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Denver and Boulder Colorado Hardwood Flooring Installation

Oil Based Wood Floor Finishing

The purpose of any hardwood floor finish should be to enhance the beauty of the wood and protect it from outside elements. All polyurethane, whether oil or water-based, are film-building finishes.

The strength and protection come from building up layers of finish. Contrary to popular belief, polyurethane does not penetrate into the wood. Generally speaking, polyurethane is plastic and builds its strength through multiple layers.

Oil-based or oil-modified polyurethane have been around in the United States since about 1936 when it was first made for bowling alleys. It was known for its capabilities of flowing out to a smooth and durable finish.

These are the same qualities that most reputable finish companies have strived to attain as well. It is a two to three coat system with each coat requiring about 12 hours to dry. Humidity and temperature may slightly change this time period. There is a fine sanding or screening between to assure a good bond and a smooth floor.


Although the final coat of finish will be dry enough to walk on in 12 hours, it's best to wait 24-48 hours before furniture is placed back onto the floor. One drawback of the oil based polyurethanes is that unfortunately the odor of may linger for several days or even weeks. This has been a concern to people who suffer from allergies or breathing issues.

Oil-based poly has a way of filling in and flowing over the open grain of many hardwoods. This gives a desirable "grain-filled" characteristic. And it will develop into an amber (brownish-orange) look as it ages over the next several months. The amber look is a nice addition to this type of polyurethane especially if you want a warm tinted look.

Oil-based poly will always have a place in the hardwood floor industry, but with the trendy changes in law we can expect that newer, more competitive finishes will emerge.