There are a number of differences between water based clear finishes and that of solvent based such as lacquers and varnishes. They both offer a wide range of reasons to choose either water base and solvent based top coats.
Pros for using water base:
1. Excellent for achieving Natural wood tone and also lighter grayish or pale finishes, and very matt finishes.
2. Has important flexible properties that work well with the wood natural expansion and contraction properties.
3. It has proven to be a more durable finish resisting maring and impact , chipping etc.. Prefferred product for the flooring industry for this reason .
4. Extremely low VOC and odor . NO acid burning the eyes that is experienced when using Conversian Varnish.
Cons when using water base finishes ;
1. Will raise grain especially on solid pieces. Can be challenging when applying stain when having a raised grain problem.
2. During cold temperatures and humidity wb stain wb sealer and top coat will take longer to dry.
3. ODOR LESS BUT ACTUALLY MORE HARMFUL THAN SOLVENT BASED. When spraying WB coating , the odor less droplets if inadvertently inhaled will def cause long term health damage to lungs. Especially catalyed top coats. Adequate spraying respirator and eye protective gear are critical to use when spraying low odor water base top coats. The water base droplets makes this a dangerous product for the user when spraying and precaution and safety must be emphasized at all times.
Here are some Pros and Cons when using Solvent Based top coat and stains
1. Good for achieving a golden rich look. Staining with solvent base allows certain colors to be more vibrant . Cherry. Walnut , honey colors with a top coat of a satin to higher sheen def produce a excellent look.
2. Ease of use and toning or tinting . From my experience the application of stain manually or spraying is quite easy to achieve or to match finish that is desired .
3. Will not raise the grain when using stain , sealer or top coat.
4 . Can be sprayed humid or cold days . Can be adjusted with retarder if needed.
1. Oil based stains or glazes can take up to a day to dry fully before applying sealer or top coat.
2. Finish can also be more brittle than water base especially conversion varnish.
3. The durability of most solvent based finishes including conversion varnishes is NOT AS GOOD as water base Top Coats . Conversion Varnish finishes are not flexible and if the wood expands or contracts too much it sometimes leads to having issues such as as cracks in the top coat.
4 Does mar and can chip easier than Water base finishes . Not recommended for wood floors.
5. Has a strong odor, Acid catalyst also can damage the eye if exposed while curing . User can experience burning of eyes even using safety glasses , best to use sealed safety goggles when spraying this product . Odor will also last long after dry time as coating will still be curing for up to 7 days.
If you have any experience using these products please comment