How Many Coats of Floor Finish?

How Many Coats of Floor Finish Do You Need?

I am always getting the question “How many floor finish coats do I need to properly protect floors?”

I have always used  4-6 coats as my standard answer. This comes from experience and the manufactures guidelines.

Since I grew up in Missouri and the “Show Me” principle runs through my blood, I thought I would do a little experimenting to find out if I really knew what I was talking about and find out how many floor finish coats were really needed.

Floor Finish Experiment – How Many Floor Finish Coats Are Needed?

Using a USB microscope, a piece of vinyl floor tile (VCT) and a 20% solids floor finish, I set out to take a look at what is going on at the floor level when applying floor finish. Over the years, I have applied countless layers of floor finish. While I have learned to recognize when a floor is properly protected, I wanted to see it up close.

Here Is How I Did It

First I took a new piece of VCT and stripped it using a standard, no rinse floor stripper. I did this by applying the stripper, allowing it to set and then scrubbing with the center of a black floor pad. I then rinsed the tile and allowed it to dry.

Then I took tape and divided the tile into 6 sections and applied a coat of 20% solids floor finish to the entire tile. Allowed it to dry for 30 minutes and then repeated the steps, excluding one section each time I applying additional floor finish coats. Here is what I came up with once the process was complete. (These images were taken at approx. 400x magnification.)

Step 1 – Prepping The Tile
Bare Tile Floor

Step 2 – Apply 1 Floor Finish Coat

One Layer Of Floor Finish

Step 3 – Apply 2nd Layer of Floor Finish

Two Layers Of Floor Finish

Step 4 – Apply 3rd Layer of Floor Finish

Three Layers Of Floor Finish

Step 5 – Apply 4th Layer of Floor Finish

Four Layers Of Floor Finish

Step 6 – Apply 5th Layer of Floor Finish

Five Layers Of Floor Finish

Step 7 – Apply 6th and Final Layer of Floor Finish

Six Layers Of Floor Finish

Analysis and Conclusion

As you can see, there is very little difference between the first and 3rd coat. Once you get to the 4th application, the floor finish really starts to build and show depth.

Since protection is what applying floor finish is all about, I would have to say that a minimum of 4 coats are needed to fill the areas of the floor that would be able to hold dirt and residue. This also where you begin seeing the gloss and shine on the tile.

This helps to answer the question “How many floor finish coats do I need to use.” This of course depends on the type of finish and the floor, but at the minimum, it is a starting point. I don’t think I would ever go to the effort refinishing a floor without applying 6 coats. It is just too much work to not make sure it’s done right.

I have applied more on jobs over the years, but after 6-8 there isn’t much added shine. The number of floor finish coats can determine the longevity of the re-coating cycle, but too many can also be costly.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Let me know in the comments how many floor finish coats you think is right.

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5 replies
  1. Matthew Baines
    Matthew Baines says:

    25% solids floor polishes have been fairly standard for the UK cleaning industry since the mid to late 90’s. Although it’s challenging to suspend any greter percentage solids in a water base, advances in our use of technology have allowed us to create UNO – a 34% super high solids emulsion floor polish. UNO can be used as a one coat system or multi-coated to provide supreme long lasting protection.

    Happy to provide a sample for you to try.

    Kind regards
    Matt

    Matthew Baines
    Cleaning Academy Manager
    Premiere Products

    Reply
    • Luis
      Luis says:

      Wow 34 that’s shine power i would really like a sample for im in the floor care industry for about 25 yrs and @ my job we use high quality products

      Reply
  2. Terence
    Terence says:

    Please comment on the effects of applying 2 or 3 coats on a high traffic campus residential hall. The floor is either VCT or ceramic.
    I’m trying to convince my upper management that the current practice is destroying our floors, as an insufficient number of wax applications is being used.

    Reply
    • BaldGuyClean
      BaldGuyClean says:

      Terence. Thank you for your question. I would agree that 2-3 coats of floor finish is not enough. If you only have 2-3 coats of floor finish, you are just barely to the top of the floor surface itself. This can quickly result in damage to the floor and make it very difficult to maintain and keep clean.

      Reply

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  1. […] while back I wrote a post about how many coats of floor finish you should use to protect vct floors. In this post, I used images taken with a microscope at 400x […]

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