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The Ultimate Guide to Applying Polyurethane for Durable Floors


Coating floor polyurethane offers a durable, long-lasting finish for various surfaces. Whether you’re working on wood, concrete, or even bamboo, this versatile material provides excellent protection and a sleek look.

Quick Answer: How to Apply Polyurethane on Floors

  1. Prepare the Floor: Clean and sand the surface.
  2. Tape Edges: Prevent unwanted coverage.
  3. Cut In Edges: Apply using a brush for precision.
  4. Apply Finish: Use a floor finish applicator.

Polyurethane floor coatings deliver several benefits:

  • Durability: Resistant to wear and tear.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: Smooth and glossy or matte finishes.
  • Versatility: Suitable for multiple surfaces like wood and concrete.

Widely used in residential, commercial, and industrial settings, these coatings are indispensable for high-traffic areas and spaces exposed to moisture and chemicals.

Understanding Polyurethane Floor Coatings

Polyurethane floor coatings are popular for their durability and versatility. Let’s break down the key features that make them stand out.

Abrasion Resistance

One of the biggest advantages of polyurethane is its abrasion resistance. This means it can handle heavy foot traffic and the movement of furniture without wearing down quickly. According to a study by the American Society for Testing and Materials, polyurethane coatings are tested for their abrasion resistance using the Taber Abraser method (ASTM D4060). This ensures that the coating will last a long time, even in high-traffic areas.

Chemical Resistance

Polyurethane is also known for its chemical resistance. This makes it ideal for areas exposed to spills and chemicals, such as workshops and garages. The coating can withstand various chemicals without deteriorating, ensuring a longer lifespan for your floors.


Another key feature is its flexibility. Polyurethane can move with the wood or concrete surface, preventing cracks and peeling. This flexibility is particularly beneficial for floors that experience temperature fluctuations and humidity changes.


Polyurethane is self-leveling, meaning it spreads evenly across the surface, filling in minor imperfections. This provides a smooth, uniform finish that looks professional and is easy to maintain.

VOC Levels

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a concern for many homeowners and businesses. High VOC levels can be harmful to health and the environment. Thankfully, many modern polyurethane coatings have low VOC levels, making them safer to use indoors. Always check the product specifications to ensure you’re choosing a low-VOC option.

Finish Options: Matte or High Shine

Polyurethane coatings come in various finishes, from matte to high shine. A matte finish offers a subtle, understated look, while a high shine finish provides a glossy, reflective surface. According to experts, “having some level of gloss does increase the protective coating,” but a satin finish can offer a more subtle aesthetic while still providing good protection.

Polyurethane floor finish options - coating floor polyurethane

Key Takeaways

  • Abrasion Resistance: Ideal for high-traffic areas.
  • Chemical Resistance: Perfect for workshops and garages.
  • Flexibility: Prevents cracks and peeling.
  • Self-Leveling: Ensures a smooth finish.
  • Low VOC Levels: Safer for indoor use.
  • Finish Options: Choose between matte or high shine for your desired look.

Understanding these features will help you make an informed decision when choosing a polyurethane floor coating. Next, let’s dive into the step-by-step application process to ensure you get the best results.

Preparing Your Floor for Polyurethane Coating

Before you start coating your floor with polyurethane, proper preparation is crucial. This ensures the finish adheres well and lasts longer. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get your floor ready:

Surface Preparation

First, calculate the area of the space by measuring the length and width of the room. Multiply these numbers to get the square footage. Add 15% to account for wastage. This helps you determine how much polyurethane you need.

Next, remove all furniture, rugs, and other objects from the floor. Move them to another room to keep the workspace clear.


Use a broom to sweep away large debris. Then, vacuum the entire floor with a HEPA-grade vacuum to remove fine dust particles. This step is essential to ensure a clean surface for the polyurethane to adhere to.


Inspect the floor for any cracks or dings. Use a pre-mixed liquid concrete patch for deep cracks, packing them with foam filler cord if necessary. Allow the patches to cure for at least 24 hours before proceeding. This step ensures a smooth surface for the polyurethane.


Sanding is vital for removing the old finish and creating a rough surface for the new coating to adhere to. Use an oscillating floor sander or a drum floor sander for this task. Start with #100 to #150 grit sandpaper for floors in poor condition and work up to #220 grit.

Warning: If your floor is engineered wood, its top veneer is thin and may not withstand coarse sanding. Always check if the floor has been sanded before to avoid damage.


After sanding, vacuum the floor again with a HEPA-grade vacuum to remove all dust. Wear latex gloves and use damp rags with mineral spirits to wipe down the floor, ensuring it’s dust-free. From this point, keep your feet clean by wearing shoe covers or socks.


Apply painter’s tape to walls, trim, and any other large items that cannot be removed. This prevents the polyurethane from seeping under the tape and creating a mess.

By following these steps, you’ll ensure your floor is perfectly prepped for the polyurethane coating. This preparation will help you achieve a durable and beautiful finish. Next, let’s move on to the application process to ensure you get the best results.

How to Apply Polyurethane for Durable Floors

Step-by-Step Application Process

Applying polyurethane to your floors involves several steps to ensure a smooth and durable finish. Here’s a simple, step-by-step guide:

1. Choose Your Applicator

Using the right applicator is crucial. Lambswool applicators are highly recommended for a smooth finish. Synthetic lambswool works well with water-based polyurethane but not with oil-based types. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions for the best applicator pad options.

2. Apply the First Coat

Cut in the edges first. Use a brush to apply polyurethane around the perimeter of the room. This ensures that you don’t miss any spots near the walls.

For the main floor area, use your chosen applicator. Apply in the direction of the wood grain to prevent streaks and bubbles. Keep a wet edge to avoid lap marks.

3. Drying Time

Allow the first coat to dry completely. Drying times vary, but generally, you should wait until the finish is dry to the touch and hard. This can take anywhere from a few hours to overnight, depending on the product and environmental conditions.

4. Sand Between Coats

If the first coat is more than three days old, lightly sand the floor with #220 grit sandpaper. This helps the next coat adhere better. Avoid using steel wool as it can leave behind particles that rust.

5. Clean the Floor

After sanding, thoroughly clean the floor to remove all dust. Use a vacuum and a tack cloth to ensure the surface is spotless.

6. Apply Additional Coats

Repeat the application process for the second coat. For most floors, two to three coats of polyurethane are sufficient. Avoid applying more than two coats in one day to prevent the finish from becoming too thick and not drying properly.

7. Final Drying and Curing

After applying the final coat, let the floor dry completely. Full curing can take up to a week, but you can usually walk on the floor lightly after 24-48 hours.

By following these steps, you’ll achieve a durable and beautiful finish for your floors. Next, we’ll compare polyurethane and epoxy to help you choose the best option for your flooring needs.

Polyurethane vs. Epoxy: Which is Better?

Benefits of Using Polyurethane on Epoxy

When it comes to coating floor polyurethane, combining it with epoxy can give you the best of both worlds. Here’s why:

Impact Resistance

Polyurethane coatings are known for their excellent impact resistance. This makes them ideal for high-traffic areas. Epoxy, on the other hand, provides a strong base layer that can absorb heavy impacts. Together, they create a floor that’s tough and durable.

Scratch Resistance

Polyurethane is also great at resisting scratches. This makes it perfect for environments where heavy machinery or lots of foot traffic could damage the floor. Epoxy adds another layer of protection, making the combination even more resilient.


One of the standout features of polyurethane is its flexibility. It can bend and stretch without cracking, which is crucial for floors that experience temperature changes or slight movements. Epoxy, while strong, can be brittle. By applying polyurethane on top of epoxy, you get a floor that’s both strong and flexible.

Bonding to Concrete

Epoxy bonds exceptionally well to concrete surfaces, filling in cracks and leveling uneven floors. Polyurethane, however, has trouble bonding to concrete. But when you apply polyurethane over an epoxy base, you get the best of both worlds—a strong bond to the concrete and a durable, flexible top layer.

Thickness Customization

Epoxy can be applied at various thickness levels, making it a versatile base layer. Polyurethane, typically applied at 2-3 mils, is not designed to build up thickness but provides a robust top coat. The combination allows for customizable thickness with a protective surface.

VOC Levels

Epoxies are typically 100% solids and give off zero VOCs, making them environmentally friendly. Polyurethanes have evolved to have low VOC levels, and some can be installed without respirators. This makes the combined use of epoxy and polyurethane a safer option for indoor environments.

Combined Use: The Ultimate Solution

Using epoxy as a base layer and polyurethane as a top coat is a cost-effective and time-saving strategy. Epoxy serves as a repair, patch, and build coat to hide imperfections in the concrete. Once sanded, a coat of polyurethane can be applied as a protective wear surface. This combination optimizes floor durability and appearance.


Combining these two materials can save you money in the long run. The epoxy base layer can extend the life of the polyurethane top coat, reducing the need for frequent reapplications. This means fewer maintenance costs and less downtime for your facility.


Applying polyurethane over epoxy is not only effective but also time-efficient. The epoxy layer cures quickly, allowing you to apply the polyurethane top coat without long waiting periods. This means faster project completion and less disruption to your operations.

By understanding the individual strengths of epoxy and polyurethane, and how they complement each other, you can make an informed decision for your flooring needs. Next, we’ll discuss best practices for maintaining your polyurethane floors to keep them looking their best.

Best Practices for Maintaining Polyurethane Floors

Maintaining your polyurethane floors is key to keeping them looking great and lasting longer. Here are some best practices to follow:


Regular cleaning is essential. Sweep or vacuum your floors daily to remove dust and debris. Use a damp mop with a mild cleaner designed for polyurethane floors. Avoid using excessive water, as standing water can damage the finish.

Tip: Consider professional cleaning once or twice a year. Experts have specialized tools and products to deep clean and restore your floor’s shine.

Avoiding Harsh Chemicals

Do not use harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners. Products like ammonia, bleach, or vinegar can dull the finish and cause damage. Stick to cleaners specifically formulated for polyurethane-coated floors.

Case Study: A major US food processor successfully maintained their heavy-duty flooring system by avoiding harsh cleaning chemicals, preserving both the floor’s integrity and appearance.

Regular Inspections

Inspect your floors regularly for signs of wear and tear. Look for scratches, scuffs, or areas where the finish might be wearing thin. Catching these early can prevent more extensive damage.

Fact: Well-maintained floors reduce the risk of accidents such as slips or trips, ensuring a safer environment.


For minor scratches and scuffs, use a polyurethane-compatible touch-up kit. These kits can help you address blemishes promptly, maintaining the floor’s appearance and protection. For larger areas, consider reapplying a thin coat of polyurethane.

Pro Tip: Use a rubber eraser or specific cleaning product for minor scratches to keep them from becoming more significant issues.

By following these best practices, you can ensure your polyurethane floors remain durable, safe, and visually appealing. Next, we’ll address some frequently asked questions about coating floor polyurethane.

Frequently Asked Questions about Coating Floor Polyurethane

Do you have to sand between coats of polyurethane on floors?

Yes, sanding between coats of polyurethane is essential. Use 220 grit sandpaper to lightly sand the floor. This step helps to smooth out any imperfections and removes any air bubbles that may have formed. It also ensures better adhesion for the next coat.

Important Tip: Avoid using steel wool for this process. Steel wool can leave behind tiny fibers that may rust and ruin the finish.

What is the best applicator for polyurethane on floors?

For a smooth and even application, many manufacturers recommend using a lambswool applicator. Lambswool provides a consistent layer and is ideal for both oil-based and water-based polyurethanes.

However, make sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions, as some synthetic lambswool works only with water-based polyurethanes and not oil-based ones.

Pro Tip: Attach the lambswool applicator to a wood block for better control and ease of use. This helps avoid fiber issues that can occur with other types of applicators like brushes or pads.

How many coats of polyurethane should be applied on floors?

For optimal durability and protection, apply two to three coats of polyurethane on floors.

  • Two coats are usually sufficient for most residential applications.
  • Three coats are recommended for high-traffic areas or commercial spaces for added durability.

Note: Avoid applying more than two coats in one day. Allow each coat to dry thoroughly before sanding and applying the next one. This ensures the best finish and longevity for your floors.


At Rubcorp, we pride ourselves on offering premium solutions for all your flooring needs. Our polyurethane coatings are designed to provide exceptional durability, chemical resistance, and a stunning finish for both residential and commercial spaces.

Training and Support: We understand that applying polyurethane can be a complex process. That’s why we offer comprehensive training and support to ensure you get the best results. Our team of experts is always ready to assist you with any questions or challenges you may face.

High-Quality Products: Our products are rigorously tested to meet the highest standards. Whether you’re looking for a matte or high-gloss finish, our polyurethane coatings deliver outstanding performance and longevity. We also offer specialized options like Rubcorp Poly Coat for added chlorine and UV protection, making it suitable for extreme environments.

Global Support: With a global network of distributors and support teams, we ensure that you have access to our high-quality products no matter where you are. Our commitment to excellence and customer satisfaction is unmatched.

For more information on how polyurethane compares to epoxy and to explore our full range of products, visit our Polyurethane vs Epoxy page.

Thank you for trusting Rubcorp for your flooring solutions. We look forward to helping you achieve durable, beautiful floors.

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