Polyurethane Finish: Apply like a pro - part 1

Whenever you're applying a polyurethane finish, be sure to read the manufacture's instructions and specs on the side of the container, before beginning. Not all polyurethane floor finishes are made equally. Completely read this guide to get a good understanding on applying polyurethane floor finishes.

In this article, you will find useful, quality, hardwood flooring information on a step by step standard procedure on how to apply oil base polyurethane wood floor finishes. We will also explain how to prevent problems and give you advanced techniques to get professional results as we cover the basic techniques on applying polyurethane finishes.

          Let's begin...

         By now, you should have your hardwood floors sanded, prepped, cleaned and tacked. If, you haven't done so yet, or need help with this task. Please refer back to our hardwood refinishing page before continuing with this part. This will ensure that you get the best possible result with your polyurethane floor finish. When you are ready, come back and continue with this part of the guide.

          Always test a small area or produce a sample with scrap material, to ensure that you're getting the right color and result. Also, to see if, the polyurethane finish reacts in a bad manner with the surface being coated on - beading or bleed back.

          Certain Oil base polyurethane floor finishes will have different working time. This is the amount of time or period you have available to apply the polyurethane finish before it starts to set-up - normally 10-15 minutes. Polyurethane Manufacture's are constantly making improvements to their products. Also, EPA is always implementing new rules for changes on the flooring industries, from manufactures to floor mechanics. Which has an effect to the contents of their product. This is important if, you want to achieve a quality finish and a full functional wear surface with ease.

            Let's not forget to read the labels.


Oil base polyurethane floor finishes

Oil base polyurethane floor finish is one of the easiest wood floor finishes to apply. The standard method for applying an oil base polyurethane wood floor finish is with a bristled brush and a lamb's wool applicator.

          Use a lambs wool applicator and a bristle brush that's specified for oil paints - only.

 It's very important to use only oil paint applicator, to reduce puddling, to provide proper coverage, and to allow the oil based polyurethane wood floor finishes to release itself from the applicator and level properly. This will  prevent unwanted brush marks, flashing, ridges and lap marks in your polyurethane floor finish.  Allow your oil base polyurethane finishes to acclimate to room temperature, to make it easier to apply. This will also prevent bubbles from occurring.

         Wood Finish Polyurethane Varnish Tips: Have a helper cut-in on the edges while, you coat the main body of the wood flooring with polyurethane, using a lamb's wool applicator. This will keep your edges wet longer, allowing your polyurethane finish to level off evenly throughout your hardwood floors, avoiding mismatches and flashing. You'll also, spend less time breathing in the oil base polyurethane fumes.

Cutting-In The Edges With A Bristle Brush

Brush applicator - Start by cutting in the edges with your brush. Using a 3" or 4" thick, short bristle brush that releases finish quickly. Remove loose brush bristles before using. Using an applicator comb, or brush it across your hands back and forth, so the loose bristles flings out. Then vacuum the head of the brush to remove any loose hairs.

         Carefully coat the floor and always keep moving, avoid getting any of the oil base polyurethane wood floor finish on any other surfaces. Otherwise, the oil base polyurethane finish will stain and yellow the surface.  If, you accidentally do coat other surfaces other than your floors. Use mineral spirit to clean it up, immediately.

          When coating the edges,  start by brushing across the grain, then complete your final brush pass with the grain.

         Wood Finish Polyurethane Varnish Tips: Use a Zig-Zag painting method. Cut in along  the baseboards or wall, start by going left first, then reversing directions by brushing back, while creating a "Z" pattern, working the polyurethane away from the wall. Keep it to a  maximum of 4 brush strokes, 8" wide x 4'-5' long, per section.

          Remember to check for puddles, splashes and drips. Avoid brushing back and forth too many times. You will thin out the coverage and the polyurethane floor finish will tack up on you sooner. You end up  with unwanted brush marks, and ridges in your finish.

          When applying a polyurethane finish, be sure to apply the proper coverage, so that the finish levels properly. If, you apply too thin of a coat. It can look dry and may not level properly, leaving unwanted brush marks. Too heavy of a coat, the finish can be too shiny (flashing) in that particular spot and puddles can occur. Plus, you can cause splashing with the brush as you're moving the finish around.

         Maintain a wet edge at all time. By doing this you will avoid unwanted lap marks, ridges and flashing. Learn the basic brushing techniques, so you understand how to prevent and fix problems. Then you'll have a better understanding on how to use advanced techniques, that we will be explaining to you. But not until later, you must learn how to walk before you can run.

Applying Polyurethane Finish
With A lambs Wool Applicator

Lamb's Wool applicator - use a light lambs wool applicator, with a thin nap. Remove any loose wool fiber from the applicator. Use a vacuum to do this, then rinse with water or mineral spirit and allow to dry before using. Avoid pulling on the fibers. This will create additional loose fibers.

         Pour your oil base polyurethane wood floor finish into a 5 gallon pail. Attach the lamb's wool applicator to a mop handle. Submerge the applicator fully into the polyurethane.

          Wood Finish Polyurethane Varnish Tips: Always submerge your applicator to the same amount, same depth of polyurethane finish from the container. And coat the same amount of area, this will help you get an even coverage throughout your floors.

Start, from farthest point, away from your exit. Working in a 5'x 5' area or smaller. Apply a 12 inch x 5 foot puddle or line in the middle, in front of you. Pre-coat the wood-flooring, mopping from the starting puddle towards the "cut-in" edge. Use a Zig-Zag painting method, creating a "Z" pattern. As you are applying from right to left. Apply downward pressure while your mopping away from you. Avoid applying pressure to the middle of the mop handle, this can cause the handle to break or crack. Overlap your brush passes to prevent any missed spots.

         It's important that you pre-coat your floor, using one forward and back pass, to evenly distribute your wood floor finish. While, making sure the wood flooring is completely coated. This will help you apply an even amount of polyurethane finish across the surface, without thinning out your coverage of wood floor finish.

          Note: It is not important to apply the finish with the grain of the flooring on the first coat - brush marks can always be buffed out. It is more important on the second and  final coat, to prevent brush marks from appearing across the wood grain.


          Tip: When dealing with cold or humid climate conditions. Maintain room temperatures around 65-70 degrees. If the polyurethane finish does not dry to touch overnight or within a 12-16hr period. Adjust the temperature higher, usually 75-80 degrees is more than enough. Any higher, you can end up with brush marks in your finish, due to rapid drying.

Once you have completed the pre-coat step. You want to do a light finish pass, using the same procedure, but with less pressure from the same start point. Making sure the area is completely coated.

         On your finish pass, apply as very little amount of pressure towards the mop head. Allow the applicator to glide across the surface without adding or removing additional oil base polyurethane finish.          While doing this check for splashes, unevenness, and missed spots, re-coat if, necessary.

          Tip: If, there is too much friction on the finish pass, apply more polyurethane.

          Wood Finish Polyurethane Varnish Tips: Minimize your passes to 2, this will prevent thinning and dry brushing in the polyurethane floor finish.

Repeat both processes for edging and lamb's wool applicator. Working towards the exit area. Open any windows as necessary to allow unwanted fumes out and proper ventilation, during the process of applying your polyurethane finish. Allow to dry overnight or to suggested manufacturer's direction. Before abrading and applying the next coat.

         Wood Finish Polyurethane Varnish Tips: Test the surface for dryness, by using the coin test. Simply just  scrape the surface with a nickel. If, the finish scrapes off, the coating is not dried.  

         Wood Finish Polyurethane Varnish Tips: Apply a thin, even coat to help prevent bubbles from forming.

Sanding/Buffing In Between Coats

Buff or screen - your wood flooring using a combination of white cleaning pad, and new 180 or 220 grit screen for the first coat, then use a used 180 or 220 grit screen for the following coats. Screen floor, then clean and tack surface. Then apply the next coat.

Repeat this process until you've applied 3 coats of polyurethane floor finish. Do not buff the final polyurethane finish coat.

        Wood Finish Polyurethane Varnish Tips: When you screen your floors, make sure you screen off any dust, particles and bubbles, before cleaning and tacking. Otherwise, it will show through on your next coat.

          Allow the final polyurethane finish coat to dry for 24 hours for light foot traffic. And 48-72 hours before moving any heavy furnitures in place. The polyurethane finish will take up to 30 days to fully cure or harden. Be cautious not to damage the floor, when using it during this period. Wait 21 days for your oil base polyurethane wood floor finish to acclimate to sunlight. Before laying any area rugs, to prevent unwanted tan lines.

     For additional information on how to care for your newly finished floors, visit our hardwood floor care  page.

         Wood Finish Polyurethane Varnish Tips - Drying Tip: Preheat your home to 72 degrees, then turn it down to 65 degrees 15 minutes before coating. The warm floor will allow your wood floor finishes to level off equally, the cool down will prevent early tacking.  Avoid using any fans to blow air across the final coat. It can transfer dust particles, lint, fiber or hair onto the surface of your hardwood floors.

Oil based polyurethane wood floor finishes is a traditional, quality finish with a very good reputation. When you're choosing an oil base polyurethane wood floor finishes splurge on a high quality polyurethane finish. This will save you money from having to refinish your wood floors to often. For, the best polyurethane wood finish use Poloplaz  - Primero Polyurethane. It has excellent durability and superb leveling properties, makes it easy to roll. The floor finish will make your life easier.

          If, you have a more contemporary style, consider using a water based wood finish for a more natural look. Learn how to take care of your newly finished polyurethane wood floor.

     Click here, for more information, on polyurethane floor finish part two.

          Push the easy button and hire a contractor

Contact us for your free quote.

Don't wait, lock in your dates today, before it's too late!

    G and S wood floors Lynn, Massachusetts 

Have a question, comment or share your experience?

Post your polyurethane question, comments or share your experience here

[ ? ]

Upload 1-4 Pictures or Graphics (optional)[ ? ]

 

Click here to upload more images (optional)

Author Information (optional)

To receive credit as the author, enter your information below.

(first or full name)

(e.g., City, State, Country)

Submit Your Contribution

 submission guidelines.


(You can preview and edit on the next page)