Polyurethane on Stairs

Old 10-04-02, 06:35 AM
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Polyurethane on Stairs

Sorry if this question has been asked a hundred times before...

We're refinishing the hardwood (oak, it looks like) treads on the only staircase in the house. (Kicks are painted).

How much longer does oil-based poly last versus water? I'm leaning towards the water-based because four or five days out of the house (with two small kids) is really a pain. How well does the new fast-drying oil-based minwax stack up?

Thanks very much.
Old 10-04-02, 10:24 PM
Berry Mutton
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Polyurethane on stairs

Hello CitS;

It is generally understood that the oil based poly is more durable than the water based. It also has a richer, amber quality (and for this reason you will eventually see yellow marks where you overlapped onto the paint work if your cutting-in is not good). If it is not possible to coat the stairs with oil-based about 4 hours before careful use in bare/stockinged feet, use the water based. It beats the oil by about 2 hours. Both need to be treated carefully initially for up to 30 days.

If you are going to stain the stairs after sanding you will need to let the stain dry at least 24 hours before the poly and there can be no traffic on the stairs while the stain is drying. With adults you can do alternate steps on 2 separate days and step over the wet ones but kids don't seem to get that idea (among others).

Remember to use a tack cloth to wipe the stairs after you have vacuumed them for the sanding dust. You'll be amazed how much you missed. Use it again after the light sanding you will give the stairs after the first coat - and even the second if you are the perfectionist type.

Good luck

Old 10-05-02, 06:28 AM
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Thanks very much. I think they'll look great either way.

I'm just wondering, how much more durable is oil than water? If it will only give me an extra year or so, I'm not sure it's worth it.

It might also be that water-based is simply "more prone to chipping and wear" and that I can live with.

We just had the downstairs floors re-done and the two boys have already found a number of ways to add deep, lasting scratches in every room. Perfection, it seems, is not an option.
Old 10-05-02, 07:38 AM
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The water base polys have come a long way in the past few years. After evaporation, what you have remaining is an alkyd resin polyurethane finish, same as the oil product.
The disadvantage of the water base is that it will raise the grain of the wood considerably and will require the light sanding beteween coats. And since it dries much faster, adding a third or even fourth coat will not hust. The water base dries clear and will not affect the original color of your stain. If you want to try the water poly, just get a small can of polycrylic and try it.

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