Polyurethane Floor Finish

Keeping A Wet Edge




Today, applying polyurethane floor finish is a little more trickier than what they were, a couple years back. With the new 350 VOC law being implemented into manufacturing the finish. It's changed the way we coat the floors today.

Todays polyurethane finish are better, safer, and dries much quicker. Better and safer doesn't create a problem.

Dries quicker, creates problems.

Quick drying finishes is great! It helps get the job done quicker.

But, quick drying means a shorter open time. So, you have to work faster and faster or rather work smarter.

Working smarter is the better answer here. How do we do it?

Polyurethane finishes with short open time or has a thick viscosity. You have to do everything within 1 try, 1 back and forth brush stroke is the key to applying polyurethane floor finish.

Any more than that, you'll thin out your wood finish. You can end up with brush marks, lap marks, flashing, bubbles or ridges. That's a list of problems you would like to avoid.

Here's how you can prevent these problems.

Stir your polyurethane, don't shake it. Shaking will increase the chances of producing bubbles.

Keep a wet edge, when your coating, and try and minimize your brush strokes.

If, your brushing back and forth to many times, then your just playing with the polyurethane finish. Brushing it to many times will thin out your floor finish, this can cause flashing, lap marks, and introduce more bubbles.

The best brush method to use, when applying polyurethane floor finish is to use a Zig-Zag brush method for edging.

When cutting in on the edges with your wood floor finishes. Cut in, then brush out in a zig-zag method (left-right or right-left). As your brushing out overlap your passes, snow plow your finish out towards you and forward to the next area. Open time is short, coat the area only once, if, possible. Fix ridges, splashes, puddles, and missed spots along the way.

When applying polyurethane floor finish with a lambs wool applicator. Coat the floor back and forth, in a uni-direction, once only, creating a W - pattern. Whether it's left to right or right to left, continue the same direction, use what's more comfortable to you.

Example:left to right, left to right, left to right, always continue from the side you've started, plow the finish towards the opposite directions to keep the wet edge.

Don't use a W - pattern, going left to right, then right to left. You'll end up with flashing and lap marks. Use a W - pattern, when your brushing back and forth.

It's much trickier applying polyurethane floor finish with the lambs wool mop applicator. It's much easier to soak a 3x3 area, than with the applicator still nice and wet. Coat a 5x5 area, brushing over the presoaked floors. Avoid using a lot of pressure, we don't want to squeeze out additional finish, otherwise, we have to go over it with the applicator again.

Once again, keep and eye out for splashes, ridges, puddles and missed spots.

Key thing is to keep the edges wet by brushing the wood finish only once, and moving on taking any left over polyurethane finish with you to the next area.

Use this method through out and you'll avoid these problems with the new 350 VOC's.

Wood Finish Polyurethane Varnish Tips: Inspect your finish for flaws after each coat has dried, make adjustment to your brushing method or reduce the amount of area you coat, to fix the problems. Continue to make the necessary adjustment, until the final coat.

Now, that you've read our article up to this point and have a clear understanding on applying polyurethane floor finish. Your ready for the advanced technique.

If, you did not read or yet not understand the process, please take the time to read the article again. When your ready return to this point to continue.

Tricks To Applying Polyurethane Floor Finish

An Advance technique on applying polyurethane floor finish isn't so advance. If, your looking for professional results, especially with a satin finish, this is a section that you can't skip out on.

We will be using a Satin wood finish as an example. Brush marks, lap marks and flashing are most likely to occur with a satin sheen more than any other sheen.

Whether it's the new 350 VOC, the old 450 VOC or a Moisture cure wood floor finish. These problems occur commonly throughout this particular sheen.

What's the best way to deal and prevent these problems?

While we may understand what the problem is. We must know what is the cause?

The main cause to our problem is brushing back and forth, causing our finish to thin out, and tacking over to soon. Resulting in brush marks, lap marks and flashing.

We can't brush over dried, semi-dried or tacky polyurethane without having a chance that will result into one of these common problems.

It is possible to get a smooth, flawless finish with our standard applicators, but there is an easier way.

What's the remedy for this problem?

Owning and running a hardwood flooring business in the Boston, Massachusetts.
The hardwood flooring bussiness is very competitve. We always have to come up with a new an improved way to perform our work and get the best result, the fastest way possible.

Here's how us Bostonians apply polyurethane finish to our hardwood flooring projects.

We simply use a hardwood floor polyurethane roller. With this type of applicator, it's much easier to manage and deal with the thick viscosity and fast drying finishes. It prevents all the problems mentioned above.

A polyurethane floor roller is different from a paint roller.

A Polyurethane floor roller has thin plastic wheels on the sides of the roller, to prevent the roller from losing it's shape and allows you to apply the same amount of finish at all times. You can use the roller without it, if they become a problem. It's handle has a 3/8 steel rod that inserts in the polyurethane roller, for easy installation and removal.

It's a fool proof floor applicator, you don't have to be a professional or need 50 years of experience to master this flooring tool. Use the same basic technique as you would for painting a wall.

The polyurethane floor finish doesn't look as pretty, when you first apply it. In fact it looks like you'll end up with a textured orange peel look, freaky. But don't worry, use a quality polyurethane finish, apply a generous amount and it will level itself out, leaving you with a nice smooth finish. If, you end up with an orange peel look, then you applied too thin of a coat.

Wood Finish Polyurethane Varnish Tips: Use a shed resistant type roller, so you don't end up with fibers in your finish.

Why is a floor roller so effective?

applying polyurethane floor finish with a roller, we're not pushing our polyurethane finish around. A floor roller will plop finish onto the floor, so we're not thinning it out or creating premature tack time. Eliminating a whole list of problems - brush marks, lap marks, flashing, drips, puddles, splashes, and ridges.

Use this method and you'll end up with a professional result, without having to hire a professional.

Applying polyurethane Here's the process for applying polyurethane floor finish with a roller.

  • Cut in the edge with a brush, using a Zig-Zag brushing method, plow out, keeping the edge wet.


  • Roll over the edge, with your hardwood floor roller, to introduce the orange peel look.


  • Fully submerge your roller in a 5 gallon polyurethane filled pail.


  • Coating with the length of your floor boards. Roll out a "W", then start rolling from one side using a uni-directional coating method, zig-zag out to the opposite side.


  • Applying polyurethane
  • Roll a final pass to make sure that your floor is completely coated with polyurethane.


  • When, your backed up into a wall, just roll perpendicular or across the grain, towards the exit.


  • And your done. It should've taken you no more than 15 minutes to coat a 200 sq. ft. area.

    Wood Finish Polyurethane Varnish Tips: Use a 150, 180 or 220 grit screen to sand in between coats. Wear down the screen with a piece of sandpaper before using.

    There is one more application trick that I use, but I can't let you know. This is what separates us at G and S wood floors, to our competitors.

    You'll have to search the site for clues.

    Use our useful, quality, hardwood flooring information, to get professional results for your polyurethane finish. Don't stop here, get other professional tricks and tips on hardwood floors, throughout the site. Read carefully, or you might miss some valuable information.

    Get To Know Your Finish

    Get to know your finish, so you can make adjustment to your method, when applying polyurethane floor finish. This will help you achieve a smooth, quality polyurethane wood floor finish at the end of the project.

    Don't be afraid to try things, anything broken can always be fixed.

    Test out your polyurethane finish,
    see how well it levels,
    brush across the grain on the first coat in a few areas, see how well, it levels after it dries. Some finishes will level, leaving no brush lines. These polyurethanes are big time savers, because you don't have to brush with the grain. Who doesn't like that!

    Test out the set-up time,
    See how fast the finish tacks up.


    This will help determine your start and end point. You'll be able to avoid flashing, brush marks, stop marks, and lap marks. Room temperature and work condition will have an effect on set-up time. Determine whether you need to add a finish retarder to slow down the set-up time or get extra help to do the coating. When applying polyurethane floor finish, whenever possible, avoid adding a retarder or thinning your finish.

    Test out your Applicators
    Some applicators are D.O.A.(Dead On Arrival)


    Don't rule out your applicators, when applying polyurethane floor finish. You can purchase the highest quality applicator. But even the best sometimes provide bad polyurethane applicators. If, your left with a lot of loose fiber or brush hairs in your polyurethane floor finish. Toss them out and use new ones. You shouldn't get any loose fibers or hair after coating a quarter of a room - 1rst coat.

    Test out the Sheen
    Is it the finish you want?


    Semi-gloss from one manufacturer is different from another. If, your matching a sheen, see how well your finish matches the existing one. If, you want a more exact match, tone it, by adding a satin wood finish to dullen or add a gloss wood finish to make it shinier.

    Make note of these things and make your adjustment.

    Things To Expect while applying polyurethane floor finish


    Your polyurethane wood floor finish is not going to look perfect, on the first coat. Don't lose ambition or be overwhelmed. As long as you have done everything you're suppose to, sanding and cleaning, you'll be fine.

    Here are a few things to expect when applying polyurethane floor finish.

    First Coat: Expect raised grains, rough surface, loose fibers, uneven sheen, uneven coating, flashing, brush marks, lap marks, and bubbles or trapped particles. These are common things to expect from first coat.

    Simply just give your polyurethane finish a good buffing with a new 120 grit screen. This will remove flaws such as brush marks, lap marks, bubbles, raised grains and any particles left on the polyurethane finish.

    Uneven sheens and coatings are simply fixed by stirring more and applying a second coat.

    Brush marks and lap marks, apply a heavier coat and change the order or direction you coated. Try applying polyurethane floor finish with the grain of the wood.

    Second Coat: You should start to see a smoother finish, fewer bubbles, possible brush marks and lap marks. Adjust room temperature to assist the finish to level. Continue to brush with the grain.

    This time use a new 150 or 180 grit screen to buff your polyurethane finish. This should remove all the flaws left behind. Give this coat a good cleaning and tacking, before applying polyurethane floor finish.

    Wood Finish Polyurethane Varnish Tips: The smoother you buff your hardwood floors, the smoother your finish will appear.

    Third Coat: I call it the "The Money Coat", if this coat didn't come out good, then, your gonna start loosing money. No flaws should appear on the finish coat.

    Any flaws can be touched up by spot buffing and coating, otherwise buff and recoat entire area.

    Wood Finish Polyurethane Varnish Tips: Before applying the final polyurethane wood floor finish coat, clean and tack very well. Dry tack with a microfiber mop than wet tack, if necessary.

    Three tries to make it right, understand what your polyurethane finish is doing, make the necessary adjustment, when applying polyurethane floor finish, if needed.

    You'll end up with professional quality results.


    Oil based polyurethane wood floor finishes are a traditional, quality finish with a very good reputation. When your choosing a oil base polyurethanewood floor finishes, invest in 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 Bona - Woodline Polyurethane.

    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.

    Too much to take in? Too much of a challenge? Need a flooring contractor? Massachusetts residents contact us for your project. Don't wait, lock in your dates today, before it's too late!

    G and S woodfloors Lynn,Massachusetts
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