Varnish with a mirror like shine?

Q: I’ve sanded and varnished quite a few floors in my current and last house. I always used Cuprinol Original Bourne Seal floor varnish. I love the finish it gives because it is super glossy. I’ve just sanded and stained another floor and tried to find this floor varnish and found out the company stopped making it a year ago. I bought a tin of Ronseal Diamond Hard Floor Varnish in Gloss but it doesn’t even nearly compare to the mirror like shine of the Bourne Seal varnish. Do you know of any other floor varnishes that compare with the Bourne Seal result?

A: I’ve not used Cuprinol finishes. Poloplaz Primero hi-gloss is an outstanding product with a high shine, less slip, very durable and a dream to apply with a roller.

Lines and streaks in tung oil finish

Q: We have an old home that needed new floors. We decided to put down pine, wide plank floors. They are very beautiful, but the manufacturer had us use tung oil on them. Through the process I found out there were two types of oil: one goes on first and one goes second. Well, by that point, we had started putting the second one on before we had two coats of the first. We then just had to go with what we had done.

The problem I have now is that the floors are uneven in color and you can see lines and streaks in the floor. Not to mention they are impossible to keep looking clean. You can see every footprint and so on. What can we do?

I would like to try and go with urethane. We have been told we can put it over what we have. I am scared to death to make a move and ruin them more, or worse.

These floors took well over half of our budget and they look terrible.

A: I would have someone come in, polish them with a fine abrasive and apply a couple of coats of polyurethane. Tung oil, in and of itself, isn’t a practical finish for a floor. If you had used Waterlox which has tung oil as one of the 5 main ingredients you would have had much better results.

Can polyurethane be used over a section of my oak floor that was finished with Waterlox?

Q: Can polyurethane be used over a section of my oak floor that was finished with Waterlox?

It has three coats of Waterlox which were applied two weeks ago and are totally dry. This was a heating grate area that we filled in, as the heating system has been totally changed. The surrounding floor has polyurethane finish.

So can I add polyurethane over the Waterlox?

A: Yes you can use polyurethane over Waterlox. I would give it a bit of a scuff with fine sand paper, clean and coat.

Unfinished bald spots in several rooms

Q: We have just bought a house and had some new wood floors put down. We showed up the night we were allowed to walk on the wood, to inspect the job. We have found about 12 bald spots in several rooms, as well as a square nail back sticking out of a board in the middle of our dining room. I called the contractor and he said he’d saw the nail and will sink it and cover with putty. He couldn’t believe we saw bald spots (some 5 inches long). He says he’ll just patch them up and it’s no problem.

I feel we have a big problem. Should we insist he polyurethane the whole floor over again and move in later? If so, how many coats should we insist on? I don’t want these floors to age prematurely because they have too thin a coat. Also, I can feel the grain texture over multiple areas of the floor, which makes me think the poly was put on too thin. It is suppose to be 3 coats now.

A: It sounds like the floor needs to be buffed down and another coat of finish applied. Most coatings have a spread rate of 500 feet per gallon. Given so many spots he missed with the finish, I think a full buff and coat is really the only way to fix it up. Buffing with a fine abrasive should knock down any rough spots or grain raise.

Related Q: I had my oak hardwood floors sanded down and refinished with polyurethane (oil). I’ve noticed that some spots along the walls have been missed during the finishing part with polyurethane. It looks a bit dull in those spots. Would another coat fix the issue?

A: Yes, another coat will fix the missed spots but the floor will have to be buffed down again to make sure you have good adhesion.

Sander dug in too deep and left waves

Q: I just had a flooring contractor sand and stain a new oak floor. The floor surface is wavy, as if the sander was not operated correctly and dug in too deep in places. Is there a way to achieve a flat finish? Will this require re-staining the floor?

A: It is likely that his sanding machine is out of adjustment. That would be up to a machine mechanic to diagnose. I had such wave appear recently on one of my jobs. Not very severe. The technician found a flat spot on my drum. As for cutting grooves, either his drum is out of adjustment or the floor and sub structure is not flat. This often happens along walls, and can make sanding this area very tricky.

It can also be very difficult to see initially and only really becomes visible after a couple of coats of finish are applied. The only way to get rid of all this is to do the job over. The floor would have to be cut on an angle first to remove the wave.

I don’t know the character of the flooring contractor who did the work. To be fair though, I have to say that these sorts of problems can happen to even the most conscientious worker who maintains his equipment. If he cares about what he is doing, probably nobody feels worse than he does when a job doesn’t turn out as well as his hard work deserved.

A few spots poly will not stick to

Q: I have been using oil based polyurethane to finish a bar top. I have 6 coats of poly over 1 coat sanding sealer and one coat stain. There are a few spots, one is about the size of a dime, that the poly will not stick no matter what I do. I have tried sanding just in those spots a little more than the rest, between the coats of poly, but it doesn’t make any difference in how the poly sticks.

What really confuses me is that the rest of the bar, the sides and the arm rest, do not have any of these spots, it is just the top. Do you have any advice on what to do to make the poly stick to those spots?

A: I would think this has to be caused either by some sort of extractive in the wood itself or a contaminant on the bar top from outside sources which hasn’t been removed. Try wiping the spot down with denatured alcohol to remove the contaminant. Or apply a small amount of de-waxed shellac (Zinsser seal coat) to those areas where this is occurring.

Sander left ripples in 100 year old floor

Q: I have a F******* drum sander. It only has one round drum, not 2. I sanded my floor by letting it pull itself forward, but it put ripples in my 100 year old maple floor.

Am I supposed to pull this type of sander?

A: Any type of sanding machine is to be walked forward, then back, feathering the drum at the wall so as not to leave a gouge.

These ripples are called chatter and can be caused by a drum out of balance, bad wheels, bad pulleys or bearings causing shake in the machine.

You will now have to either grind the floor for a long time with a polisher and sand paper or start over by first sanding on a slight angle to remove the chatter. Since your machine has an issue this won’t be a good choice.

What type of finish (varnish?) was used in the 60’s?

Q: I want to refinish just a couple of sections of my oak hardwood floor (fixing black nail spots and some marks left by carpeting that has been taken up). I have been told to mask off the area I work on, bleach and sand, etc. I don’t know what to use for a finish.

The floors were professionally refinished, probably sometime in the 60’s. There doesn’t appear to be any stain. What type of finish (varnish?) was used at that time?

A: Both varnish and wax were used. If the finish spots from a drop of water, it is wax. You can try to hand rub with fine sand paper in a corner where you will be working anyway and apply some polyurethane. If the finish sticks you know what to finish with. If it crawls or repels, you know for sure it’s wax or the like.

For the smooth edge strip black spots around the nail holes you could use a nail set and oversize the hole slightly so the black spot is recessed below the floor, then fill the holes with wood filler, which you would have to do anyway. Forget the bleach.

Similar Q: I’m looking at a house that was built in 1962 and has wood floors throughout, both stories. They are dark, plank style, and have pretty big gaps in between. I’m trying to find out what kind of wood they are but have found no help on the net. Were the majority of floors back then a certain kind of wood?

A: You have no idea if the floors were original to the house, and my guess would be they are not. It may be helpful to take some pictures of the floors. Most common species in North America is oak.

Do I use steel wool to buff before 4th coat?

Q: I just re finished my friends floor, white oak random, width 3 5 7. It was a pain to sand. We put a lite stain on and 3 coats of sealer, sanding in between coats, and 1 semi gloss. Now my friend wants another coat of semi gloss. Do I use steel wool this this time, before I put the last coat on?

A: I would need to know first what type of sealer was used. I use Poloplaz Fast Dry sanding sealer which is actually a fast dry polyurethane but is designed to penetrate well into the surface of the floor. It is a tough sealer but easy to work with. Generally 1 coat is all that is needed. You might use 2 as a less costly way to gain finish build. I then follow with Poloplaz Primero, generally gloss first and then satin or sheen of choice. These are all solvent based coatings, not water borne.

Never use steel wool with water borne.

Assuming it isn’t water borne, then yes each coat should be buffed or scratched to gain a mechanical bond between coats. You can use steel wool, though I haven’t heard of anyone using that in years with all the ‘revolutionary’ buffing pads now available to perform the task without leaving swirls or at least limiting them. I would start with the finest abrasive to see if it buffs sufficiently. That would be a 3M maroon pad with or without 180 grit sanding strips attached. If the finish is too hard to buff then I would move to a 220 grit screen. Still not course enough? 180 grit. Norton has also recently come out with a new pad (haven’t tried one yet) which comes in various levels of coarseness. Not suppose to leave visible scratch marks.

I don’t generally recommend more than 3 coats initially because it could slow down the cure of the finish. Always follow the spread rate, generally 500 sq. feet per gallon. Thicker coats are not better.

No appearance difference between water and oil finishes?

Q: I have 25 year old red oak floors that I want refinished with a water-based poly. From what I’ve seen in showrooms, I like the natural look of red oak with a water based application versus the yellowish pigment of oil (current finish). One of the contractors claims because of the age of the oak there will be no appearance difference between using water or oil. Do you agree with this? Everything I read seems to disagree.

A: The floor will be lighter with a water borne than a solvent or oil based finish.

Finish eroding in a bubble-like pattern in some spots

Q: We have a four year old floor and around the fridge and some cabinets we have found places where the finish is eroding in a bubble-like pattern. We just had the whole floor refinished and that day the bubbles returned. They are not like air bubbles but are the same shape. What are they and how do I get rid of them?

A: My guess is that when the floor finish was applied the fan on the refrigerator started to blow air across the floor, causing these “fish eye” bubbles to form. The only thing that can be done is to rub them down with a fine abrasive and apply a fresh, thin coat of finish to the entire affected board.

Removing sealed grit from finish

Q: I have a BR 111 Triangulo Santos Mahogany wood floor. I use Bona Kemi products on the floor, which are safe. However, I put the refresher on the floor with a less than clean rag and ended up sealing grit, etc., in the floor. Is there a safe way, below hiring a professional, to take the refresher off and begin again?

A: I have not used their refresher product. I would suggest lightly abrading the coating with a 3M maroon pad, clean it well and re-apply according to their directions.

Finish peeling in sporadic areas

Q: The old owners refinished our floor but they are peeling, in odd and sporadic areas all over the house. Can the areas be fixed or do I have to redo all the floors?

A: I would definitely recommend a complete re-sand and finish. You are either dealing with a contamination issue between the coats of finish, or improper preparation between coats to ensure adhesion. What you apply on top of this now will only be as sound as the coatings it is sitting on, which by your comments is not stable, but peeling throughout.

What grit sandpaper should I use between coats of Polo Plaz Primero (oil based)?

Q: What grit sandpaper should I use between coats of Polo Plaz Primero (oil based)? The can says 120 – 150 grit but I read a lot of posts that say 220 or higher. I have a couple small rooms that I need to refinish so I’m planning on using a 5″ random orbital sander and using 3 coats.

A: It really depends on the environmental conditions you are working in. I’ve had it dry and harden so fast after each coat that 180 grit screen was barely enough to knock it down with inter coat buffing. I doubt 220 grit will get you through it unless you plan to use a lot of them. 180 grit at least. I generally use 120 grit sandpaper to hand rub the edges. Then I screen with 180 grit.

Peeling off someone’s hack job coat of polyurethane

Q: We recently bought a small condominium that has an engineered (5 layer) maple hardwood floor. Someone attempted to refinish the original satin finish with a high gloss polyurethane. The shiny top layer is peeling off in sheets all over the floor. My question is, is there any way to “buff” off the shiny coat and get back to the original satin finish WITHOUT having to sand and re-finish the entire floor? The places where the new shiny coat have peeled off reveal a perfectly fine original satin finish which is what we would like to get back. Thanks.

A: I can’t see buffing this off. For example, if you used a car paint finish buffer you would face the risk of flakes of polyurethane getting under the pad and scratching the original finish. Unless you can patiently peel off the gloss coating a situation like this generally requires totally sanding the floor.

Pit marks after buff and coat of prefinished floor

Q: I had a 10 yr old glossy Bruce 3/4″ prefinished hardwoood floor screened and buffed a satin finish, now it looks and feels like there are pit marks on the floor. What could this be from and can it be fixed?

A: It is very difficult to impossible to adequately screen the coatings on these floors given their abrasion resistance. This is why a chemical treatment has been developed to gain adhesion. So I would be concerned about this coating peeling off at some point. What this pitting is I don’t know. Was the floor not thoroughly cleaned before the finish was applied?

Follow-up: I don’t know if it was cleaned properly. The same company did the same procedure, screened and buffed, three other rooms in the house and they all came out awesome; the difference is they were not prefinished.

Since the room involved is my daughters and she just moved back into it, she does not want to go through the aggravation of moving out of the room again, so will live with the floor as is for now. I guess it can be called the distressed look! Thank you for your reply.

Small, circular scratches in center of room

Q: After applying my first coat of stain (a dark walnut color) I immediately notice a wide range of small, circular scratches left behind from sanding. Obviously I must have rushed the sanding job or not have cleaned the floor properly between sandings. I would like to fix this problem before I put the sealer on. How long do I need to wait before I can resand over the area that I just stained?

A: Well, I don’t know what stain you used but over night should allow enough dry time to remove the stain and tend to the scratches. Are these marks restricted to the edges of the room or are they everywhere? What kind of wood floors are they? Hardwood or softwood?

Follow-up Q: Thanks for your quick response! The scratches are actually limited to the center of the room. The edges where sanded properly and don’t show any damage. The larger, orbital sander was used with low quality sandpaper, which bunched up in the center, creating creases and deeper cuts. I was wondering if the new stain would gum up the sanding screens since it’s so fresh. If you thinks it’s okay to sand it down again already I will give it a go.

A: I had a stain job go bad years ago. Every mistake and unwanted mark I work to avoid was there. And this is my work! So, I went home and burned my brain as to why this mess happened and how to fix it. The new cloth abrasives I tried were part of the issue. I went in the next morning with a roll of Norton 80 grit to cut sandpaper for my orbital sander for the edges and 80 & 100 grit screens for the polisher. I proceeded to remove as much of the stain as I could after which I vacuumed and water popped the floor to open the grain. When that was dry I stained using a reliable stain and it was perfect. I never use sand paper disks on the polisher except on parquet.

Follow-up: Lesson learned. I will take your advice and hopefully be able to fix these scratches. Thank you for your help with all of this. Very much appreciated!

Delaminating finish and stain coming up as well

Q: We bought a foreclosure a year ago which had lots of urine stains on the wood. The flooring contractor sanded everything down and patched where needed. The bare floors looked great. We had them use a dark stain and gloss water based poly finish. Again, everything looked great when done. A couple weeks later, we noticed a small round spot where the poly had come off. More spots appeared over the next several months. In most cases, the stain seemed to come up as well. Some spots were tiny, some up to 1 1/2 inches, mostly round but not all. They sanded the floors down and redid everything. 2 Weeks later, I’ve found 2 spots where it is starting again. What could be causing this?

A: This is very strange. Delaminating finish is one issue which can be explained by some type of contaminant on the floor or between coats which prevents adhesion. Stain coming off too is a different animal altogether because the stain does penetrate into the wood surface a little bit. It isn’t just something that sits on top of the wood like a coating, unless he used a tinted polyurethane. Can you tell me what stain he used?

Follow-up Q: Unfortunately not. When my contractor went to have the floors redone, the sub claimed not to have a record of the stain used initially. It was not a tinted poly. It was supposed to be two coats of ebony stain (brand not known), but we found a plain silver can afterwards that had written on it “plus 12 oz. black”. When they redid the floors, the color came out much lighter. My contractor had scheduled a different sub to come in and strip them down again and try to get the color right, but now we have these spots coming up again and don’t know what to do to prevent that. The original contractor argued that some outside contaminant might be being brought in either on our shoes or the dog’s paws. While the ongoing nature of it and the fact that the spots are mainly in traffic areas would tend to support this, the fact the most of the spots were perfectly round doesn’t, plus I don’t know what we could be tracking in that could do this. We don’t have any contact with anything that caustic or acidic. Also, there have not been any problems on the stairs, upstairs, or master bedroom, which are all entirely new wood. Is there anything they could have used on the old floors that would cause this?

A: While I’m not suggesting this caused the problem, I’m not a big fan of applying two coats of stain, especially when using very dark, heavily pigmented stains with more pigment added. If I want to achieve a darker version of the colour I will water pop the floor, which simply means wetting the surface and letting it dry to open the surface and allow better penetration. I tend to think as was mentioned, that a contaminant is being introduced. I was called in to refinish maple floors that somebody made a real mess of. Everything I did looked excellent until I applied the finish which still looked amazing except in areas where the finish was being repelled. The home owner turned his garage into a Harley man cave with plastic tiles on the floor. I walked back and forth constantly over this floor to get to my trailer. I asked if he treated these tiles with anything. Yes, Honda spray. And he had renewed the spray two days before I started work. So, that was the culprit. I was able to polish the floors, wet buffing with Poloplaz Tie Tac which removed the contaminant. Then I screened a recoated. I’m no so sure this will work for you because in this case your finish is peeling off. In my case the finish was repelled and didn’t form a film over the areas of contamination.

Follow-up Q: So that was something that was being tracked in during the refinishing process before the poly was applied?

They are talking about something being tracked on an ongoing basis after everything was finished. That’s part of the issue – that the de-lamination has gone on over a period of months. What type of situation could cause that?

A: When the finish is delaminating and pulling away from what is beneath it, clearly contaminants on the surface are irrelevant. The problem is what is beneath the finish. Someone or something could have walked a contaminant across the freshly sanded floor or over the stained floor before any finish was applied.

Another possibility I thought of as the previous email was leaving is the slight possibility, if the workers who did the job wore knee pads that had something on them. But you say two different crews did the work with the same results so this possibility is stretching the limits of probability. I generally try to look for the simplest, most obvious explanation first: something finding it’s way onto the floor before the finish was applied. That contaminant could be the heavily pigmented stain itself, especially if they used a water borne finish and the stain was not 100% dry. The solvents from the stain would not allow adhesion.

Removing glossy appearance of 4th coat

Q: I was told that adding a 4th coat of poly would look the same as 3, but I’ve found that the floor is more glossy, not the look of a hand rubbed finish it had with 3. Is there anything that can be done at this point to remove the glossy appearance?

A: It can happen that there is a slight difference between different batches of finish. When working with any sheen except gloss it is important to stir well so the flattening agent that takes away the shine is well dispersed throughout the product. The only thing you can do is give it another coat. This has nothing to do with it looking more shiny as you apply additional coats of finish.