Polyurethane is a kind of durable finish for hardwood floors which protects wood from spills, abrasion, and scratches and gives it a shiny coating. So, if you want a high gloss for your wooden floors, it's the right choice. But keep on mind that although it will make your floors shiny, and you can do it by yourself, applying or removing polyurethane is not one of the easy DIY projects and it takes some patience.
Read also: The Cost to Refinish Hardwood Floors
It's important to prepare first, cause all the tasks with polyurethane demand some safety precautions. Here are some tips and tricks which will help you to do it correctly and provide a shiny finish to your hardwood floors. Our advice will help you to cover the floors with polyurethane adequately or remove an old coat of polyurethane from wood floors without too much effort.
If you are going to protect your hardwood floors by applying polyurethane, take several days for that project. It's a kind of task that must not be rushed because that would ruin the results.
How to prepare
In this case, doing your homework first is necessary and essential as the task.
You will need:
- an oil-based or water-based polyurethane (you choose the type – gloss, semi-gloss or satin; water-based or oil-based). The first one has less odor and dries faster, has neutral colors, and requires 3-4 coats, while the second one is easier to apply, needs 2-3 coats and gives the wood a warm tone
- a paint tray
- a lamb's wool paint roller
- a vacuum cleaner for hardwood floors
- a cloth
- an orbital sander or fine-grit sandpaper
- mineral spirits
- vapor respirator
The first step is to clean the floor entirely, removing any dust or dirt before you begin to work.
If there is already any coating already down, old paint or polyurethane, it has to be removed so you can get to the clean wood. If you are working on a brand new floor, the scuff sander will be enough. If there is any old coating, you will need an orbital sander. Don't forget to vacuum up after that to remove the sanding dust.
Open up all the windows in the room; proper ventilation is a must. You can use a fan to improve the air circulation, too. If it's possible, use a respirator when you work with polyurethane to protect from toxic fumes.
How to apply
Stir the can of polyurethane before use (stir, don't shake it - you don't want to make bubbles) and pour into a tray.
Apply the polyurethane with a paint roller, as thin as you can. Start from the furthest corner and work your way back to the door. Avoid areas that you’ve already covered.
When you have finished the whole surface, allow it to dry for eight hours.
As you're finishing each fresh coat, check your work with a bright flashlight or headlamp. Get down to see the light reflecting off of the surface. This will show any imperfections and spots that you missed. You can fix these problems while the finish is still wet, but not later.
When the floor is dry, it's time to gently sand it down with sandpaper. After, cleanup the sand dust using mineral spirits.
When it's time to apply the second coat, make a mixture – mix part mineral spirits with polyurethane in a measure of 1:10. That way you'll avoid creating bubbles. Do everything the same as with the first time and let it dry.
When it's dry, it's time to repeat the process third time. The final coat will need 24 - 72 hours to dry thoroughly before you can place anything in the room. Don't forget to leave the windows open while the floor is drying.
Polyurethane will give your floors a glossy finish and protection from scratches. But over time, it can become dull, scratched, and scuffed and you will want to replace it with a new coat. But first, you have to get rid of the old one.
you will need:
- Polyurethane remover
- Rubber gloves
- Eye protection
- Proper clothes with long sleeves
Empty the room and make sure it's well-ventilated.
A chemical-based remover is what you will need to strip the old coat from a floor. You can use standard ones with a methylene chloride base. These work faster but have more toxic fumes. You can use water-based ones which produce fewer fumes but take more time to get the job done.
Be careful because the chemical solvent is a caustic substance and its fumes are toxic. Let in as much fresh air as possible and wear a vapor respirator. You should also wear clothes with long sleeves to protect your skin, eye protection, and rubber gloves.
Use a paintbrush for applying the solvent. Leave it for a while to soften the polyurethane and lift it up.
Once softened, just scrap it from the wood. If you didn't manage to take off everything from the surface, repeat the whole procedure once again.
When all the polyurethane is gone and you sand the surface to get to the wood, clean any dust and the floor is ready for a new coat of polyurethane, paint or another kind of finish.
Now you know everything you need for this serious DIY task. Prepare well and set aside some time to complete it so you can enjoy the project and finish it successfully without rush.
Don't forget to protect children and pets by moving them from the house while the project is in progress. Be careful and patient, follow the precautions, instructions, and use our tips. Polyurethane needs plenty of time to dry thoroughly, so wait 24 hours before you step in and 72 hours before placing any furniture in the room.
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That way you will adequately protect your wooden surface from any possible damages, and get a beautiful glossy hardwood floor for that will last for many years.