Wanting little to no shine

Q: I just had my red/white oak hardwood floors stained with 2 coats of ebony/dark walnut. They are a really nice, dark, rick color. My floor guy uses Masterline poly in a satin finish. I am wanting little to no shine. I cannot find much information on this product. Is this a good product to use on really dark floors? Will there be any shine to their satin?

A: A satin is a low luster. Perhaps you really want matte which is zero shine. Who manufactures the product isn’t really that relevant to this issue.

Buff after last coat?

Q: I did a refinish and 3 coats of oil based polyurethane. I was wondering when I go to buff after the last coat 1) How long do I wait? and 2) Should I use a wax? What kind if so?

A: After the last, 3rd coat of oil based polyurethane you don’t buff again. You are finished. When the floor is dry you can carefully put furniture back in place. Don’t wax on top of polyurethane coatings.

Fish eye bubbles in epoxy coating

Q: My builder was required to resand and recoat my timber floors with a full gloss epoxy coating. This is his third attempt due to what I believe are fish eyes appearing. I told the builder the biggest mistake he made was painting over silicone that was used around the base of the kitchen joinery.

With his third attempt at recoating he removed the silicone, but fish eyes reappeared and reappeared in different locations. He has now contaminated the entire floor area and cannot get a contaminate free finish. Do you agree with my assessment, and if so, what do you recommend he do to get a quality finish?

A: I’ve never used an epoxy coating on a wooden floor and can’t even imagine the nightmare of trying to do so. This is not a usual product to apply to a floor.

I agree with your assessment regarding the silicone. Nothing is going to adhere to that.

Fish eye bubbles are generally caused by air flow across the floor while applying the coating and not from contamination. This causes far too rapid evaporation of the solvent before the finish has even settled down. All windows and doors need to be closed initially.

Webmaster’s note: This reminds me of a question we got where the home owner had accidentally contaminated the floor job with over spray from the cleaners they used on the cabinets. This also involved fish eyes.

Best way to get rid of swirl marks

Q: I need to know the best way to get rid of swirl marks in the oak hardwood floor that we’re refinishing. I believe we may have used too harsh of a sand paper to start, because we had old shellac that didn’t want to come off. We tried to get rid of the swirl marks and it looked good until we applied the stain. Should we use a drum sander or 4 disc orbital sander? Do we go back to 36 grit, 60 grit, 100 grit, or do we need to start with 120, then 150, 180?

A: First of all I understand your issue with the shellac. It naturally contains wax. When wax heats up it smears. The last one I did was so bad I had to hand scrape the entire bedroom floor before sanding it.

Having said that, when staining the last and finest grit you want to use is 100. Going finer than this and you close the wood surface so much you don’t get any stain penetration. Next, a paper disc, say 80 grit is going to be more aggressive than an 80 grit screen mesh. At this point you have only stained the floor. You want to remove as much of the stain as you can and the scratches. I would probably go with 80 grit paper disc on a polisher or the multi disc machine. Then finally screen the entire floor with 100 grit screen. You can do the edges with an orbital sander, 4″X8″ with 80 grit sandpaper before screening. If there are some scratches that are very deep, you can scrape them out with a hand scraper first before the screening.

If this is a darker color you will have better success if you first water pop the wood before staining. Wet but don’t soak the floor after vacuuming. Don’t miss any spots. This will open the grain and allow deeper, more consistent stain color. Make sure it is dry before staining and don’t scuff your shoes on the floor while staining. If it is a light color you can skip this step.

Yellow streaking after 3rd coat

Q: My daughter had her floor sanded and recoated. After the first two coats everything looked great. The contractor said he wanted to add a 3rd coat so they said okay.

After the 3rd coat yellow streaking showed up when it was dry. Mostly at all the seams. Why would this happen?

A: I would say they have used a water borne coating. Who is the manufacturer of the finish? Perhaps this is a tannin reaction.

Duller finish in touch-up area

Q: I recently applied 3 coats of oil-based poly from *****, clear satin, to my new red oak floors. The poly looked good, but there were a few isolated areas that needed to be refinished, where poly had pooled a little and formed a small line/berm.

I applied the poly initially from a 5 gallon drum. I sanded and used poly from a 1 gallon container, same clear satin as the 5-gallon container. The touch-up areas came out a little duller than the surrounding areas.

I have sanded and tried to touch-up 3 times now, but consistently getting duller finish in touch-up area. I have tried different sanding grits between 100 and 220 with same duller results. Wondering if 1 gallon container will result in a duller finish than 5-gallon container, even though they both say fast drying clear satin?

A: All finishes except gloss contain a paste to dull the finish which has to generally be mixed in and tends to settle on the bottom of the pail. It is likely you had the product mixed more thoroughly in the gallon an than the five gallon and this is why you are getting a duller shine when using it.

The best finish I’ve used to avoid this problem is Poloplaz Primero. While you can’t get it in gallon cans anymore but only in 1 quart pouches, they came up with a way in manufacturing to keep that flattening paste suspended in the product so very little mixing is needed to achieve a consistent shine level. If you are doing areas larger than a gallon for example (spread rate is 500 feet per gallon) it’s always a good idea to mix what is needed into one container. Primero goes on great with a brush to cut in the edges and a roller for the main area of the floor.

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.

Related Q: I made a huge mistake and hired a bad contractor to refinish my hardwood floor, he absolutely messed it up!! It’s not evenly shiny and you can see sanding marks. Also when you walk over it socks get stuck, because he left debris underneath. It looks like he didn’t even clean it at all..

My question is how can this be fixed and how expensive would it be? Can I do it myself?

A: The only way to deal with sanding marks really is to start over from scratch. Applying a low shine finish will tend to hide things like this while shiny finishes are like putting a spotlight on it and asking everyone to ‘look at this’. The problem of debris can be corrected by lightly sanding the finish. I would use 120 grit sand paper to rub down the edges and a polisher with screen discs, probably 180 or 150 grit to sand the main area. The idea is to knock down the coating without going to bare wood. Then clean properly, thoroughly before applying another thin coat (500 sq. feet per gallon usually). Windows should be closed until the finish has set up. Doing this job does take quite bit of skill with the equipment and experience in all aspects of the work. I do think a homeowner could pull off a buff and coat if they were careful. No areas can be missed in this buff and recoat or the finish would likely peel off.

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.