Top Pick – ZAR Oil Based Fast Drying Polyurethane
ZAR oil-based poly is primarily designed for hardwood floors. Its self-leveling formula provides you with a smooth finish and a fast dry time.Check Price
When it’s time to put down some hardwood floors, you can bet that some serious money will need to be spent. If you want the real thing, as opposed to the various knock-offs and synthetics, it won’t likely be a cheap endeavor. That is why you need to protect your investment with an oil-based polyurethane coating that will keep your hardwood floor looking good for years to come.
Hardwood Floor. Photo: 123rf.com
Best Oil Based Polyurethanes for Hardwood Floors in March, 2023
|Polyurethane||Coverage (quart)||Recoat dry (hours)||Sheen|
|1||ZAR Poly Editor's Choice||125 - 150 sq ft||2||nearly flat||Check Price|
|2||Rust-Oleum Poly||up to 137,5 sq ft||4||satin||Check Price|
|3||Dura-Seal||125 sq ft||8||satin||Check Price|
|4||Deft Defthane||125 - 150 sq ft||6||gloss||Check Price|
|5||Minwax Poly||150 - 175 sq ft||6-8||satin||Check Price|
Here are the best oil-based polyurethanes for hardwood floors on the market:
ZAR Oil Based Polyurethane Wood Finish – The Speedy One
The flagship feature of this product is definitely its fast drying time. According to most reviews, it lives up to the advertising and dries within two hours. There is some variation, but the estimated time would appear to be correctly advertised.
Produces A Very Smooth Floor
This is another self-leveling product, which is really handy for those who hate the sight of brush strokes, or those who don’t have time to worry about hand leveling. However, it is possible that the floor could become a little too smooth. A floor that is excessively smooth will produce a greater risk of falls and injury, so take that factor into account.
This product is recommended for floors and seems to have the requisite durability, so that’s excellent. When we look at the small number of complaints for this product, we find that no one has complained about durability. However, quite a few people have said that it didn’t do a good job of darkening the wood. One of the reasons to use an oil-based finish is the desire to darken the wood, so make sure you’re okay with a lighter finish before you buy this product.
Most Buyers See This As A Good Value
In terms of cost, this one isn’t too bad. It’s neither the cheapest nor the most expensive, so that shouldn’t be considered too heavily. In spite of a few little problems, this seems to be a fairly good product that has caused very few unhappy customers.
- Fast-drying (only two hours or so)
- Self-leveling formula for a nice slick finish
- Specifically intended for hardwood floors
- Strong finish
- Slightly expensive
- Highly flammable
- Doesn’t darken the wood very much
- Self-leveling formula might produce a floor that is too smooth
Rust-Oleum Oil Polyurethane – The Cadillac
This is probably the best option for those who aren’t terribly worried about their budget. At nearly twenty-five dollars a quart, it is easily the most expensive poly coating on my list. At the same time, it offers a lot of features and benefits for that extra money.
Meant To Be Used Roughly
This product is formulated with heavy use in mind. This means that it should be tough enough for any flooring job. It dries just as quickly as the Zar, though times may vary a little based on humidity and temperature. Either way, it’s quick and strong, which isn’t too bad of a combination.
The smell isn’t all that strong, thankfully. This one is legal in California and other states with tougher environmental protection laws, so no worries there. The rich satin color does a very good job of bringing out the grain of darker wood, and wood that has been stained. However, it can impart a dingy appearance to light-colored wood.
There’s no warranty or money-back guarantee on this coating. While such a thing isn’t common for products of this type, it would be very reassuring on a product that is so expensive. This one is kind of like a Cadillac: Very nice, but not very nice on your wallet.
The Thick Consistency Helps
Unlike some products of this type, the Rust-Oleum will do a good job of coating a surface with minimal soaking. Its thick consistency prevents it from soaking into the wood too deeply before it dries. However, this polyurethane doesn’t do so well with pre-treated surfaces. Be aware that you might have to do some sanding if you opt for this product.
- Formulated for heavy use and thick application
- Dries very quickly (4 hours)
- Smell isn’t as strong as others
- Brings out the wood grain with great effectiveness
- Thick consistency keeps it from soaking into the wood
- One of the most expensive products on this list
- Some types of wood don’t look good with a satin finish
- No warranty
Dura-Seal Polyurethane – Inexpensive and Durable
Dura-Seal is a well-known brand for finishing floors. This polyurethane is one of the most durable options you can possibly find on the market. The product gets pretty good coverage, with one gallon providing up to 500 square feet. This is pretty important when doing a hardwood floor, as you will be coating a very large surface. It comes in one-gallon volume which is regular for finishing floors.
Customers seem to regularly praise the durability of this product, and its tendency to form a level and uniform coating with minimal trouble.
An Inexpensive Workhorse
If you take a look at the price you may think that this is an expensive product. But it’s not. Why? You see, it comes in 1-gallon size whereas most of the other polyurethanes come in 1 quart. 1 gallon is equal to 4 quarts, which means that other options on the list are more expensive if you want to buy a gallon.
So, Dura Seal is cheap and durable option. Great deal I think.
Scale Your Project Properly
The only bad thing about this product is the fact that it requires multiple coats to achieve the level of durability that is advertised. Although this isn’t a huge problem, it does represent an increase in cost. In all, this value pack would be a good idea for someone with several smaller projects to do, rather than one large project. This way, you wouldn’t have to worry as much about the product drying out as it sits in the shed waiting to be used.
- Good value for the money
- Good coverage (500 ft)
- Very durable finish
- Not a good idea for small projects
- Requires at least two coats, according to the manufacturer
Deft Defthane Interior Exterior Clear Poly – The High-Solids Option
This is another well-regarded brand that gets pretty good reviews. This one is obviously designed with a focus on the durability factor, as that is the most prevalent element of their advertising. When we look at this, we see that it is “high-solids.” Presumably, this means that there are solids present in the mixture, which would almost have to affect the clarity of the finish. Still, an oil finish is expected to darken the wood a little bit, so it might not be a problem.
Tough And Waterproof
One thing I like about this product is the fact that it is specifically made for high-use areas like floors and cabinets. It is waterproof, though it is not good enough to be rated as marine paint. They say that you can use it on a boat or other watercraft if you keep above the waterline. Cost is reasonable, though not extremely low, and this product also has the advantage of being usable on any surface.
That last part is pretty handy because you don’t need to worry about removing the floor’s existing finish (if it has one). However, I do have a few small complaints as well. First of all, this coating is only available in quarts, which could be an issue for larger homes. By the time you buy more cans, you may end up spending more money than necessary.
Not Environmentally Friendly
Another little problem is the strong chemical smell that comes from the can. It’s so bad that this product cannot be obtained in certain states because of environmental protection laws! For reference, the states in question are Alaska, California, Hawaii, and New Hampshire.
A Few Conditional Complaints
A bigger issue is the fact that some customers have reported issues with bubbles forming in the substance as it dries, and with cracking. Some have even said that it happened within only a day or two of application, but it should be noted that these bad reviews are in the minority.
- Specifically formulated for high-use areas like floors
- Waterproof to a certain extent
- Can be used on top of any existing surface or coating
- Relatively inexpensive
- Only sold in quarts
- Longer dry time
- Noxious chemical smell
- Some customers report issues with bubbling and cracking
Minwax Super Fast-Drying Polyurethane For Floors – The Big Bucket
This is another gallon-size option, and it’s about the same price as our first product. This means it is just as good a value as the Dura-seal but a little more expensive.
This is a specialty product that was made for flooring, so you can be sure that you are buying the tool intended for the job. However, this product doesn’t get particularly good reviews and has been discontinued by some stores. Although it seems to be an effective and high-quality product in many instances, it also seems to have a high rate of defects.
Meant To Be A Time-Saver
This product does have a fast drying time, and it is made that way because of its relatively thin consistency. You are going to need multiple coats, so it’s nice that you won’t have to wait so long in between. If the product performs as advertised, That would be a great advantage.
Most of the negative reviews focus on two issues. These two issues are durability and bubbling. A lot of reviewers claimed that the product developed many bubbles during the drying process. Most of them said that the product applied smoothly and looked fine until an hour or two after application. I haven’t had such issues but keep that in mind.
Might Be A Little Too Thin
The thin consistency of this stuff leads to a less durable finish, and many reviewers have also commented on that. Others say that the product hardened in the can before it could even be used. Based on the overall pattern of the reviews, we believe that this product suffers from a higher rate of defects and that it works well when a quality sample is obtained.
As for the manufacturer’s claim that this product requires no sanding between coats, that seems to be up for debate. Some reviewers said that the self-leveling feature worked fine and that no sanding was required between coats. Some others said that the product did not level itself at all and had to be sanded quite a bit. With such divided reviews, I have to call this one inconclusive.
- Specialized for use on floors
- Good value
- Fast drying time
- Can be re-coated more quickly than other products
- Dries perfectly smooth, no need for extra sanding
- Higher Rate Of Defects
- Prone to hardening in the can
- Reviews are not very good
- Many customers report bubbling issues
- Some customers report durability issues
A polyurethane coating is especially important for a hardwood floor, as it provides a sacrificial layer that is much easier (and cheaper) to replace than the wood that lies beneath. Floors will generally take a lot of wear and tear, for obvious reasons. There are both water and oil-based formulas, but I have chosen to focus on the oil-based products for the purposes of this article.
We have a difficult decision here, as all of these products have their strengths and weaknesses. However, there is one product that stands out from the rest in terms of features and quality: ZAR Finish.
I have read recently where some water-based polys can leave an impression of your foot or shoe when you walk on them. Is that possible?
Hi Wayne, everything in this world is possible 🙂
However, there are a number of factors that influence.
– Is the water-based polyurethane intended for floors or is it claimed on the packaging that it has a hard coating?
– Will it dry well? When applying several coats, the previous one must be completely dry. Some varnishes need more drying.
– Is the varnish working properly? If you mix with another varnish or do something that is not recommended by the manufacturer, it can be a problem.
– What is the basis? Whether the base itself is not soft (wood) or is treated with a varnish that does not interact with the new one. is it well prepared?
And a bunch of other reasons. If you take a good floor varnish and follow all the application requirements, I don’t think you will have any problems.
This article may be useful to you.
I brought in some 65 yr old fence wood that I am going to use as my flooring in a. not any traffic but me, computer room . It is a 100 square foot room. Should I put on a coat of wood hardener before I apply a poly coat to it?
It all depends on the condition of the wood and what type of wood it is (soft or hard)
If it has started to soften and there are changes in the structure, it is better to apply hardener before Polyurethane.
If the wood is hard and strong it is not necessary. However, the floor carries a lot of load and must be strong.
I used oil based stain on oak stair treads. Heard that I should go with oil based polyurethane sealer on top. It’s 13 treads so I’m thinking I’d only need a quart or 2. Which one do you recommend?
This varnish by ZAR is suitable for floors, has good abrasion resistance.
Available in a quarter gallon box.
It is good to lightly sand the stain with grit P220 and P320.
Have you used Bona poly before? Thoughts?
Yes, I have an article about water-based polyurethane where I mentioned Bona.
You forgot one of the best, Fabulon. High VOC I believe but a heck of a finish that withstands pets, kids, scratches etc. My father suggested it when my husband and I refinished original red oak wood floors in a fixer upper, our first home. It’s been 9 years and no wear AT ALL.
Thank you for the comment. Never used Fabulon before, but I hope I will have time to check it out.