Water-based vs. Oil-based: Stains, Paints and Sealers

There’s no question what kind of stain, paint, or sealer you’ll find us using at Euro Design Build: water-based beats oil-based every time.

I’ll never forget the life-altering occurrence that lead to me to never again work with oil-based projects. At that time, our team was refinishing the interior walls of a new, multimillion-dollar home in Rockwall, TX. Our objective was to create an Old Tuscan-style finish on the walls, including murals in specific locations.

While we were working, the builder had another finishing company on site to stain and seal all the cabinets and trim work throughout the home. One day, while I was art directing our team, we were suddenly overcome with severe headaches and nausea. The other team had used an oil-based, lacquer sealer that was nothing short of toxic, and the heavy fumes had been permeating the home for more than a week. In a matter of minutes, we all became severely ill and had to leave the project.

I was also six months pregnant. I’ll never forget the panic I felt for the safety of my unborn child in that moment, the same moment I made a personal commitment to never expose anyone else to these dangerous fumes. I then began the process of finding suitable water-based alternatives, a journey that eventually led me to the top-of-the-line, water-based products Faux Effects International.

Faux Effects International is a company with more than 50 years of experience manufacturing water-based products—including rigorous chemical research into the specific substances that are used inside your home for finishing walls, trim work, and cabinetry. We can proudly say that we have been committed to using these products to create indestructible, furniture-grade finishes for the past 18 years.

I trained extensively with professional, water-based products at Faux Effects International in Vero Beach Florida during the early days of our business. I have also had the pleasure of visiting the homes of some of our clients whose project we did more than 17 years ago. I can honestly tell you that I am amazed by the quality of the finishes after all these years. I witnessed no discoloration or deterioration in any way. The same could not be said for the oil-based sealer—I simply opened the door of the cabinet and compared the interior and exterior finish. The deterioration was significant.

The durability of water-based products has occasionally been called into question, but I’m here to tell you: water-based products last. If you choose to work with professional grade products, I guarantee the durability will impress you. We’ve had fires at two different homes due to faulty HVAC lines, and the only things that survived the fire and water from the hose was the cabinetry we built and finished with these water-based products.

Water-based Products


  • Easier to work with
  • Good quality and performance
  • Friendlier to the environment
  • Zero or low levels of VOCs
  • Easy to clean – soap and water
  • Dries fast – you can do two coats in a day
  • Very good UV durability
  • Keeps its color
  • Resists yellowing and cracking
  • Almost no odor
  • Doesn’t affect the health of the people working with these product or the people living in the space where the application is being done.


  • May not work well unless used by a trained professional
  • Less durable than oil paint, unless sealed with a varnish sealer
  • Does not create smooth finish, unless sealed with a top coat of conversion varnish sealer
  • Require more coats than oil paint because you can layer the finishes

Oil-based (Solvent-based) Paint, Stains and Polyurethane Sealers


  • Smooth Finish
  • Gloss
  • Very durable


  • High level of VOC
  • Takes a long time to dry
  • Strong odor, left behind for days
  • Harder to clean: using paint thinner, mineral spirits or turpentine
  • Yellows over time
  • Flammable


Have any questions about this article?
We’re always here to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out!

Author: Melinda Dzinic
Author: Melinda Dzinic

Melinda Dzinic is the founder and CEO of Euro Design Build. She has a deep passion for creating beautiful, healthy spaces for families, knowing that people’s homes are a foundation for living a richer life experience. She is a NARI Certified home remodeler whose eye for design and tireless professionalism has made her one of the top voices in Texas’s home renovation industry.

Share this post

You might also enjoy