Finish not drying after 5 days

Q: My floor installer put a second coat of polyurethane, one month after the first coat. It has been almost 5 days and it has not dried yet. It seems that the very top layer is dry, but when you try to step on it or push with a finger, it feels like wax and makes imprints.

It does not seem to get drier over the last 2 days. What’s the solution? Should I give it more time (and if yes, how much longer?) or will the floor need to be redone?

A: I don’t have near enough information here. I don’t know what region you are in, what finish was used, etc., but this does not sound good at all. Since this was done by your installer, am I safe to assume this is a new floor? I have never had a new floor take anywhere near that time to dry. On some very old floors there can be drying issues if the floors were waxed for many years.

This sounds to me that something has gone amiss in the first coat. What is his view?

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  1. Follow-up Q: …I am in Millburn, New Jersey. It was a new oak floor installed by the same person. Both coats were done with polyurethane (regular type, not a fast drying one– bought at Home Depot). At this point of time, given the fact the floor is not drying up in spite of heaters and fan blowers on, that person decided to take the polyurethane off. Of course, it was kind of liquidy underneath the top dry layer. He has had a lot of problems trying to remove all of the polyurethane because the machine can barely work with the wet surface. I am not exactly sure what he is planning to do now. He thinks, that the problem might have been with the quality of the polyurethane (too old?), however, it was just purchased from the Home Depot and the packaging looks new and not expired. Right now, I am stuck with all my stuff in the storage because my planned move was interrupted by this “floor problem”, and the worst thing I don’t know when it will be all finished.

    A: If I had a significant problem with a coating on a job, even if it was just the last coat that was acting up, I would switch to another. If a finish won’t dry, or harden, it could possibly be because it has been sitting around for a couple of years. There really are a lot of good finishes out there, and I don’t want to diss Home Depot or your floor contractor. I have to wonder why he is buying his floor finish from them when there are other companies that are dedicated to making finishes for the flooring market and actually offer support. In the end, the last coat will only be as reliable as the ones beneath it. It may also be that he applied the finish well beyond the spread rate. Most finishes, for example, suggest about 500 sq. ft. per gallon. If the previous coats were applied at twice that rate…or 250 sq. ft. per gallon then it will take much longer to harden to the point that another coat could be applied. Thin coats are always better. I always use gloss first and then give a sheen that the customer wants on the final coat.

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