Soft ceramic finish

Q: We just had our Brazilian cherry floors redone in several rooms, and new flooring in 2 others. We used the Arboritec elite ceramic finish. The day after it was complete, we noticed some flaking and the finish was soft enough to put a fingernail in it. What options do we have at this point, or does the entire job need to be redone? There are also milky patches and it’s an uneven looking finish.

A: I have no experience with this “ceramic coating”, which in my later years were restricted to application in a factory finished floor. These types of coatings are designed to be extremely abrasion resistant an hard. If you are already experiencing flaking, you have a problem with adhesion. These foreign woods can have a very high oily resin content which can interact in unfavorable ways with some coatings. I don’t know if the product applied had a special sealer they recommend and whether it was used. There is also the problem of ‘abrasion resistant’ which is designed into ceramic coatings. This become a real problem when trying to prepare an already applied coat so the next one will adhere.

I think the milky areas are an interaction between the finish and the environment. It could be the oils in the wood. But if it is a water based finish it may have been too humid.

Poly beads and flaking after refinishing

Q: I purchased a home built in 1986. The floors are oak, but I am not sure if they are white or red. Before moving in, I wanted to have the floors freshened up.
I used a floor guy who was recommended to me by my realtor, and was told he had a very good reputation. Upon examining the floors, he determined that they were in very good shape, and said they should only need to be screened and recoated. He used Fabulon’s satin finish on the floors, and said he gave them two coats.

Shortly after I moved in, two things quickly began to happen: small beads of what looked like honey were bubbling up between the boards, and the finish also flaking off very easily. I have many spots that almost seem to be down to the bare wood (small, but I see them) and then a boatload of scratches from things like the vacuum cleaner moving at an angle, or a piece of furniture being slid to dust beneath it.

When I questioned the floor guy, I was told that there must have been a product on the floor that the former owners used to dress them up, and that the only way around that would have been to thoroughly sand down the floors and refinish them. He told me that he explained this to me at the time, though he did not. At a loss, because we are now moved in and doing the floors seem like an impossibility, he told me to use a rubber scraper to remove the beads. For the scratches, he said to gently sand down any troublesome areas with a very fine sandpaper, to then use steel wool on those areas, then thoroughly clean away any dust. He left me with a can of the super satin poly, and said that if I feathered in any spots I tried to repair, I might see it initially, but that it would eventually wear and blend in well enough to get me by.

Well, I finally tackled a couple of really bad spots and am worried I went from bad to worse. While I seemed to do a good job easing down the scratches, I now have what looks like a semi-gloss finish where I did the repairs. Do I need to do a second coat? Do I need to buff the repaired area with something? I could spend days trying to fix all the problems, and hesitate to contact the original floor guy because I have since learned that his reputation is far from glowing..

I am happy to tackle the spots on my own, when time permits, but I certainly don’t want everyone’s eyes to now see the glaring repairs due to the difference in finish.

A: This sounds like a mess, I’m afraid to say. Poly beads, while rare, can happen. The floor finish seeps between boards and devoid of air it is prevented from really drying and getting hard. If the boards expand a tiny bit with change in humidity it can force this soft finish to the surface. It is correct that the only thing that can be done initially is scrape them away with a plastic scraper until it stops, then have the floor screened and coated again if needed. However, given that your finish is peeling it is clear their is poor to no adhesion between the old coats of finish and the new. While this can be caused by a contaminant on the floor, it can also be caused by insufficient buffing and preparation. There are strong cleaners that can be used which do a very good job of removing most contaminants and help prepare old coatings for another coat of finish such as Poloplaz Tie Tack. I saved two floors using that product. I am curious that the floor guy did not notice any reaction of a contaminant with his finish as he was applying it as often it will immediately appear like mixing oil and water where the finish is actually being repelled. This happens immediately while coating. It is possible you got the look of a semi gloss because either you did not mix the product sufficiently which he left you or he did not mix it thoroughly before leaving you the can of finish.

To really correct this now you are likely going to have to have the floors sanded to clean wood and start over I’m afraid. It sounds like the floors are worse now than before you started off trying to freshen them up.

Follow-up: Thank you very much for such a thoughtful and quick response. Redoing the floors is simply not in the budget, but taking it bit by bit and trying to correct the problem spots is still something I feel I can tackle. I will take some steel wool to those shiny spots, make sure that the product is about as stirred as it can be, and give it another go. While I am no spring chicken, I am amazed that I still haven’t learned simple life lessons (e.g., being present when work is done, to ensure that the work is properly done). Given the state of my floors, I can’t help but feel that I was taken advantage of (maybe he didn’t even screen them?). Hopefully, I now know enough to prevent that from happening again when refinishing the floors is a possibility.

Radiant heat causing floor to peel?

Q: This is our original floor (picture included). What do you think caused it to peel like this?

A: Well, it is happening on the edges of the boards. Was this a factory finished floor that has been sanded, stained and finished again? I can think of two things that can cause this. One is contaminants between the boards which react with the finish. I would more expect that to happen with very old floors, which this isn’t.

The other issue is adequate preparation to gain a bond between coats. The finish bridges over board edges from one board to another. If there is movement, especially up and down the finish will stretch and start to crack or peel, especially if there is not a good inter coat bond.

Follow-up Q: No, it’s not a factory finished floor. We saw them finish it 15 years ago. We used radiant heat under it for a few months and we thought that caused it to peel. Ever heard of radiant heat under hardwood causing peeling?

A: No, I’ve never heard of radiant under floor heating causing finish peeling. I didn’t see any gapping of any significance either which would seem to indicate the wood was not suffering moisture imbalances which would have corrected and resulting in shrinkage and stretching of the finish on board edges. Even if that happened, the finish might crack and discolor where it bridges from one board to the next, but why would it peel on the floor surface?

Is it right that first poly clear coat is being put on only 2 hrs after sealant?

Q: We think our floor guy walked out on us today. We had dark oak engineered floors that were badly scratched, but our floor guy said he could sand them down and make them look better. We decided to go with clear coats/no stain. Continue reading Is it right that first poly clear coat is being put on only 2 hrs after sealant?

Tiny hairs embedded in finish

Q: We discovered under layers of vinyl that our 100 year old kitchen has a Douglas Fir floor. We had a floor man refinish with no stain, 3 coats of satin Bona varnish. The 3rd coat ‘bubbled’ in an area and so he came back to sand. He used paint thinner to eliminate any possible contaminates, then re-coated. Continue reading Tiny hairs embedded in finish

Over spray from house cleaning products contaminated floor job

Q: I’ve been a wood floor guy since 1990. Owned the business since 1995. In my years I’ve seen it all, but here’s my issue – My client has a floor finished with poly and wanted a new top coat. He was informative and knew what the existing finish was and that it had never been cleaned with anything other than water with a little vinegar. I didn’t worry about any oil or another cleaner that leaves an incompatible residue. (I should have.) Continue reading Over spray from house cleaning products contaminated floor job

Will my too shiny coat of polyurethane dull as it cures?

Q: Does poly finish become duller with time? My contractor did a patch in my oak floor and applied 3 coats of semi-gloss poly trying to match the old floor. The first two looked pretty good, but the 3rd (final) coat is really shiny. He claims that I just need to wait 30 days for it to fully cure and it will match. Does poly dull with time in this way?

Continue reading Will my too shiny coat of polyurethane dull as it cures?

Wood floor finish for a house on stilts

Q: We had a new white oak floor installed and used a Minwax stain that was tinted with white pigment (Sherwin Williams). The installer waited 48 hours after applying the stain. The house is on the water on stilts and heated, set at 60 degrees. He then applied 3 coats of Bona Traffic HD, buffing between coats.

Continue reading Wood floor finish for a house on stilts

A bad refinishing job by a professional

Q: We recently had our red oak flooring sanded and finished. I installed new in three rooms. The dining room and foyer was installed 25 years ago when we built our home. The person we hired claimed 20 years of experience. After all was done and we came back home we were disappointed with his work. The old flooring had dark and light patches. The perimeter of the room was darker than the field. Continue reading A bad refinishing job by a professional

Can I lightly sand and put an oil base poly over water base poly?

Q: I sanded old finish off my wood floors, then put a oil base stain on, and then put a water base urethane on. I lightly sanded the floor next day and put a second coat of poly on. Now I have a few spots flaking. Continue reading Can I lightly sand and put an oil base poly over water base poly?