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Oil vs. Urethane Wood Floor Finish: Which One Is Right for You?

A floor’s finish is one of the most important parts of a hardwood floor. A hardwood floor’s finish enhances the beauty of the hardwood and ensures the floor is safe and protected from the wear and tear of everyday life.

So, how can you determine which finish is right for you? In a comparison, which is best: oil or urethane? Let’s look at both options so that you can make the best choice for your project. 

What Is a Wood Floor Oil Finish?

Oil finishes are the most popular finish in Europe. An oil finish protects the wood by sealing and fortifying each fiber of the wood. So, when you’re walking on hardwood floors with an oil finish, you’re actually walking on the hardwood itself.  

Floors with an oil finish tend to look more natural and to get more beautiful with age. 

Natural Oil 

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Natural oils are also sometimes called European hardening oils. Most natural oils are made from vegetable oils and don’t contain aromatic solvents or waxes. The oil soaks into the plank and hardens, forming a layer of protection from inside the wood. 

UV-Cured Oil 

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UV-cured oil finish means that the oil was cured using ultraviolet light. As a result, the planks are stronger than with a purely natural oil finish. Unlike natural oils, a UV oil finish can also have a satin finish. UV oil also prevents the release of VOC gases. 

However, UV-cured oil requires a certain humidity level and has a stricter cleaning regimen than natural oils. 

What Is a Urethane Floor Finish?

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A urethane floor finish (also called a polyurethane coating) is highly abrasion-resistant and flexible. It’s known for its durability, longevity, and shine. It works by creating a plastic-like protective barrier over the wood floor.

Unlike an oil finish, when you walk on a floor with a urethane finish, you’re actually walking on a protective layer- not the wood.

Urethane is the most popular floor finish choice in the U.S. Unlike an oil finish, a urethane finish looks the best the day it’s installed. Regular foot traffic and daily wear will make it begin to lose its luster. However, a re-finish is all it takes to make the floor look brand new again. 

Oil vs. Urethane Floor Finish

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How do oil and urethane compare head-to-head?


Between the two types of floor finish, urethane is the most durable. There’s an actual protective layer, so the hardwood is extra protected. In time, you’ll be able to see white scratches and scuffs in the urethane finish, which can be unsightly, and there’s not an easy fix.

Thankfully, the overall solution is pretty simple. You have to apply a fresh, even coat of urethane, as needed, or every 10-12 years to cover up and repair the scratches.

It’s not to say that oil finishes aren’t durable. On the contrary, they can be durable. When an oil finished floor gets a scratch, it’s really simple to buff and blend it away. You can also sand, re-stain, and re-oil larger scratches, so you don’t ever have to do a refinish like you would with a urethane-finished floor. 


When it comes to sheen, oil finishes have a lower sheen, making them look more natural and less shiny. Often, sheen is a matter of preference because some people like a shinier finish. Ultimately, urethane finishes have a higher sheen. 


Urethane floors are super simple to clean and maintain. Since they’re protected with a barrier, you don’t have to worry about many common issues that occur with wood floors. To keep them clean, you simply sweep and mop with a wood-safe cleaner to keep them looking great.

On the other hand, oil-finished floors will require regular, specialized cleanings with specific soaps and oils. So, day-to-day, an oil-finished floor will require more ongoing maintenance. Those who prefer oil-finished floors say that the ongoing maintenance is easier than the long-term maintenance associated with urethane-finished floors.

In other words, regular re-oiling and special cleaning are less of a hassle than a re-finish every 10-12 years. People that prefer urethane argue the opposite, so it’s really a matter of preference.

Get Your Oil or Urethane Finished Floors From BuildDirect

As you can see, both urethane and oil finishes for floors have some definite pros and cons. Ultimately, it comes down to your individual long-term goals. BuildDirect has both oil and urethane finished floors.

So, no matter whether you want an oil or urethane finish, we have a wide selection of options, handpicked by industry experts, to fit your preferences and budget. Plus, if you become a PRO Rewards member, you get access to a 5% credit, unlimited samples, exclusive discounts, and more. Become a PRO Rewards member today!

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