How to Apply Polyurethane to Wood Floors : The Complete Guide (2020)

By Harold K. Hardesty Updated December 20, 2020

Save $249.99 of professional services with this simple guide about applying polyurethane to wood floors

I recently finished the installation process of hardwood floors,

Not easy. But not impossible!

Now, you think I simply enjoy the stylish and brilliant vibes of my hardwood floors.

Well, not exactly…Before I can start making free use of my floors, I need to apply polyurethane to wood floors.

You’re curious to know more?

Let’s get started.


Supplies, Tools, and Costs

Preparation Prior To Application



Vacuum your hardwood floors thoroughly with a machine designed for hardwood floors.

Remember, your floors don’t count on a protective finish just yet, be extra careful with the elements used to clean prior to the application.

Clear all of the dust bunnies and reach into the tighter corners to remove any dust. Open doors and windows for some airflow and to allow the rooms to breathe.

2.It’s time to sand

This part of the process includes some endless sanding. If not sure how to use a sander, look for some online YouTube videos for tutorials.  

Make sure you start with the thickest paper and work your way down to 220-grit sandpaper

But don’t spend too much time in a single area. Or else you will score the wood.

3.Inspect and finalize

Once you’re done, inspect the surface for any dents or splinters. Vacuum or sweep away the dust when you’re done.

Use mineral spirits to wipe the dust on the boards with a lint-free piece of cloth.

Step by Step Application Process

Step 1

After thoroughly cleaning the floors, mop with some white vinegar(1) and water mixture, use a 1:10 ratio.

Step 2

Use the brush to apply the polyurethane to the flooring edges. Use the pad or roller to apply to the center of the room.

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My Last Tip

Once you find yourself in the application stage, make sure you don’t rush it. Rushing tasks like these will result in uneven hardwood floor finishing.If you can, take all the time possible to ensure you are doing it right.
Along with proper preparation, careful selection of products and tools, you can surely finish your floors and ensure their protection for years to come.Take some time to practice on old wood scraps. Also, let your floors dry completely before sanding again or walking around.



How Many Coats of Polyurethane Should You Apply To Hardwood?

Best practices say to apply at least 3 coats of polyurethane and sanding between coats and allowing the floor to dry off.

Some finishers will allow for a lower number of coats. If you want the maximum level of protection, I suggest you do 3.

Remember that scratches easily reach the surface and ruin the floor if not thoroughly protected.

So, ensure the protection of your floor and save future money on refinishing by applying more than two coats.

How Polyurethane Works?

Due to this finish, you ensure that my hardwood floors are protected. It safeguards the wood flooring from spills, scratches and everyday traffic.

You purchase polyurethane in 2 types and has a few levels of sheen, which range from matter to glossy.

You can apply urethane yourself by following a few instructions.

However, before attempting to apply a polyurethane finish, there are a few considerations to keep in mind.

  • How much money are you saving on this DIY project?
  • Are any skills you don’t count on that may cause accidents?
  • Should you hire a professional in spite of wanting to undertake the application on your own?

If any of these questions spark doubt, consider calling a professional for quotes and advice.

What Is The Difference Between Oil-Based VS. Water-Based Polyurethane?

Before getting to work, decide which polyurethane type you want to apply.Both oil-based and water-based will protect hardwood. And this, no matter if you installed engineered hardwood or traditional.However, there are some differences worthy of pointing out.

1. Water-Based Polyurethane that is water-based layouts clear. It does not modify the original color of the wood.This solution is thinner compared to others and dry much quicker. Within 8 to 12 hours of application, you will be able to walk freely on your floors.This type of finish doesn’t contain harmful VOC’s (2) and is less flammable compared to oil-based polyurethane.

If you’re not a fan of strong fumes and odors, and I get it, then, water-based is the right choice.It terms of cleaning up after the job, you only need water and soap. Nevertheless, this polyurethane type of less durable and more expensive.For maximum protection, you need to apply several coats of urethane. This because the urethanes are composed of fewer solids.And for those that seal wood floors with water-based polyurethane, they will need to repeat the process at least every 2 years.

2. Oil-Based Polyurethane: Oil-based urethanes boost the wood’s natural color. They offer a gentle glow.But, oil-based products have longer drying time and are thicker due to their composition. These will definitely emit fumes, you will need a respirator.

A considerable advantage of this urethane type is the way it fortifies the wood with a more solid layer of protection.Compared to water-based polyurethane, oil-based will take a fewer number of coats, But cheaper. With that, it’s time to learn more about the supplies, tools and costs.


Now It’s Your Turn…

So this is my complete guide on how to apply polyurethane on your hardwood floors.

Now I would like to hear from :

  • Are you going to apply polyurethane by yourself?
  • Or maybe you want to ask for professional services.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.


Harold K. Hardesty

About the Author

Harold K. Hardesty

Harold is a Flooring Specialist at TheHouseWire, educating people on the flooring by writing guides about the topic. He is a well-seasoned flooring specialist with experience in the industry for nine years.

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