Solvent vs. Water-based Coating: Choosing a Finish for Your Floorboards

floorboard finishFloorboards come in different colours, grades, sizes, types, and densities, but the feature that affects its appearance the most is the finish. Many finishes are available for wood, such as solvent and water-based coating, so all you need is to choose which is better for your flooring at home.

Whether you’re planning to install new floorboards for your Perth residence or repaint your existing ones, you need to know the difference between them:


Solvent-based polyurethane coatings dry quickly, but can have a lingering odour because of their volatile organic compound (VOC) content. This is advisable for areas where fast curing isn’t necessary, like those that receive high-traffic. Staining the floorboards might be difficult because of how fast it dries up.

Water-based polyurethanes smell less than solvent-based coatings, but can slightly raise the grain in soft wood. The process of denibbing between coats is helpful to get a smoother finish, though. It works well with solvent-based wood and white spirit-based stains, but not with oil-based stains.

After Cleaning

Solvent-based coatings use stronger chemicals, so you need a special solvent and hand cleaner if they get on your household fixtures or on your skin. It’ll be difficult to clean the applicators if you didn’t put any protective clothing.

Water-based coatings are the opposite. Any splashes during and after the application process are easy to remove with water.


Solvent-based coatings resist scratches and wear and tear, making them last longer. This type of coating is available in satin, matt, semi-gloss, and full gloss sheen levels. Water-based coating is a good alternative because of its low toxicity. It resists scratches and wear and tear longer too.

The ideal type of finish for your floorboards depends on how you want it to look like. If you’re planning to do the recoating instead, you have to take note of what’s easier to apply.