Delaminating finish and stain coming up as well

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Q: We bought a foreclosure a year ago which had lots of urine stains on the wood. The flooring contractor sanded everything down and patched where needed. The bare floors looked great. We had them use a dark stain and gloss water based poly finish. Again, everything looked great when done. A couple weeks later, we noticed a small round spot where the poly had come off. More spots appeared over the next several months. In most cases, the stain seemed to come up as well. Some spots were tiny, some up to 1 1/2 inches, mostly round but not all. They sanded the floors down and redid everything. 2 Weeks later, I’ve found 2 spots where it is starting again. What could be causing this?

A: This is very strange. Delaminating finish is one issue which can be explained by some type of contaminant on the floor or between coats which prevents adhesion. Stain coming off too is a different animal altogether because the stain does penetrate into the wood surface a little bit. It isn’t just something that sits on top of the wood like a coating, unless he used a tinted polyurethane. Can you tell me what stain he used?

Follow-up Q: Unfortunately not. When my contractor went to have the floors redone, the sub claimed not to have a record of the stain used initially. It was not a tinted poly. It was supposed to be two coats of ebony stain (brand not known), but we found a plain silver can afterwards that had written on it “plus 12 oz. black”. When they redid the floors, the color came out much lighter. My contractor had scheduled a different sub to come in and strip them down again and try to get the color right, but now we have these spots coming up again and don’t know what to do to prevent that. The original contractor argued that some outside contaminant might be being brought in either on our shoes or the dog’s paws. While the ongoing nature of it and the fact that the spots are mainly in traffic areas would tend to support this, the fact the most of the spots were perfectly round doesn’t, plus I don’t know what we could be tracking in that could do this. We don’t have any contact with anything that caustic or acidic. Also, there have not been any problems on the stairs, upstairs, or master bedroom, which are all entirely new wood. Is there anything they could have used on the old floors that would cause this?

A: While I’m not suggesting this caused the problem, I’m not a big fan of applying two coats of stain, especially when using very dark, heavily pigmented stains with more pigment added. If I want to achieve a darker version of the colour I will water pop the floor, which simply means wetting the surface and letting it dry to open the surface and allow better penetration. I tend to think as was mentioned, that a contaminant is being introduced. I was called in to refinish maple floors that somebody made a real mess of. Everything I did looked excellent until I applied the finish which still looked amazing except in areas where the finish was being repelled. The home owner turned his garage into a Harley man cave with plastic tiles on the floor. I walked back and forth constantly over this floor to get to my trailer. I asked if he treated these tiles with anything. Yes, Honda spray. And he had renewed the spray two days before I started work. So, that was the culprit. I was able to polish the floors, wet buffing with Poloplaz Tie Tac which removed the contaminant. Then I screened a recoated. I’m no so sure this will work for you because in this case your finish is peeling off. In my case the finish was repelled and didn’t form a film over the areas of contamination.

Follow-up Q: So that was something that was being tracked in during the refinishing process before the poly was applied?

They are talking about something being tracked on an ongoing basis after everything was finished. That’s part of the issue – that the de-lamination has gone on over a period of months. What type of situation could cause that?

A: When the finish is delaminating and pulling away from what is beneath it, clearly contaminants on the surface are irrelevant. The problem is what is beneath the finish. Someone or something could have walked a contaminant across the freshly sanded floor or over the stained floor before any finish was applied.

Another possibility I thought of as the previous email was leaving is the slight possibility, if the workers who did the job wore knee pads that had something on them. But you say two different crews did the work with the same results so this possibility is stretching the limits of probability. I generally try to look for the simplest, most obvious explanation first: something finding it’s way onto the floor before the finish was applied. That contaminant could be the heavily pigmented stain itself, especially if they used a water borne finish and the stain was not 100% dry. The solvents from the stain would not allow adhesion.

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One comment on “Delaminating finish and stain coming up as well

  1. I have an engineered wood floor, mahogany color. When it started loosing it’s original sheen, I did like they said on the bono product and refinished it. It was a gloss finish and looked great. The next finish that was put on was a satin finish instead of a gloss. It never looked good. After it started to wear I used Rejuvenate to prep and apply a gloss finish. When I was cleaning it a layer of what looked like the old finish started coming off in spots but it would have taken hours to try and remove it from the floor. Is there an easy way of removing that to redo the floor because it just doesn’t look good. Dull in spots and shiny in spots.
    Thank you

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