Home Improvement

Why I Chose To Seal My Hardwood Floors With Waterlox Instead Of Polyurethane

I wanted to quickly share a follow up on my refinished hardwood floors, and my decision to use Waterlox to seal them rather than polyurethane.

And let me make this perfectly clear — this is not a sponsored post. The good folks at Waterlox don’t know me from Eve, and I didn’t receive any free products from them.

I simply did my own research (lots and lots of research) and considered everything from polyurethane, tung oil, Waterlox, and even a couple of other things. And I finally decided on Waterlox. And then I purchased my products online, and paid full price, just like you would have to.  But when I come across a product that I truly believe in, I like to pass that info along to y’all.

So anyway, remember when my floors looked like this

And then I removed all of the carpet and they looked like this

Well, during that time, I was researching like a crazy woman, trying to decide how to seal my hardwood floors.  Do I want to use polyurethane?  Should I stain them first?  What if I don’t stain them, and then they don’t come out dark enough for my taste?  What if I stain them and they come out too dark?  What about tung oil?

I nearly drove myself crazy with indecision, afraid that I’d make a terrible decision.

But by the time my floors finally looked like this

I knew exactly what I wanted.  And as soon as the sanding was finished, I was able to seal them with the Waterlox that I purchased (I didn’t use any stain at all), and after all that work my floors finally looked like this

Ahhhh…they were gorgeous and perfect (I mean, as perfect as 65-year-old hardwood floors can be). But of course, over time, hardwood floors get scratched from everyday use.  Especially when someone as independent and (yes) careless and I am lives in the house.

Let’s just say that dragging heavy furniture around (like a sofa) all by myself has left some pretty sad looking gouges in my hardwood floors.

repairing a scratch in hardwood floors 1

But here’s where the real beauty of Waterlox kicks in.

This is one of the main reasons I finally settled on Waterlox over every other finish — the ease of repairing scratches in the floor.  Don’t try this with polyurethaned floors.  It won’t work.

When I get a scratch like that, I simply grab some sandpaper (120-grit in this case, just because it’s the first one I found), and I sand the area so that it’s pretty smooth.

repairing a scratch in hardwood floors 2

This one happened to be a pretty deep gouge, so I wasn’t really concerned about getting it perfectly smooth.  I just wanted to smooth out the rough edges and minimize the gouge as much as possible.  I actually had three right next to each other.  The big one (shown in the first picture) was about five inches long.  The other two were less than an inch.  (You can see one of them in the picture above.)

repairing a scratch in hardwood floors 3

And then I just added more Waterlox right on top.

repairing a scratch in hardwood floors 4

I took that picture right after I added the new Waterlox, and it’s still wet.  (And I did this about an hour ago, so even now it’s still wet.  It takes several hours to dry.)  But even wet, it still looks so much better already!

Once that’s dry, I’ll probably add one more coat.  After about two coats of Waterlox, the color stays pretty consistent.  In other words, unlike stain, it doesn’t keep getting darker with each new coat.  The depth of color maxes out on the second or third coat (depending on how thick the coats are).

And here’s a zoomed out view.

repairing a scratch in hardwood floors 6

I really don’t think that anyone would be able to tell that there was once a 5-inch gouge in the floor right there.

repairing a scratch in hardwood floors 5

I love that about Waterlox.  And generally if I do this right before I head to bed, it’s dry enough to walk on by the time I get up in the morning.

Isn’t that awesome?  That benefit alone is probably the single thing that sold me on Waterlox for my floors.   I’m so glad that dealing with scratches from here on out will never require a whole-house or even a whole-room sanding and refinishing of the floors!



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47 Comments

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    julie
    February 24, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Amazing! I think you’ve sold me on Waterlox for my floors. (Still can’t believe you refinished all of yours by yourself!!) Thanks for sharing, Kristi.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Jenny
    February 24, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Kristi, what type of sander did you use for your living room? How long did it take? Your floors are gorgeous and mine really need to be redone but I’m kinda nervous to tackle that project but not willing to hire anyone either!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Cheryl
      February 27, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      Kristi love it! Not certain if you answered this question but would love to know the exact Waterlox products you used? Please and thank you.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Christine
    February 24, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    Hi Kristi, I really like the idea of using Waterlox on my floors when we refinish our hardwoods this spring, thanks to your review. I am wondering if stain can be used with this product, and if so, do you think it would be as easy to repair scratches in it as it seemed to be for you without using a stain?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Heidi Survis
    February 24, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Hello Im wondering if this comes in different shades? Only because I would like a darker finish.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Kristi Linauer
      February 27, 2014 at 4:25 pm

      The Waterlox itself only comes in one color, kind of like oil-based polyurethane only comes in one color. If you want darker floors, you’ll need to either stain the wood before applying Waterlox, or add a bit of stain to the first coat of Waterlox.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    pamelacochran
    February 24, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this,I have been lamenting over what to use in a very busy house .Think we will give it a try!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Dale Baird
    February 24, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    which Waterlox product did you use? This is exactly what I am wanting to do to my floors, thanks for the info

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Deb Kinast
    February 24, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Hi Kristi,
    Your floors look great! Mine are very similar as I have a 71 year old house. I would be interested to learn what type of sander you used and have you used one before? What it hard to handle? Thanks! Debbie

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Gilmer Gal
    February 24, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Kristi, you need yourself a set of furniture slider thingys to put under the legs of your furniture. With all the moving around of stuff, they would make it a breeze and not harm the floors. I use them all the time and have no problem moving desks, beds, couch, armoire, etc. on hardwood floors and carpet all by my little petite self (I said petite, because of height only and will leave it at that LOL).

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Sue
      February 24, 2014 at 5:08 pm

      I agree. You need a set of those mover pads. It’ll save a lot of wear and tear on your furniture, floors and most of all, your back! Love your floors and it appears that the Waterlox is perfect.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kamaulie
    February 24, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    I was wondering if I could use the Waterlox on a couple of spots on my floor now if it is sealed with a water based polyurethane. Thoughts?

    Thanks, and you floors look great!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Kristi Linauer
      February 27, 2014 at 4:20 pm

      No, it really needs to be used on bare wood floors. If you have polyurethane on them, you’ll need to sand your floors before using Waterlox.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Pam from Michigan
    February 24, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    I echo what the girls said above about the mover pads. For hardwood just put a small square of cut up carpet (with the soft side down) under all legs and moves like butter. For carpet you use the hard plastic discs that are sold for that purpose…..not only does it save floors, it saves backs too!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    arlene mango
    February 24, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    My parquet floors of oak ,house built 1929. need to be redone . I am living here 17 years and had the diningroom done two times. other floors once. My daughter had a chihuaua, need I say more. It is very difficult to keep our small dogs from sometimes going where he marked. we of course get it as soon as possible. Do you think it would work with an occasional accident? Your floors look magnificent as is everything you do. thanks for any ideas you can give me,Arlene

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Tracy
      February 24, 2014 at 8:14 pm

      I can empathize with you about the puppy puddles! I can’t wait to rip out all my carpet and replace with hard surface.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Kristi Linauer
      February 27, 2014 at 4:20 pm

      Yes, Waterlox will definitely stand up to puppy accidents as long as you’ve used an appropriate number of coats on your floor, and obviously clean up the puppy accidents as soon as you notice them. 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Tracy
    February 24, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    Cool. I didn’t know such a product existed. I’m on a slab and must use floating floor- possibly engineered wood. Have you ever used any of these products? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Genelle McDaniel
    February 24, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    You’ve sold me on waterlox also. We plan to have our hardwood floors redone this summer. We’ll make sure the contractor uses waterlox.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Rene
    February 24, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    Would waterlox be good to use on a bathroom counter made of wood? I am turning an old buffet into a bathroom sink cabinet, I love the wooden top and really would like to keep it … But I don’t want the super shiney look of poly. And I love the look of your floors!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Michele
      February 25, 2014 at 9:04 pm

      Waterlox comes in several finishes – original, satin and high gloss. I used the satin to seal my (MInwax walnut) stained IKEA butcher block countertop on my island and I love it!

      For those asking about dark staining with Waterlox – you will still need to stain (with something like Minwax) before applying the topcoat of Waterlox. Waterlox is only a sealer/ protectant for wood and provides minimal coloration.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Kristi Linauer
      February 27, 2014 at 4:18 pm

      Yes, you could definitely use it on a bathroom counter made of wood. People use it to seal butcherblock in their kitchens. And it comes in a satin finish, so it’s not too glossy.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Mistie
    February 24, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    I use old towels or rags under each foot when I’m too impatient to wait for someone to help me! Easier to move and no damage!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Karen
    February 25, 2014 at 5:04 am

    Kristi, I’m always so glad when you recommend products that you find work good (or fantasitc)! On Sunday that made my day: I was repainting two old wooden chairs and had gone to some length to find Floetrol over here in Germany, as you recommended it. I had to get it via the internet as shops here don’t seem to offer it (yet?), but that extra bit of hassle was worth it! I’ve never experienced such an easy painting process before! It looks better as well, as the surface is much smoother and doesn’t show so much paint strokes, so it really is a product to recommend, thank you!!!

    I’d love to hunt Waterlox down for my floors as they show a lot of those scratches as your pictures, but, alas, the floors in our house are polyurethaned (not our decision). Do you think we could sand them down and then change to Waterlox or is that way denied to us? Life would be so much easier…

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Kristi Linauer
      February 27, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      I’m so glad you liked the Floetrol, Karen! I absolutely love that stuff, and I just won’t EVER paint cabinets or furniture without it. Or if I do, I’m always disappointed.

      If you want to use Waterlox, your floors will need to be sanded down. Waterlox has to be applied to bare wood.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Jenn
    February 25, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Your floors look great. I too decided on Waterlox for our pine floors when we built. I also used it for my oak counter top and an oak mantel. I swear by this product (and I am not sponsored by Waterlox either). In fact, my husband is a lumber salesman and his company doesn’t carry the product so I drove over State lines to purchase (at the time I could not get the gallon size in Massachusetts due to VOC regulations). I did 4 coats and if I remember correctly, purchased 30 gallons. I get compliments all the time. The Waterlox website is very informative and their customer service is great. Worth every penny and doing it myself was significantly less than the quote I got to have someone polyurethane the floors which would have involved sanding in between coats.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Ginger
    February 25, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    wow, I have an entry way that needs done seriously soon..gonna have to check this out! Thanks Kristi.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Vicki
    February 26, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    When I move a piece of furniture I put terry cloth rags under furniture feet…….no cost and easy breezy

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Meghan McKindley
    March 12, 2014 at 10:19 pm

    I have never used Waterlox on my hardwood floors. Our old home had dark hardwood floors and many flaws were still visible after refinishing them ourselves and using poly. Our new home has light hardwood floors. I might try the Waterlox on these. Your floors look fantastic!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    carol robichaud
    March 30, 2014 at 8:11 am

    I need to refinish my hardwood floors. I saw your pics of your floors and they look great. I have two schnauzers and they run around a lot in the house and im wondering how the finish would hold up , like would the floors scratch easier then poly?

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Sharon
      June 26, 2014 at 5:40 pm

      I am renovating a 1948 house and love the maintenance ease of Waterlox and the way that your floors came out. I am concerned that my white oak floors will become very yellow/orange with the waterlox. yours appear to be a beautiful mid range color, not too yellow or orange. Do you know if they are white oak? Just wondering. Thank you,
      Sharon

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Karen Lynn
    August 28, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Your floors look absolutely stunning! Thanks for your recommendation of waterlox. We are having wood counter installed, and the company uses waterlox to finish them (there will also be an area with an oil finish that we can use for cutting). I’m so glad to see the process and how beautiful your floors turned out.

    We have polyurethaned kitchen floors that need to be refinished. I would love to use waterlox, but because the floors are continuous with the rest of the house (where the floors are still in great shape), we will probably need to use poly on them. I hate that repairs really can’t be made.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Alice
    January 26, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    The floors weren’t nice when I moved in. The two refinished floors, covered in gloss polyurethane are in moderate condition (I didn’t notice a few problems and there are SOME black stains)The product “Waterlox” suggests that it might be waterproof. Is it? Alternate product I was considering for the two back room floors: Marine Spar Varnish. If it can be applied to wooden boats, wouldn’t it be tomcat proof on wood floors? I REALLY don’t want sheet vinyl or tile in the back two rooms!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Jane Berberian
    April 1, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    When you’re applying the Waterlox satin finish to cover a small area that is scratched do you use a brush or cloth?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sue Erickson
    April 8, 2015 at 9:33 am

    I’m using waterlox on my pine floors over 100 yrs old….sanded and ready! Wish me luck!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Jenn Garner
    July 12, 2015 at 10:44 am

    Thank you! I was like you and frozen with indecision but decided on Waterlox I LOVE it. I am restoring a 90 year old house

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Leisa
    November 18, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    I did a home remodel. The kitchen had solid cherry cabinets. They were badly in need of refinishing. After much research I settled on Waterlox. Nothing reveals the beauty of wood better than this product, in my opinion. I would absolutely use it on my floors in my home. It DOES require good ventilation though. Here’s a link to a post I did on the project http://leisa-land.blogspot.com/2012/10/message-from-universe.html Though for some reason I don’t have an after picture!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Meaghan
    January 7, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    I keep coming back to this post! Such great info! It’s one of the few detailed blog posts about Waterlox out there. Any update on the floors or your satisfaction since you completed the project?

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Kristi
      January 8, 2016 at 12:03 am

      I actually just finished remodeling my music room, and I made a complete mess of the floor. As I was mopping the floor tonight, I was thinking how unbelievably thankful I am that I chose Waterlox for my floors. I can do some spot sanding on the areas where I dripped paint, scratched the floor with my tools, etc., and give it another coat of Waterlox, and it’ll look beautiful again! If I had polyurethaned my floors, I wouldn’t be able to do that. They’d have to be completely stripped and refinished.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Suzanne Price
    March 8, 2017 at 6:37 pm

    I used professionally applied Swedish Oil finish on most of the house remodel and applied Waterlox by myself on an old floor in the living room. 15 years later, the Waterlox has worn better, is easy to spot repair (I agree this is the best part!) and looks great. I also took the poly junk off my wood counters and used Waterlox last year, since I use cutting boards anyway. Looks beautiful and easy to fix scratches! Multiple coats do take a while to dry and they tend to move and level out so best to leave the masking tape on for a while. Thank you for this post. I wasn’t sure if I could really do the whole house floors with Waterlox, but next time through that’s what’s happening! You floor looks wonderful!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    alex
    June 22, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    Hi

    What is the drying time? Is there a finish for commercial as well?

    Great article

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Peggy Wiley
    October 19, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    I only use Waterlox and it is wonderful. Waterlox is tung oil resin that penetrates into the wood and hardens. Polyurethane creates a coat on top on top of the wood. As a result, when you scratch poly, you have to redo the whole thing. But with Waterlox that is not necessary. Also, this penetration can give the wood a 3-D like appearance if the Waterlox is applied correctly rather than look like a plastic coating on top of the wood. I also find Waterlox much more forgiving, especially when my tabletops get marred. The downside/upside to Waterlox is the cure rate. With poly, I can “feel” the coat drying and thickening before I am finished when I am working on a large project like a table top. If I do not work quickly, I will end up with brush marks, bubbles or wrinkles in my finish. With Waterlox, I can take my time and work at my own pace, go over any area I want to without feeling hurried. However, this plus side is also a problem because unlike poly which you can re-coat in 8 hours, you can’t re-coat Waterlox for 24 hours. In addition, Waterlox recommends a 7 day cure rate after the final coat, but I know many woodworkers who recommend a 30 day cure rate instead. I have a tendency to cure the full 30 days.

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