Finish strip along wall (where built-in was) without redoing the whole floor?

Q: We have a 1950’s home with original hardwood flooring. I’m pretty sure that the floors (maple?) have been refinished at least once.

The previous owner had the built-in shelving/electrical fireplace removed, along the length of the living room wall, and now we see the difference in the finished floor.

Is there a way to finish the strip (14″ wide) along the wall, that seems to be unfinished and lighter in colour, without doing the whole floor? (Since this would require the whole main floor to be refinished!)

Thank you in advance for any suggestions.

A: It’s possible to get a somewhat close match if you are stopping along a board edge. However if you are doing a section across all the boards in the room you will definitely see a line.

Silicone stuck to laminate wood flooring

Q: I have silicone on my wood flooring laminate (the installer of our wood stove put a mat down and siliconed it to the floor). How can I remove the silicone without damaging the laminate?

A: That is brilliant. I wonder how he got such an idea? I assume you have tried to peel and pick it off and it won’t come off? Denatured alcohol is a good agent to remove contaminants. I would try that.

Mopping left gray water stains in unfinished spots

Q: We had an assistant to our cleaning lady mop our hardwood floor two or three times before we found out what was going on- we of course immediately told them to stop.

The finish in a few small spots has come off and there are a few spots that look gray. The spots are small (dime sized and smaller) and they are all within a 3’x 3′ area. What can we do to fix this?

A: Sounds like the finish has come off the floor and left the wood water stained. You will have to sand those stains off to clean wood and apply a thin coat of polyurethane to just the spots.

When dry, lightly buff or abrade the entire boards affected with fine sand paper and coat the entire board. It helps to apply painters tape around the affected boards before coating, but remove it as soon as you have finished brushing on the finish.

Hardwood floor in basement cupping

Q: My basement was finished by the previous owners about 30 years ago, and they put down hardwood floors, possibly directly on the concrete. The boards have bowed up in a large section in the center of the floor, and you can bounce on them. The floors slope down to the perimeter of the basement, where all the edges are holding fast under the wood paneling on the walls. There is no damage to the wood floors, although there is some separation between floor boards, but this is very limited.

I’m wondering if I could level the floor by cutting out a a small strip of the floor along the wall that is perpendicular to the floor boards, and by removing one line of floor boards in the other direction so that it has room to spread out and sink back down. If so, what can be done to prevent further bowing? I really do not want to rip up the entire floor!

A: I’m not really encouraged by this one. There is only one thing that can cause excessive cupping or bowing and that is moisture. You really have to find the source and cause of that problem or your floors are going to be toast.

Cracks and boards separating after overheating dried out floor

Q: While away from home recently for an extended period of time, a power surge caused our electronic thermostat to malfunction and the heat stayed on continuously for what may have been as long as 2 weeks. Because of that there was extensive damage throughout our home, especially to our hardwood floors which contracted to a point where walking on them without footwear is painful. The cracks are large and the boards have pulled away from the walls.

I now have a humidifier running and hope that in the coming months the floors will expand enough to close the gaps. I have noticed that because of the large gaps, not all of the boards are staying level. Do you believe they will they expand enough to close the very wide gaps? Will we experience warping when they do expand?

A: I don’t know what is going to happen. I’ve seen floors that got soaked, cupped and heaved and then later settled down to the point you could hardly tell there had been an issue. Your problem is exactly opposite. I don’t think they will cup and they should expand.

I think you need to set up a humidifier in a lower level, below the floors. This way the increased and correct moisture will rise and go through the bottom of the floor and work it’s way through the wood. If you had a moisture meter you would better be able to monitor the actual moisture content in the flooring, which generally is 7-9% for normal readings.

Good luck with it. I guess when possible, it is a good idea to have someone check in on the house every few days if we are away for an extended period.

Related Q: We just put in a new red oak floor in about two months ago. The weather was warmer and now we are in the middle of winter. The whole floor is separating. We are wondering if the boards were tight enough or if the wood was seasoned enough. The wood sat in our house one week before being installed. Does wood have to be seasoned for a period of time prior to purchasing? What else would have caused this?

A: You need to raise the humidity levels in your house. The floor may have been acclimated to the climate in the home at the time. However, if for example you don’t have air conditioning and you don’t run a dehumidifier in the summer, and the floor was installed with, say, 75RH in the home, then if it drops to 27% in winter with the furnace running, that is quite a difference.

I would buy a cheap hygrometer to keep an eye on the temperature and RH in the home and invest in a good dehumidifier. If you could find one that does that plus dehumidify that would be a bonus. Try to get it up close to 40% in winter. The gaps should close up or at least ease.

Glued down floor is popping and creaking

Q: Doing a remodel about 18 months ago, we installed bamboo flooring over concrete. Going with the advice of our contractor, we painted the floor with Kilz Primer then glued the bamboo directly to the concrete. We placed weight on the floor and let it dry overnight. Now it is popping and creaking in the areas that are most often walked on. Is there any way we can fix this problem short of pulling up the floor and replacing it? Thanks for any suggestions.

A: I’m wondering if the adhesive has not bonded to the primer. What does the manufacturer say about using their adhesive over paints and primers?

Related Q: The guy doing my home improvement installed Schon 3/8″ x 3.5″ Brazilian Cherry engineered wood on my bathroom vanity floor. He installed it directly to the concrete with some type of silicone glue gun (the style for caulking). Is this a good or recommended method? The bathroom sounds a bit clicky and spongy in places. Is silicon any good for this? I live in So California.

A: I’ve never heard of anyone taking this approach. I would have suggested Bostik’s Best or some other polyurethane adhesive. You might want to look up the product online and see what their recommendations for adhesive would be.

Hickory floor cupping

Q: When I moved into my house 1 1/2 years ago I had carpet and ceramic floors removed and new hickory prefinished hardwood put in my entire downstairs. Almost immediately my floors started cupping, some areas are raised and some have vertical cracks in the wood. You can feel when you walk over and it’s on over 50% of floor.

The installer and manufacturer salesman came out, agreed it was cupped and said it was caused by humidity. However every time they have taken readings it is always normal. I have a dehumidifier running 24/7 and humidity ranges between 35 and 40%. Our house was inspected before we moved in, we have a new roof and new A/C and our crawl space has no signs of moisture and has moisture pad on crawl space floors.

Could there be another reason besides moisture why the floor is cupping? It sat in my house for 2 weeks before installation. We paid a lot of money for them and we are not satisfied with the look of them. Could there have been a problem when it was milled?

A: Everything sounds like it is being done correctly. Humidity levels in the home are good. Yet the wood itself seems to be showing an imbalance in moisture. Cupping with raised board edges indicates the moisture is coming from under the board and working it’s way up. If the issue was from the top, such as a significant spill on the floor surface you would more than likely end up with crowning, where the center of the boards are raised. In Canada I’ve not had occasion to work with hickory though I know it is very hard wood, the hardest north American species and is rather sensitive to any environmental changes. The wider the hickory plank the more pronounced such changes would be. I doubt there would be an issue from the mill. They dry the boards to required specs. Then they run them through planers and shapers to create the tongue and groove then stain/finish. If all conditions are as you have described with no high moisture readings in the crawl space perhaps it is just the species of wood. Did anyone check the crawl space and put a meter on the subfloor which this hickory is sitting on? When they installed the floor, did they use some type of underlay such as roofing paper to retard moisture movement? This does not prevent moisture movement but slows it down.

More likely a wider board will cup?

Q: Can one expect that 3 1/4 oak flooring will be just as stable as 2 1/4 oak flooring? Is there more of a tendency for the wider board to cup over time? (We have 2 1/4 oak throughout the house and are considering going with 3 1/4 oak in a bedroom.)

A: It is true that wider planks have a greater likelihood of cupping in high humidity conditions. I wouldn’t worry about this with 3 1/4.

Dip in floor installed over joists (no subfloor)

Q: Hi. We had the original hardwood floors in our 1930 home refinished a year ago. We now have several soft spots where part of the 2in strip has cracked and is pushing into the subfloor. But there doesn’t seem to be subfloor. The crawlspace is really skinny in these areas, so I am hoping for a solution that doesn’t involve fixing from underneath.

A: It certainly sounds like there is a dip in the sub floor beneath the strip. You could drill a tiny hole and squirt some expandable adhesive into the hole. It will seep under that strip and expand to fill the void. Bostik Findley makes a product just for this. Best place to start looking would be a local wood flooring retailer.

Follow-up Q: Sorry, I wasn’t clear in my original message – there is no subfloor. It’s a house from back in the era where the hardwood was the floor.

A: Oh, ok. I’ve only seen this type of installation a few times. Floor installed directly to the joists. So, brand new it would have been at least 3/4″ thick. The ends of the boards in question then stop between the joists. Short of having a way to fix this from beneath you would have to remove and replace at least the boards in question, probably a few surrounding. Perhaps these floors have been sanded several times over the years, eventually weakening the boards in question.

Second Follow-up Q: Thanks. Time to slither under and try to reinforce from below.

Pine floors curling after refrigerator water line leak

Q: I had a refrigerator water line start leaking under my 60 yr. old home. The pine floors started curling and this affected parts of two rooms before I noticed and repaired the leak.

What steps should I take to dry the floor back out? I have heard that some of the curling issues may go away after the floor dries back out. It’s 90+ degree heat during the day and low 70s at night here, just starting into summer.

A: What do you mean by leaking under your home? Into a crawl space? The idea is to remove the excess moisture from beneath the floor, the sub floor and the finished floor.

Fans and dehumidifiers will be very helpful. Yes, often a floor will flatten out on it’s own. Let’s hope so.

Related Q: I have a 3″ x 10″ spot on my hardwood floor that rippled a little bit after I discovered that water had spilled and set on the floor too long. The floor is 10 years old and still in excellent shape, except this spot that was just rippled. Can I steam it and try to press it flat again? what do you suggest?

A: I definitely would not steam it. You could blow a fan on it for a number of days, but this is going to be a waiting game.

I have seen floors do this and then flatten on their own. Sometimes they don’t. I would give it several weeks to find out.

It is also a good idea to have a dehumidifier running, especially in the basement if it tends to be a bit damp as many basements are.

Black residue in cracks after spill

Q: Just noticed that a black substance (could it be mold) has filled the cracks between the pre-finished floor boards in a small area (about 2 foot by 3 foot) of my bedroom hardwood floor. There was a spill of a DampRid Moisture Remover container in that area just a few months ago. I’ve removed some of it using sewing needles to scrape it off, but much more remains. Any suggestions on how to deal with this?

A: Perhaps a bit of bleach on a cloth, using a dull knife to get the cloth down as far into the tiny groove possible. It’s one of the draw backs of this type of floor. Spills are more likely to find their way under the floor and can take a while to completely dry. This doesn’t mean you now have a mold problem. Mold has to have the right environment to continue.

Similar Q: I have noticed some quite large black patches/marks on the wooden floor in our bedroom, which must have developed very recently. It looks almost like burn marks and even the wooden baseboard has a dark marks, almost as if someone used a blowtorch on it. My partner has made a (bad) habit of leaving his dirty clothes in that particular spot which sometimes consists of damp gym clothes, could this be the what has caused those black marks? We have underfloor heating so I suspect this may also be a factor.

A: Damp clothing left sitting on a warm floor sounds like a good breeding ground for mold. Unless there is a small leak nearby, that is likely the cause.

Mineral spirits used to remove glue marks left finish dull

Q: We just installed glue down hardwood flooring; pre-finished Centerra oak flooring. We used Robers Urethane 1408 glue. Unfortunately, as first timers, we were not paying too close attention to the glue marks.

We were able to remove the glue with mineral spirits, but it left the finish dull in the areas that the glue had touched.

What can we do to bring the shine back?

A: Try cleaning the floor with a polyurethane cleaner. Perhaps the floor manufacturer has an in house brand or you could look at Mirage, Bona Kemi, Poloplaz etc.

Related Q: Floor glue was removed with mineral spirits, and everywhere we took off the glue it left dull spots. Can it be fixed without refinishing? Is there a cleaner that will bring back the shine or could there still be a glue residue left on the floor?

A: It could be from the mineral spirits. I’d get a small bottle of cleaner from your nearest hardwood floor retailer. A number of companies make their own version: Mirage, Basic Coatings, Poloplaz, Bona.

Hump in kitchen floor from basement flooding below?

Q: Our basement flooded in Sept. It was right under our kitchen floor. We have noticed the kitchen floor now has a big hump in it. Could it be related to the basement flooding? The adjuster does not seem to feel it was related to the flood. What do you thank?

A: I think it is certainly possible, if you had a significant amount of water in the basement, below the hardwood in the kitchen that it could impact the wood floor. Did anyone take moisture readings of the kitchen sub floor from the basement? What was the cause of the flood? Your floor has a hump because it has expanded and is under pressure. This is only caused by moisture imbalance. What is the source of the moisture? Unless you have a leak from your refrigerator or dish washer, the other likely source would be the water in the basement.

Follow-up Q: They did take moisture readings in the kitchen and it read normal levels. The flood was caused by a sump pump malfunction caused by a power failure. It was a whole week before servpro set up dehumidifiers, which ran for 3 days. So the basement was flooded for several days. They said there was no leak in the fridge or the dishwasher. Our floors are a vinyl tile which are now starting to pop apart because of the hump. I appreciate your info. Please let me know what else you think.

A: Having a large volume of water sit in your house will impact other parts of the structure. As it evaporates it has to go somewhere. If the sub floor is plywood, it is likely it has swelled. This is why even plywood is suppose to have a small expansion space between sheets. How do they explain the hump? I think you are going to have to remove your tile and fix the floor underneath first.

Brazilian Cherry darkened in under 2 months leaving lighter spots where furniture was

Q: A contractor just installed around 800 square feet of 3/4 prefinished Brazilian Cherry on our first floor. It looked very good until we unstacked our furniture today.

The furniture had been sitting on top of flat pieces of card board for about 1-1/2 to 2 months as the contractor finished the floors. Now we find that our floors look like they got a sunburn with band-aid marks all over them! We knew that Brazilian Cherry darkened with time and that the furniture would need to be moved around, but we never thought that in under 2 months the floor would change so dramatically. We have now uncovered all the spots that were covered with furniture and card board and we’re hoping that the lighter wood will catch up to the darker wood.

Which brings me to my questions: Will the light areas darken to blend in over time so that it will be completely unnoticeable? Or, will there always be a line where our furniture laid?

If the latter is the case, do you have any recommendations for us? We spent so much time and money on this project that this is really upsetting. Any guidance with this is appreciated!

A: 2 months? You would have that change in 2 weeks. Don’t worry about it. The lighter patches will catch up as they are exposed to light. The floor will not keep getting darker to infinity. The lighter areas will change soon.

Accidentally scuffed hardwood floor while sanding the baseboards

Q: I recently redecorated a room that needed the baseboards sanded down. I put protection down for the floor, but to my horror when I lifted up the paper I had sanded some of my wood floor too.

Now I have white scuff/sand marks in my floor around the baseboards. How can I get rid of the marks so that it looks better? Anything will look better than it does at the moment.

A: I think I would try just touching these scuffed areas with polyurethane dabbed on a rag to see if it will at least put some colour back into the surface of the finish.

Spots where I used oxalic acid (wood brightener) are lighter after finishing

Q: I have just completed refinishing a 55 year old white oak floor. To remove some water spots I used oxalic acid (wood brightener). It looked great when the wood was raw, however, the water based urethane made these areas appear lighter and bleached out in appearance.

How can I have these area blend into the surrounding floor boards?

A: I think you might have to accept it and live with it. What are the options? Sand it all down again and either bleach the entire floor or stain it. How thick is the wood? It may be too thin to take this amount of sanding.

Spots where wood is cracking along the grain

Q: I have been in my house less then a year. We have distressed oak floors with a lot of character, which is fine, but there are numerous spots where the wood is cracking along the grain-enough to catch a sock.

Were they not finished properly? Another sanding and coat of polyurethane needed?

A: Cracks developing has nothing to do with the sanding. The boards were probably “defective” before they were installed and then with dryer conditions inside the house they may have shrunk a bit and the cracks revealed themselves.

You can either have the boards changed, or something you might try is injecting some type of adhesive into the fissure to stop it from opening further. If the adhesive dries below the surface you can then fill up to the top of the board with colour match wood filler. Try not to get the adhesive on the surface of surrounding boards. Cyano-acrylate adhesive may work well in this instance. It dries clear.

Related Q: Our newly installed hardwood floors have a plethora of deep cracks along and through the grain of the boards, which one can see from outside the room in multiple boards; some cracks are extended through the knotholes in the custom cut combination #1 and #2 Red Oak hardwood floorboards and seem to extend through the thickness of each board.

Should we allow the installer and contractor to do as they have proposed and re sand and fill the cracks and then apply another coat of finish, or should the custom cut hardwood floor system be replaced?

A: Not surprising you have so many split boards given the low grade of the oak. I would recommend replacing the bad boards and then sanding over. Sanding and filling won’t make the deep cracks disappear.

My hardwood is in a convex shape (cupping vs crowing)

Q: My hardwood is in a convex shape; meaning, the two sides of the wood are up, but the middle part is down. A “C” shape. What is going on and how can I fix it?

A: This is called “cupping”. When the centre is raised it is called “crowning”.

Both are caused by excess moisture in the wood. It can be caused by extremely high humidity, dampness under the floor in a crawl space or a water leak from somewhere in or about the house. It could be from the roof or a window with large amounts of water seeping inside the wall and under the floor. Or could be from a leaking dishwasher, bathtub etc.

Find the source of moisture and eliminate it. A dehumidifier may help. When the moisture in the flooring is within normal range (you need a moisture meter) and it hasn’t flattened out on it’s own, it would have to be sanded flat.

Related Q: Our sink clogged and our dishwasher had leakage in the kitchen, which has tile flooring. On the other side, in the living room, our hardwood floor started cupping – the next day. Even though we had cleaned up all the water. Does cupping happen this soon after water leakage or could it be from previous flooding?

A: Water has likely gotten under the floor. Cupping occurs when the bottom side of the wood is wet and the edges curl upward. Crowning, when the center of the board raises is from excess water on the surface. This seems clear. The dishwasher leaked and the water ran onto and under your wood floor. Unless it actually heaves I would let it fully dry out and see what it does. You can’t do a thing with it until then unless you intend to replace the floor, in which case removing it as soon as possible will help the drying of the sub floor along.

70% of our floor, installed over concrete, is cupping

Q: I had a very expensive hardwood floor installed on concrete about a year ago. It started cupping in places within a month, and now the problem has spread to about 70% of the floor. I have had both the manufacturer as well as the company who installed the floor originally back to inspect the problem. Nobody can give me a satisfactory reason why they should not replace the floor. Can you suggest a reason why “it just happened” and they should not be expected to fix the issue?

Is there a product they should have used to seal the floor, if in fact “the concrete is bleeding moisture”? Should they have tested the moisture level of the concrete to check for the need of said products use? This is not a fly by night business, so I trusted my purchase would be installed correctly and the manufacturer would honor a warranty for a faulty product. Please if you have any information or suggestions, I would appreciate any help!

A: If this floor is below grade there probably isn’t a solid wood manufacturer who would warranty it.

In any case, if installing on concrete even a slab at ground level the slab should have been checked first for moisture penetration. If I faced such a floor “bleeding moisture” I’m not installing the floor directly on the concrete. Clearly you have a moisture issue.

There are a number of adhesive type spreads available which serve the purpose of both a sound retardant and moisture barrier. Bostik makes such a product.

In your case it sounds like you may have been much safer putting down some type of membrane over the concrete then using dry core, for example, and installing an engineered floor on top of that.

If you have moisture coming through the concrete it is only a matter of time before mold also becomes an issue.