Hardwood Flooring Expert Justin Crimmins on Oil- versus Water-Based Finish

From on April 24, 2008 in Flooring

Crimmins Hardwood FlooringJustin Crimmins knows his hardwood flooring. Founder of Crimmins Hardwood Flooring, which opened in October of 2003, he services residential clients, as well as high profile clients such as Harvard University, Bagel Works, Home Depot, and GAP. One reason for the company’s success is that Crimmins and his crew don’t shy away from perfection. “We strongly believe, and it has been proven true, that one job completed to perfection always gets you a second job through referral,” Crimmins explains.

One critical step toward perfect hardwood floors is finish. I recently interviewed Crimmins on this important step, to help homeowners determine which type of finish to choose. Here, Crimmins talks about factors such as pricing, drying and accuracy of the two primary finishing options.

What are the pros and cons of both water- and oil-based finishes?

Water-based dries very quickly, which is convenient for customers. Oil-based dries very slowly, which can make a job take longer to complete. Sometimes oil can cost you an entire extra day due to dry time.

Water has virtually no odor; oil smells very strongly. One small room coated with oil can stink up an entire house.

Over time, oil begins to turn wood an orange-type color, we call that ambering. Some people like that, many do not. I personally do not like wood to amber. Water does not amber wood. Water is a great deal more expensive than oil, which does end up going into the price for the customer.

I use only the best finish available and here is the rough breakdown on prices to give you an idea. I pay around $35 a gallon for the oil-based I use; I pay around $100 a gallon for the water-based I use. So to give you an example, I just sent a proposal out before beginning this email. Water is a little more difficult to work with so that affects the price a little bit.

The job is 1,300 sq. ft. I bid it for oil at $2.00 a sq. ft. I bid it for water at $2.50 a sq. ft., which is a $650 difference. I could go on all day, but these are the things that matter and that I explain to people.

Which finish do you prefer and why? Does this differ, depending on the project?

I prefer water for my own home simply for that natural look that I explained. I prefer to use oil because it is a lot more error free. Water can dry poorly at times due to the humidity and heat in the weather. It is also faster to coat with, so that obviously is better for me (lol).

If the floor is getting stained, it is almost guaranteed that I have to use oil as stain is 95% of the time oil based.

Which finish do homeowners tend to request?

Most homeowners don’t even know that water exists until I tell them. Most do want the water after I explain it to them if they have it in their budget.

Got a hardwood flooring request? Receive at least 3 free estimate from contractors like Crimmins or experts in your area.