how to apply polyurethane to floors

How to Apply Polyurethane to Floors: A DIY Guide

Last Updated on

Applying polyurethane to wood floors is a straightforward process. It only takes several hours of work, and the floor will be protected for years to come!

This article provides you with everything you need to know about how to apply polyurethane to floors, including what tools and how many coats are needed, and expected drying times.

If you are looking for an easy way to apply polyurethane that will save your floor from damage, then this how-to guide is perfect for you!

What Is Polyurethane?

Polyurethane is a chemical that protects surfaces by creating an extremely durable layer of plastic on top. You can apply it to wood, metal, concrete, and more!

It is suitable for wood floors to make them more durable. The process for applying it is relatively simple, but the application of polyurethane must be made correctly to ensure that your floor will last.

What Are the Different Types of Polyurethane?

There are three types of polyurethane that you can apply to wood floors.

Oil-based Polyurethane

Oil-based polyurethane is the most popular type, but it takes longer to dry than water-based polyurethane and has a powerful odor.

Oil-based products are also flammable, contain VOCs, and have a strong, unpleasant smell that may last for 24 hours. But what’s great about this type is that it can enhance the color of your hardwood floors.

Water-Based Polyurethane

Water-based polyurethane has fewer solids and is the easiest to apply, but it doesn’t last as long as oil-based poly. The liquid is clear, so it doesn’t affect your flooring’s original color.

The odor of water-based polyurethane dissipates in about six hours, compared to 24 for oil-based polyurethane. The drying time between coats is also faster. Plus, it doesn’t contain VOCs and is easier to clean.

Environmentally-Friendly Polyurethane

Environmentally friendly polyurethane is the best option since it’s both easy to apply and lasts for years. The only downside of this type of polyurethane is that you will need to use a second coat every five years or so, compared to once per year for oil-based and water-based polyurethane.

If you are looking for something environmentally friendly, then this is the option to go with. If not, apply oil-based polyurethane or water-based options depending on your preference.


Polycrylic is a relatively new option that looks and smells more similar to acrylic. It’s not quite as durable as oil-based or water-based polyurethane, but many people prefer its appearance to the other choices.

Polyurethane Drying Times

It will take about 24 hours for polyurethane to dry completely. Avoid walking on it during this period because doing so can damage your flooring.

The Benefits of Applying Polyurethane to Wood Floors?

Applying polyurethane to wood floors provides many different benefits.

  • Application only takes about four hours, which is very quick compared to other products
  • Can be applied over existing finish or raw wood flooring
  • Very cost-effective
  • Polyurethane helps protect surfaces from most forms of damage, making it very useful for wood floors that receive a lot of wear and tear.
  • It can be applied in layers, allowing you to use precisely the needed amount for your specific wood floor.

What’s the Difference Between Applying Oil-Based or Water-Based Polyurethane to Wood Floors?

Both oil-based and water-based polyurethane is effective in protecting your hardwood floors against scratches. Both types come with a satin or gloss sheen, which you can apply to the wood flooring depending on what kind of look you want. The coating is then dried for several hours after application before it’s ready to use.

The process of applying polyurethane is virtually unchanged when it comes to water-based polyurethane and oil-based types. Still, there are differences regarding how long you should use them and how much time you need to wait before applying the subsequent coating or walking on the floor.

It’s generally recommended that you apply it in thin coats with a foam brush or roller; this will help ensure an even coating every time without any heavy buildup of product.

The big difference between applying oil-based and water-based polyurethane is that the latter dries quicker. If you’re using an oil-based product, you need to apply it once and wait for at least six hours for a second coat.

Additionally, you will have to wait at least 24 to 48 hours after the final coat of oil-based or water-based polyurethane before walking on the floor.

If you’re looking into applying it yourself without hiring a contractor, then we recommend that you apply the polyurethane to your floors in a well-ventilated area and avoid applying it during extremely cold or hot weather.

How to Apply Polyurethane to Hardwood Floors

We are going to go over how to apply polyurethane on a hardwood floor and the drying times required for each polyurethane type. The steps for adding polyurethane to hardwood flooring are as follows:

Step 1: Prepare Your Tools and Materials

Proper preparation is necessary for the success of this DIY project. In order to apply polyurethane, you will need the following:

  • sandpaper, sander, and a sanding block
  • small paint roller, foam brush, or a small natural bristle brush for more detailed work.
  • larger microfiber roller, paintbrush, or a lambswool applicator for general application

Step 2: Clean Your Hardwood Floors

Clean your wood floor first. Wipe the flooring down with a rag so that there is no dust or dirt on it. If you apply polyurethane over dirty floors, the film will not spread evenly and leave streaks.

You don’t have to sand bare wood floors. If your floor has an old finish from a previous coat, you may have to use a sander, so make sure you have different kinds of sandpaper.

Step 3: Vacuum the Dust

After sanding, use a vacuum cleaner to remove all of the dust from the wooden floor. Wipe the boards clean with mineral spirits and microfiber cloth.

Step 4: Prepare the Polyurethane

Before starting, give the polyurethane a quick stir using a paint stick. For a smooth finish, never shake the can because it would create air bubbles.

Dip your roller or foam brush in polyurethane and tap off the excess liquid to prevent drips.

Step 5: Apply Polyurethane on the Entire Floor

Use a foam brush to apply the polyurethane on wood floors, starting with one of the corners of your room first. With long strokes, apply an even coat on all surfaces in the room, following the direction of the wood grain.

Ensure that you don’t miss any spots or apply too much pressure on specific areas to avoid damaging them—correct drips before they dry.

It’s a good idea to apply a thin coat first and then apply a second, thicker one after the recommended time has passed.

Step 6: Let the Initial Coat Dry

The polyurethane needs at least 4 hours to be applied properly. However, drying times depend on the type of polyurethane you’re applying.

Generally, you can apply another coat of water-based poly four hours from the first coat. But you have to remember that when applying oil-based polyurethane, you have to let it dry for about six to ten hours before starting the next coat.

Step 7: Sand and Buff Between Polyurethane Coats

Inspect the entire floor thoroughly after the prescribed drying time. Sand and buff your floor correct imperfections, drips, or any rough surface after giving the polyurethane ample time to dry. Use sandpaper or any appropriate abrasive pad. Don’t forget to vacuum away the dust after sanding and buffing.

Step 8: Reapply Polyurethane

Once the polyurethane dries, repeat steps 5 to 6 until you complete two to three coatings of the polyurethane finish. Don’t buff off your final coat.

Step 9: Let the Final Finishing Coat Dry

Many manufacturers say that you can use your hardwood floors again 24 hours from the final poly coat.

But to be safe, let the final coat dry for at least 48 to 72 hours before walking on your floors again and replacing heavy furniture. The finish should look good and smooth without bumps.

Pro Tip: Preheat your room temperature to 72 degrees, then reduce to 65 degrees 15 minutes before the final coating. Preheating your home would ensure that the finished wood floors would level out at the same time.

Things to Remember When Applying Polyurethane to Wood

The most important thing to remember when applying polyurethane is to follow instructions carefully. Using too little or too much of it will result in a poorly done finish. If you apply too much, then your floor will end up looking dirty with a shiny film that is very noticeable.

Also, when applying polyurethane to wood floors. Sand properly, and don’t rush through the process, especially if you want a good finish on your floor.

Make sure to apply the oil-based or water-based polyurethane in multiple layers and apply it evenly throughout. Otherwise, you may end up with dry spots that can cause damage or uneven levels of gloss.

If your surface is not properly protected by the oil-based or water-based polyurethane coating, then any scratches will be much more visible!

When you apply a solid layer of polyurethane, you should wait long enough for it to dry.

If you apply polyurethane too soon, then it will not have dried enough, and the flooring underneath will still be wet when you apply a second coat of polyurethane on top. When that happens, your floor ends up looking uneven due to all the moisture beneath it.

Frequently Asked Questions About Polyurethane Application

Does Polyurethane Apply Easily on a Wood Floor?

Yes, it does! A simple brush or roller will do the trick. This blog post provides you with detailed instructions on how to apply polyurethane to floors so that you can apply it correctly.

What Is the Application Process?

It takes more or less four hours to apply this chemical, but after it has been applied, your wood floors will be protected for years to come! The application process includes sanding, applying a sealer (which provides extra protection), and then finally adding the polyurethane.

What Is the Easiest Way to Apply Polyurethane to Floors?

There are dozens of ways to apply polyurethane, but the best way is to apply it with a foam brush or roller. Two coats are usually enough, but you can apply several coats if desired for maximum protection and increased durability.

What Is the Best Tool to Apply Polyurethane to Floors?

The best tool to apply polyurethane is a brush or a roller. You can apply it with these tools by rolling them on the floor and applying them evenly throughout.

How Many Coats of Polyurethane Should You Put On a Floor?

The best way to apply polyurethane is in two coats, after sanding and applying a sealer. This will ensure that the floor has been properly protected from damage due to liquids or scratches.

What Wood Stains Can You Use With Polyurethane?

Any water-based stain works well when applied over products containing polyurethane.

Is There a Way I Can Apply Polyurethane Without Smelling Like Chemicals All Night?

Yes, apply polyurethane with a brush or roller and then let it dry for four hours. After, you can apply the second coat using one of these tools again. This will help to reduce any residual smell!

Is There an Easy Way to Apply Poly When Refinishing Wood Floors?

If applying two coats of polyurethane is too difficult, then apply the first coat using a brush and wait overnight. Then apply the second one with a roller, which will reduce residual smells and make for an easier process of refinishing wood floors!

What Does Polyurethane Do to Wood?

Polyurethane makes it more resistant to scratches from pets or household accidents. It also makes it water-resistant to prevent damage from spilled liquids!

How Do You Apply Polyurethane to Hardwood Floors Without Bubbles?

To apply polyurethane without bubbles, you need to apply a very thin coat and let it dry thoroughly before applying the second coat. This will help ensure your floors end up looking flawless!

How Can I Apply Polyurethane Faster?

If you do not have the time or patience required to apply four coats of polyurethane, apply a sealer first. This will protect your wooden floor for years to come and provide you with the same benefits as applying multiple coats of this chemical!

How to Apply Oil-Based Polyurethane to Wood Floors?

Start off by sanding the wood floors so that they are ready to apply polyurethane. Then apply a sealer before using oil-based polyurethane with either a brush or roller.

How Do You Apply Water-Based Polyurethane on Floors?

Water-based poly can be applied very easily! All you need to do is apply it with a brush or roller, wait for the required time (typically four hours), and apply another coat if necessary.

What Does It Mean When There Are Bubbles on a Wooden Floor?

If you notice that bubbles are forming, then apply another thin coat of polyurethane once they have dissipated. If you apply too much polyurethane, this will cause the product to dry unevenly, resulting in bubbles forming!

Can I Use Steel Wool to Sand My Floors?

It would be best to never use steel wool on floors treated with polyurethane as it can damage the delicate satin finish.

Keep Your Floors Looking New and Shiny

If you’ve been looking for ways to protect your hardwood flooring, we hope this blog post has given you the tips that you need. Now that you know how to apply polyurethane to floors, it will only take a few hours of work from start to finish.

We have years of experience in hardwood floor maintenance and upkeep – our team is ready and waiting with all the knowledge they need to help make sure your new project goes smoothly. What questions do you still have about this process? Let us know in the comments below!

Additional Resources

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top