Polyurethane over painted floor – Should you do it?

By Mego Kimani •  Updated: 07/03/23 •  3 min read

One of the easiest ways to get a new look off your old floorboards is to paint them. Paint gives vibrant color options and decent level of protection for your floorboards. But let’s face it painted floors will receive higher traffic and use than other painted surfaces.

Such high traffic demands regular refinishing of the paint job. However, there are other ways to add endurance to your painted floor; polyurethane. In this article, we will look at how you can polyurethane over the painted floor to add durability to your floorboards.

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How to polyurethane over painted floor

Applying polyurethane over a painted floor is not overly complicated. There are a few things that you need to be careful though but worry not the following steps take care of them all.

1. Surface prep

You want to ensure the painted surface is ready to receive a coating of polyurethane without having adhesion issues. The paint has to have dried and cured otherwise the moisture in the paint will be trapped by the poly coat and will, later on, start pealing.

2. Sanding and cleaning

Polyurethane is a clear finish therefore, any imperfections will be magnified. Sanding takecare of imperfections such as dribs and furrows and also creates an etch for the polyurethane to bond onto. Once you have sanded vacuum-clean the entire floor. But the floor is not yet ready until you tack it. Tacking ensures all the dust that the vacuum cleaner may have missed is captured.

3. Applying polyurethane

Applying poly on the ready surface that you have just cleaned is no different than applying the polyurethane on a repaired bare wood. You will need to have a plan working from the interior heading to the corridors and ultimately the exit. We have a more in detail article on how to apply polyurethane to wooden floors make sure you check it out.

Should you sand between coats of poly on painted floor?

Sanding is vital between coats even though some polyurethane brands are advertised as self-leveling the only way that guarantees a smooth top coat is telegraphed through all subsequent coats is by sanding between coats.

How many coats of polyurethane for painted floors?

Two coats are enough though this entirely depends on the brand. Different brands of poly have varying coverage areas. But in most cases, you won’t need more than three coats unless it’s the wipe-on poly wish we do not recommend for floors.

water-based poly vs oil-based poly over painted floor

Water-based polyurethane(WBP) seems to be the obvious winner here. First of all, WBP has very few VOCs, therefore, is you are already living in the house you won’t have to worry about strong solvent fumes lasting days as is akin to oil-based polys (OBP).

Secondly, WBP does not amber over time as is common with OBP. This means your painted floor will remain with the same hue and pigment. The only difference that maybe noticed is perhaps the sheen.

Mego Kimani

Hi there, my name is Mego Kimani, and I am the owner of Woodmeter, a website dedicated to wood finishing. At Woodmeter, we offer a comprehensive resource for woodworkers and DIY enthusiasts, providing information on everything from achieving the perfect finish to product recommendations and technique guides. Our goal is to empower our community with the knowledge they need to create beautiful, long-lasting finishes on their projects, no matter their skill level or experience.