.

So, it is advised for the buyer while buying poly for wood to check the VOC level and smell of the product beforehand so that they don’t need to return it afterward.

Curing Time

The curing time of polyurethane can be very important, especially if you’re working indoors. Water-based poly dries faster than oil-based ones, and it takes only a few days to cure completely.

Nowadays, there are a lot of options that come with a fast-drying feature which can cure in a matter of hours. So, if the finishing needs to be applied in a high traffic area, this fast-drying feature needs to be considered.

Cost

This is an important factor for anyone who is within a specific budget and wants to coat the floor of the whole house. Some poly really does cost a lot, and others are quite affordable.

If you really look for one, you might even find something that works great, as well as doesn’t burn a hole in your pockets. All the picks in our article are very much budget-friendly and are best in terms of quality.

But if you really wanna know which is cheaper of the two types of poly, oil-based ones are comparatively more affordable.

Look

The beauty of your furniture, wooden stairs, and hardwood floors will depend on the type of finishing of polyurethane. So, you must consider it carefully.

There are three different types of polyurethane finishes, and they tend to provide different appearances on the woods. These types are – matte/clear, gloss, and satin.

Water-based poly gives a crystal-clear finish while oil-based ones give an amber hue. But in the end, the best finish will differ based on the type of wood.

For instance, if you’re working on exotic woods, it is best that you use a satin sheen that will complement the wood and give it a slippery appearance. And satin finish looks great on wooden tabletops.

As for hardwood floors and stairs, you could go for a matte or clear sheen that comes from water-based poly. This enhances the natural color of the wood surface.

Durability

When it comes to polyurethane, the most important thing is the protection and durability it offers. Although all of these items are designed to do the same thing, not every product is made equal.

The best water based polyurethane for hardwood floors will add to the overall durability of the coating and save the wooden surface from abrasion, day to day marks and scratches, and many more. Some poly also protects the wood from household chemicals and stains.

Ease of Cleaning

This is a crucial factor to consider since hardwood floors and stairs are the highest traffic areas in a house. Therefore, it wouldn’t be ideal for applying the same finish to all wooden surfaces in your home, especially if kids and pets are living with you.

So, if your floor is prone to frequent spillage and dirt, you should consider buying a polyurethane finish that has easy maintenance and cleaning routine.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

#1. What is the best water based polyurethane for wood floors?

Answer: After going through our reviews, you must know by now that the best brand water based polyurethane for floors is none other than Varathane. We have picked not one but three of its products for our top six picks.

#2. Is water-based polyurethane good for floors?

Answer: Wooden floors are susceptible to all kinds of wear and tear all year round. You need some sort of protection to save the floor from being permanently damaged. Polyurethane coating does wonder when it comes to protecting wooden surfaces.

Since there are two types of poly finish out there, you’ll want to choose the better one. Although oil-based poly is being used for the most of polishing history, water-based one is gaining momentum currently.

This is because its coating is extremely easy to clean up, and also it doesn’t take as much time to get dry. Besides, water-based polyurethane gives a truly clear finish that highlights the natural color of the wood.

As for durability, modern, high-quality products with improved chemical formulations have made water-based poly as durable as oil-based ones too. Besides, this poly has significantly less odor than the oil-based one.

#3. How long does it take for water-based polyurethane to dry on hardwood floors?

Answer: One of the main differences between water-based and oil-based polyurethane is the drying time after application. Here, water-based poly has the advantage, while oil-based poly takes a long time to apply and cure.

You can apply only a single coating of this finish in 24 hours. They also take up 3 to 4 days to cure completely.

Water-based polyurethane, on the other hand, takes significantly less time to apply and cure. You can apply several coats, sometimes as many as 4, on a single day!

You can even walk on a water-based poly-coated surface only 4 hours after finishing. But for oil-based one, you can’t even dream of doing that before at least 24 hours.

#4. Should I use a brush or a roller to apply the coat on my floor?

Answer: Most people prefer to use paintbrushes to apply polyurethane coating on wooden surfaces. While it works great on most wooden works, there are some projects where you’d better use a roller to make life easier.

Brushes are handy for applying a coating on a small surface, but with a roller, you can’t do that. Roller only works on bigger, larger, and plain wooden surfaces. It’s good news we’re talking about wooden floors; otherwise, rollers are a no go.

The good thing about using a roller to apply coating on a floor is that you get smooth and uniform strokes with it. It also saves you a lot of time.

#5. How often should I refinish my wood floors?

Answer: Even with proper care, all hardwood floors will eventually wear and age. Every solid wooden plank will likely need at least four to six finishes in its lifetime. Commonly people refinish their wooden floors between 7 to 10 years.

However, it depends on individual situations. Several factors play in deciding whether you’ll need to refinish the floor. They include the type of wood, natural wear, discoloration, water damage, foot traffic, type of polyurethane, etc.

Oil-based polyurethane, in normal circumstances, might last up to 10 years before showing signs of excessive wear. Water-based poly, although doesn’t last as much, will be at your service for at least 5 years. But the modern improved chemical formulation of water-based poly might also last up to 10 years.

#6. How many coats of water-based polyurethane do you need on hardwood floors?

Answer: If you want to protect your hardwood floor with a polyurethane coating, why not do it perfectly? The more coating you give, the more secure your wood becomes.

The number of the coating depends upon the type and quality of poly, as well as the wood. For oil-based polyurethane, two coatings are enough to make it through a decade. Since the liquid is thick itself, you won’t need too many coatings.

Water-based poly is thin, and that’s why it needs more coating to secure the wood from external influences. If you ask a professional woodworker, he’d probably recommend a minimum of 3 to 4 coats of water-based poly.

#7. Do you have to sand between coats of water-based polyurethane?

Answer: We’d suggest you sand the wood before every coat of water-based polyurethane to make the wood perfectly smooth. It will also prepare the texture and provide it a little bit of traction. This will help the next layer of the coat to bond better. But don’t sand after the final coat.

#8. What is the best applicator for polyurethane?

Answer: First, you might want to read the manufacturer’s instructions to see if they recommend some applicator or application method. If there are no instructions available, then you could choose anyone of the applicators like T-bar, lambswool, brush, trim pads, or rollers.

For hardwood floors, a roller could be the perfect applicator. A brush also works great for stairs.

Final Words

Water-based coating provides a lighter and clearer finishing on wooden floors, enhancing the natural look of it. They also smell less and dries faster than their oil-based cotemporaries. But the best water based polyurethane for floors are sometimes more durable than oil borne polys as well.

We hope this article has been able to suggest a perfect poly suitable for your specific needs. Besides, our buyer’s guide will also help you navigate through the best products should you need to make a more informed decision.

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