How to Choose the Right Floor Finish Applicator

How to choose the right floor finish applicator

You might be wondering which type of wood floor finish applicator to use on an upcoming project. With so many different types of finish applicators available, how do you know that you’re using the right one? That’s a great question that we hear frequently, and we’re going to answer it! In this blog we’re going to take a look at various types of wood floor finish applicators so you can make the best choice for your next project.

First and foremost, you should check the finish manufacturer’s instructions to see what they say about recommended application methods. But, generally, here are the types of finish applicators you should use with different types of finish. (Click here if you need a crash course on the differences between floor finishes.)

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A t-bar with a synthetic sleeve is best to use with water based hardwood floor finishes. This is a great method for T-bar for applying hardwood floor finishgetting around doorjambs and other tight spots, and is perfect for the “snowplowing” method. Using the T-bar method helps you avoid the appearance of lap marks, turn marks, and uneven sheen levels in the floor.

Different t-bar lengths and sizes are available, so with wider t-bars you need more finish, and you have to ensure that your turns are very smooth to avoid the appearance of any mistakes.

Check out our video on applying water-based finish with a t-bar below.

Lambswool applicators

Lambswool applicator for hardwood floor finishA lambswool applicator on a wood block is the recommended method for applying oil-based polyurethane to a hardwood floor. But if you’ve recently bought a lambswool applicator, be careful. The fibers tend to get stuck in wet finish. Before you put your new applicator to use, comb out the lambswool or cover it with a piece of tape and rip off the tape to get rid of any loose or stray fibers. We recommend storing your lambswool in mineral spirits.


Using a brush––usually a China bristle brush attached to a long pole––is the recommended application method for conversion varnish (also known as Swedish or acid cure finishes). Brushes are also commonly used to apply oil-based and moisture-cured polyurethane finishes.brush

The point of using a brush is that you’re forced to watch what you’re doing very closely, since the application process is pretty slow. This is especially vital for the acid cure application process because this type of finish tends to leave “missed spots” on the floor due to separation, which you can easily overlook if you apply the finish with a roller or t-bar.

The brushes also tend to hold on to a lot of finish, which is useful when applying oil-based poly. A brush is also great to use when applying finish to hard-to-reach areas, like toe-kicks and along wall edges.

Trim PadsPadco applicator for hardwood floor finish

Trim pads are good for use with water-based products, because they don’t hold on to finish. When applying water-based polyurethane finish to a hardwood floor, you always want to use use a synthetic applicator (except for synthetic lambswool.) Trim pads are also great for cutting into corners and small spaces.

Roller for hardwood floor finish applicationRollers

A roller is the recommended method for applying some water-based polyurethanes, as well as some oil-based polyurethanes and moisture-cured poly finishes. Rollers are good for finishing multi-direction floors, like parquets. You can also use a roller to apply conversion varnish, as long as you make sure that you’re applying enough product.

As always, double-check the finish manufacturer’s instructions to see what they recommend before getting to work.

Which type of applicator do you need? Whatever it is, chances are we’ve got it in stock. Check out our extensive finish applicator inventory including brands like Padco, Duratool, Bona, and more. You can shop online 24/7. If you have any questions about choosing the right type of applicator for your needs, call us at (800) 737-1786.

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