Best polyurethane for wood floors

Q: I just installed unfinished white oak on my stairs. I’m staining them now. What is the best polyurethane for wood floors, that will dry nice and hard? Also, should I sand the poly between coats?

A: There are many good finishes on the market. They might all claim to be the best, and I don’t think there is any one correct answer. What is best in one circumstance, will not be best in another.

Living in Canada, and still being from the old school, I still prefer the omu or solvent based polyurethane finishes. I have used water borne off and on for many years. Living in the U.S. you may have no choice but to use water borne.

I can name several good ones. Dura Seal 2000 and Dura Seal X-terra. They both require a cross linker to be added. don’t get this stuff on your skin! I believe the X-terra is a bit more robust but once you mix it, you have so many hours to use the stuff up, then the rest is waste. The 2000 can be cross linked twice. finishes like this generally dry for re coat in an hour or 2. They don’t have to be buffed or sanded between coats to gain adhesion, provided the next coat is applied within the designated hours specified by the particular manufacturer. A very, very light buffing will help to remove any grain raise.

Other good finishes in this genre are Street Shoe from Basic Coatings. This one probably reaches maximum hardness faster than any other. It can only be cross linked once.

Bona Kemi has a number of such finishes. Traffic and Mega being amongst the most popular. Mega is oxygen cross linked so you don’t have to add anything.

A word on white oak. Some or all water based finishes require their sealer to be used first on white oak to prevent discolouration from tannin in the wood.

If you are fortunate enough to be able to use omu, this becomes much more simple. When the stain is thoroughly dry, brush on a thin, even coat. When it dries, lightly sand with fine sand paper to smooth it out and scratch the finish so that you gain adhesion. I would apply 3 coats, with sanding between coats a must. Be very gentle with sanding between the 1st and 2nd coat, so that you don’t cut into the stain.

See our wood flooring products articles for Craig’s opinion on the best of the newest products!

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