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Oil Based Finish Vs Water Based Finish On Gym Floors

We often get asked our opinion on Oil modified finish vs Water based finish on a gym floor application. This article will look at both products, and we will try to explain the pros & cons of both. 

Pros Oil Modified Gym floor finish: 

This floor has a very good shine and deep tone, typical of Oil Modified finishes. 

  1. Gives the floor an extremely bright shine immediately upon application. 
  2. Has a deep amber tone that is considered traditional in gym floors. 
  3. Maintains good traction throughout the year, even if the floors are dirty. 
  4. Has a higher solids content, usually a single coat will provide good coverage and shine. 

Pros Water based Gym floor finish: 

This floor has water-based finish, notice how clear the white paint is. 

  1. Has very little smell and is VOC compliant in all 50 states. 
  2. Crystal clear, provides a lighter color than what is considered traditional. 
  3. Does not discolor painted game lines, even whites & yellows. 
  4. Quick dry time, some Water based finishes are considered “playable” in 24 hours. 

Cons Oil based finish:

  1. The deep traditional tone of the oil modified finishes will yellow the painted game lines and graphics in time. Whites, yellows, and grays will all start to turn brown. 
  2. Has a heavy chemical smell that permeates the building and may linger for days. Not legal to use in some states. 
  3. Takes time to fully cure out. Usually 10-14 days. 
  4. Requires paint thinner or mineral spirts for tool clean up after application. 

Cons Water based finish: 

  1. Lesser solids content often requires 2 coats to achieve the desired look. 
  2. Has a tendency to become slippery if not kept clean. 
  3. Somewhat more difficult to apply, because it dries so quickly. 
  4. May not have as bright of shine upon completion. 


There are other factors to consider, but these are the ones we have observed time and again working for customers throughout the Rocky Mountain West. 

We have been encouraging our customers to switch over to Water based finish whenever possible, because we believe the health and safety issues outweigh the others. 

Lead based paint and Asbestos insulation are great products but were eventually discontinued because of health and safety concerns. We think the writing is on the wall for Oil Modified gym floor finish as well. 

Finally, our customers tell us that they have more and more difficulty scheduling time to close their gymnasiums for maintenance work. Shutting down a facility for up to 2 weeks while the finish cures out, is just not an option. So here again, we find water-based finish wins the day!!