Polyurethane gives hardwood floors a wonderful high gloss finish and it seals the wood and protects it from scratches and spills. While Polyurethane provides a great finish for hardwood floors, both applying it and removing it are not the easiest DIY projects that you could take on.
If you are faced with either of these tasks, you will need a little bit of patience and you will need to take a few safety precautions as well. Here are our top tips on how to apply polyurethane to hardwood floors and the best ways to remove polyurethane from wood floors.
How to Apply Polyurethane to Hardwood Floors
Applying polyurethane to hardwood floors is not a job that can be rushed. For a good sized floor, you will probably need to allow one full day for each application and several days to allow it to cure properly.
What you don’t want to do is rush the job because, if you do, it can ruin the final results. Here are the steps that we recommend you take to get a perfect finish with an application of polyurethane on a hardwood floor.
As is the case with most home improvement jobs, the preparation is as important as the task itself. To get the perfect Polyurethane finish on a hardwood floor, the wood will need to be completely clean and dust free before you start.
To prepare the hardwood floor, you will first need to strip the floor of any existing covering. If that happens to be an old coating of polyurethane, please see the following section for tips on how to remove it.
You will probably need to use an orbital sander to get back to the bare wood. If the floor is brand new, you may need to scuff sand it before you apply any polyurethane. Then, vacuum up all the dust from the floor and give it a final clean down with a rag and some mineral spirits.
Whether you use water based polyurethane or oil based polyurethane, the fumes are toxic, so it is important that you take the proper safety precautions.
Open as many windows as possible to keep the room well ventilated and use an electric fan to help remove the fumes from the room.
It is also advisable to wear a vapor respirator while you are working with polyurethane.
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Stir the polyurethane well and then pour some into a paint tray. Using a lamb’s wool paint roller, apply a thin and even coat of polyurethane, starting at the furthest point in the room and working your way back towards the door.
Work back and forth with the roller, but avoid going back over any areas of wood you have already covered. Continue applying until the whole floor is covered and then allow four to eight hours for this first coat to dry.
When it’s dry, you can then lightly sand down the first coat with 220-grit sandpaper, sanding in the same direction as the grain of the wood. Then, wipe the floor over again with a rag and mineral spirits to pick up all the last traces of dust.
For the second coat, mix 10 parts polyurethane with 1 part mineral spirits. This makes the polyurethane thinner, so it will be easier for any bubbles that may form to dissipate. Apply this mixture in the same way that you did the first coat.
Follow exactly the same procedure for drying and sanding and then apply the third coat of diluted polyurethane, but on this final coat, you don’t need to sand.
You will then need to leave the final coat for a further 24 hours before you walk on it, and at least 72 hours before you place any furniture on the floor. Remember to keep the room well ventilated throughout this period.
How to Remove Polyurethane form Hardwood Floors
Polyurethane is great for giving hardwood floors a gloss finish and it helps to protect the wood from scuffing and spills.
However, over time, polyurethane can begin to break down and, eventually, you will need to remove the covering and apply a fresh one.
Here is a basic guide on how to go about removing polyurethane from a hardwood Floor
To lift polyurethane from a hardwood floor, you will need to use a chemical based stripper. There are various types of strippers that are less toxic and produce fewer fumes than the standard methylene chloride based ones, such as water based strippers, but these do take longer to strip polyurethane.
Before you begin to work on the floor, remove all the furnishings, rugs and any other items that might be damaged by the stripper and make sure that the room is well ventilated.
Polyurethane stripper is toxic and caustic so it’s important that you take all the proper safety precautions. Open all the windows in the room and use a fan for extra ventilation.
You should wear rubber gloves, eye protection and a vapour respirator. It’s also a good idea to wear a long sleeved shirt and long trousers to protect your skin against splashes.
Removing the polyurethane
To remove the polyurethane, apply the stripper liberally to the floor with a paint brush and leave it to soak in for a few minutes. The stripper will react with the polyurethane, softening the coating and lifting it from the floor.
Then, scrape the polyurethane off the surface of the wood with a metal scraper.
If it doesn’t all come off the first time, you may have to apply a second coat of stripper and repeat the process.
Sanding the floor
Once you have removed the polyurethane, you can then sand the floor to take it all the way back to the bare wood. You will then be ready to stain the wood, seal it, or apply a new application of polyurethane.