Gym Floor Finish: Oil vs. Water

Choosing which gym floor finish is best for your hardwood floor is an important decision. Mostly because facility maintenance wants a protective finish that improves playability and baller safety. However, differences between finish options can confuse facility operators. Which finish is right for your maple investment? Should you go with an oil-based or water-borne gym floor finish?

Traditionally, gym floors are coated with oil-based gym floor finish. Yet, in recent years, water-based floor finish has gained popularity. Though these two perform the same utility, they have many differences. Let’s consider a few things to help make our decision. Are you time crunched for an upcoming event? How much is one flooring finish versus the other? Perhaps the look and feel sways your decision. In some cases this decision feels like appliance shopping. However, choosing which gym floor finish to use affects both budget and maintenance operations.

Oil vs. Water Finish

In the first place, it is important to understand your facility’s needs, budget and schedule when contacting a QHF professional about refinishing. By doing so, our staff can walk you through the many factors that lead to a decision. Let us look at a side-by-side comparison below to illustrate the common pros and cons of oil vs. water finish.

Water-Borne Finish


  • A clear look that preserves natural wood appearance
  • Virtually odorless
  • Can be cleaned with water
  • An eco-friendly choice


  • Can cost twice as much as oil-based finish
  • Optimally will require two coats
  • Will require additional coats more frequently

Oil-Based Finish


  • Requires one coat
  • Generally less expensive than water-borne finish
  • Cure time is around 72 hours
  • Requires less maintenance over time
  • Containing 45-50 percent solids for greater hardwood protection


  • Will amber over a few years
  • Can emit strong odors

Recommended Products

Advantage Coatings Tech Defense Water Based Sealer

Defense Gym Finish - Water Borne

Advantage Coatings’ Defense Sport finish is a premium 2-component waterborne coating, specifically designed for high gloss and durability.

Recommended Uses:
Basketball, racquetball, volleyball, squash and badminton courts; multi-purpose gyms, stages, aerobic and dance floors.

Advantage Coatings Tech Defense Oil Based Sealer

Pro Sport Poly 50

Performance Sport Poly 50 is a high solids gym floor finish that gives exceptional build. Sport Poly 50’s high-gloss protective coating provides unsurpassed chemical resistance and durability.


  • High Solids Gym Finish
  • Exceptional Build

All things considered, both oil-based and water-borne finished serve the same purpose.  As can be seen, water based may be the eco-friendly choice. However it can actually cost more initially and with additional coats. Whereas the budget-friendly oil-based finish only needs annual refinishing. 

Now that you know the differences between oil and water-based finishes, which one makes sense for you?

Client First Gym Floor Finishing

As always, QHF aims to do what is right for your gym floors. Because of this, we are committed to refinishing your gym floors as you want them: on time and in-budget. Ultimately we want to leave you with a “like-new” gym floor your whole team can be proud of.  

To sum up, our pros are available to field any remaining questions. Allow us to guide you and determine which floor finish is right for you.  In short, the QHF team will get your team back on the newly refinished floor. 

Oil or Water?

Which gym floor finish is right for you? Refinish your gym floor in time for your next event, and avoid costly maintenance issues.