Finish peeling due to too many coats of stain

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Q: We really need some advice. We just moved into our new construction home about a month ago. The moving company used packing tape to tape down blankets to protect our newly finished hardwood floors. When they pulled off the tape, big sheets of the polyurethane came off. Thinking it was just an issue with the adhesive on the tape being too strong, the floor guy came back and “redid” those areas. However, we have noticed that wherever our dog (about 50lb and nails always clipped) has made any scratches (even slight) in the floor, the polyurethane is flaking off. You can literally peel it off with a fingernail. We have had dogs before on other hardwood floors, and while they may scratch it, the clear coat has never flaked off like this. We have wide plank, new heart pine. It was stained with 3 coats of Dura Seal Dark Walnut stain. They used 3 coats of Gerner Clear Satin polyurethane. It was sanded in between coats. Any guidance you can give us as to why this is happening would be greatly appreciated.

A: This issue is definitely not the fault of the tape. I’ve done tests on boards I’ve stained and finished with a variety of tapes including Gorilla tape, pressed onto the boards and left 5 days. I removed the tape after that with no issues. I have to ask why your floor guy applied 3 coats of Dura Seal stain. I’m afraid to apply two coats in case the first coat of finish isn’t able to reach the wood to gain a bond with that. 3 coats? Wow, I’ve never heard of that and as you can see, it isn’t a wise thing to do. If they wanted a darker colour they perhaps should have considered water popping first which opens the wood grain for a darker, more consistent colour. The only way to fix this I’m afraid is to start over.

Follow-up Q: We did 3 coats to achieve a darker color. 2 coats wasn’t enough to achieve the color we wanted. I’ve never heard of water popping. Can you explain that please?

A: It is easy. After all wood has been completely sanded and prepared with dust vacuumed up, wet (not soak) the surface of the floor with warm water. It doesn’t have to be warm. Don’t miss any spots. Allow this to completely dry and start staining. Do not drag or scuff your shoes on this lest it close up the grain in that spot and you end up with a light spot. That is all there is to it. If that doesn’t give you a dark enough colour then go with something darker. Final sanding should be finished with 100 grit and not finer than that. If the wood is too smooth you won’t get any stain penetration and the colour will look awful.

Follow-up Q: So, in your opinion, too many coats of stain were used causing the polyurethane to not adhere properly? And our only option is to start over completely?

A: If each coat was lightly sanded between each coat then that would appear to be the reason. It sounds like it is peeling, not between coats but right off the stain. There is no other way to fix it I’m afraid.

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One comment on “Finish peeling due to too many coats of stain

  1. I am a homeowner and have the exact same problem happening with my floors! I have white oak handscraped quarter sawn that were installed specifically to hide any scratches from our dog but instead these scratches have turned into a flaky floor andit looks awful! I’ve had the floors rescreened twice but it keeps reoccurring. I’ve also been told that they will need to be sanded and redone. Is there no way of peeling the top layers without having to start over?

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