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Oil-Based vs Water-Based Coating: Which Suits Your Floors?

Timber Floor Coating Malaysia

Your floors are a significant investment; protecting them with an appropriate coating is vital for longevity and visual appeal. Oil-based and water-based coatings are the two most popular options to get the job done. However, there are some key differences between the two.

Understanding these differences is crucial to making an informed decision based on your needs. As a leading wood supplier in Malaysia, we want to help you make the right decision. Therefore, in this article, we discuss their differences, how to apply them properly, and the considerations you need to think about before making a purchase.

First, let us learn what oil- and water-based coatings are.

What is an Oil-Based Wood Coating?

Oil-based wood coatings are protective finishes for wooden surfaces such as floors, furniture, or cabinetry. They combine natural oils, resins, and solvents to create a durable, long-lasting coating.

One of the key advantages of oil-based wood coatings is their ability to penetrate deep into the wood fibres. This penetration helps to nourish and protect the wood from within, enhancing its natural beauty and grain. We ensure such an ability with OSMO, an oil-based wood coating from the United Kingdom.

Aside from its deep penetration capability, OSMO also promises low- to no-VOC (volatile organic compound) content. VOCs are chemicals that can be harmful to human health and the environment. Having low- to no-VOC formulations makes them safer and more environmentally friendly.

Lastly, their ease of maintenance can be another plus. Oil-based coatings are designed to be easy to maintain and reapply without extensive sanding. Over time, if your wood surface shows signs of wear or dullness, you can simply reapply the oil-based coating to restore its beauty and protection. This convenience saves you time and effort compared to other coating options that may require sanding and complete refinishing.

However, please note that oil-based wood coatings have a longer drying time than water-based alternatives. This means you must allow sufficient drying time before using the coated surface. Additionally, the solvents used in oil-based coatings may have a strong odour during application.

Application Process for Oil-Based Coatings

Applying oil-based coatings to wood surfaces may seem daunting for a novice, but it is straightforward. Here are the three steps to doing it right:

Prepare the surface

The surface to be coated should be clean, dry, and free of any dirt, grease, or paint. The surface can be cleaned with mild soap and water if it is dirty or greasy.

Apply the coating

The oil-based coating can be applied with a brush, roller, or spray gun. When applying the coating, work in thin, even coats. Allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next coat.

Allow the coating to dry

Once the final oil-based coating has been applied, allow the coating to dry completely. This may take several hours or even days, depending on the type of oil-based coating and the surrounding conditions.

What is a Water-Based Wood Coating?

Water-based wood coatings are protective finishes for wooden surfaces such as floors, furniture, or cabinets. Unlike oil-based coatings, which use natural oils and solvents, water-based coatings are formulated using water as the primary solvent, along with resins and additives.

One of the key advantages of water-based wood coatings is their ease of use and low toxicity. Since water is the primary solvent, these coatings have a lower odour and emit fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than their oil-based counterparts, something that LOBA, a water-based coating manufacturer, promises.

Another advantage of using LOBA’s water-based wood coatings is their ability to leave a polyurethane protective layer on the surface. This protective layer acts as a barrier, shielding the wood from moisture, stains, and daily wear and tear. The polyurethane layer helps maintain the beauty and integrity of the wood, ensuring its durability.

While it promises to be long-lasting, remember that water-based coatings require sanding and reapplication from time to time. When this occurs, seeking professional assistance for optimum results is advisable.

Application Process for Water-Based Coatings

The application process for water-based coatings is similar to that for oil-based coatings, meaning that you need to clean the surface from dirt and dust, apply the water-based coating using a brush, roller, or spray gun, and allow it to dry for some time. As mentioned earlier, the difference lies in the waiting time, as a water-based coating has a faster drying time and produces less odour.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Wood Coating

Here are some factors to consider when choosing between oil-based and water-based wood coatings:


Oil-based wood coatings are more durable than water-based wood coatings. They are also more resistant to scratches, dents, and fading. An oil-based coating may be a good choice if you are looking for a coating that will protect your wood for years.

Ease of Application

Water-based wood coatings are easier than oil-based wood coatings. They dry faster and do not require as much sanding. A water-based coating may be a good choice if you are not experienced in applying wood coatings.


Oil-based wood coatings have a strong odour that can be unpleasant and linger for several days after application. Water-based wood coatings have a low odour or no odour at all. If you are sensitive to smells, a water-based coating may be a good choice.

Maintenance and Care for Coated Wooden Floors

Once the wooden floor is coated, proper maintenance is crucial. Spills should be wiped up immediately to prevent damage, and regular vacuuming helps remove dirt and debris that can scratch the coating. Depending on the type of coating and wear and tear, recoating may be necessary every few years to maintain the floor’s appearance and protection.

Looking for a wood and coating supplier in Malaysia?

At Netwood, we understand that choosing the right wood coating for your floors can be difficult. That is why we offer a wide range of high-quality oil-based and water-based coatings, including trusted brands like OSMO and LOBA, to give you options to suit your specific needs and preferences. Contact us today!