5 Tips for a Successful Finish

Using wood for floors, countertops, furniture and other projects can be quite rewarding. Typically, applying the finish to the wood is the last step in what can be a lengthy (and expensive) process, so it is important to take the time and care that are necessary to get a good end result.

Following are 5 very important (yet often overlooked) steps to keep in mind for your project.

#1 Surface Preparation

Proper preparation prevents poor performance. Preparation, preparation, preparation. Waterlox products are excellent at highlighting the natural beauty of the wood. Take care of any defects or marks by sanding or using other fillers/techniques to prepare your surface for finishing. Follow proper sanding procedures and grit sequences to avoid sanding marks. If you intend to use other products before Waterlox, be sure to follow any preparation recommendations for those products and also check compatibility of your entire system to ensure proper adhesion and appearance.

#2 Air and Surface Cleanliness

Airborne dust, particles or debris that has already settled on your unfinished surface may show up in your final coating. To prevent this, vacuum, dust and wipe down project surfaces to remove any surface contaminants and finish in a clean area if possible. Vacuum, dust and wipe down other surfaces in the area (fans, baseboards, vents, etc.), especially if sanding was done in that area. Use a lint-free rag dampened with mineral spirits (paint thinner) to remove any stubborn dust from the work surface. Don’t work beneath heating or air conditioning vents.

#3 Applicator Cleanliness and Immediate Clean-up

Using a fresh, clean applicator generally results in the best quality finishes. This does not necessarily mean brand new every time, but make sure applicators are free of dried finish or solvents/cleaners before reusing. If using new applicators, “clean” them by removing loose bristles or fibers. Aggressive dry brushing or a paint brush comb may remove any loose bristles. For pads, use a lint roller, wrap in masking tape or run through a dryer cycle to remove any loose fibers.

Brushes and tools are usually easiest to clean when the products are still wet. Use the appropriate cleaners for the products that you are using (as noted in the application guides or labels) and have them ready/available before you start coating to avoid unnecessary rushing. Note that different Waterlox products may have different cleaning steps.

#4 Read the Directions and Follow the Proper Application Technique for Each Product

After spending countless hours and dollars in getting your wood project ready for finishing, it is best to read the directions completely before applying the first drop of finish. Understand the order in which they should be used, how they should be applied, how much of each product is recommended and proper dry times and preparation between coats are all important to know before beginning the finishing process. Using the find your finishing system tool will create a custom guide for your projects that includes all of this information or you can ask a question at waterlox.com if there is any confusion from the instructions on the product labels.

#5 Proper Lighting

This is often overlooked, but proper lighting is extremely helpful in identifying skips, misses, puddles, defects, etc. Good lighting during application helps to identify defects that can still be corrected. Correct lighting after the coat has dried will also allow for corrections to be made before continuing. Don’t work in strong, direct sunlight.

Start your project

For help getting started, check out the Your Project section of the website for guides, tips and techniques as well as more information about our products and how to use them.