How to Use Polyurethane on Wooden Floors

We teach you how to use all of the tools you’ll need and how much they’ll cost before walking you through the steps of applying water-based and oil-based polyurethane to your hardwood floor, including how to cut into the edges and effectively cover the larger central areas. Before you begin applying polyurethane yourself, consider how much time you can save by doing the job yourself versus hiring a professional. If you’re unsure, ask a local contractor for guidance and free estimates and follow our polyurethane flooring guide.

How to cut the edges?

  • Remove the baseboard trim (preferred) or cover it with painter’s tape around the surface.
  • To avoid excess air bubbles in the polyurethane, stir it rather than whipping or shaking it.
  • Begin at the farthest corner from the room’s exit door.
  • Dip the brush in enough polyurethane to cover 1/3 to 1/2 of the bristles, then clear polyurethane from the brush’s tip to the container’s edge.
  • Start with 10-14 inch relaxed strokes along the sides, then double back twice in a tight “Z” pattern, slightly overlapping the backstroke and second front stroke.
  • Continue for 8-10 minutes on the next section of edge, overlapping slightly.

How to apply material on the center of the floor?

  • Using the polyurethane, soak your roll or pad.
  • Working with the grain of the wood, start one foot from the edges of the first corner and work polyurethane toward the edges.
  • With the roller or pad, make comfortable back-and-forth sweeps of three to four feet.
  • Every 10-12 minutes, alternate between the edges and the middle of the floor because if the polyurethane edge dries, the spot where you left off will appear.
  • If you’re going to apply another coat or two, gently sand the floor between coats with an abrasive pad (for water-based polyurethane) or steel wool (for steel wood) (oil-based material)

Applying on completely

You’re all set for the main event now. To begin, use a paint stick to stir the polyurethane. If you shake a can of polyurethane, air bubbles will sabotage the finish.

Fill your brush or applicator halfway with poly and tap any excess off. Choose a corner and begin working around a foot out in the grain direction. To ensure an even coat, use long, overlapping strokes.

Look for signs of dripping and fix the problem until it dries. Wait a few minutes after applying the first coat before checking for any blemishes or areas you might have overlooked. Apply the polyurethane to the corners of the boards and mix it in.

  1. Vacuum

Vacuum the hardwood floors completely with a hardwood-floor-specific vacuum. Remember that your floors don’t have a protective finish yet, so be extra cautious about the cleaning materials you use before applying the finish.


Remove all dust bunnies and reach into tighter corners to remove any remaining dust. Enable air to circulate through the rooms by opening doors and windows.

  1. Sand it out

This stage of the process entails a lot of sanding. If you’re not sure how to use a sander, look up some tutorials on YouTube.

Begin with the thickest paper possible and work your way down to 220-grit sandpaper. However, don’t waste too much time in one place. Otherwise, the wood will be scored.


  1. Check and get going

After you’ve finished, look for any dents or splinters on the wall. When you’re out, vacuum or sweep the dust away. Wipe the dust off the boards with mineral spirits and a lint-free rag.


What are the materials needed?

It’s time to get your pen and paper ready (the list is much longer than you think). But don’t worry—the majority of the items are inexpensive and readily available in your area.

It’s time to look at brands once you’ve agreed on which polyurethane to use. It’s important to choose a brand that is transparent about the chemicals used and the storage specifications. In the event that you need assistance, look for an organisation that provides phone service.

You’ll need to borrow an orbital sander from your nearest hardware store unless you already own one. Be sure to purchase sandpaper in a variety of grades. To begin, the pros recommend 36-, 60-, and 120-grit sandpaper.

Remember to get some 220 grit sandpaper and a pole sander to use in between coats. You can make a pole sander out of a broom handle and a sanding block if you don’t want to buy one.

Urethane-rated brushes and a lambswool or synthetic applicator are also needed. A T-bar can be used to get into corners and door jambs. T-bars work well with water-based formulations, so a roller could be a better option.

How many coats are applied?

Apply three coats of polyurethane to the surface, allowing each coat to dry between coats and gently sanding in between. Some finishers will offer you a cheaper price for two coats, but your floor won’t be as protected, and scratches will be easier to see through. In other words, applying two coats will save you some time and money. You will, however, sooner or later be faced with the costly task of refinishing your hardwood flooring.


This was a complete polyurethane flooring guide to help you with the process in the right manner. Follow it and get the right solutions.