Stepped on finish before it was dry and left a dull footprint

Q: We just had our oak floors sanded and re-finished. The guy did a great job. Today in the morning he put the last glossy/shiny finish – looks wonderful. We came home after 7PM and I tried to get to the bathroom. The floor looked to me like it was dry. But in one spot my foot got stuck, it wasn’t dry enough, and I left a dull footprint on this beautiful glossy finish. Can I fix it somehow?

A: It happens. The boards affected would need to be lightly sanded and a thin coat of the same finish applied. Maybe your floor guy wouldn’t mind dropping in to do a quick fix.

Stairs don’t match newly installed hardwood floors in sheen

Q: We retained a flooring specialist to both refinish our circular stairs top and basement, and remove 2” old red oak floor throughout main floor and install 3 and 1/4 pre finished oak flooring, with a very flat satin finish. The stairs were carpeted so he installed oak treads and risers. We said from the beginning we wanted the floor and stairs to match.

He did the stairs first taking a sample of the floor to be installed and had the stairs stain prepared by a reputable stain company. The stain colour when applied to the treads and stairs was a very good match. However, the type and quantity of clear coat applications significantly reduced the match to the new hardwood floor when he applied the finish clear coats on the stairs. The sheen is too glossy compared to the satin sheen of the new hardwood. We told him to make sure that the stain colour AND sheen needed to match.

He says he was concerned that if not enough clear coat was applied it could be scratched. We said we don’t care about scratches and our main interest was a match. Now we are unhappy that the stairs don’t match the newly installed hardwood floors.

The question I have is, can he do something to remove or reduce the stairs clear coat and sheen? If so, will that bring back the match to the original point where the stain coat alone matched really well? Can he then apply a very thin clear coat that produces a very matte satin finish as we originally requested?

A: This is an easy one to answer because I am hearing an old but false idea that the more coats of finish that are applied, the more shiny the finish will be. This is totally false. The shine or lack thereof is determined by the final coat of finish, whether it be gloss (it will be shiny), Semi-gloss (shiny but less so), satin (a low shine, looking more like polish) and matte or super matte (which are dead flat). All that needs to be done is to have the stair coating thoroughly buffed down with a fine sand paper and a satin finish applied if that is the finish on the pre finished oak. I would recommend Poloplaz Primero or Supreme satin. Especially Primero. Every finish less than gloss needs to be stirred to mix the paste that remove the shine. Primero keeps the paste pretty much suspended in the finish so not much stirring is needed for consistent results.

Wood in one area is just soaking up finish

Q: I’ve got a couple hangups, I sure hope you can help me troubleshoot. I’ve just installed wood floors my home: bathroom, bedroom and hallway. I’m not sure of the type of wood, as it is old, reclaimed hardwood that is random and has been tongued and grooved.

I followed the same exact process in all the rooms. I won’t go into exact detail because as you know there are a lot of steps! But basically I installed them, sanded them with 120 grit, cleaned them, absolutely no water or chemicals, conditioned them with pre finish wood conditioner and followed the directions. Next I stained them using special walnut 227 oil based penetrating wood finish thinned with mineral spirits and again I followed the directions.

Then I had an unforeseen budget issue accompanied by a deadline issue. Thus resulting in me having to unfortunately settle for using cans of Semigloss Fast-Drying Polyurethane aerosol as the surface finish. I cleaned again and again and again.. the bathroom worked out wonderfully! If water hits the floor it beads up. I am able to clean it easily and I am happy with the results.

The bedroom I have applied the first 2 coats following the directions and so far it’s looking good. 2 More coats will be needed.

The hallway however is where I find myself stumped. Mainly because I didn’t do anything differently but my results are different. I sprayed my first thin layer of the polyurethane and as I’m spraying it the wood is soaking it up! Like it is penetrating the wood! I can see it happening. It goes from wet and shiny to dull and dry to the touch. What is happening?

Another thing I’d like to ask is if you have any experience using a wood filler to fill gaps. Either store bought or home made with sawdust. I want something that will fill the unsightly gaps and empty knot holes scattered randomly throughout, but that will also expand and contract so my floor doesn’t buckle. Keep in kind, this is reclaimed wood so it has character and is really tough to work with. Looks beautiful and any info or suggestions are greatly appreciated.

A: Just about any floor will have boards that appear to soak in the finish almost totally compared to other boards. This should change with each successive coat, as you build layers. It was probably just bad luck, for lack of a better term that these boards just happened to end up in the hallway.

I know of no wood filler that remains flexible. You may want to check out some products for log homes. One such company is called Sashco. Hopefully they have caulkings of various colours.

1 Sealant and 2 coats of polyurethane okay?

Q: I see that you recommend 3 coats of polyurethane. My contractor did one coat of sealant and 2 coats of polyurethane. Is that sufficient?

A: That should be fine also.

I assume this is an oil base finish. I’ve been using Poloplaz Primero for a number of years now. They also have an oil based sealer which is polyurethane. It’s tough as nails. I’ve often done 1 coat of that and 2 Primero. If this is water based you might need a third coat. These finishes don’t have as high a percentage of urethane solids as oil based does.

Chatter marks twice on same floor

Q: I work for a well known floor company. They gave me a 1000 sq ft sand, stain and finish on a new install. I cut the floor with 40 grit, then 80, and then screened with 120. After staining there were chatter in the floor, so I went and had my machine hauled over roller bearings, belts, went to the job cut the floor again. There’s still chatter, not as bad, but still chatter.

The customer is not real happy needless to say.. Any suggestions on why this happened twice on same floor? I’ve been doing this for 5 plus years and have never run into this problem.

A: If you get chatter or especially ‘the wave’ the next time you sand, the initial sanding needs to be on a bit of an angle to flatten the floor. Otherwise, your sander drum and abrasive will simply follow the existing contour of the floor and likely make those marks even worse.

The number of coats of finish does NOT determine how shiny or dull the next coat will be

Q: In August we had our floors completely sanded, stained (Jacobean) and finished with Fabulon super satin (2 coats). It is an open floor plan with the hardwood laid on a diagonal and we get a lot of light exposure coming into the house.

When we returned to our home after the 2nd coat was dried we noticed some uneven areas. We came to realize the person applying the finish didn’t feel completely comfortable applying finish on a diagonal layout. After speaking with the owner, they advised to do a 3rd coat which they would apply with an 18 inch applicator, instead of the 9 inch they first used. We then asked about applying a duller finish. Thus they agreed to apply Duraseal Matte finish.

After returning back to the house after the 3rd coat, we noticed white spots throughout the house, kind of milky areas (probably not prepared and mixed correctly). Getting back to the floor guy regarding this issue, they said the only solution would be to apply another coat of Fabulon super satin same as the 2 coats. Having no choice they did a 4th coat of Fabulon super satin. Again when returning to our home we noticed some areas that were much lighter and you even see applicator marks in different light settings.

At this point we are consulted with other contractors to fix this problem, knowing full well the previous company wasn’t experienced and comfortable working on a diagonal. We first decided to do some tests with a Bona water base finish (Naturale and the Traffic satin). Naturale is way too dull, and the traffic satin looks OK in daytime, but at night with a little light reflecting in you all most see an ashy white look on both samples. That look at night concerns us, so we aren’t sure water based is a good fit. Contractor has no problem removing the water based test areas and doing a refinish using Fabulon super satin, they are very comfortable working on a diagonal and would apply a thin coat.

Q – If the finish is applied correctly and thinly do we have to worry about the floor being so shiny with 4 coats of oil poly already on the floor? It has been over 2 months when the last coat of oil poly was applied from the 1st floor guy.
Q – Does this contractor just have to do a standard screening and then apply the finish or would it require a heavier screening technique?
Q – As far a the sheen level, is it the top coat that controls the sheen or a combination of all coats on the floor?
Q – Based on our description of the Bona water based tests that were done, does water base appear as an ashy look at night in dim lit settings?

A: The number of coats of finish on a floor does NOT determine how shiny or dull the next coat will be. No matter what, each coat of finish must be screened thoroughly, being careful not to miss any spots which could create an adhesion issue. The issue of seeing applicator stop marks and streaks with finishes below gloss is partly because of the paste added to the product to lessen the shine. In most cases, this paste must be very thoroughly mixed into the finish. An 18″ bar applicator would remove the push and pull exhibited by a lambs wool block. However, with oil based finishes this applicator tends to apply much to heavily. I’ve been using Poloplaz Primero for years and have never had any of these issues with it. As their head sales manager told me years ago, they spent a little extra money in developing this product so the paste would stay largely suspended and require only minimal stirring. Best way to apply it is with a roller. It is wonderful to work with. Application at 500 sq. feet per gallon.

Streaks from mopping sanded and stained unfinished floor

Q: We just laid new unfinished redwood flooring. We sanded and stained. It looked great. We mopped it with a slightly damp rag mop to get all dust particles up before we put he poly coat on.

As it was drying we saw streaks of what looked liked uniform lines of dust left behind from the mop. We let it dry to see if it was more of a moisture thing and the streaks were still there. They are about 1″ to 1 1/2 ” in width. I got a rag to see if I could just wipe it up to break up the uniform look. I used first a dry rag then got a slightly damp rag and they are not coming up.

It’s in the exact pattern that my husband moved the mop in and the streaks are spaced out about the reach of the mop. In between those streaks the floor looks great. I’m afraid if we poly coat it will seal those streaks in. My husband thinks with a poly coat it might actually blend them in so they are not noticeable.

We just used water no chemicals. This is our second time to lay wood floors in our home same exact kind and we didn’t have this issue.

A: When I stain a floor and before applying the first coat I generally just vacuum well with a soft brush. After buffing between coats I vacuum and then wipe the floor down with a micro weave mop, dry. As long as this wasn’t a water based stain, I would expect those marks to go away with application of the finish.

Bubbles only coming out of the soft grain

Q: A job we sanded was first “popped” then stained. After the first coat of poly I noticed bubbles coming out of certain boards. And the bubbles only seemed to be coming out of the soft grain. I did a light sanding and put on another coat of oil-poly satin and had the same issue. This time these were different boards. There were about a total 4 boards with this issue. It seemed like the grain was rejecting the poly. They were BB sized bubbles. I fixed these boards now everything is OK. I was wondering why this could have happened. Conditions were mid-60s with all windows closed. Applied with a roller.

A: Not sure. If you had left them, would the bubbling have settled down? If this was a re-sand it is possible there was some sort of contaminant in the soft grain that was dancing with the polyurethane. There are plenty of technically strange events in the flooring trade. We all get a turn now and then.

Hardwood floor sanded across the grain

Q: Our contractor had one of his workers sand our hardwood floors across the grain. Now no matter what they do it shows lines or grooves across the floor.

A: I have on occasion sanded on an angle, about 30 degrees to flatten a floor. I’ve never had any issue then going with the grain and removing the scratches. Perhaps they are using too fine a grit. Go with 40 or 50 grit and don’t run with the machine.

Finish repelled in spots

Q: I had my hardwood sanded and refinished and high-gloss put on. It had little round spots all over it that the polyurethane did not cover. So I had it buffed and recoated with the polyurethane and still the spots are popping up everywhere, where the polyurethane did not stick. They tell me that there’s nothing they can do for this. What is causing this?

A: There has got to be a contaminant which is repelling the finish in those spots. Poloplaz has a strong cleaner which can remove contaminants. It is called Tie Tac and I’ve used this on more than one job. Using it rescued the floor. www.poloplaz.com

Wood filler or product to spread over entire floor during sand and stain

Q: I’m sanding and staining a hardwood floor. The floor has stains and cracks everywhere. We will need lots of wood filler to fill the cracks correctly.

Is there any type of wood filler or product you’d recommend to spread and cover the entire floor, and then sand and stain? We don’t want to remove the floor, so what’s the best course of action?

A: You will need to find your nearest wood flooring retailer. They will likely sell filler in 3.5 gallon tubs. You spread it over the entire floor with a flat blade trowel. Bona, Dura Seal and Woodwise are three examples.

As for the black stains you could try applying hydrogen peroxide. There is another product I’d like to try called stain solver. I get emails from www.askthebuilder.com. The retired builder who runs the site has a side job making an outstanding oxygen bleach cleaner. It would be worth a look. Just keep in mind this is wood so you don’t want to soak the floor with any liquid. Just wet the surface of the boards. www.stainsolver.com

Follow-up Q: Would durabond 60 or 90 be a bad idea? I realize it’s for drywall but I’ve used it in the past. Can’t remember if the stain took well after sanding.

A: Absolutely NOT. You will likely buckle the floor for one as it sucks all the moisture out of the dura bond. Better to leave the cracks than do this.

Follow-up Q: Would I apply the stain remover after it’s been sanded, and before adding the filler? Currently, it’s been sanded. I’m wondering if I could somehow get away with not adding the stain remover. Not sure how the finished product will look.

A: Yes, I would do an initial rough sanding to bare wood and then try to treat the stain. After it dries, clean the floor, spread the wood filler. Let it dry and sand it off with finer grit.

It depends how dark of a stain you intend to apply and how much of the stain comes out with just sanding. Impossible to know until you try.

Follow-up: Thanks a lot for your advice I ended up buying the Duraseal wood filler which worked great. Easy to work with and sands easily too. The stain went on great and we picked sedona red stain so it hid the other stains well. Still have to add 2 coats of finish to shine and it’ll look great.

Protecting fish tank during hardwood refinishing

Q: We are having our kitchen floor refinished in a couple weeks. We will stay at motel for 2 nights, pets to kennel for 3 nights. What about our fish tank? It is in an adjacent room. We obviously cannot remove it from house. Any concerns with fumes? Ways to protect it?

A: Can you close the door to isolate the tank? Perhaps have a fan lightly blowing to keep air moving around the tank?

Can oil modified urethane be used to recoat over Swedish (Glitsa) finishes?

Q: Can oil modified urethane be used to recoat over Swedish (Glitsa) finishes?

A: If it is a fully cured finish there shouldn’t be any issues – provided the Swedish finish is fully cured.

Related Q: I recently had #3 grade (wanted the character) red oak flooring installed. We filled with black grout to give the character. The installer used “G*****” Swedish finish. We were told, after the fact, that the finish does not seal the grout (knowing this, we would have checked into options). I just need to know if there is a sealer that we can use over the top of G***** to re-seal everything? Your help is greatly appreciated!

A: I haven’t used acid cure G***** in many years. It was so nasty to work with. Tough finish though. It is my understanding you can apply anything over it but you can’t apply G***** over anything. So, you should be good to apply another finish over it. I would be sending an email to the company and also asking the floor company that did your floors.

What would happen if we didn’t fill the gaps and just put on the finish?

Q: We have an old farm house and it has some good size cracks. What would happen if we didn’t fill the gaps and just put on the finish?

A: Nothing in particular will happen except some finish will likely seep down between the planks. You have to make sure if it drips through to the floor below it doesn’t end up on something you don’t want damaged.

3/4 Of newly refinished floor shiny, but middle portion is dull

Q: I just had my wood floors finished and polyurethane was applied. 3/4 Of the floor is shiny, but the middle portion is dull like it was never done. What would cause this to happen?

A: I’m not sure but clearly you need the floors polished and another coat applied.

Related Q: I have newly refinished old hardwood floors. Why is it that, after applying poly, some areas are shiny and some aren’t?

A: It sounds like the finish you wanted was a satin finish which is basically a gloss or shiny finish with a flattener in it such as silica. If, for whatever reason, whether it be insufficient mixing before application or some environmental issue during application the silica did not distribute properly in the applied film then you will have shiny and dull areas. I’ve had this happen from time to time over the years with various products, but it has never happened with Poloplaz Primero which really is a brilliant finish and a dream to apply.

Related Q: We are finishing 1350 SF red oak, applied stain with a rag and wiped off excess. We waited about 5 days then applied a first coat of Duraseal oil based poly (not quick coat).

I’ve read the first coat will not look great due to the wood absorbing the poly differently. There are a lot of dull and shiny spots, lap marks and some dust particles in the finish.

I hand sanded and pole sanded with a 120 grit screen which took care of the grit, but there are still shiny spots on the floor. Should I be sure to buff all these out before applying the second coat or will the second coat cover them? TIA!

A: It’s only the first coat. If you applied a thin coat (500 sq. feet per gallon) and you have given a light but thorough sanding it should be enough to have a good bond. However, don’t sand it down and then leave it for a few days. It is still curing for several weeks so you don’t want to sand it and leave it without coating so that it gets harder on you. You can hit the shiny spots again, carefully. You don’t want to cut into the stain.

Quick Coat is a stain. I use that because I know it will be dry the next day for coating. And you are correct about the first coat looking spotty. No big deal. That is normal. There will be a big difference with the next coat.

Follow up: : Finally, I’m finished with my floors! I put the 3rd coat on the largest room last Saturday afternoon. It took me 5.5 hours non-stop but it’s done.

The floors are new wood so the oily spots weren’t from wax. I applied the stain 8 days prior to the first coat of poly so it should’ve been dry. I believe it was the mineral spirits that hadn’t dried. Whatever it was, the second screening took care of the problem. I took your advise and didn’t use mineral spirits to tack between the 2nd and 3rd coat. I vacuumed about 4 times
and then tacked with a dry cloth until there was no dust left on the cloths.

These are new, character grade floors. I had to start with 36 grit because the 60 just wasn’t flattening the edges of the boards. The 36 grit took forever! I literally got down on my hands and knees, brushed over every inch of the floor with my hand to find the uneven edges marking each one with a pencil then going over each spot with the sander. I had to ride the sander pretty hard to get a nice flat floor. Then it was several passes with 60, 80 and 100. Hubby used a random orbital sander for the perimeter of the rooms.

As far as the water popping and staining, that was actually the easiest step. And believe me, I had read the horror stories of bad stain jobs along with improper sanding, peeling poly, debris in the finish and the list goes on and on. I was holding my breath praying that it would turn out OK. For me, the most stressful part of the whole finishing process was the 3 coats of poly.

The stress of knowing that any step in this whole process, if done incorrectly, could send me back to bare wood was almost more than I could handle! How in heaven’s name do you do it? And since 1972? Goodness gracious, I would have been committed years ago! My respect for you pros is at a new level.

In my area, authentic professional floor refinishers are few and far between and sadly, many of the horror stories online are from homeowners who hired someone they thought was a professional to finish their floors and ended up getting screwed. (Pardon my French.) I guess that’s why I chose to it myself.. if I screwed it up then I’d only have myself to blame and at least I wouldn’t have spent thousands in the process.

Before I go I do have a couple more questions if you don’t mind. I’d like to paint before moving back into the house. When would it be safe to put down drop cloths to protect the floors? Or would something else like brown craft paper be a better choice?

Secondly, do you have any vacuum cleaner recommendations? It would be nice to find one reasonably priced if such a thing exists.

God bless and thanks for your help!

A: Ideally, placing a covering over a floor finish is best left for 2-3 weeks after the final coat. This allows for full exposure to air to complete the curing. This is really in reference to area rugs. Just for drop cloths, a day or two after the finish has dried you should be safe to start painting. Just fold up the cloth and remove it from the floor at days end. Make sure there are no little pebbles etc on the floor or on the drop cloth before laying it out.

Suggesting a vacuum is tough. If there are no rugs in the house you don’t need a beater bar. For hardwood floors you do want a soft brush and preferably soft rubber type wheels, not hard plastic. I use a Fein vacuum with attachments from an old kirby with a floor brush. Don’t use oil soaps, pine oils, furniture polish or anything else from the super market to clean polyurethane coatings.

Floors stained and finished 18 months ago are now peeling

Q: Is there a known issue between M***** stain and water based Bona Traffic finish? We had our floors stained and finished 18 months ago and it is peeling. We have never used any form of abrasive cleaner, nor was there any type of water incident.

A: One of the things I dislike with M***** stains is they tend to be slow drying. It can take 2 days or more for some colours. If the stain (a solvent based stain) was not thoroughly dry and a water borne was applied over top, yes, it could peel.

Related Q: All my floors were just sanded, stained, and then polyurethaned. We have only lived here for one month and the polyurethane is peeling off. Why?

A: There could be a number of reasons for this. Most likely is inadequate preparation of the previous coat of finish so adhesion was not gained between coats.

Usual finish for a parquet floor?

Q: I am sanding down a 30 year old parquet floor. What should I put on it once I have sanded it down? Do I seal it with a matte varnish, or should I oil it? What is the usual finish?

A: That depends what you will expect from the finish you apply. There are a number of different types of finishes on the market.

A typical solvent based finish (what is called oil based) is easiest to work with and there are some excellent finishes of this type on the market, mostly used by professionals such as Poloplaz Primero. Easy to work with. Very durable. I would always apply gloss first followed by the sheen of choice.

There are water borne finishes. These are more difficult to apply since they set up very quickly. Don’t let the name mislead you. There are certain solvents in these finishes that you do not want to inhale or get on your skin.

If you were going to use an oil type finish, the hands down best I’ve ever used is Waterlox. Excellent penetration. No adhesion issues. Fairly easy to apply. A bit slow drying however. I have used it on several jobs and actually got to see one this week after almost 1 year has past. A lot of construction work has gone on in this home since, and while they were somewhat dirty, they have stood up quite well. Touch up is simply to clean the floors well and apply another coat.

Scraper scrapes off finish in layers

Q: Two weeks ago I had my hardwood floor refinished. We moved the furniture too soon and caused damage. The contractor who finished the floor is coming back to refinish; however, now we can take a scraper and all the finish scrapes off in layers. Is this normal? Has the floor not cured? Will it eventually harden? This is one room and there were four others done at the same time.

A: Difficult to say if he has failed to gain adhesion between coats or if he applied the finish in too thick a film. Many finishes have a spread rate of 500 feet per gallon.