Waterlox Vs. Polyurethane Wood Finish

No doubt that flooring and furniture are necessary parts of a home; therefore, much effort is channeled towards this area. No one wants to keep replacing or fixing either repeatedly. It is for this very essence that finishes are essential. They enhance, portray in much better light the beauty of the wood, and protects its surface, thereby improving durability.

Finishes fall into two categories; surface finishes and penetrating finishes. Waterlox and Polyurethane are both finishes commonly used in wood making and flooring. Both are very similar but still significantly different.

Waterlox finish is a resin-modified, solvent-based tung oil finish produced by the Hawkins’ family-owned business “Waterlox chemical and coatings corporation. Polyurethane, however, can be oil-based or water-based. Water-based Polyurethane has a low odor and low volatile organic compound, and you can apply it relatively quickly. Oil-based Polyurethane takes longer to dry and emits strong fumes; it requires relatively fewer coats during application.

Waterlox Vs Polyurethane

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PricingWaterlox finish is both budget-friendly and cost-effective. It costs about 48 dollars. You can use a gallon of Waterlox to apply two coats on a 300 square-foot space.Polyurethane finish costs about $40-$100 per gallon, depending on the thickness and quality.
Warranty and durabilityWaterlox finishes have a year warranty and up to lifetime durabilitybased on maintenance. If they prove to be defective within a year of purchase, the waterlox coatings corporation is obligated to replace the material or make a refund of the purchase price. However, they are not liable for any damage, loss, or injury suffered as a result of the use or misuse of the product.Polyurethane finishes last up to 3 years if it’s kept unopened. After opening, you must use them within 6-12 months; otherwise, they get crusted. They are wear warranted for five years from the purchase date, and when a new coat is added, the life span is increased for another 3-5 years. Proper maintenance is, however, needed to validate the warranty.
Material compositionWaterlox finish is solvent-based, specifically oil-based varnish. The varnish is handmade from phenolic resins and pure tung oil, making water penetration in the wood surface impossible rather than alkyd resin is a cheaper alternative.Polyurethane, however, is plastic water or oil-based resin; it is a class of polymers.

Differences between Waterlox and Polyurethane

As much as Waterlox and Polyurethane share similarities, herein are the differences that lie between them.


Polyurethane finish is a surface one; it lays on top of the surface, looks more like plastic, brittle easily, and once scratched, can ultimately fail. Waterlox finish is a penetrating one that permeates into the pores of the woods, giving it both strength and guards.


With a Waterlox finish, it is possible to repair scratches without refinishing the entire floor. When a new layer of Waterloo is placed over an old one, the new layer reactivates the old one and becomes chemically bonded as one. Also, you can recoat floors without having to sand first. Some Polyurethane has a time frame in which recoating can be done without applying sand first, which is mostly 12hrs. After that, there is a need to sand the floor before recoating because single coats of Polyurethane do not chemically bond together to become one like Waterlox.

Application and curing time

Waterlox takes quite an amount of time compared to Polyurethane. Each coat takes 24hrs to dry up before recoating, and once all the coats have been laid, it would still take about 7days of gentle threading to avoid leaving marks on the floor. Whereas Polyurethane can be applied, dried, and recoated in 4hours, the coating could be done entirely daily. The floors need gentle threading for just two days. It takes 7days to cure completely, which is very minute compared to Waterlox. It ultimately takes 30-90 days for Waterlox to heal completely.

Long-run effect

Waterlox has a solid amber color when it is first applied, but over time, it gets even more amber and begins to affect the color of the wood, which can either give beauty or discolor the wood based on its type. Polyurethane has a thin layer, so there is no cambering or discoloration, and so the natural colors of the wood are maintained, causing floors, furniture, and co to shine through.

Similarities between Waterlox and Polyurethane.

Waterlox shares several similarities with Polyurethane which are highlighted in the following paragraphs.

Both Waterlox and Polyurethane provide a rock hard finish and enable furniture shines through. They are versatile both in their application and in use. They are suitable for virtually any project, whether interior or exterior, mainly interior and without direct contact with sunlight, the case of the exterior. They are equally durable, beautiful, non-toxic, and food-safe when both dried. During application, they need three layers of coating. They are both environmentally-friendly as well as affordable.


Most homes today demand high-performance products that are strong yet lightweight, easily installed, durable, and versatile. Finishes are used all over the house, on floors, roof, furniture, and lots more. They coat surfaces, protect them from scratches and help with water resistance which adds design flexibility and beauty to homes.

It finishes, locks out water, and locks in beauty. This propels wood makers, homeowners, and interior designers to make and choose specific finishes to improve furniture and floors’ look, finesse, quality, and durability. They would also consider other factors like cost & affordability of that particular option, its benefits and disadvantages, time involved in getting it to work, and lots more. As much as information on Waterlox and Polyurethane has been outlined above, choosing between either of them is entirely up to the user, whose taste in wood, color, and affordability will determine their option.

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