7 Best Polyurethane for Floors [Reviewed & Buyer’s Guide]

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Best Polyurethane for Floors

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Wooden floors are expensive, and they should be treated as such.

Homely, yet elegant – wooden flooring gives homes such unique character. They add sophistication and bring a homely warmth to any room all at once.

Although wooden floorings come with durability, their upkeep and maintenance are important to retain their luxe appearance. Scratches from furniture and swelling from moisture can lead to the deterioration of wooden surfaces not only limited to flooring.

This is where polyurethane finishing makes all the difference. Shelves, doors, windows, cupboards – you can find more just within your surroundings that can do with a good coating of polyurethane.

The next question to ask yourself is: should I go for a water-based or oil-based polyurethane finish? Or, even more importantly, which brand and product will suit my needs?

To help you make an informed decision, here is our thorough guide to the crème de la crème of polyurethane for floors.

Top Polyurethane for Floors

 

 

IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS  
Our Top PickOur Top PickArchilb-table__image Minwax 710330000
  • Water-based polyurethane, oil-modified
  • Satin feel after drying
  • Repairs and protects wooden surfaces
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Archilb-table__image Deft 037125257040
  • Water-based, oil-modified
  • Weather-tested with UV protection
  • No sealer required
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Archilb-table__image Bona Mega 141
  • Water-based polyurethane
  • Semi-gloss finish
  • Low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)
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Archilb-table__image Bona Traffic HD Commercial Satin
  • Water-based polyurethane
  • Comes with hardener
  • Less than 150 VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds)
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Archilb-table__image Basic Coatings B1666-4312
  • Water-based
  • Available in semi-gloss and gloss
  • Low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound)
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Archilb-table__image Zar 32512
  • Water-Based
  • Coverage of 100-125 sq. ft. per quart
  • Low emission of solvent vapors
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Archilb-table__image Rust-Oleum 298273
  • Water-based
  • Very thick solution
  • Semi-gloss finish
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Best polyurethane for floors 02

  1. Minwax 710330000

With this Minwax product, you don’t have to worry about choosing between water-based and oil-based polyurethane. After all, the Minwax 710330000 is water-based and oil-modified. This means it has all the goodness of water-based floor finishes – with a bit of oil-based poly mixed into the formulation.

Minwax 710330000 Water Based Oil-Modified Polyurethane, gallon, Satin
  • Lower in odor than traditional solvent-based...
  • Protects and adds beauty to interior wood surfaces...
 

Why Did We Like It?

Due to the unique formulation of water-based and oil-based elements, buyers get the best of both worlds. 

The application of this product leaves a glow on wooden floorboards that can usually only be obtained by oil-based finishing. At the end of it, you are left with protected floors that have just had an instant makeover.

On the other hand, like all water-based finishing, this product has less odor. It dries superbly fast – which is great news because multiple coats are required for the finishing to have maximum effect. As for areas that see a lot of foot traffic, such as the dining and living room, about 4 coatings will do. 

What’s more, clean-up is completely hassle-free. Since it is water-based, you need only use some soap and warm water. Hundreds of satisfied buyers can vouch for the nice sheen and protective coating of this product. For most, their finished floors are holding up well even after a few months.

[easyazon_image align="center" height="500" locale="US" src="https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/51qoO4emgbL._SL500_.jpg" tag="architecture_lab-20" width="445" type="image" ref="minwax-710330000-water-based-oil-modified-polyurethane-gallon-satin" link_id="173342" identifier="B000RNLC6G"]

What Could’ve Been Better?

Although the product dries up in record time, even double coating is not sufficient for full protective coverage. Apart from this, the finish is not as clear as one might wish. It may leave a lighter color than desired on wood and a pink hue on white surfaces.  

Pros
  • Protective finish
  • Drying time is less
  • Easy clean-up
  • Leaves wooden flooring with an amber hue
  • Satin feel once dried
Cons
  • Finishing is not clear, may leave undesired color
  • Needs multiple coatings
  1. Deft 037125257040

This polyurethane from Deft scores tens all across the board. The rave reviews from users are enough to convince non-believers to trust in this magic solution. Here, too, a mix of water-based and oil-modified technology has been utilized to give the best results.

Deft Interior Exterior Water-Based Polyurethane Finish Gloss, Quart
  • Interior/Exterior Multi Use Focus
  • Greater Durability Than Oil Based Poly

Why Did We Like It?

If you like a mirror glaze on your flooring, this is the product to go for. 

The finishing has been formulated to dry rapidly – allowing multiple coatings to be completed even within a span of a few hours. Simply sand lightly between coats to achieve a sophisticated and shiny effect. Moreover, the issue of yellowing of wooden surfaces doesn’t come up with this product – you are only left with clear and glossy floors.  

Despite the mirror look, your floorboards will be as strong as a tree trunk. Once done, come back for observation after a few months and the coating will still look as good as it did on the first day.

As for application, it easily goes over all kinds of surfaces in smooth strokes. And while the coats dry, there is minimal odor – which makes a convincing case for the non-toxic and environmentally friendly composition of the product. 

[easyazon_image align="center" height="500" locale="US" src="https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/51fuZCVxOgL._SL500_.jpg" tag="architecture_lab-20" width="500" type="image" ref="deft-interior-exterior-water-based-polyurethane-finish-gloss-quart" link_id="173344" identifier="B002RIJTSC"]

What Could’ve Been Better?

A minor issue with the actual application was noticed. To be specific, normal brushes cause brush stroke lines to be formed on the top layer. Sponge brushes are more suitable for a smoother finish. With that being said, the product itself is sold in quarts and falls on the costlier end of our price range.  

Pros
  • Glossy, mirror-like effect
  • Weather-resistant and protective cover
  • No yellowing, clear finish
  • Dries fast
  • No odor
Cons
  • Minor issues related to brush stroke marks
  • Expensive
  1. Bona Mega 141

The Swedish company Bona has brought forth its flagship waterborne wood floor finish, and we are all the luckier for it. The company is reputed and trustworthy, and has dedicated about 100 years towards developing products for wooden flooring. Sustainability is a big part of their ethos.

Sale
Bona Mega Semi-Gloss,1 gallon
  • Price For: Each Coverage per Gallon: 500 to 600...
  • Green Certification or Other Recognition:...

Why Did We Like It?

Bona products live up to the high recognition that they receive all around the world. Needless to say, this product forms a wonderful topcoat that can go smoothly over a suitable stain. 

The dry-time is short, and 2 coats can be easily done in a matter of a few hours. This is great because the coverage is good too – about 2 gallons of Bona Mega 141 can cover one coating of a 900 sq. ft. apartment. 

We can conclude that this water-based polyurethane is a time-saving solution. We would like to add for your reference that it took about 3 hours in total to apply a double coat over the same area. Keep in mind, it is recommended that you apply only 2 coats in the span of 24 hours. Since it doesn’t take much time to dry, be prepared to apply it quickly, and with even strokes. 

In terms of durability, the average 3-4 coatings will be sufficient to make floors tough and scratch-resistant for days to come. Once done, the semi-gloss effect looks both elegant and understated. It is well-suited for those who want a shine that is not too obvious. 

[easyazon_image align="center" height="500" locale="US" src="https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/41QzhKHN04L._SL500_.jpg" tag="architecture_lab-20" width="333" type="image" ref="bona-mega-semi-gloss1-gallon" link_id="173346" identifier="B00793X3Y6"]

What Could’ve Been Better?

While the thinness of the product is a favorable aspect, it also means multiple coatings are necessary. One gallon of Bona Mega 141 is priced higher than many other polyurethane available in the market. Buying 4-5 gallons for a whole apartment certainly adds up.

Pros
  • Odor-free, fewer fumes
  • Dries fast
  • Smooth application
  • Soft to touch
  • Polished look
Cons
  • Multiple coats required due to thinness
  • Expensive
  1. Bona Traffic HD Commercial Satin

Bona Traffic HD is undoubtedly an improved version of the original Bona Traffic. The manufacturing company is highly experienced in matters of wood finishing and has provided us with two of the most recommended products in the game. What’s different about this product is that it comes in two parts – the poly with a separate hardener.

Why Did We Like It?

This list has already seen two products by the reputed Swedish company Bona. Why we like their products so much can be attributed to their dedication to formulating top-notch, environmentally safe wood finishes. 

Bona Traffic HD has low odor and fewer fumes. Unsurprisingly, it is GreenGuard certified – which means it can be used around children and pets. 

The best part, however, is the protection and durability it provides. As mentioned earlier, the Bona Traffic HD comes in 2 parts. A separate hardener is provided – and this has to be mixed into the poly formula. It is this hardener that provides the resilient and heavy-duty strength that has made the product commercial-grade. 

The product is suitable for retail stores, restaurants, and definitely for your home – especially if you have kids and pets around. Apart from this, it still carries all the positives of the original – like minimal yellowing and a classic sheen. 

[easyazon_image align="center" height="500" locale="US" src="https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/41WvSh-ev-L._SL500_.jpg" tag="architecture_lab-20" width="500" type="image" ref="bona-traffic-hd-commercial-satin" link_id="173348" identifier="B00B3A86S4"]

What Could’ve Been Better?

Although not a complete negative – this product is not meant to be used even by the seasoned DIYer. Hiring a professional can be the best decision as 2-part finishes are a different ball game altogether. The product is also quite costly – in case you need more reason to believe that this is not the right time to experiment. 

Pros
  • Durable and long lasting
  • GreenGuard certified
  • Professional finish
  • Commercial-grade
  • Clear, no yellowing
Cons
  • For professional use
  • Costly
  1. Basic Coatings B1666-4312

The Basic Coatings B1666-413 enjoys the admiration of both home improvement magazines and experienced professionals. But the casual DIYer can just as easily apply it to achieve a professional finish. One of the leading water-based polyurethane in the market – you cannot go wrong with this tried-and-tested formula.

Basic Coatings STREETSHOE Waterbased Wood Floor Finish Satin 1 Gallon
  • Also available in Semi-Gloss, and Gloss.
  • Fastest cure available; 90% cured in 24 hours.

Why Did We Like It?

While commercial-grade and professionally done floors are hard to beat, they come at a price. Basic Coatings has released a product that promises to bring that skillful finish even at the hands of a novice. And, we must say, they have kept their side of the deal.

This polyurethane can be applied easily and smoothly all across your floors. The ease-of-use and detailed instructions have made it a hit among those looking for a professional finish – at a fraction of the price. 

With the right ventilation and weather, floors can dry up within 2-3 hours and you may walk on them with socks. For best results and long-lasting durability, wait for 7 days before moving your furniture in. This will easily guarantee good-looking and scratch-free floors for the next few years to come. 

If medium to high gloss is what you are looking for, then don’t hesitate to try this one out.

[easyazon_image align="center" height="484" locale="US" src="https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/51yfPT-c+-L._SL500_.jpg" tag="architecture_lab-20" width="500" type="image" ref="basic-coatings-streetshoe-waterbased-wood-floor-finish-satin-1-gallon" link_id="173350" identifier="B0079NBSE8"]

What Could’ve Been Better?

There are only minor issues that come up with this product. Most of them depend on personal taste. For starters, the finish is glossy but doesn’t have a satin finish. Also, coverage is an underlying issue. Although priced below some of its biggest competitors, the issue of coverage remains the same between them. 

Pros
  • Dries fast
  • Scratch-resistant and durable
  • Medium to high gloss
  • Easy to use even for non-professionals
  • Easy clean-up
Cons
  • No satin finish
  • Coverage not as good as advertised
  1. Zar 32512

This one is a must-buy for those with higher chemical sensitivity. Formulated to be environmentally safe, this wood finish locks in all the fumes and lets you breathe easy. In all other aspects too, the Aqua Zar 32512 is perfectly capable of doing the same as the biggest names in polyurethane. It’s a surprise that this product still doesn’t have as big a fan following as others.

Sale
ZAR 32512 Water Based Polyurethane, QT, Clear
  • A durable floor finish
  • Non-yellowing, dries crystal clear

Why Did We Like It?

This product has been carefully formulated to reduce the emission of solvent vapors. As a result, the strong smell of chemicals that comes from most polyurethane is almost unnoticeable. Existing smells also get locked within, leaving only a mild scent that is not harmful in small quantities.  

Even if you are a DIYer, you may apply it without extra help. To help you along the way is the self-leveling feature which gives a smooth finish. So, users don’t even have to worry too much about making even strokes. For best results, apply 3 coats – thoroughly vacuuming and sanding between each coat. In the end, you will be left with a clear and soft sheen. 

The coating itself leaves a crystal-clear finish. Since it does not cause any yellowing of surfaces, the product is ideal for light-colored and white stains. Not just limited to floors, it can be used on paneling, cabinets, and furniture.

[easyazon_image align="center" height="500" locale="US" src="https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/41VIKtwcVoL._SL500_.jpg" tag="architecture_lab-20" width="500" type="image" ref="zar-32512-water-based-polyurethane-qt-clear" link_id="173352" identifier="B000FPAOS8"] 

What Could’ve Been Better?

This is a mid-range product that is lesser-known. Although it works great, the product cannot be obtained easily in stores. Of course, online stores have bridged the gap, but availability remains an issue. Some users also faced issues of leveling, even with a good instruction manual.

Pros
  • Dries fast
  • Highly durable
  • Protects against the sun
  • Works best on natural wood
  • Extremely mild smell
Cons
  • Not easily available
  • Self-leveling not as good as advertised
  1. Rust-Oleum 298273

If your target is simply getting your floors protected, then the Rust-Oleum 298273 is the way to go. Rather than furniture, cabinets, and paneling, this product focuses more on protecting bigger areas like floors. It is well-suited for the floor of those homes that experience a lot of walking, running, and accidental scratching – specifically, homes with kids and pets.

RUST-OLEUM 298273 Varathane Vara Gallon Semi-Gloss Water Based Finish
  • 1-Gallon Semi-Gloss finish
  • Thick formula allows for easy application

Why Did We Like It?

The brand Rust-Oleum is known for having products that are rugged and robust. This product is no different – it has a thick and viscous feel. From the first coating itself, you can tell it is meant to form a hard and protective layer. 

One of the most affordable polyurethane on our list – it provides the most value for money if durability is your main concern. Since the product is thick, just double coating may do the job of providing a scratch-resistant top layer that can fend off denting.

Coverage is not a big issue, especially since a gallon of the product can be bought at a bargain. The end result is, however, comparable to any good wood finish. 

As for application, it is easy to apply and has a self-leveling feature. In any case, coats do not have to be ultra-thin to achieve the signature semi-gloss of Rust-Oleum finishes.

[easyazon_image align="center" height="500" locale="US" src="https://m.media-amazon.com/images/I/41J+vb5Pj7L._SL500_.jpg" tag="architecture_lab-20" width="500" type="image" ref="rust-oleum-298273-varathane-vara-gallon-semi-gloss-water-based-finish" link_id="173354" identifier="B0784R8SG5"] 

What Could’ve Been Better?

Thick consistency translates to a longer drying time. In humid conditions, the drying time may take up to 6-8 hours. In normal conditions, a nice and thick layer would take about 4 hours before you can add another coat of the product. 

Pros
  • Durable, can stand wear and tear
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Clear finish, no yellowing
  • Requires fewer layers of coating
Cons
  • Thicker layers take a long time to dry

Best polyurethane for floors 03

Polyurethane Buying Guide

We have presented our pick of the best water-based polyurethane so that you may figure out what is the best to invest in. And it surely is an investment to make if you want your floors to last. 

Of course, the market also has its selection of high-quality oil-based polyurethane. In comparison, water-based finishes are a more expensive option. However, they are also the more environmentally friendly and time-saving of the two. What’s more, the wait time for each coat to dry is less, and the odor is appreciably milder.  

Among the water-based products themselves, there are other factors to look out for. Make a conscious decision only after going through our list of guidelines. 

  1. Coverage

Since multiple coatings are required for most jobs, calculate your expenditure based on the coverage of the product. 

Thinner products will naturally require more coatings. Apart from this, there is a lot of time involved in putting on multiple layers. Although it takes about 2 hours for most water-based poly to dry, we recommend you to wait about 24 hours before putting in more than 2 coatings.  

  1. Budget

Top-of-the-line polyurethane is definitely on the pricier side. Weigh your options knowing that low-quality polyurethane comes with its own disadvantages. It may not be smooth and it will be harder to apply.

Investing in a well-reviewed polyurethane will eliminate the hassle of making mistakes and having to redo floors. This means multiple rounds of sanding, vacuuming, coating, and drying. Although time is also a factor, this may lead to more wastage of materials. 

With budgeting in mind, our next point follows. 

  1. Professional or DIY

Are you willing to spend extra on hiring a professional, or prefer a DIY approach? Needless to say, some products will be easier to apply than others. Commercial-grade polyurethane made for professional use will definitely require some experience. 

If you are not relying on any outside help, we recommend you first try the product on a small patch. This should give you a basic idea and understanding of the coating thickness that is required, the kind of brushes that will do the best job, the time taken by a single layer to dry, and so on.

In the end, you must choose whether it is worth the investment – a good professional job can last up to 4 years.   

  1. Sheen and Color

Water-based polyurethane is known for its maple effect. If you don’t prefer the yellowed look on your floors, consider buying products with a clear finish. 

Different finishes have different effects that range from glossy, semi-glossy to satin. These are just some of the other aesthetic factors that may sway your opinion. 

  1. Durability

Some polyurethane is specifically targeted for exterior use. Sturdier products will protect against UV rays and the extreme conditions of the outdoors. 

Indoors, you will find that some rooms suffer more foot traffic than others. These rooms will require top-notch products that are durable and can stand the test of time. Ideally, you want to pick a finish that will not have to be redone for at least two years.

Best polyurethane for floors 04

Verdict

Frequent cleaning is your best friend to retain the beautiful appearance of wooden flooring. For added protection, top finishes like polyurethane leave a protective film, creating that all-important buffer between the surface and the elements.

Not just a preventive measure – it is also a complete makeover. Buying the perfect fit may mean decades of gorgeous and shiny floors. 

After putting all our products side-by-side, we can conclude that Bona Mega 141 is a complete package of convenience, protection and elegance. If you feel it is on the pricier side of things, go for the Minwax 710330000 model. This great find is priced very reasonably, and offers the convenience of water-based poly, with the gorgeous tint of the oil-based kind. 

You can’t go wrong with either of these two. In fact, just pick any from our list of the 7 best polyurethane, and soon you will be worshipping the ground that you walk on.

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