Possible causes of flaking finish

Q: We bought a house and the first thing we did was have the four bedroom’s hardwood floors sanded and refinished. The quality of work was sub par to begin with, but four months afterwards I have noticed in multiple locations a lot of flaking finish and peeling finish, mainly in between floorboards.

I have contacted the guy who did it with little response, but I want to know a little about what could be causing this?

Should I be frustrated with his job or is there a climate issue in my house? The living room he did not do, because it was already done, and there is no flaking so this leads me to believe he used a product that was defective or he just did not do a good job. What are my options to fix my floors? I do have pictures I would like to include them if possible.

A: Flaking finish can have more than one cause. It can be as a result of insufficient abrading between coats of finish. Contaminants can also cause bond failure but in that case, especially if using a solvent (oil based) finish, you will see ‘crawling’ or repelling of the finish almost immediately. If a water borne finish was used and there is a contaminant such as wax between the boards the finish may bridge gaps, but eventually break, and you will get some peeling confined to just the board edges. If there has been a lot of board shrinkage since the job was done this could account for the finish, which has bridged the board edges to stretch to it’s limit and then crack. If this is a result of contaminants interfering with proper adhesion it might still be possible to rescue the job. The floor will have to be thoroughly cleaned with a product such as Poloplaz Tie Tac or Basic Coating Tie Coat and then screen and coat again. If the problem is from serious shrinkage and/or movement between boards causing the finish to stretch and break then the issue really goes all the way back to when the floor was first installed… Inadequate nailing, poor sub floor.

Similar Q: There are 11 spots on my engineered wood, on the edges, that appear to be flaking/peeling off. What causes this?

A: Peeling finish more often than not is caused by inadequate preparation of a previous coat of finish to ensure a mechanical bond of the various coats applied. I would be contacting the store where you bought it first and the manufacturer also.

Follow-up Q: What about moisture?

A: If there is enough moisture to cause finish to peel off the wood there should be other signs also like cupping of the boards.

Similar Q: What would cause flaking and scratching all over? Could only one coat of poly be on the floors?

A: It really sounds like all flaking and scratching is because of lack of adhesion. If it was one coat of finish on a properly prepared surface these things would not be happening. Applying another coat on top of this will not fix the problem. The top coat is only as good as what it sits on. If the one coat is failing another coat will also fail.

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