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How to Apply Water-Based Polyurethane

Polyurethane is a liquid finish or sealant that is made out of a plastic resin material. This glossy or shiny type of finish can be oil-based or water-based and is applied like paint to furniture and other items. It is important to prepare your wood surface to accept a water-based polyurethane before you apply it.

Things You Will Need

  • Sand paper
  • Face mask
  • Soft cloth
  • Rubber gloves
  • Paint stirrer
  • Paint brush

Polyurethane is a liquid finish or sealant that is made out of a plastic resin material.  This glossy or shiny type of finish can be oil-based or water-based and is applied like paint to furniture and other items.

It is important to prepare your wood surface to accept a water-based polyurethane before you apply it. 

  1. Wear a face mask to prevent the accidental inhalation of wood dust and polyurethane fumes.
  2. Sand the surface you will be treating with polyurethane if it is not smooth. Use a coarse grain of sandpaper, such as an 80 or 90, to smooth out rough surfaces. Minor nicks can be sanded with a finer grain in the 200 range.
  3. Remove wood dust from the surface with a soft, cloth.
  4. Protect your hands from being stained with rubber gloves.
  5. Stir the water-based polyurethane with a wooden paint stirrer to ensure an even consistency before you apply it to the wood.
  6. Brush the polyurethane finish onto your wooden item using wide, long strokes. Paint in the same direction as the wood grain.
  7. Follow the directions on the can of the finish with regard to drying times. Some glosses are quick drying and will be ready for a second coat in as little as an hour.
  8. Apply a second coat of water-based polyurethane if your coverage is spotty or you prefer a darker shade.
  9. Tip

    Always work in a well ventilated area to reduce the toxicity of the fumes. Leave a door or window open if you are using finishes and paint inside your home.

Things You Will Need

  • Sand paper
  • Face mask
  • Soft cloth
  • Rubber gloves
  • Paint stirrer
  • Paint brush

Tip

  • Always work in a well ventilated area to reduce the toxicity of the fumes. Leave a door or window open if you are using finishes and paint inside your home.

About the Author

Erica Roth has been a writer since 2007. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and was a college reference librarian for eight years. Roth earned a Bachelor of Arts in French literature from Brandeis University and Master of Library Science from Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Her articles appear on various websites.