A long-handled applicator makes applying polyurethane nearly effortless.

How to Refinish a Wood Floor With a Polyurethane Applicator

by Brynne Chandler

Wood floors offer a soft and natural glow to any décor as well as helping keep your home as allergen-free as possible. On the downside, wear and tear from active kids and pets cannot be erased with a few swipes of the vacuum cleaner. Professional refinishing is pricey, but DIY refinishing is a breeze. Use a polyurethane applicator to seal the new finish and you'll have a professional-quality top coat without straining either your budget or your back.

Empty the room completely of all furniture, rugs, standing lamps, plants and anything else that sits on the floor.

Go over the wood floor with an electric sander to remove all traces of the old finish. Do not press on the sander as you guide it over the floor. Let its own weight be enough or you risk gouging the floor.

Sweep the floor thoroughly with a broom and dustpan, then vacuum it to remove any visible sanding dust.

Wrap a tack cloth around the pad holder of a static mop and secure it with safety pins. Go over the floor again to remove any traces of dust too small to be visible, replacing the tack cloth with a fresh one as you need to. The cleaner and more dust-free the floor is, the smoother the polyurethane top coat will be.

Stand outside of the room to be finished and attach the sanding pole to a lambswool polyurethane applicator if you are using an oil-based sealer. A synthetic or foam applicator pad is best for water-based polyurethane.

Start in the farthest corner from the door. Pour a healthy puddle of polyurethane onto the floor.

Spread the polyurethane with the applicator by using long, even strokes to pull the polyurethane toward you. Do not lift the applicator from the floor until you have finished the section because that can cause bubbles.

Repeat in small sections, being sure to feather the edges where they overlap, until the entire room is done and you have backed yourself out of the doorway.

Let the polyurethane dry according to the manufacturer’s suggested time. Add half again that much time if it is raining, humid or you live in a damp climate.

Items you will need

  • Floor sander
  • Broom and dustpan
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Tack cloth
  • Static mop
  • Safety pins
  • Sanding pole
  • Lambswool, synthetic or foam pplicator pad
  • Polyurethane
  • Lint roller


  • Go over a new lambswool applicator pad several times with a lint roller before using it because they tend to shed fibers when brand new.


  • Never skimp on the drying time for polyurethane or you will mar the finish.

About the Author

Emmy-award nominated screenwriter Brynne Chandler is a single mother of three who divides her time between professional research and varied cooking, fitness and home & gardening enterprises. A running enthusiast who regularly participates in San Francisco's Bay to Breakers run, Chandler works as an independent caterer, preparing healthy, nutritious meals for Phoenix area residents.

Photo Credits

  • ULTRA F/Photodisc/Getty Images