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How to Get the Best Clear Coat for Floors

The best defense on keeping a good floor looking new is the top layer. Whether its vinyl, ceramic tile, or wood, having a well-kept surface will guarantee you a long-lasting floor for all kinds of traffic underfoot.

In this post, I'll go over the best clear coat solutions for various types of flooring. Be aware that there isn't really a "one product for all" for all floors, even if some products say they are. Some types require specific items to not only cover the floor, but also for applying it. 

All clear coat finishes have these things in common: you MUST read the manufacturer's instructions step by step, have the floor thoroughly clean first, use the right applicators for it,  and allow ample time for proper drying time.

In no particular order, here's the best clear/top coats for the most common floors in homes today.

TILE Floors

A clear coat for tile doesn't necessarily mean it has to be glossy. Tile really needs to have a penetrating sealer rated for it for it to work its best. So, try to avoid coatings and quick fix wax-based products that won't hold up over time. 

The purpose of sealer is to not only block water/moisture from entering tiles and damaging it, but it also blocks stains if applied correctly.

Sealing your tile will give you that 'clear coat' finish, and it's easy to apply it yourself. You can use a matte or wet-look (aka color enhancer) penetrating sealer rated for tiles.

Try to go with a lower sheen for high traffic areas, so as to reduce the amount of slipping while walking on them.

Recently, I authored a post on how to apply sealer, and why it is important to do so. To view and read the post, please click here for more detailed information on this last but very important step in tiling to make sure your tile floors last a long time.

Hardwood Floors

Unlike tile floors, real wood floors require a coating on top of its surface instead of penetrating it for final protection.

The best clear coat you'll use for any hardwood floors (NOT laminate or vinyl flooring) is clear polyurethane rated for floors. 

At your local Home Depot store, we carry 2 versions of floor-rated polyurethane (oil-based and water-based). Both come in satin, semi-gloss, or high gloss versions. 

5 gal. Clear Gloss Oil-Based Interior Polyurethane1-gal. Clear Semi-Gloss Water-Based Polyurethane

Do NOT use any clear coatings like lacquer, shellac, or other polyurethanes for a wood floor unless it specifically says you can on the container.

Some people prefer the oil based over the water based due to its durability, but water based is much easier to use and is non-yellowing over time. Both versions will give you great results provided you apply it correctly.

First, determine if your hardwood floors need entire resurfacing. This means you'll need to apply stain as well as the top clear coat. To learn more about refinishing a floor in greater detail, click here for step-by-step instructions.

Once you've ascertained this and have successfully stained the floors, now you are ready to clear coat it using floor-rated polyurethane.

Apply it using a lambswool applicator using a mop handle in small sections so the coating can go evenly. 

For more than one coat of polyurethane, scuff sanding the surface is REQUIRED for the additional coats to achieve a better bond onto the surface. 

Failure to do so will have those coats peel and flake off within a short amount of time. Since almost every hardwood flooring projects really need more than one good coat of polyurethane, this step should not be overlooked.

To read about sanding (aka screening) hardwood floors at this stage, you can click here to read an article about it. 


Laminate floors typically don't require any clear coatings, since their makeup has a built-in finish. Only choose a coating once you've inspected that the floor's top layer has been worn down extensively.

To prevent this wearing down,like all other floor types out there, routine cleaning and maintenance must be done for it. Doing this can avoid costly repairs and refinishing. 

Since this is laminate, you can opt for a laminate floor care renewal system for easy restoration of any dull or lackluster areas of the top layer of the floor.

A good example of this is by the folks at Rejuvenate. There are various separate products sold by them that do a good job of restoring your laminate floors without too much effort. 

Click here to view more of the product shown below if you are in need of restoring the look of your laminate floors.

Rejuvenate 16 oz. Floor Renewer System


Armstrong 12 ft. Wide Royelle Sheffley Black and White Residential Sheet Vinyl

Of all types of flooring available today, vinyl floors are the easiest to maintain due to their durability. Almost all sold today have no-wax finishes, allowing you to easily clean them throughout their lifespan.

Since they have a tough surface already built into it, vinyl is similar to laminate flooring where a total refinishing isn't required. Since you'll do just a easy to application of floor-rated polish to it, it will be an easy task.

Several options you can choose from I'll briefly mention. For sheet vinyl (or linoleum) floors, choose Armstrong's Shine Keeper Floor Polish. It applies via a sponge mop and works effectively to regain the shine in your floors.

Armstrong S-390 1/2-gal. Shinekeeper Floor Polish

For vinyl plank flooring systems such as TrafficMaster's Allure and Allure Ultra, opt for using a clear coat designed for it by the same folks who manufactured the floors.

Shown below, SingleStep by Allure is a great floor cleaner and polish for vinyl or even tile floors.

In short, only use products rated for floors as well as floor type. Be aware of slip safety as well, so you may want to choose a lower sheen for high traffic floors, such as a kitchen.

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Posted 2016-01-11T17:47:25+0000  by Joseph_HD_ATL Joseph_HD_ATL