COMPLETE GUIDE: WILL POLYURETHANE MAKE YOUR HARDWOOD WATERPROOF?

Hardwood floors are a beautiful choice for the house if you want an amazing look and natural feel. One of the most common issues some people face is that their hardwood floor is not adequately waterproof, and as a result, may get damaged quickly because of this. This small damage grows gradually and leads to the quick aging of the hardwood floors, this reduces the expected life-longevity of the hardwood floors as well.

If you want your hardwood floor to last longer, you need to search for something that can make it waterproof. There are some options available in the markets that can help you achieve water resistance and waterproofing ability. One of these solutions is polyurethane. It is an organic chemical compound that comprises polymers. These polymers can resist water. So, if you apply a polyurethane coat over the surface of your hardwood, it will be better at repelling water. This significantly reduces the damage caused to hardwood floors due to water spills.

The use of polyurethane only cannot make your hardwood floors 100% waterproof or water-resistant, but it acts as a barrier that slows the process of water absorption into the hardwood, meaning that you will have more time to clean the water from your hardwood floor. This is because the hardwood tends to absorb water, but the layer of polyurethane will protect your hardwood floor by making this process 100 times slower and this is how it protects your hardwood floors from damages due to water.

This delay in the absorption of water provides the homeowners enough time to clean the water spill, this is how your hardwood floor remains protected from the water damages and remains waterproof to some level but if you do not clean the water from the hardwood soon and let it remain on the hardwood, there is a chance that it will seep through the cracks in the polyurethane layer and will reach the core hardwood. This will result in more cracks in the surface of the hardwood that will lead to more absorption, that is why you must clean your hardwood floors as soon as possible if any type of liquid or water spills on them.

What is Polyurethane and how it works?

Polyurethane is a chemical that is created from organic polymers (large chains of carbon molecules), that are joined by a link known as the urethane. This chemical acts as the oil on a surface. It can repel the water and stop it from getting absorbed in anything. This water-resistant ability of the polyurethane chemical is used to make waterproof materials and seals. Polyurethane when is coated over the surface of the hardwood, a water repellent layer of polyurethane is formed over the surface of the hardwood.

This water-repellent polyurethane layer also fills in many of the cracks in the surface of the hardwood that mostly allow the water to reach the core of the hardwood. This layer of water-repellent polyurethane stops that absorption of the water into the hardwood. Water only remains on the surface instead of seeping through the hardwood because of this intermediate layer of the polyurethane coat. This is how polyurethane can make your hardwood water-proof and water-resistant to some extent.

But this is not the ultimate solution, you still need to keep your hardwood floors dry and avoid spilling water frequently or washing and cleaning your hardwood floors with water. Because this can create cracks in the layer of polyurethane and water can reach the hardwood from these cracks. That is why cleaning your floors with proper materials and now allowing the water to remain on your hardwood floor surface are the two best precautions that can extend the life of your hardwood floors even further.

Why does the hardwood floor become less waterproof over time?

If you are wondering “why your hardwood floor became less waterproof over time?” This is because the layer of the polyurethane that protects your hardwood floor and prevents the absorption of water becomes very thin and, in some cases, depletes completely over time. This results in the formation of cracks on the surface of the hardwood and the layer of polyurethane. Also, during the winter and summer, the hardwood of your floors expands and contracts, this is all-natural.

But this results in more cracks over time and your protective layer becomes thin and damaged. When the protective layer over the hardwood is thin, cracked, or not present, your hardwood starts absorbing water through the cracks. This causes severe damage and more cracks and more water absorption. This cycle ultimately makes your hardwood floor less waterproof over time and severely damages your hardwood floor as well.

How do you prevent hardwood floors from becoming less waterproof over time?

As you already know that hardwood floors become less waterproof over time due to the cracks that happen in the polyurethane layer and in the surface of the hardwood itself, so the only way to make your hardwood floor more waterproof is by recoating it with the help of polyurethane. Recoating will not only fill all the cracks in the hardwood but will also create a new layer of protection and waterproofing as well. This will enhance the life of the hardwood and will also make it more waterproof and will prevent the floor from losing its strong ability to repel water and remain waterproof.

Apart from this, you need to follow the care guidelines related to hardwood floors as well. These care guidelines provide you with all the information that can help you make your hardwood floors remain waterproof for a long time. One of the most common instructions to help you keep your hardwood floors waterproof is that you should never wash your hardwood floors with water. The more you wash with water the more damage you cause to your hardwood floor. So, if you do not wash it or do not allow the water to stay on your hardwood by cleaning the water spills quickly, you can keep your hardwood floors more waterproof for a longer time.

But these are not the only two things that can make your hardwood floors more waterproof, there are some other things that you must do to maintain the waterproofing ability of the hardwood floors and make them last longer as well. Below are some of the pro tips from the experts that can help you get a more waterproof and long-lasting hardwood floor.

Tips to make your hardwood floors waterproof and long-lasting

Here are some of the tips that can help you make your hardwood floors last longer and be more waterproof:

  • Quickly wipe up the spills: It is important that you quickly wipe the spills from your hardwood floors. The polyurethane layer protects your hardwood floor from water and keeps it waterproof if the water remains on the surface for a short time. But if you do not clean water very soon, this protective layer of polyurethane will get breached and water will reach the hardwood.

    If this happens, your hardwood floor will become less and less waterproof as time passes, that is why you should not let any spills stay on your hardwood floors and you should quickly clean them up. If you quickly clean the spills from your floor, the protective layer will remain intact and your hardwood floor will also stay more waterproof and stronger as well.
  • Apply an extra layer of polyurethane: This is the first thing to do when you get a hardwood floor. Most people only get one layer or one coat of polyurethane on their newly finished hardwood floors, this single coat or a single layer of the polyurethane can deplete quickly and make your hardwood floor less protective over time. To make your hardwood floors more waterproof and long-lasting, you should get an extra coat or extra layer of polyurethane.

    The extra layer will cost you a little more money, but this extra layer will last longer and will not allow the water to seep into the hardwood soon after finishing. This double layer of polyurethane is simply your double layer of protection from water and all other damages to your hardwood floors. So, you will have to spend some extra money, but this will provide a long-lasting hardwood floor that will also remain waterproof for even longer.
  • Avoid cheap and soft hardwood species: One of the biggest mistakes during the selection of a perfect hardwood floor that most people make is that they choose a cheaper hardwood species and compromise on the quality of the hardwood. This cheaper hardwood species is mostly more affordable and on paper has similar qualities and strengths to a strong hardwood species. But this is not true, most of the cheaper hardwood species are softer. Some light hardwood flooring and dark hardwood flooring species are softer, and they get damaged quickly.

    Apart from being softer, these species of hardwood are also less water-resistant, which means you cannot make them waterproof by coating a double layer of polyurethane or any material. This results in quick destruction of hardwood floors because over time softer hardwood species tend to create more and more cracks in the surface and they allow more water to be absorbed. This attracts hardwood eating pests that destroy the hardwood floors from inside and damage them from inside.

    The cheap and low-cost softer hardwood floors should be avoided, you should choose the hardwood and before choosing one, you should know all about it. You can learn from the internet about the life of the hardwood and the strength and density of the hardwood as well. This will allow you to choose a perfect hardwood species that is not only beautiful but also has the required strength and water-resistant ability as well.
  • Periodically check floor: You need to periodically check your hardwood floor and look for scratches on the surface or cracks in the floor. This is important because you will be able to detect the forthcoming problem and can solve it in its initial days. Most people install the hardwood floors and never check them for cracks or anything, this carelessness results in huge losses.

    The periodic checking of your hardwood floor will allow you to know which parts need recoating and which parts are just fine. This information will not only save your money on repairs and recoating but will also allow you to make your hardwood floors more waterproof by knowing the cracks and filling them earlier before they become a headache.
  • Recoat hardwood floor: If your hardwood floor has cracks on its surface or it has been damaged, you should recoat your hardwood floors. This recoating can be done based on the life of the polyurethane coat that you are using. The life of the polyurethane that is water-based is between 2 to 4 years and the lifespan of oil-based polyurethane coats is 3 to 5 years.

    So, after this period ends, or during this period depending upon the need, you should recoat your hardwood floors with the polyurethane of your choice. Consider this periodically recoating a rebuilding of your defenses against the water and damages that are caused by it. This will make your hardwood floors last-longer and will also make them more waterproof.
  • Avoid scratches on the floor: Scratches on the surface of your hardwood floors not only look bad but they are also a reason behind the quick death of your hardwood floors as well. Scratches from any sharp object can breach the surface and upper layer of protective waterproof polyurethane and create a way for the water to directly reach the core of the hardwood and cause damage.

    The only way to prevent this is by avoiding the scratches on the surface of the hardwood floors. You can also do this by refilling the scratched parts and cracks with protective materials and stop water from reaching the core of the hardwood floor. You should also use polyurethane after you have filled the scratch, recoat the filled part with polyurethane to make it completely waterproof.
  • Keep the floor clean but do not wash it with water: Keep the hardwood floors clean can also help you keep your hardwood floors more waterproof and help them last longer. But you should not clean or wash your hardwood floors with water. Cleaning your hardwood floors with water damages the protective layer. The water will be able to reach the hardwood and this will make your hardwood floor less waterproof over time.

    So, if you want your hardwood floor to last-longer and remain more waterproof, you should avoid cleaning your hardwood floor with water. You should use the special products that are available in the market to clean the surface of the hardwood floors. Also, you should be careful while cleaning and try not to damage the protective layer of the hardwood floor.
  • Hire professional for work: Instead of trying to do all the work-related to the floor yourself, you should hire the services of a professional. This means you should hire a professional for everything, from basic work to finishing, sanding, cutting, and even installing the hardwood floor as well. The professionals know better about this, so they will do a better job as compared to you doing all the work by yourself.

    This will also cost you some extra amount, but this will significantly improve not only the look of your hardwood floors after finishing but your floor will also be stronger and waterproof, because the professional know-how to make the hardwood floor last longer and what mistakes you should avoid during the sanding and installation.

    This looks like an easy job, but it is not, and this can cost you a lot if you do not hire a professional and try to do all the work on your own. There is a chance that you either over-sand your hardwood floor or damage your floor and make it less waterproof. So, you should call a professional to help you with this process and obtain better results.
  • Use area rugs and safety pads: This is one of the very important steps that can help you keep your hardwood scratch less and can significantly enhance the life and longevity of your hardwood floors. Most of the floors lose their waterproofing ability due to the scratches and cracks in the surface. You can easily avoid getting your hardwood floors scratched by using different types of area rugs and safety pads.

    These area rugs and safety pads protect your hardwood floors from scratches, so fewer scratches ultimately mean that your hardwood will remain waterproof for a longer time. This will not enhance the waterproofing ability but will help your floors maintain their ability to resist water for the long term by keeping the hardwood safe. You should not only use the area rugs in places of heavy traffic but also under your movable furniture. Avoid as much as possible from the scratches that happen due to the movement of the trolley and other furniture items, and this will protect your hardwood floor for the long term.

Types of polyurethane and period of their effectiveness

Two different types of polyurethanes are used for making hardwood waterproof and long-lasting. Each of these has its features and lifespan. Below are the details about these.

  • Water-based Polyurethane: This is the type of polyurethane that is made using water, it is more environmentally friendly and provides a more natural look. It will not turn yellow over time and you will be able to enjoy the natural color of your hardwood floor for a longer time. The life span of the water-based polyurethane is between 2 to 4 years depending upon how you take care of your hardwood floors. 
  • Oil-based Polyurethane: Oil-based polyurethane is made using oil-based polymers. This is more water-resistant as compared to the water-based polyurethane and provides longer-lasting protection from water and wear-and-tear. But this is not environmentally friendly and turns the hardwood floor a little yellow over time. This can last between 10 to 20 years depending upon how you take care of your hardwood floor.

You can choose any of these options based on your requirements and your preferences to protect your hardwood floor from wear-and-tear and help it maintain its waterproofing ability.

Staining to make hardwood floors waterproof

Staining of the hardwood floors is done to achieve a shiny look and a specific color from the hardwood floor. The stains that are mostly used in this process cannot resist water or make any substance or hardwood species waterproof. So, they also cannot be used only to make the hardwood floors more waterproof. Apart from this, some of the staining agents can react with hardwood or sometimes with the polyurethane or any other materials used on the hardwood and result in creating cracks. So, they do not provide any protection from the water or make the hardwood waterproof.

Impact of sheen on making hardwood floors waterproof

A lot of people think that shiner hardwood floors are more waterproof as compared to the duller or less shiner hardwood floors. This is a very common mistake that many people make. Shiner floors look good, but they do not provide any durability or make your hardwood floors waterproof. The shine off the floor has nothing to do with the durability of the hardwood floors or the ability of the floors to resist water.

So, if you have decided to choose a shiner floor you will not get any benefits, and there is a risk that your shiner hardwood floors sheen will go away quickly and your floor will look less shiner. That is why most of the experts advise going towards less shiner hardwood floors that is because less shiner hardwood floors sheen lasts longer as compared to more shiner hardwood floors.

Conclusion

There is nothing 100% effective that can help you make your hardwood floors completely waterproof. This is because no matter what you use, the hardwood tends to absorb water. So, the best you can is to try to prevent water from reaching the surface of your hardwood floor by quickly cleaning any spills and keep the hardwood floors dry all the time. Apart from this, you should also try to avoid scratches on the surface of your hardwood floor to make it look better and avoid water from absorbing into it as well. The use of polyurethane can help you avoid scratches and can also prevent water from entering or getting absorbed by the hardwood of your floor. But this is not a 100% effective solution either.

Water will still get absorbed in the hardwood through the different cracks in the surface of the hardwood floors. Apart from this, you should also follow the proper guidelines on treating your hardwood floor to further enhance its longevity. You should avoid using the water to clean or wash your hardwood floor because this will simply erase the protective layer over the surface and expose the hardwood to water absorption. You should only use the hardwood species that are not softer and can last longer, this type of hardwood species can repel water for a long time and they also allow less absorption of water. Most of the dark hardwood flooring species last longer and allow less water absorption if compared to light hardwood species. So, when you are choosing the hardwood floor for your house, you should choose the hardwood that is better even if it costs you an extra amount.

Frequently asked questions

  1. Question: Is water-based polyurethane more waterproof?

    No. Both water-based polyurethane and oil-based polyurethane have equal waterproofing ability. If they are applied on hardwood floors, they seal the surface and create a layer of protective water-repellent material that does not allow the water to seep in the hardwood. But even water-based polyurethane cannot make hardwood floors 100% waterproof. There is reliable evidence that suggests that they are more waterproof or less. That is why both are considered equally effective.

  2. Question: Can I apply polyurethane on an unfinished hardwood floor?

    Yes, you can apply polyurethane on an unfinished hardwood floor. You can do this with the help of a fine brush, cloth, or foam pad. This polyurethane layer on the surface of an unfinished hardwood floor provides it a protective layer. This protective layer can stop water from entering the hardwood. It acts as a defender for your hardwood floor against water damages. If you apply it over an unfinished hardwood floor, then you should also recoat it after completing the installation of the hardwood floor to make the floor last even longer.

  3. Question: Is engineered hardwood flooring more waterproof?

    Engineered hardwood flooring has more resistance against the water but still it is not 100% waterproof. If the ability to resist the water of both hardwood and engineered wood is considered, there is only a slight difference, and engineered hardwood is slightly more waterproof. It will provide you better protection and your hardwood floor will last even longer.

  4. Question: What is the most effective way to make your hardwood floors waterproof?

    Using polyurethane on your hardwood floors is the most effective way to make your hardwood floors partially water-repellent and waterproof. Nothing can help you achieve 100% effectiveness in making a hardwood floor waterproof but applying polyurethane can help you achieve more than 75% effectiveness. Apart from this, the only thing that can help you is taking good care of your hardwood floor and trying to avoid scratches on the surface of your hardwood floors.