Polyurethane Vs Oil Finish: Which One Is Best For You?

The most hyped wood finish, Polyurethane, and oil make you fall into a dilemma while choosing between them. Both the finishes have advantages and disadvantages, which obligate you to ask, polyurethane vs. Oil finish which one is best to choose. 

The main difference between polyurethane and oil wood finish is oil finish is a natural product, and polyurethane is a synthetic finish. They also differ in the way they work. 

However, there are more differences between the two wood finishes. So in this article, we compare them side by side to help you pick the right one easily.

So why late? Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

A Quick Comparison Table Between Polyurethane Vs Oil Finish

Polyurethane Vs Oil Finish

Check out this quick comparison table between polyurethane vs. oil finishes and get a basic idea within a few seconds.

Difference Polyurethane Wood Finish Oil Wood Finish 
PurposeSeal the wood surface to protect against moisture, heat, and water.Nourish the wood surface, enhancing natural wood beauty
Best ForBest for high-traffic areasBest for less-traffic areas
Durability Most DurableLess Durable
Application Application is easy and takes less timeApplication is complicated and takes time
Wood ProtectionProvide more protectionProvides less protection
PriceLess Expensive More expensive 

What Is A Polyurethane Floor Finished?

Polyurethane Floor Finished

A polyurethane or urethane floor finish is a liquid resin that coats wood floors and other wooden surfaces such as cabinets or furniture. This is a synthetic floor finish made from raw materials derived from crude oil. Polyurethane floor finish comes in two versions: oil or water-based. 

However, urethane floor finishes are highly abrasion-resistant and flexible. If you want to make your wood finishing durable, silky shine, and prolong life, polyurethane floor coating can help you. It creates a plastic-like protective barrier over the plank.

Unlike the oil finish, when you coat the wood with polyurethane, you’ll feel that you’re actually walking on a smooth, silky protective layer, not over the hardwood. Urethane floor finishes are mostly used in the U.S. 


  • Best for highly durable coat over hardwood
  • Polyurethane offers superior chemical and heat resistance 
  • Forms a waterproof layer on wood surfaces
  • It protects the wood surfaces from moisture, dents, and scratches 
  • Polyurethane can also be used in outdoor projects


  • Polyurethane can’t accentuate the wood grain. 
  • Sometimes oil-based polyurethane turns yellow over time

What Is Wood Floor Oil Finished?

Wood Floor Oil Finished

Oil finishes are oil-based liquid substances. They are applied on a hardwood floor to protect the wood by sealing and fortifying each fiber. Thus your hardwood floor can be safe from scuffs, spills, and scratches. 

Wood floor oil finishes are most popular in European countries. Oil finishes extend floor life by minimizing wear and water damage and preserving and enhancing wood’s natural glow. On top, the floor with an oil finish gets more beautiful with age.

See also  Aliphatic Glue vs PVA (When To Use Which One & Why)

Types Of Wood Floor Oil Finish

There are two types of hardwood oil finish you can find. Such as 

  • Natural Oil

Natural oil is most popular for the hardwood finish. It’s sometimes also called European hardening oil. Most natural oils are made from vegetable oils. Plus, these oils do not contain aromatic solvents or waxes.

One of the most interesting natural oils is the tung oil finish. It’s a fine natural wood oil finish that enhances the beauty of your wood flooring and furniture. Tung provides the most durable finish of the oils. It soaks into the wood fibers, and forms ultimate protection inside the wood.

  • UV-Cured Oil

Another oil finish is UV-Curved Oil. This oil is made using ultraviolet light. So your wooden pieces are stronger than with a purely natural finish. UV-cured oil finish provides your hardwood with a satin finish as well as prevents the release of VOC gases.

However, it would help if you had some caution while applying a UV-cured floor finish. Because these types of oil require enough humidity and include a stricter cleaning regimen than natural oils. 


  • Nourishes the wood from insideI and enhances wood grain
  • The oil finish allows the wood to show its original texture and characters
  • Offers protection against wear, water, and moisture damage


  • It’s not waterproof
  • Not suitable for outdoor applications 
  • It might frequently apply every year to protect your hardwood.

Polyurethane vs. Oil Wood Finish: Which One Is Best For You?

oil vs. Urethane floor finish

Here we make a head-to-head comparison between oil vs. Urethane floor finish. So you get a clear idea about which one is best for you. 

1. Primary Uses

Though both finishes are used for finishing and giving protection to the wood floor, there are some differences in their primary uses.

  • Polyurethane Finish

Polyurethane is primarily used as a sealant. Thinned Polyurethane is used as the wood sealer, so the wood keeps protected under the layer to even out the pores and gives a better finish.

  • Oil Wood Finish

On the contrary, Oil wood finishes are primarily used for nourishing the wood. It penetrates the wood grain to enhance its natural beauty and character. Treat your wood surface with a natural oil finish if you like to keep your hardwood floor more polished and beautiful.

Verdict: Polyurethane is a wood sealant, whereas oil wood is used for wood nurishment. 

2. Wood Protection

You must invest in a finish that will give your wooden floor maximum protection. Otherwise, within some years of usage, it needs repairing, which is costly. 

  • Polyurethane Finish

The tough coat of Polyurethane on the wood surface can perfectly stand for indoor or outdoor wood protection. It forms a barrier between the wood surface and the external environment. So there is no chance the water penetrates the wood and you will get ultimate waterproof protection. It can also significantly resist dent, heat, and chemicals. 

  • Oil Wood Finish

In contrast, oil wood finishes are water resistant and prevent water from entering and damaging the wood pores. But the protection wears out over time, and you need to reapply the oil per year to maintain your wood protection, and it’s not recommended to use outside as the oil protection can not stand for long exposure to water.

See also  How To Dye Wood All The Way Through [4 Steps to Fine Dyed Wood]

Verdict: Polyurethane offers maximum protection whereas oil wood needs reapply. 

3. Durability

Floor finishes are meant to protect your floor from wear and tear for an extended period. Though both floor finishes are durable, there are some dissimilarities between them.

  • Polyurethane Finish

Polyurethane finishes are much more durable because they add a protective layer over the hardwood, so the floor gets an extra protection level. Whether water-based or oil-based urethane, it efficiently protects against scratches, dents, and moisture for ages. You might need to refinish after a long time. It can go up to two decades.

  • Oil Wood Finish

Oil finishes have pretty durability for average uses. When there is any scratch on the floor, you can buff and blend it away. Otherwise, the oil wood finish can be sanded, re-stain, or re-oil the scratches. There is no need to refinish it like the Polyurethane oil finish. However, it can last for years in less-traffic areas if you maintain the oil finish properly.

Verdict: Polyurethane is most durable whereas oil wood needs maintenance for durability. 

4. Water Resistance

Water resistance in your wood finish product ensures that water will not damage your wood surface. 

  • Polyurethane 

Polyurethane is a liquid plastic that adds an extra layer or barrier over the wood. Thus the water can’t penetrate the wood beyond the solid layer. So it provides better moisture and water resistance than oil. 

  • Oil Wood Finish 

Since oil penetrates the pores in your hardwood floor, thus it blocks the pores and provides pretty water resistance. But it does not give your wood waterproof protection. That’s why prolonged exposure to water can ultimately damage the wood.

Verdict: Polyurethane is waterproof but oil wood is water resistant not waterproof. 

5. Drying Times

It’s important to know how much you have time for your product’s drying time and the project’s overall timeline. So in case you’re in a hurry or have enough time to complete the job, you can pick the one you like.

  • Polyurethane Finish 

Polyurethane dries faster than oil. You should wait only 12 to 24 hours to let the Polyurethane dry on the wood surface.

  • Oil Wood Finish

Oil wood finish usually takes a longer time to dry. It typically dries completely between 1 to 2 days. If you use raw tung oil, it can even take weeks to dry fully. Because you need to apply at least 5 to 7 coats of tung oil to get enough protection, leading to a longer dry time.

Verdict: Polyurethane dries faster than oil wood

6. Maintenance

Maintenance is an important factor when choosing a finish. When you’re busy, you want some finish that is easily maintainable and manageable. 

  • Polyurethane Wood Finish
See also  Anchor seal Vs Anchorseal 2: Which Is Perfect For You?

Urethane floors are easy to maintain. You can clean them by simply sweeping and mopping with a good wood-safe cleaner that is absolutely enough to make your floor look great. Otherwise, a urethane finish provides a barrier on the wood, so you don’t need to be extra careful with the issues occurring with the wood floor.

  • Oil Wood Finish

Oil wood finish seeks regular maintenance. You need to clean the finished floor regularly with specific soap and oils. So you have to give some time daily for your oil finish maintenance. Though regular maintenance like re-oiling or special cleaning can save your pocket bucks from refinishing the floor after some years.

Verdict: Polyurethane is easier to maintain than oil wood.

7. Sheen

Sheen means a glossiness from your wood finish. Sheen can be glossy or matte. It is a matter of preference because some people like a glossy finish from the floor, and others like a matte finish.

  • Polyurethane finish 

Usually, Polyurethane finishes have a higher sheen, but some Polyurethane Oil finishes come with a variety of sheens so that you can pick one as your preference. 

  • Oil Wood Finish

Oil wood finishes have a lower sheen, which offers a matte finish. If you love to give your floor a more natural and less shiny look, then oil wood finishes are the best choice.

Verdict: Polyurethane requires higher sheen but oil wood requires lower sheen.

Related articles :

Is tung Or polyurethane better?

It depends on where you’re applying the wood finish and what you want from the finish. If you want a protective layer that can stand the wear and tear of high-traffic areas, then Polyurethane is the better choice.

Otherwise, an oil finish will be better to use if you want to preserve the natural beauty of your hardwood floor.

How long does polyurethane last on wood?

How long Polyurethane lasts on your wood depends on various factors, such as how you use the floor, the quality of the polyurethane finish you have used, etc. Polyurethane finish can last from 3 to 6 years. However, if you notice any damage on your hard floors, you should reapply the finish soon. 

Can you sleep in the house after using oil-based Polyurethane?

When you apply oil-based polyurethane in your house, it becomes inhabitable minimum for two days. So it’s better to sleep not in the house or stay out for 3-5 days from your house. 

Polyurethane Vs Oil Finish: Final Thoughts

Polyurethane and oil wood finish are both good finishes for wood in their aspect. But when you must select one, you must focus on your requirements and compare them with the characteristics of the finishes. 

If you seek our suggestion, we recommend an oil finish to keep your wood floor nourished and replenish its natural oil from the inside. An oil finish will be the perfect choice for people who love to see their wood surface have a natural, originally glowing appearance.

Besides, if you’re looking for a finish for a high-traffic area that needs low maintenance and is sustainable for a longer period, then we recommend a Polyurethane finish.

Hopefully, this article will help you find the right finish for you and if you have any further queries, ask us in the comment section.