Drying problems with the oil based poly

Q: After using B**** Coatings oil poly for years on floors without problems I was forced to return to D******* oil. Recently, I am experiencing drying problems with the oil based poly, in which I have cause to blame the company for changing the formula (to meet upcoming standards).

Have you heard any recent problems with the D******* poly on floors? Like not drying in ideal conditions, thus causing numerous problems? I may be forced to switch solely to waterborne, but worry about their past problems, like elasticity (too hard and cracking), not enough open time to apply and allow bubbles to pop, shelf life, etc. What do you think?

A: Isn’t our job great fun, especially when regulators start screwing with what is allowed? You are probably right in saying they have changed the formula. To meet EPA standards and lessen solvents the finishes will be drying more slowly.

I would recommend you contact Poloplaz and ask about Primero. You might also check out Floormasters on the web.

Using an oil based polyurethane over Zinsser finish

Q: We have 150 year old red oak floors with several coats of Zinsser Target clear epoxy based finish on them. We have been unable to find the same product and are thinking of using an oil based polyurethane over the existing finish.

Will it stick and not bubble or peel? What kind of prep is need prior to application?

A: I’m afraid I have no experience with this product. I would recommend contacting Zinsser.

You might perform a test spot in an inconspicuous place in the room. Rub the spot well with fine sand paper and apply a coat of finish and see what happens.

Can I buff the floors with a 220 and apply a semigloss coat over the satin?

Q: I have 3 coats of satin water based poly, over 1 coat of stain, on red oak floors. The satin finish is too flat. Can I buff the floors with a 220 and apply a semigloss coat over the satin?

A: 220 would be a good place to start. You don’t want to cut through the finish and remove patches of stain. 220 should be fine enough to be safe. Whether it will be coarse enough to buff the finish you are using I don’t know. Probably it will, but if not, then you would have to go with the next grit down which is 180.

Best finish for Cypress hard wood floors in home with dog and children

Q: I have Cypress hard wood floors and they are constantly getting scratches and dents due to the dog and children. I am having them refinished. What is the best finish to put on the floors to protect them? How many coats?

A: There is really only one solution to this problem. The dogs and children must go! Just kidding.

Any floor can be dented and any finish can and will get scratches. Some woods, even hard woods tend to reveal surface scratches more readily, such as maple. It’s very light natural colour and tight grain offer nothing in the character of the wood itself to hide these marks.

The harder the wood the more resistant it will be to denting and a floor finish itself will not alter this. Having said that, I include a short article from Poloplaz regarding finishing exotic woods. My usual approach is to apply 3 coats initially and another coat some time down the road to refresh the finish when it starts to get banged up.

Related Q: I am going to refinish my maple floors. I do have a dog. What would you recommend for a natural finish that will better withstand nail scratches? Could you also suggest the best how-to technique to accomplish this. I have never done this before, I have always had a professional refinish the floor, but money is tight so I am going to do myself.

A: I can’t give technique suggestions on sanding floors because this type of work requires a period of apprenticeship to become skilled. I use Poloplaz Primero which is a very tough finish. The problem with maple is while it is a harder wood generally, compared to oak, the grain is so thin, like pencil lines that there is nothing to hide nail impressions a heavy pet would leave in the floor.

Wet stain on unfinished floor

Q: We are in the middle of installing hickory hardwood floors. I’ve been covering up what he has laid with towels and sheets to somewhat protect it, but we have found a stain of some sort upon picking up the towels.

I suspect it is either dog urine, or a spot where a big wet dog laid down and some of it went through the towel onto the unfinished floor.

I’m afraid to do anything for fear of making it worse. Will sanding it take it out? Is there a product and technique I can use to remove it? Thank You.

A: Yes, sanding should be able to remove this. It is very likely just a surface stain.

Poly repelled from seams of sanded wood floor

Q: I just sanded some old floors that I installed about 20 years ago. I sanded them with 40 grit, 60 grit, 80 grit, then buffed it with 100 grit screen. Then I put golden oak stain from Minwax. After the second coat of Lenmar oil poly, I went to put third coat on and I noticed all through the house at the seams and the butt joints the poly looks dry and the middle of the board is shiny. It looks like I missed polying the seams. What could have caused this? I have picture if you would like me to text them to you.

A: Sounds like a contaminant. Were these floors waxed by chance? Because it can get into gaps between the boards and the solvent in the polyurethane causes it to bleed out and repel the polyurethane.

Q: We moved into a 50 year old house. Before moving our furniture in, I sanded the floors, applied several coats of Minwax oil-based stain, and applied three coats of Minwax polyurethane, also oil-based. Five months later, the polyurethane appears to be separating from the wood at the cracks between the planks in high-traffic areas and in some places the separation creeps toward the middle of the planks. The floor boards do move somewhat, but aren’t particularly unstable.

Is it common for the movement of boards when being walk on to cause this separation of the finish? Should the finish bond strongly enough to the wood to tolerate this? Maybe some contaminate is to blame? Is there any way to fix the problem spots so the bare wood isn’t exposed?

A: If the finish is peeling in the center of the board, you probably didn’t buff/scratch the previous coating enough to gain a good bond.

To fix it you will have to buff the finish down to the finish film that isn’t peeling. This will be tricky to do without removing the stain too. If it is just a couple of boards, maybe you can tape them off and just do those boards over.

Follow-up Q: The peeling doesn’t begin at the center of the board, it begins between boards where there is slight movement when the boards shrink in the winter. Only on some of the boards it spread from the cracks into the center of the board. Are you saying it’s common to see this issue at the cracks but if it spreads to the center it’s indicative of poor bonding? How can I tell if it’s just a layer of the poly peeling up or if its actually exposing bare wood?

Sorry for the persisting questions.

A: I wouldn’t say it is common to crack and peel at the edges. This could happen if there is serious shrinkage. The finish will only stretch so much and then it will fracture. But it won’t peel off the board unless there is a bonding issue.

Too thick coat of finish not drying

Q: Recently I restained our wood floors. Sanded, restained, then put poly on them. When we walk it leaves foot prints and there are some cloudy areas. What can I do to get rid of them

A: I’m not at all sure what is going on here. It sounds like a surface contamination. Was anything else wiped or applied after this work was completed? Perhaps something used on other wood work or furniture where a spray mist perhaps drifted down onto the floor? If that is the case you will need to use a cleaner to remove the contamination. Poloplaz has both a floor cleaner for general use and another for more serious issues called Tie Tac. If this is not the case and you have had no adhesion issues between coats, I would lightly but thoroughly sand down the final coat of finish, thoroughly clean up the fine dust and apply a thin coat with a roller using an excellent finish such as Poloplaz Primero satin finish.

Follow-up Q: When I put the final coat on I put it on thick and it seems soft as if it hasn’t cured yet. Will it harden eventually? Also it was a gloss not satin.

A: It will harden over time but I don’t believe it will ever be as tough as if you applied it at the recommended spread rate which is usually 500 sq. feet per gallon. I’d leave it for now and not even think of doing anything with it for at least a month. At some point later you may get a floor polisher and use 150 or 180 grit screens and buff it down really well before applying a thin coat. The edges will have to be sanded by hand. I use 120 grit for that on my hands and knees.

Follow-up: Thank you for the information. It has been a month but the weather has been all over the map. Hot cold rain etc. I will give it more time and then do as you suggested. Thank you again for taking time to answer.

Related Q: We put way too thick a coat of poly down on our refinished wood floor. It has been a week with the fan on it and it’s still not dry all the way through. The very top has set up but any weight and you sink down into the “un-set” part. Any trick to get this to totally dry?

A: Many finishes have a spread rate of 500 sq. feet per gallon. If you apply it at half that, 250 sq. feet per gallon, I could imagine it will take at least three weeks for this to harden enough to proceed. Lots of fresh air, warmth and time are all you have unless you want to sand it all off and start over. 3 Thin coats are always far superior than one thick one.

Do I need some type of finish on my newly uncovered pine floor?

Q: I have a floor that was installed in 1953, when a room was added onto the house. It has had linoleum on it since that time. The floor never had a finish and is a mellow golden color, being pine. Can I remove the floor covering and simply use the floor as is, or do I need some type of finish, and if so what type?

A: My only concern is that the floor has taken on the darker hue because of “tar” on the back of the linoleum. If that is the case, I would suggest sanding to clean wood. If this is not the case then you could apply 3 coats of polyurethane (I use and recommend Poloplaz Primero and Poloplaz Fast Dry Sanding Sealer) or if you prefer the look of oil, 4 coats of Waterlox tung oil finish.

You should treat the floor with something or it will eventually become discolored.

Polyurethane went bad?

Q: I had my floor professionally sanded, and then I stained it myself, and put a coat of water based poly on. Now the floor looks very dull and chalky. I waited 48 hours for the stain to dry before applying the 2 coats of poly. I did the same thing in another room 6 months ago, and that floor looks fine. I used the same container of poly. Is it possible the poly went bad in those 6 months?

A: I’m not sure. Is it possible when you first used the finish it wasn’t stirred up that much? I ask, because it sounds like now you have a lot of flattener in the finish making it appear matte.

All finishes have a shelf life of about a year. But it is my understanding that out of date generally affects the agents that control anti foaming and flow and not necessarily the integrity of the coating itself. You could try re-coating with Poloplaz 202, a 2 part water borne which has the cross linker built right into the finish so there is no product waste due to short pot life.

Follow-up: Thanks, I think you hit the nail on the head! I just finished applying a 3rd coat of poly out of a new container, and it already looks a million times better.

Chemical eating poly away; top coat of poly bubbling in two areas

Q: If a chemical eats through the top coat of poly would it also eat through the other 2 coats?

My hardwood contractor did a screen and added 1 coat of oil based poly to some hardwoods that were new in 2006.

There are two areas that have little bubbles popping up and you can scratch off to the next layer of poly. He believes this was something that was spilled or sprayed on after the re-poly and is eating poly away. Wouldn’t the chemical eat through all layers? Could this be caused by bubbles in poly or having heat on after refinishing?

A: I don’t believe this is caused by a chemical stripper. It could eat through more than one layer at a time, but regardless it does dry out and stop activating after a while. There could be some other contaminant on the floor, however, which is preventing proper adhesion on certain spots. Having warm air blowing directly on the finish when it has been first applied is not a good idea either and can cause bubbling because of the rapid set up and evaporation of the solvent.

Finishing hand scrapped floor

Q: I oil rubbed a hand scraped oak floor. The rough grain is dull, while the closed (smoother) areas are shiny. I need to make it look uniform. Less shine. Any thoughts? I am a flooring contractor, so I do have the equipment.

A: Well, of course the open grain, much softer than the surrounding wood will absorb more of any finish so you will require more coats. I would suggest going with a product such as Waterlox. You just mop it on with no need to wipe it off or buff it. It co adheres and builds.

Changing sheen of prefinished floor

Q: We are installing Pre-Finished Engineered Timber floor (Spotted Gum) in matte finish. But I really like the gloss finish look. Is it possible to polish the pre-finished floor boards again to get the gloss finish after installation? Any issues with applying a gloss polish on top of the existing matte finish? Please help. If possible, can you please recommend a product.

A: I definitely would not recommend attempting this. To have any chance of gaining adhesion the existing coating would need to be thoroughly abraded or scuffed with a fine abrasive. Or a chemical preparation can be used. Such a product can be purchased from Basic Coatings. it is a two part treatment. Also not inexpensive. These modern coatings are developed to be abrasion resistant. This floor also likely has a micro bevel on the edges and ends that would have to be treated so the finish doesn’t de-laminate or peel.

Faint wave noticed on floor after 3rd coat

Q: Wave showed up on a customer’s floor, no signs until the 3rd coat dried. It is only visible at certain angles and light. What do I do? I don’t know if the homeowner can wait for a refinish. Have a Trio and did a slower pass on the other rooms; staining them soon but will not know if they have waves until the final coat. Once the light is broken up with furniture I doubt they will be visible. The home owner has not noticed them. To mention or not, and discount or redo?

A: Any idea why you had this happen? What about a matte finish? Most people don’t like it and I wish everyone would. The lower the shine the better the hiding. If they haven’t said anything and you are this far along maybe it doesn’t bother them. It’s going to have to be your call. You are so far into it now. If you have to sand it again, you will need to do the ‘rough’ sanding on a bit of an angle to flatten out the hills.

As a side note, if you cannot even see the wave until the 3rd coat, they can’t be severe. We do try to be perfect even though that is not attainable. I know you are honest. You know your customer. I’ve had a couple of jobs when I told the customer whom I’d done a lot of work for in the past that I was not happy with the results this time. They were so pleased with me, they gave me a pass on it being a bit less than my best.

Follow-up Q: Thanks for the response. I don’t know exactly why they showed up this time, and yes they are very faint, nothing like some of the photos I’ve seen online. Just stinks putting all that work in and having a product that is not perfect. Going to start cutting on a 15 degree angle on the first pass from here on out regardless, can’t hurt.

A: Yup, I hear you. I’ve angle sanded the first cut on new floors myself. Just have to make sure to get all the scratches. Since moving to rural central Ontario 4 years ago I don’t see many new floors. I’ve installed 2 pine floors. Of the sanding I’ve done up here, 2 jobs were oak, one was ash and the rest were pine with one hemlock. Now that is frustrating wood to work with.

I don’t consider it possible to do an absolutely perfect flooring job. There are far too many variables. But there are good and really good and there is bad and really nasty bad. We don’t do those type of jobs!

Brazilian walnut finish is tacky

Q: I recently finished a remodel job on a one level home in Northeast Tennessee. The species of the wood is Brazilian Walnut. The troubles and learning experiences outweigh the cost of labor. The home had 1100 sq ft of pre-finished Brazilian Walnut in it already and I installed 300 sq ft of the unfinished. The pre-finished floors were 5/8 x 2 3/4 and the new unfinished wood I installed was over a sunken living room which I raised up to be level with the rest and made a picture frame design because I was unable to find the same floor. So the wood I installed is the 3/4 x 3 1/4 boards. Extremely heavy bundles! Sanding the pre-finished floors were impossible to do with the standard Norton Abrasive papers which were 36 grit. We special ordered the Norton Blaze and the Norton Red Heat and spent $480 on the paper alone and also added 35lb plate from weight bench set and tied it down on the Hummel. We eventually were successful in sanding the floor.

We put a sealer coat on, then applied a coat of Synteco 35 classic, matte finish. The next day I covered the floor to protect as I was finishing some crown, baseboard, and shoe base before the final coat. So a week later I finish the work, pull the paper up, buff the floor like I have always done for the past 15 years and applied the final coat of this tremendous product we use for the final coat. It is oil based and takes usually 8 hours to dry. I used to use Synteco for all coats even final coat but the fumes were starting to affect me and my cousin turned me on to this process of using just one coat of Synteco and using the Niles Black Bucket Super 95.

This process has yielded so many gorgeous floors and very happy customers. My problem now is, it’s now been 5 days since final coat applied and still tacky. I have learned the hard way about Brazilian Walnut. It’s definitely the toughest, heaviest and oiliest floor I have ever done. I’m wondering if I buff this floor eventually when it dries because it didn’t dry correctly and my roll marks are visible where I sectioned it off, which is the reason I love the final coat product, because how nice it evens out. Can I apply a water based finish if I get the oil based finish to come to a dust? The crazy thing is that the newly installed wood is flawless, it’s the pre-finished wood that’s still tacky. I have been looking for answers and solutions desperately, can you please help me?

A: I’ve not worked with Brazilian walnut (thankfully) but have worked with Jatoba. It was really heavy too. All these woods are oily. Poloplaz has one finish they recommend as a seal coat over these floors to block the oils. Prism is my memory is correct. Well, you are beyond that step now. It’s my experience that you can apply water borne over solvent or oil based. But you have to be sure all the solvents are out of the coating. I’ve had a few times where the finish appeared fully dry and ready for another coat. There was no tackiness. No heavy smell of solvent in the air. The finish powdered when screened. And when I applied the next coat, it wrinkled. Only a few times, but given the slowness in your case I’d give it extra time. Put some heaters or fans in the room if need be.

Prefinished floors are miserable to deal with because the coatings are abrasion resistant. The recommendation is to skim the coating with a 60 or 80 grit to break the surface. Then go to a rougher grit to flatten the floor and remove the rest of the coating.

Synteko! Oh man, I haven’t used those Swedish finishes in years. Very tough but the fumes are unbelievable. You could contact Poloplaz for information on a coating they recommend. Perhaps ask for Bill Jauernig. I use their Primero. The stuff is so consistent. I bet the floor with the boarder looked really good. I’ve only done a couple.

Removing bevels / grooves

Q: We have a ranch style home built in the 1940’s. The living room and dining room are both together. We want to refinish the oak hardwood floors, but the oak is tongue and groove, and there are grooves between each board.

My question is this: what is the best way to make them look as if there are no grooves?

A: If they are smaller grooves or what is called micro bevels they can be sanded off. It is a tough job though.

If they are large bevels from the 1990’s or earlier there isn’t much you can do but scrape and sand the bevels by hand during the process of renovating the floors.

Finish feels like sand paper

Q: I just had my floors re-finished, and new one’s installed. The floors felt as if they had a fine layer of dust all over. And there were lots of sanding marks. The installer returned and tried again. The floors are definitely better, and brighter, but still feel like there is a fine layer of dust (like sand paper). There are still visible sander marks everywhere and it is not a glossy finish. What do I do? The are 3/4 Red Oak with a Swedish finish.

A: If you can’t live with the excessive scratches, the floor will have to be sanded and finished over. Swedish finishes are tough, but extremely nasty to apply, and also nasty to remove. The best chance of hiding any flaws is with a low sheen finish.

Similar Q: We’re moving into an apartment soon. We just got the keys and went by the place. They were supposed to redo the floors. When we opened the door, the floors looked wet. I reached down to check it. It feels like sand. Are there additional steps they still have to do to finish it? Or am I stuck with gritty floor?

A: Sounds like they used Hi Gloss and a lot of grain raise. The floor will need to be thoroughly buffed or polished with a fine screen to knock down this roughness. After thorough cleaning of the floor, another coat will have to be applied. They need to make sure their finishes are clean also. I now work out of gallon cans and after every job I pour the left over finish from a plastic bucket through a strainer and back into it’s original container.

Will putting semi-gloss over the satin really match things up?

Q: I just installed Brazilian cherry floors, which were sealed with Duraseal semi-gloss ployurethane by the floor guy. The painter then sealed the Brazilian cherry handrails and stair treads with Magnalac satin lacquer.

I wanted the stairs to match the floor in terms of sheen. The painter said not to worry because the products are different, he’ll simply put a coat of semi-gloss over the satin, which should match things up. Is that true?

The satin staircase is duller than the floor!

A: It’s true. If another coat is applied to the stairs in the same sheen as the floors it will match.

Polyurethane peeling in some of the joints

Q: We had our hardwood floor sanded, stained and polyurethaned in May and now in March (less than a year) they are peeling in some of the joints, and the joints are now white in color. what would cause this and how is it fixed?

A: There are so many possible causes for this, without knowing what finishes they used, how they applied them, and a host of other elements I can only wager a guess. It sounds like during the heating season your floor, because of low humidity has shrunk a bit, and the finish cracked on the joints. The peeling is at the joints, not over the entire floor.

The fix is to have the floor buffed really well, paying close attention to board edges and apply another coat. Any gaps should be filled first. Try to keep a relatively stable relative humidity in the house.

Similar Q: I just had my 14 year old wood floors sanded and stained, and 3 or 4 coats of polyurethane applied. There is now peeling at the seams where the boards come together. The floor guy says it is because the floor gives when you step on it. Could that cause the peeling?

A: If there is significant flex the finish will stretch and then break and perhaps chip, but not peel. In my opinion a more likely reason for peeling on board edges would be contaminants such as wax bleeding up from between the boards, or if there is a lot of movement from one board to the next, the mans polisher probably went over top but missed abrading those edges and he hasn’t gained adhesion.

(After further correspondence…) 3rd A: The problem I am having with their explanation is that you can pull the finish off in the middle of the board with a piece of scotch tape. This is totally unrelated to the movement of the boards and would seem to indicate lack of adhesion in general across the floor. I have seen tape pull of the top layer of water borne, but I’ve never seen it happen to oil modified. However, when it happened it was because the workers taped the floor around the perimeter of the rooms soon after the coating was applied (not cured) and it was in place for days before they started trying to remove it. It wasn’t a case of applying a piece of tape and then pulling it off right away with the floor finish stuck to the tape.

I can’t question the ability or integrity of the company who did the work. After 35 years I know sanding, staining and finishing is so hard and technically difficult, sooner or later a job will go south. I would think that if they care about you, their customer, care about the type of work they do, and want to have a good reputation, they should try and make this right even if it means starting over. That really seems like the only option to fix this. Putting another coat of finish over top of one that is not adhering is not going to fix the problem.

You would probably be well served if you could find someone local to provide you a second opinion with a home visit.

Similar Q: What can be done about white lines in between boards of Walnut wood flooring?

A: Difficult to say. What caused the white lines? If the boards shrank and stretched/cracked off the finish you will need to control the environment and humidity or lack of it. A buff and re-coat may get rid of the lines.

Will applying additional coats correct fish eye bubbles?

Q: We attempted to apply a top coat of polyurethane on our old floor with a roller. It is full of bubbles. Will applying additional coats correct this?

A: You will have to rub this coat down really well to knock off the bubbles, especially so if they are fish eye type. Some finishes roll on very well but you must make sure there is no air movement across the floor for several hours after applying the finish so that it doesn’t set up too quickly and allows the finish to flow out smoothly.

Similar Q: Why does our floor have bubbles between most of the floor boards, after it was recently refinished?

A: Is this just bubbles or actually beads of finish on board edges?

Bubbles can appear if the solvent is evaporating too quickly. This can happen, for example, if there is a sky light or a lot of window exposure with direct sun light heating the floor. Best to cover the windows while coating.

Polyurethane coating is flaking

Q: We have a guest house with pine floors. I have sanded them, applied and oil base stain, then went over them with a polyurethane. I applied about 4 coats of poly in 7 days time. The floors looked great for about a month (they weren’t even walked on) and we had a cold snap in weather. I noticed my floors had almost a frost look to them and they were flaking like crazy. Can I just buff the floors with a screen and redo the poly in a day instead of a week? I am learning that I should not of let them dry that long between coats. The floor scratches like crazy.

A: If the coating is flaking seriously you will have to start over. It’s likely you have flaking between all the coats between the first and second all the way up to the fourth. What you have here is lack of adhesion. Adhesion is attained between coats by applying a coat of polyurethane, allowing it to dry and then thoroughly buffing or abrading the coating with a fine abrasive. Essentially you are applying a fine scratch to the finish to allow the next coat to grab. This has to be done between each coat. You will know if a coat of finish is dry enough to proceed if it turns to a fine powder as you buff it and you aren’t having the finish roll of in little strings or clogging the abrasive. 3 coats of finish initially on a stained floor is plenty to start with.

Follow-up Q: Can I do this with just a screen buffer? I am thinking that a sander is to much. I don’t want to pull off the stain.

A: You can certainly attempt it as a last ditch effort before going the extreme but necessary route of total resand. The difficulty is you don’t know for sure on where the peeling starts. Is it failing from the second coat up? You will likely have to screen it fairly heavily, removing a lot of the finish and so there is a very real risk of cutting into the stain with the screen.

Related Q: We have white lines where the polyurethane looks like it is flaking off. The floor was stained with Miniwax and an oil based polyurethane. The main areas of stain were applied at least five days before any polyurethane was applied. The polyurethane was applied in three consecutive days. We have been using a cleaner that contains ammonia and washing the floors every two weeks. Could this have caused the white lines? If not what could be the cause?

A: It sounds clearly to me you don’t have adhesion between coats. This is achieved by thoroughly buffing each coat, that is scratching and deglossing prior to applying another coat. It is really a mystery to me why you waited so long to start applying the finish coats on the stain and why you would be using such a strong cleaning solution in the meantime. Preparation is everything. Clean environment. Good temperatures. It seems clear to me this has not been professionally done.