Wood Floor Sealer

Whenever you're applying wood floor sealer, be sure to read the manufacturer's instruction, and specs on the side of the container. Not, all finishes are made equally. Always test a small area, to ensure that you're getting the right color and to see if the finish reacts in a bad manner with the surface being coated on.

What you should know, before buying a wood sealer

There are four types of wood sealers to choose from Lacquer wood sealer (illegal in Massachusetts), Oil based quick drying polyurethane Sealer, Water based wood sealers, and Universal wood sealers (used for both water and oil).

They all do the same thing, penetrate into the wood and seal the wood pores, for a better and smoother build up on your top coat. Certain types will prevent side bonding and panelization, where others don't.  Side bonding is when the flooring boards are glued together at the joints by the finish. And panelization is when all your floor boards are joined together to form a large panel. You probably don't think that it sounds so bad.

Let me explain, we all know that wood needs to, expand and contract. When they don't, well, something has to give - somewhere and somehow.  

Side bonding - When is side bonding an issue? Side bonding is an issue when your flooring boards need to contract and shrink. You're probably thinking, that you prefer a tight floor at all times anyways. So, side bonding is ok, with you. Myself, I'm the same. I don't like to see food crumbs and dirt get trapped in gaps. Cleaning becomes a project, meaning - less sports television time, ugh!

Panelization - What about panelization? Your flooring boards turn into one large single panel. It looks that way anyhow. So, what is the big deal?

When you combine both issues, side bonding and panelization. You now, have a big issue. The larger your flooring space and the wider your flooring boards are, the bigger the issue.

What is it?

We've seen these types of floors before. A section of floor in our home, that has no gaps, then all of a sudden. You find a 1/4"-1/2" gap or crack in a flooring board. That just showed up, when you know, it was never there before. Well, it's the result of side bonding and panelization. Your flooring boards glued at the sides, formed a large panel. And when it contracted, the weakest point had to give. This is the result of a poor quality finish, that did not prevent the problems.  

How do we prevent these issues? With the use of a wood floor sealer. But once again, not all sealers will prevent side bonding and panelization.

Choosing A Wood Floor Sealer

  • Lacquer wood sealer, very flammable, harsh fumes. If, you apply to heavy of a coat, your top coat or polyurethane will not bond. Bad, bad, bad and bad - It's illegal in Massachusetts. The Up side, it will seal in old odors - such as pet odors, and won't raise the wood grain, less buffing.

  • Quick drying poly sealer, Non flammable, mild fumes, promotes topcoat adhesion and film build up, can be screened in 2 hours, and can be used as a stand alone 3 coat application. If, I had to use a sealer for oil based polyurethane I would choose this type of wood floor sealer.

  • Water based wood floor sealer, non flammable, low odor, promotes topcoat adhesion and film build up. Will raise wood grain excessively, so you'll have to give the floor a good screening. Uneven coating will cause tanning pull, Tip: Apply a generous coat. For use with water based polyurethane, only. Certain brands, will cause side bonding and panelization, due to the low viscosity.

  • Universal wood sealers, flammable, mild fumes, can be used with both water based and oil based polyurethane. I personnaly don't like universal products, they don't perform as well as ones that are specified for water or oil, only.

If, you need to use a hardwood sealer, use the quick dry poly sealer or water based wood sealer. And as always, use a high quality sealer.

Wood Floor Sealer Tips

  • Quick dry poly sealer, apply a thin coat, and coat the same direction as the wood grain.

  • Water based sealers, Use a high quality wood sealer and apply a generous coat. This will prevent tannin pull and allow the maximum film build up. And prevent side bonding and panelizaton.

  • Sealing wood stains, For oil based polyurethane, seal the stain with the polyurethane. For water base polyurethane, use water base sealer or a single component water base polyurethane to seal in wood stain.

  • Need to match a floor color, you can tint water base sealers and lacquer sealers with wood dyes, to make a one step wood toner finish.

Note: For Massachusetts residents, sanding lacquer and lacquer sealer sales and uses have been banned in the state of Massachusetts. Visit this link to learn more, Massachusetts ban on wood floor sealers

Check  your building fire codes for the allowance on the use of solvent based finishes.


Applying Wood Sealers

Wood Sealers are one of the easiest wood floor finishes to apply. Use a lambs wool applicator and a brush that's specified for oil paints only - quick release.

It's important to use only oil paint applicator, to reduce puddling, to provide proper coverage, and to allow the wood floor sealer to level itself properly. This will reduce unwanted brush marks, if, you do get brush marks no worries. The polyurethane finish will cover and even it out.

TipHave a helper coat the edges while you coat the main body of the wood flooring. This will result in less time spent with inhaling in the wood sealer fumes.

Brush applicator - Start by cutting in the edges, with your brush, use a 3" or 4" brush, remove loose brush bristles before using. Carefully, coat the floor, avoid getting any hardwood floor sealer on other surfaces. If, you accidentally do, you can use mineral spirit to clean it up. When, coating the edges, you should brush across the grain, then complete your final brush strokes with the grain. Remember to check for puddles, splashes, or drips. When applying natural wood sealers, be sure to apply the proper coverage, so that the finish seals all the wood pores.

Be sure to maintain a wet edge at all time. By doing this you'll avoid unwanted lap marks.

Mop applicator - use a light lambs wool applicator. Remove any loose wool from the applicator, you can use a vacuum to do this. Avoid pulling on the wool, this can create more loose fiber.

Pour your Wood Sealer into a 5 gallon pail. Attach the applicator to a mop handle. Soak the applicator with wood sealer. Start from furthest away from exit. Working in a 7'x 7' area or smaller, apply a 12 inch x 5 foot puddle in front of you. Pre-coat the wood-flooring, mopping from the starting puddle to the coated edge. Apply downward pressure while your mopping. Avoid applying pressure to the middle of the mop handle, this can cause it to break. Overlap your passes.

It's important that you pre-coat your floor, using one forward and back pass. While, making sure the wood flooring is completely coated. This will help you put an even quantity of floor finish across the surface.

Warning, keep away from open flames

Tip: If dealing with cold climate conditions. Maintain room temperature at 65 degrees. If the wood floor sealer does not dry to touch within a 1-2 hr period or overnight. Adjust the temperature higher, usually 70-72 degrees is more than enough.

Once you've completed the pre-coat step. You want to do a light finish pass, using the same procedure, but with less pressure to equalize the finish. Apply pressure to the mop head to squeeze out the wood floor sealer. On your final pass, you must apply less to zero pressure towards the mop head. Allow the applicator to float across the surface. While doing this check, for splashes, unevenness, and missed spots, coat if necessary.

Repeat both processes for edging and mop applicator. Work towards the exit area. Open any windows necessary to allow unwanted fumes out, during the process of applying your wood floor sealer, allow the wood sealer to dry 1-2 hr or overnight.

Apply a coat of natural wood sealer to help protect your wood floor. When you're choosing a wood floor sealer, invest in a high quality finish. This will save you money, from having to refinish your wood floors to often.

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