Applying Water Based Urethane To Hardwood

By Todd Fratzel on Finish Carpentry, Painting and Finishing

I learned something new today that and I thought it was worth sharing. Because of today’s strict new VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) laws most Urethanes are now water based. Most wood fillers however are still an oil based product. So you ask what’s the big deal?

If you apply a water based urethane over an oil based wood filler it will most likely turn yellow or at least not match the color that you started with. I’ve actually learned this the hard way a few times but I had no idea what actually caused it. So, a painter suggested that next time I apply the urethane prior to filling any holes. Get all your coats of urethane applied, all the sanding and preparation done. Then go back at the end and apply the oil based wood filler. You know what… works fantastic! Next time you’re working with urethane give this a try, I think you’ll be very impressed.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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  1. Paul says:

    I have found that most urethane finishes will yellow a little bit over time. For my last furniture project I used teak oil, which is a rub on finish, and it came out great. A lot of work though.

    The one thing that I always liked about polyurethane is it is pretty darn tough. The Spar Urethanes have been great on the living room furniture with the kids, no worries about spills and such because they are water proof.

    How does the water based product stand up?

  2. Jennifer says:

    What a good tip! I wouldn’t have thought of that.

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