Removing a Polyurethane Finish From Wood Flooring

Lead Image
  • 2-4 hours
  • Beginner
  • 20-60
What You'll Need
Polyurethane stripper
Rubber gloves
Safety glasses
Respirator mask
Paint brush

Polyurethane is a finish that is applied to wood flooring to protect it. However, after several years, polyurethane will break down and requires removal before refinishing wood flooring. Sanding and refinishing your old wood floors can make them look like new again, but the process can't be started until the polyurethane coating is removed. The following steps provide the basics of how to strip polyurethane from old wood flooring.

Step 1 - Prepare for Stripping the Floor

During this process, you'll be working with a polyurethane stripper. A polyurethane stripper is a caustic substance that can harm you if you are not careful. This means that you will need to wear rubber gloves, a respirator mask and safety glasses. This should sufficiently protect you from any problems with the stripper.

Step 2 - Ventilate the Room

This polyurethane stripper also releases serious fumes. The last thing that you want to do is work with it in an enclosed area without proper ventilation. To improve fresh air circulation, open the windows and the doors of the room you will be working in. You should also have a fan going to move the air as well, and of course wear protective clothing (gloves, respirator mask, safety glasses). This should help protect you from the dangerous fumes emitted by the chemicals.

Step 3 - Apply the Stripper

Once you feel confident that the room is well-ventilated, it is time to apply the polyurethane stripper. Dip a paintbrushh into the stripper then apply the stripper liberally to the floor. It's important to use even strokes when applying it to the entire floor. Make sure the wood is well-covered without being excessive. The stripper creates a chemical reaction that will remove the polyurethane from the floor.

Step 4 - Scrape It Off

Allow the stripper to soak into the polyurethane finish for a few minutes then take a metal scraper and run it along the wood floor. This should effectively remove the polyurethane finish from the wood. If some of the applied stripper remains in place, repeat the application steps, let sit, then use the scraper to remove the remnants.

Step 5 - Sand the Floor

A man polishes wood floors.

Once you've removed as much of the polyurethane as possible, the next step is to sand the floor. This process will help remove all traces of polyurethane leaving a smooth surface to work with. Sanding the floor results in access to the original raw wood. Sanding creates a lot of dust. Keep windows open for ventilation and doors closed to other rooms to avoid dust particles covering floors and furniture. As always, wear safety glasses to keep particles out of your eyes. Once sanding is complete, the wood floors are ready to be stained, painted, or sealed.

Step 6 - Clean the Floor

After sanding, take a broom and vacuum and remove any dust from all surfaces. Once sanding is complete, the wood floors are ready to be stained, painted, or sealed.