Polyurethane is one of the market’s most durable wood and floor finishes. Its synthetic finish forms a hard and clear protective coat on your floors for superior protection against different elements. Polyurethane comes in either water-based or oil-based versions.
Water-based polyurethane is easier to work with and dries faster, but it also lacks the durability of oil-based poly. Oil-based polyurethane is more durable but takes longer to dry up and contains a high amount of VOCs.
If you’re looking to apply either water-based or oil-based poly to your wooden floors, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll cover the different applicators you can use and a step-by-step guide on how to apply polyurethane to your floors.
4 Best Ways to Apply Polyurethane to Floor
Before applying a polyurethane finish to your wood floors, you need to choose a poly floor applicator. There are different types of flooring tools you can use to apply polyurethane. Below are our top options for applying polyurethane to floors.
1. Use T-bars
A T-bar is a long, slim floor finish applicator to apply polyurethane. It is a synthetic sleeve fixed to a metal bar. T-bars are great for a smooth and consistent application. They also help save time depending on the size of your T-bar. Because a T-bar is narrow, you can get into tight spots and also avoid turn and lap marks.
The Duratool T-Bar applicator is a lightweight floor finish applicator to apply polyurethane and other wood floor finishes. It makes lighter work of finishing or refinishing wood floors with a smoother and even application.
Using a brush is a cheap and popular method of applying polyurethane. While you can use a smaller brush, we recommend using a larger brush, like those once used for deck staining. A larger brush will reduce the backbreaking work of using a brush, and you’ll cover a larger area in a small amount of time.
Rollers are a good applicator and work best with water-based polyurethane. There are different roller materials you can use to apply polyurethane. We recommend using a lambswool roller for a smoother application of both water-based and oil-based polyurethane.
4. Trim Pads
Trim pads are another flooring applicator you can use for applying water-based polyurethane. A trim pad is like a roller, but it doesn’t hold a finish. They are good for getting into smaller places or cutting corners. They are a faster way of applying polyurethane and also leave a smoother finished surface.
Those are some of the best applicators you can use to apply polyurethane. If you’re looking for the best applicators for polyurethane, check out our best polyurethane applicators article to see our top picks.
How to Apply Polyurethane to Wood Floors
- Step 1 – Remove all the furniture from the floor before starting the application. This will help you work quickly and cover the area with minimal interruptions.
- Step 2 – Prepare the floors by cleaning them to remove any debris and sand it down with up to #150 or #180 grit sandpaper. When sanding the floor, sand along the grain to minimize cross-grain scratches that will show up once you start applying a finish.
- Step 3 – Once you’ve finished sanding the floor, use a vacuum to remove all the sanding dust. You can also use a brush to clean everything from the floor. A wet cloth damped in mineral spirits can also get most sanding dust off the floor.
- Step 4 – If you’re done cleaning the sanding dust, it’s time to apply polyurethane. Gently stir the polyurethane finish and start applying it from the ends or corners.
- Step 5 – When done, wait two to four hours for water-based polyurethane to dry and at least 24 hours for oil-based polyurethane to dry.
- Step 6 – Once dry, lightly sand the polyurethane’s surface with a #220 grit sandpaper to remove dust nibs that might have settled on the surface and smoothen the finish.
- Step 7 – Apply another coat of polyurethane and let it dry. Sand over the second coat with a finer sandpaper grit like #320 grit, and continue to apply a third coat repeating the previous steps, but use an even finer sandpaper grit. For oil-based polyurethane, you can apply three coats. However, because water-based polyurethane is thinner, you can go up to four or five coats.
If you’re done applying the polyurethane, you can let it dry according to manufacturer specifications before you start walking on it. Once the polyurethane finish is fully cured, which takes more time, you can polish the finish for a smoother and good-looking flooring surface. When polishing a polyurethane surface, use steel wool and a polishing compound to get your desired sheen.