Dark round pigmented areas

Q: I have sanded my old pine floor boards and finished with water based lacquer. Around the floor nails I am noticing dark round pigmented areas. Is this normal with reclaimed floors or is it because I used water based lacquer? I think maybe this is oxidation from the nail?

A: It sounds like a reaction of your finish with tannins in the wood. There are water based sealers designed to block such.

Gradually stain area until I can get it to match?

Q: We stripped and sanded our pine floors in our 100+ yr. old cottage.

Long ago, the previous owners painted around the large throw rug in middle of room. Eventually it sat for decades under wall to wall carpeting.

I was able to get three sides to blend with center but 4th side is much lighter than middle section of the floor. Do I try to sand this line / area to blend both areas or is it best to try to gradually stain until I can get it to match?

A: I would accept that this is the colour of those particular old boards and stain as normal. Old pine will offer a range of colouration and this is a natural part of aging.

When I nail down one board, another pops up

Q: I’m trying to refinish the hardwood floors in my house. My house is from the 70’s, and this is the original flooring. When I nail down boards other boards pop up a little, making a bigger gap in other boards. It doesn’t level out. It’s wavy.

A: I’m not sure what your question is but it sounds like your floors have been subject to higher than recommended moisture levels over time. It also sounds like they may not have been nailed down well, or were installed over a poor sub floor material such as Aspenite.

Nothing much you can do to change that short of removing the floor, fixing the sub floor and installing a new floor. I would encourage you to hire a professional for sanding and finishing. I’ve seen many such floors virtually ruined by a home owner trying to save money by doing the work themselves with rental machines. For the time, expense and potential ruin of the floor, it isn’t worth it in the end.

Staggering wood floors in where walls were removed

Q: I am thinking about taking down some walls in the living room, which has beautiful hardwood flooring. Can the gaps on the floor (where the walls used to be) simply be filled in with more hardwood, and entire floor then sanded down and stained to match?

A: Yes, of course you can install flooring to match where the walls have been removed, provided the existing flooring has a thick enough wear surface to tolerate a complete sanding. To have a less noticeable patch every row of boards will have to be individually cut back and staggered, then new pieces fitted in.

Sometimes the installer originally may have had to change direction when dealing with these walls. If that happens so that the tongue is facing opposite directions on each side of the repair, you may have to simply cut one side straight but stagger the opposing side.

Similar Q: I recently took out the carpet covering my hardwood floors. There was a wall previously removed and there is a gap between the floor boards. Is there a way to fill the void?

A: Stagger the boards on both sides of the void and put in new hardwood.

Gaps in glued down floor in high humidity climate

Q: I am buying a house that has old hardwood floors that look great. There is an addition that is newer and the hardwood is installed on a concrete slab. There are some gaps between the boards (the short sides), some as big as about 1/2 inch. The boards are not nailed down due to the concrete. The seller had a guy come out and look at it and he wouldn’t put putty in because he said it would look awful.

Any suggestions? We thought of taking off the shoe molding and trying to slide the boards in the right direction. Would that work? We’re deep in the south with major humidity all the time.

A: Installed on a concrete slab, it has to be glue down. Trying to move the floor out of the position it is in could break the glue bond, and where will that leave you?

I think you need to try to control the environment in the home as best you can. Keep the RH 45-55%.

Warped stair treads after fire

Q: I recently had a fire in my home and the stair treads are warped from water damage. How can I fix them?

A: That depends how warped they are. If it isn’t severe they can likely be sanded flat but you have to make sure they are dry first. Otherwise, you would have to have the treads replaced or the stairway refaced.

Glaze applied to floor causing cupping?

Q: I had my 75 year old hardwood oak floors re-glazed with —– by a company about a year or so ago. They are cupping pretty badly. Since there are rooms that weren’t refinished by them that aren’t cupping, I assume the company created the problem. I’m thinking they were sealed so much on top that they can’t breath any more so what humidity they get from below is not vaporizing as it once did. Is there a way to “strip” the water based poly glaze they used in order to let the floor breath again and possibly flatten out?

A: You will have to have the floors sanded to clean wood. You could likely remove the coating with stripper which would be an awful and time consuming job. And you would still have to sand them anyway. I’m not familiar with the product you mentioned. Is this some miracle do it yourself product sold at a big box store?

Rug outline on newly finished floor in short time

Q: I had my wood floors refinished 2 months ago. I waited 3 weeks to put furniture and rugs down on them. I was vacuuming last week and rolled back the rug to vac underneath and found that there is an outline of the rug on the refinished floor. I don’t have a skylight or large windows, and it’s only been a few weeks since the floors were done. My floor guy has no idea why this has happened. The floors never had the original finish done over 30 years ago. Help please!

A: It would have been great if you posed an easy question. This is strange and not usual for native north American species of wood. Some of the more exotic imported woods such as Jatoba can change this rapidly. You allowed plenty of time before putting everything in place. Exactly what kind of finish was applied? Solvent or water based? Is there an under pad with this area rug?

Medallion is coming up around the edges

Q: We hired a flooring contractor to do our floor which included a feature strip and a compass rose medallion for the center of the floor. Cut to the chase, his references must have all been friends or family because he knew nothing about the process. Now the medallion is coming up around the edges. The medallion has a fiberglass backing, and I am wondering whether with extreme care and lots of time, it just might be possible for me to pry it out of the recess. Any suggestions?

A: I’ve worked with feature strips but never had occasion to install a medallion. If adhesive was used I doubt you will get it out in one piece. I think I would contact the company who made the medallion and get their advice. There is a forum I used to participate on years ago that might be helpful. I knew a guy on there who made medallions. You can do a search and see if you can find an answer. www.floormasters.com

I am curious as to why the medallion is now lifting. Did he not use enough adhesive or is the adhesive failing? Is the floor under some pressure from moisture imbalance? I’m thinking it is likely poor fastening.

Follow-up Q: The really sad thing is, we had a medallion installed in another house, so we kind of knew some of how it should be done. We supplied the installer with the adhesive brand and type recommended by the maker of the medallion. We told him that the medallion was to be finished at the same time as the floor (sanding etc.). We gave him YouTube sites to watch. We asked if he had ever done any medallion installations and the answer was, “yes.” He apparently, just went about it in his own way.

A few days after the job was done and we could walk on the floor, we noticed that it appeared that glue was oozing out from one area between the edge of the medallion and where the floor was cut out. We put some weight on it and let it set a few days hoping the glue would set up. It never did. We had him come back and look at it and he agreed that yes, the glue was oozing out and the edge of the medallion was lifting. His response was, “What do you want me to do about it?” We told him that he was the professional, that was why we hired him. What do you think should be done?” He said he would nail it down. At that point, rather than have him even try to fix it, we figured the best course was to keep him away from it and from us.

Since that time, it has only gotten worse and glue is now oozing out on the opposite side and the medallion is lifting there too. We are going to contact the maker of the medallion for his take on it. It is very disheartening to investigate references just to find that this contractor, just didn’t know what he was doing and was unwilling to use the help that was provided him. I think he must have just used Liquid Nails or a similar product not appropriate for the application. Thanks for the very timely response.

A: Boy, this is a shame. Can you tell me what adhesive you recommended to him? And you don’t think he used what you recommended? Honestly, I’ve never heard of an adhesive not setting up and drying. Clearly what he used is still active. Maybe I can learn something here too. My guess is, and I likely would have used some type of polyurethane adhesive or Dri-tac. There is a recommendation with at least some polyurethane adhesives to allow 20 minutes or so for it to skim over. A ‘wet lay’ can be used too but you risk having adhesive squirt up the edge of the board. But I’ve never heard of adhesive not drying.

Joints between boards have turned black

Q: We purchased a house with blonde hardwoods with an oak border in the kitchen.

Around many of the blonde boards, the joints between the wood have turned black, presumably due to dirt. Brushing and scrubbing will not remove it. Any recommendations?

A: It sounds to me more like the finish is de-laminating or chipping off. Exposed wood will eventually turn black. If this is the case the only cure is a full sanding and finishing.

Old sticky glue all over previously carpeted oak floor

Q: I bought an old farm house. I tore up the old carpet in the dining room and found out that the previous owner had glued down the padding. How do I get the old glue up? The padding pulls away from it. It’s an old, dark brown, sticky glue. Under this old glue is a beautiful oak floor.

A: This floor will have to be professionally sanded. It isn’t a very glamorous job and it has to be determined that the existing floor can handle a full sanding.

Thin, long slivers of the flooring coming off

Q: We moved into a home 2 years ago. The previous owner had installed hardwood strip flooring throughout the main level. The flooring may be about 8-12 years old. We noticed that thin, long slivers of the flooring are constantly popping up and coming off between strips, leaving a crevice about 1/8′ wide, and in some places as long as 2′.

Can you tell me if this can or should be fixed, or should we consider replacing the floor entirely?

A: Is this wood filler that is popping out or are the edges of the boards cracking off? A floor this age shouldn’t have to be replaced, but it sounds, especially if this is filler that something wasn’t done quite right at the time of installation and the floor suffered excessive shrinkage.

Follow-up Q: This is the actual wood, not filler.

A: This is an indicator that the floors have been sanded to the maximum and are now too thin. With any movement in the board, or even a humidity spike, very thin edges can break off. The floors need to be replaced.

Related Q: The hardwood floors in my hallway are chipping. I keep stepping on the fragments at night. Is this a sign of water damage? How should I go about fixing the problem?

A: A sign of water damage would be cupping and heaving. Chipping? Do you mean pieces are breaking off the edge of the boards? That can result from a floor that has been sanded too many times, especially when there is significant movement in the sub floor. In a case like that, replacement is in order.

Best way to remove glue from concrete slab?

Q: We are removing an old parquet floor. What is the best way to remove the glue left behind on the concrete slab?

A: I’m not sure what kind of adhesive you are dealing with. If it typical white or pink parquet adhesive, it is water soluble. I’m not suggesting you flood the floor, but you might wet a small area with warm water and see if it loosens the adhesive.

If it doesn’t scrape off you might have to rent a type of polisher which has 3 heads and can have special attachments for scarifying the concrete. Those would be your main choices. Floor scraper or machine for removing adhesive from a rental. Or hire someone who has the equipment.

Oily blotches appearing on wood floor

Q: I recently removed the carpet and pad from a house I purchased to uncover hardwood floors. As the temps and humidity rise there are oily blotches appearing. But nothing in the dining room where the wood floors were already exposed. Any idea what these oily areas might be and what do you suggest I do to fix it? Also, have you had any experience with a Diamabrush disc for removing adhesive from hardwoods? I have pictures of the floor if you’d like to take a look.

A: These oily patches could be almost anything. I did one such floor once and after I removed all the old finish an oil, [probably] linseed kept oozing form the wood everywhere. In the end it didn’t cause an issue. On another one it wasn’t oil at all. It was pet urine. The previous owner had rolled some paint sealer on the hardwood and the urine was blocked beneath waiting to be release. That floor had to be replaced.

Pictures are always good. That carpet adhesive, if that is what it is, could be removed by a professional floor refinisher with his sanding equipment and rough sand paper.

Damp mopping causing dark spots?

Q: I have customer — we clean their house every week. Part of our process is to damp mop the hardwood floors throughout the home. We use a mild peroxide based cleaner that is diluted according to manufacturers directions for the damp mop (EcoLab). Recently three dark spots appeared on the floors, blackish and about 12 inches in diameter. one has a sharp side about two inches running parallel to the carpet. The owner thinks we left too much water on the floors and it caused these spots. I sent pics to a local hardwood floor company and they said it looked like dog pee — I ordered a blacklight. The owner is sure their dog didn’t do this and that we put too much water on the floor. The owner said he talked to friends who work in the flooring business and they are certain that it was caused by water damage. BTW it has also been raining here off and on for a month in NC. If the black light shows markings then I will discuss the uric acid issue – but if not, what should be my next step to assess this?

A: Is there a basement under this room or just a crawl space? For your own benefit I would suggest using a floor cleaner manufactured by either wood floor manufacturers or floor finish manufacturers. You can spray mist a section of the floor and then wipe over it with a dry cloth or micro weave or terry cloth mop. This cleaners evaporate quickly. Companies that make such cleaners include Poloplaz, Basic Coatings and Bona Kemi. Leaving any amount of liquid on a wood surface long enough is bound to create a water stain. My guess, given the marks as you describe, sure sounds like pet stains. I’m not sure what to suggest. A pet who normally never goes in the house can suddenly change for several reasons, two of which would be health issues and emotional upset. Have you ever noticed wet areas when first entering this home because this sounds like it has been repeated more than once in the same spot.

Follow-up Q: I haven’t noticed wet areas. There is a basement under the house although I’m not sure if it spans under the affected areas. We have cleaned this house 3 times and we use microfiber cloths that have been rung out. Even if the were not fully rung out it is hard for me to envision that they would leave enough water behind. The pet is in the house but the owner says there was never a problem before. We also have had more rain in the last month than I recall. I Will send you some pics of the spots. Thank you for responding.

A: Why these significant black spots in a few spots, because it seems to indicate standing moisture of significant amount..

Follow-up Q: The other question I guess I have is if I want to get an unbiased expert opinion on this , someone I could pay to come out. Would a building inspector be the right person? Or someone from a flooring company? It seems that in order to fix a spot you need to know what the root cause is. Where would one go to get someone who would take an educated scientific approach to figuring this out?

A: Contact the National Wood Flooring Association. They do have certified inspectors. If you go this route, I’d be interested to know what his conclusions are. Thanks.

Droplet marks on our floor where rug cleaning machine leaked

Q: We have a dark walnut prefinished floor with a urethane coat. My husband cleaned our rugs with a rented machine, which needed a cleaning of it’s own. Now there are drop marks on our floor where the machine leaked. I used ‘** Hardwood Floor Polish’ and tried to buff the floor. Nothing works.. Help!

A: Give this cleaner a try: www.hardwoodcleaner.com

Accidentally put floor polish on pre-finished hardwood floors

Q: I accidentally put floor polish, instead of cleaner, on pre-finished hardwood floors. You gave me a solution to try 1/3 water, 1/3 ammonia, 1/3 Windex. It worked but I have apx 1200 square feet of flooring. You indicated that if it didn’t work I should call back for a product. I can’t find this number, so please advise if the product would be more effective.

A: I don’t think you got that formula from me. I wouldn’t mix ammonia and bleach, if the Windex contains that.

At any rate, Poloplaz has a cleaner called tie tac that does a very good job of removing contaminants. www.poloplaz.com

1′ x 1′ Area where the wood is white.. or lacking stain

Q: I recently bought a 107 year old house. Upon ripping up the carpet I discovered beautiful, finished hardwood flooring. However, it seems (also told to me by seller) that the previous tenants (was a rental) had a dog (were not suppose to) and by the smell and sight, this dog went wee in the house.

There is a 1′ x 1′ area where the wood is white or lacking stain. Is this perhaps caused from the acid in the urine and soaking through? This is in the spare room, but I fear finding more of these spots, as this is a 2,200 sq. ft. home and mostly carpeted.

How should I approach this? Should I clean the floors first and restain? Clean and cover it with a rug? Only kidding. It also seems this house has had carpet for the last 21 years while in hands of last owner. He took GREAT care of this beauty, phew. Just need help with how to approach cleaning these poor suffocated wood floors. Thank you, in advance, for any help you may be able to lend.

A: Uric acid always makes the wood go black, not white. Black spots? You might have to change the boards.

Removing residue from carpet padding

Q: I removed carpeting that I have shampooed in the past. I am assuming that when I did this the carpet padding became damp, thus causing some of the padding to stick to the hardwood. I was able to remove the padding, but it left behind a residue. So, my hardwood looks spotty, where I cleaned the padding off. How would you suggest I (try) to remove this residue?

A: Mineral spirits and elbow grease should help to soften it up.

Similar Q: I pulled up wall-to-wall carpet in a bedroom, and the entrance area has blotches of film from padding. What is the best way to clean this? The house was built in 1979, so it is a waxed wood floor.

A: Scrape off as much of the underpad possible with a putty knife. Rub off the rest with fine steel wool dampened in mineral spirits and dry. Apply a little wax to the area, if wax is the finish currently on the floor.

Yellow highlighter colored marks on floor

Q: Hello, we just discovered stains that look to be small splatters of liquid on our light hardwood floors. They are the color of yellow highlighter. The house was brand new when we moved in, in January, nine months ago. We hadn’t noticed them until this afternoon. We cannot figure out what they might be. They seem to trail across the kitchen. We’ve tried Dawn with water, a magic eraser, peroxide, vinegar, a scrub daddy.. Someone suggested oil soap, which we need to buy still, so we haven’t tried it yet.

A: I have no idea what the yellow spots are but the last thing you want to use is an oil soap which can leave a residue on the finish which both dulls the finish and creates adhesion issues if you want to re-coat the floor. Try a little alcohol or some floor cleaner from a manufacturer who makes products for floors finished with polyurethane.