Polyurethane Floor Finish:
Apply like a pro - part2

Keeping a wet edge


Today, applying polyurethane floor finish is a little more tricky than what it use to be, 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 finishes are better, safer, and dries much quicker. Better and safer  doesn't create a problem.

Drying quicker, creates problems

 Quick drying finishes are great! It helps get the job done quicker.  But, quick drying means a shorter open time. So, you have to work faster  or rather work smarter.

  Working smarter in this case is better.

But how?

Polyurethane finishes with short open time or has a thick viscosity. You have to do everything within one try, And avoid playing with the wood floor finish. One back and forth brush stroke is the key to applying these polyurethane floor finishes. 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. Shaking will increase the chances of producing bubbles. Keep a wet edge, when you're coating, and try and minimize your brush strokes. If, you're brushing back and forth, too many times, then you're just playing with the polyurethane finish. Brushing it too 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 motion. Draw a "Z", while  brushing out and overlapping your passes, Snow plow the finish out towards you and brush the excess finish to the next area. When open time is short, coat the area with the least amount of brush strokes, if, possible. Fixing ridges, splashes, puddles, and touching up missed spots along the way.

When applying polyurethane floor finish with a lambs wool applicator. Coat the floor back and forth, from right to left, once only, creating a W - pattern. Whether it's left to right or right to left, continue the same direction, as you started.  Using which ever method that's most comfortable to you.

Example: left to right, left to right, left to right, always continuing from the side you've started, plow the finish towards the opposite directions to keep the wet edge. Avoid changing start points. Some polyurethane finishes will flash and create lap marks. 

Best way to apply polyurethane floor finish

  The best way to apply polyurethane floor finish. If, you're 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 prevent these problems?

          While we may understand what the problem may be. We must know what is the cause?   The main cause of our problem is created from brushing back and forth. This causes our finish to thin out, and tack over too soon. Resulting in brush marks, lap marks and flashing.

 We cannot brush over dried, semi-dried or tacky polyurethane without risking a chance of resulting to one of these common problems.  It is possible to get a smooth, flawless finish with our standard lambs wool applicators, but there is an easier way.


          What's the remedy to this problem?

          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 that is mention above.

    A polyurethane floor roller is different from a paint roller. A Polyurethane floor roller is more balanced than a paint roller. This is due to the design of the roller. It helps prevent the roller from losing shape and skip rolling. It uses a handle that 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. But don't worry, just use a quality polyurethane finish, and apply a generous amount and the floor finish will level itself out, leaving you with a nice smooth gleaming finish. If, you end up with an orange peel look, then you applied too thin of a coat.

         Wood Finish Polyurethane Varnish TipsUse 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 the finish onto the floor, so we are 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.

Here's the process for applying polyurethane floor finish with a polyurethane 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.
  • 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 180 or 220 grit screen to sand in between coats. Wear down the screen with a piece of sandpaper before using it This way it is not too aggressive.

 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 adjustments to your technique, when applying polyurethane floor finish. This will help you achieve a smooth, quality polyurethane wood floor finish at the end.

Don't be afraid to experiment, 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 itself, leaving no brush lines and stop marks. By splurging a little on high quality polyurethane. You will save a lot of time, because you don't have to brush with the grain. Or worry about trying to workout certain flaws. The wood floor finish will fix itself. Who doesn't like that!

             Test out the set-up time  See how fast your 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 apply the coating. When applying polyurethane floor finish, whenever possible, avoid adding a retarder or thinning your finish. Use as is for best durability.

              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, you're 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 - 1 rst coat. 

             Test out the Sheen  Is it the finish you want?

  Semi-gloss from one manufacturer is different from another. If, you're 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 dull it or add a  gloss wood finish to make it shinier. Make note of these things and make the proper 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 180 or 220 grit screen. This will remove flaws such as brush marks, lap marks, bubbles, raised grain and any particles left on the polyurethane finish.

  • Uneven sheen and coatings are simply fixed by stirring more and applying a more even second coat.
  • For brush marks and lap marks, buff and apply a heavier coat and change the order or direction that you are brushing. Apply your polyurethane floor finish with the grain of the wood.              

Second Coat: You should start to see a smoother finish, fewer to no bubbles, possible brush marks and lap marks, depending on the quality of the finish being used. Adjust room temperature to assist the finish to level. Continue to brush with the grain.

             Use a new 180 or 220 grit screen to buff your polyurethane finish. This will 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 doesn't come out good, then, you're going start losing money. No flaws should appear on the finish coat. Any flaws can be touched up by spot buffing and coating, otherwise buff and re-coat entire area.

             Wood Finish Polyurethane Varnish Tips: Before applying the final polyurethane wood floor finish coat, clean and tack very well. Tack with a dry microfiber mop, repeat 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 you're choosing an oil base polyurethane wood floor finish, invest in a high quality polyurethane finish.  This will save you money and time, from having to refinish your wood floors too often.            

              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.


Save yourself time and money. Get professional results.

              Contact Massachusetts leading wood floor Refinisher

 for your project.

Get your free quote today

            G and S wood floors Lynn, Massachusetts 

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