2nd Coat of polyurethane rough and grainy

Q: We sanded, stained and oil based polyurethaned a wood floor with 2 coats. We did not sand between 1st and second coat. 2nd Coat dried rough and grainy looking. We sanded second coat. Smooth but still grainy looking. Do we need to start over? All 5 rooms look like this (put 1st coat down day 1 and put 2nd coat down the next day). Have not applied 3rd coat. Can this be fixed without sanding down to bare wood again. Would attach picture if I could.

A: Roughness can be caused by rough preparation in sanding, grain raise or debris in the finish for example. A light but thorough sanding with fine abrasive should take care of this issue. The floor needs to be completely vacuumed and wiped down to remove all dust and debris. I’m not certain what you mean by grainy. I’ll take a guess. If you are working with oak for example that has a heavy grain pattern the finish will soak into that much more than the surrounding wood. The grain is much softer. Finishes have a spread rate they should be applied at, generally about 500 sq. feet per gallon. Applying thick coats is a bad idea. The heavy grain is really part of the wood species. If you are trying to duplicate the look of a factory finished floor where they boast multiple coats of finish, don’t. The process is much different and all done by machine.

One more coat should make a difference if you follow what I said above. I wouldn’t use rougher than 120 grit to rub the edges. If you have access to a polisher, I would try 180 grit screens and work down if you need to. Be careful not to cut through and remove the stain.

Moisture cure still off-gassing

Q: Hello, I have had Toby Lustapol oil polyurethane put on a timber floor. It is coming up to 3 weeks and is still off-gassing. We also notice when moving furniture there are marks left where it sat? Could you advise what these marks might be? The marks look as if you left a drink on a wooden table.

It has been below 20degress Celsius and around 10-15 at night here since the floor was coated. The floor was newly installed with barrier seal applied and 2 top coats.

A: I’d never heard of the product but looked it up. It is moisture cure. It should be tough when cured, but nasty to work with. The finish dries by exposure to moisture. If the air is too dry it will greatly retard drying and curing. You may need to set up a humidifier. Have you contacted the manufacturer or the people who sold you this product?

Some boards flaking when sanded

Q: We’ve just had Tasmanian Oak floors successfully and beautifully sanded and polished. The kitchen, however, proved a problem. We discovered it to be old outdoor pine. When he started to sand it started to flake. He gave it a go but some boards continued to flake. He refused to continue, advising us to go for vinyl for a couple of years, after which we intend to extend the area and will replace the floor boards in that area. Is there any way to rescue this pine floor?

A: Some boards are flaking but not all. Doesn’t your floor guy think after several coats of polyurethane it would help to stiffen the floor surface? The only other alternative is to replace the boards but then they won’t look like the old ones.

Follow-up Q: Thanks for your response. Our guy was adamant that the rest of the floor wouldn’t stand up to any more sanding. He said that putting polyurethane on would only encourage more flaking. Thanks again. I just wanted to get a few other opinions.

A: The initial coat of polyurethane will aggravate sliced, lifting grain and splits in the board. However, after the initial coat, if such raised bits can be cut off, perhaps the cut edge filled over with wood filler and lightly sanded it should improve the spots. Maybe it’s not pine but hemlock. That wood is notorious for this condition.

Covering matte finish with glossy

Q: About 7 years ago we put down carbonized vertical bamboo flooring with a glossy finish, which we now can’t find. We want to put it down in 2 bedrooms, but can’t find any with the gloss finish, just matte. Can we buy the matte finish product and cover it with glossy polyurethane? Can we use a spray product, or would we need to brush on? Help!

A: You will have to completely buff the old coating with a fine to medium abrasive so the finish will bond. I would recommend a really good quality polyurethane such as Poloplaz Primero. It rolls on really well.

Where can I find little round pegs/disks

Q: I just had a 40 year old floor refinished. At the beginning and end of each piece of wood is a little round peg. During the sanding several of the pegs came out and disappeared. Where can I find the little round pegs/disks please?

A: Often these pegs were 3/4″ diameter. You might find a flooring retailer who has some but more than likely you won’t. However, you can buy a dowel cutter at hardware or building supply stores. They come in different sizes for cutting different sized dowels. It is used with a drill. Then all you need is the same type of wood as the peg to cut one.

https://www.homedepot.ca/en/home/p.14-inch-plug-cutter.1000657063.html

These come in different sizes and is what you will need.

Wave or chatter marks?

Q: Thanks for allowing us to write questions to you. I just had hardwood floors installed in 3 rooms of my home, and asked them to resurface the kitchen and hallway which already had hardwood. After 3 days, I entered the home to find that there was a wave pattern throughout all 4 rooms, now even on the one that didn’t have the problem originally.

I called the contractor, and he saw the pattern (which runs perpendicular to the direction he sanded: the length of the boards). He told me though that he didn’t know what caused the problem. He has been in business for over 20 years, and this was hard to believe! I thought that maybe putting a satin finish on top would reduce the visual effect of the waving. He said he couldn’t guarantee sanding would fix it or the satin finish (he originally used semi-gloss).

He used a machine that uses 22V, and it is a belt sander. It’s hard to understand how the pattern could be so cyclical perpendicular to the direction he sanded. How can irregularities in the machine cause the waves to line up perpendicular to the direction he sanded? Not intuitively obvious.

Thanks for your consideration in answering my concerns.

A: There are a couple of issues that from time to time can cause issues in sanding floors. One is more severe than the other. One has a likely cause from vibration. The other is more than likely an equipment issue. The lesser issue is called chatter which denotes very fine, closely spaced ripples. You can see this at times on lumber you purchase because the board vibrates as it goes through the planer. The more serious condition is indeed called the wave, is much more pronounced than chatter and is spaced much further apart, say every 8″. He may have had some debris on one of the sander wheels so that with every revolution of the wheel the machine gives a slight shudder. Or he has an issue with his drum, pulley’s or shaft. The only way to eliminate it is to completely sand the floor again with the initial sanding being on an angle of say 20 degrees or so to flatten the floor. If the floors were simply sanded in the direction of the wood the drum on the sander would simply follow the contour of the floor and the wave would get worse.

Similar Q: Wondering whether chatter or waves.. can I send you a picture? The company installed new wood in some rooms and tied in to existing wood. All have these marks now. They redid the floor, taking off a very thin layer. I could not feel any difference to touch. It looks better, but the marks are still there.

A: You can send a picture. Chatter are like little ripple lines closely spaced. Waves are more like 10 inches apart. Chatter for the most part is not severe and for the most part is a vibration issue. the wave is more likely an equipment issue.

[after seeing pics:]

This is not chatter which is spaced very closely together like ripples. This is it’s cousin it looks like to me. This is called ‘the wave’. There is likely some issue with the sanding machine. It could be debris on one of the wheels, something out of balance with the drum or pulleys. Notice how the dig marks are fairly evenly spaced. So there is a shake which occurs at the same intervals. Aside from correcting the problem with the equipment to remove this the floor has to be sanded first on a bit of an angle, say 20-30 degree. If they just go straight up and down the floor the drum will simply follow the existing contour of the floor and these marks will become more pronounced.

Difficulty sanding hickory floor

Q: We are in the process of having our hickory floors oil stained with a water base finish. The contractor sanded to 100, water popped, then put on the stain. The application of stain has made the wood peel and separate. He tried to patch and re-stain which made it worse. He has now pulled out the board and put in a new board, sanded/stained — but it looks horrible as you can see overlap marks. He went ahead with the 3 coats of water base finish over past couple of days. Now I am seeing more board split. This is a split in the board, not the finish cracking. What could be causing this and how can we prevent? I am also very unhappy with the amount of swirl sand marks and spots which appear to have too much finish or debris under finish. How do you suggest we handle these concerns? Am I being to picky, are these normal and to be expected? Thanks for your help!

A: Is this a new hickory floor, because it sure sounds like it. Hickory can react a lot to changes in humidity and temperature and some woods have a natural tendency to do things such as this. Not every board, but assorted ones, here and there. Other than dealing with the boards that this happens to, try to maintain a stable indoor environment. As to the swirls unfortunately everything involved with sanding and finishing wood floors involves scratching. Scratching the wood and then scratching the coatings. The key is to try to minimize those marks so they don’t show. Since he is using a water based coating he may want to try intercoat buffing with these new abrasive pads Norton came out with a few years ago, designed to buff water based coatings and not leave swirls.

Follow-up Q: Thanks for your response. The swirl marks are in the wood, not the finish, though around the edges of the finish he hand sanded and those are much more obvious. I have already discussed with him correcting the scratches in the finish, though my main concern was the swirls in the wood before the stain was applied.

Part of the floor is new and part is 10 years old. Most of the splitting is occurring in the 10 year old boards. The contractor has suggested cutting out the part that is splitting and filling with wood filler vs. removing the whole board. Is that a common way to correct this issue? We are the original owners of the house and never had any of the boards split previously. The contractor told us it was because we water popped and stained them where previously we had an oil base natural finish.

What do you recommend for “stable”? Our house is all electric so we generally don’t run heat or air unless absolutely necessary so we rarely maintain a constant 70 degrees. It may be 73 during the day and 63 by early morning.

Thanks for your help!

A: Hickory isn’t very common in Canada so I’m responding more from general principles and the knowledge of hickory I do have. Because this wood is so hard and dense it is quite a challenge. Extreme attention would have to be paid especially to the perimeter to remove edger scratches or reduce them to not obvious when standing up. For me that means strapping on knee pads with flash light in hand and using either an orbital or random orbital sander, crawl around the entire perimeter hunting down these scratches which hide until you apply stain. I use 80 grit for this. This is why I use a flash light.

So, it sounds like the contractor wasn’t able to see these marks or didn’t spend enough time hunting them down. I almost hate to say that given what he must have faced doing the work. Woods like this can be prone to splitting, especially if it is a lower grade. I understand it is difficult to season hickory. You may not have seen any cracks in 10 years but over that time this floor was likely drying and just waiting to be disturbed. To me, this splitting indicates drying issues, not too much moisture. So, he started sanding which not only creates vibration but also generates heat. Perhaps this is what has persuaded these boards to act up. I don’t think the worker can be blamed for that. I also don’t think water popping or staining has anything to do with it. He didn’t flood the floor, just wet the surface. Likewise, these stains don’t really penetrate beyond the surface. Using wood filler is okay for minor issues like small cracks and nail holes. Anything beyond that and I think the board should be changed. I don’t like saying it, but he is probably going to have to give this floor another go.

Related Q: We have several boards splitting after installation of new Hickory floors. I have been reading comments that these may have been present, but invisible, at the time of installation. Would this then fall into a manufacturing defect category since it would not have been visible to the installer and only appeared later? Would these boards have split regardless of constant humidity levels in the home?

A: I would consider them factory defects. By this I’m not implying somebody messed up in the process, but as you say the makings of the splitting were already inherent in the board but not yet visible. They were bound to appear sooner or later, especially with a species like hickory which, being a very hard wood has a tendency to move a lot.

One area of floor remains dry after multiple coats of finish

Q: I poly’d my floor with 3 coats, but in one section it was dry. I went over it again and it’s still dry. What should I do?

A: Did you buff or sand after each coat of finish? After applying the first coat on bare wood it would be spotty and maybe a little rough. Sanding it lightly with a fine abrasive would smooth it and help close the surface. With each coat you should see marked improvement with the finish build. 3 coats is generally plenty. Was this applied to a floor which has been sanded to fresh wood, removing all previous coatings? If so, perhaps that area that appears dry may not have been sanded smoothly? If this finish is applied over already existing coatings it may be there was contaminants on the surface which are actually repelling the finish. If this is the case you would have to wet buff with a polisher, maroon or white pad while spraying a cleaner such as Poloplaz Tie Tac to remove contaminants. Worst case the floor has to be done over again from scratch.

Polyurethane wrinkling due to environmental issues?

Q: We had our floors refinished, and the second coat of polyurethane bubbled and cracked everywhere we had oak (there was pine in the kitchen). The first coat went on fine, but the second coat looked awful. The contractor said it was our fault because the baseboards were off so it was too humid (they were off before they started). We fixed the baseboards, put foam in the cracks to the exterior, turned on the heat for a few days, and they are still having trouble. The guy said he would sand it and re-do it one more time and then abandon the project because it’s an environmental problem not his problem. Is there nothing else we or he can do to make this work?

A: What do you mean by cracking? Do you mean it has raised edges that look a bit like alligator skin? If so, this is called wrinkling. It is caused when a coat of finish is applied over a previous coat which is not sufficiently dry. The solution would be to make sure it is warm enough for a typical finish to dry over night. That would be 70 degrees at least. High humidity can also slow drying. It’s winter. I wouldn’t think that would be an issue. The floor would have to be well dry and then aggressively screened with a polisher and abrasive screen pad. That is assuming I am understanding what you describe. I find it hard to believe not having the baseboards in place is responsible for this. The first coat went on fine as you say. So, it sounds like there was a reaction between the first and second coat as I mentioned above.

Follow-up Q: Wrinkling sounds right. When the first coat went on Wednesday two weeks ago it was like 60-70 degrees with low humidity (Houston, TX) and then when the second coat went on Friday the temp dropped and there was a lot of rain/humidity. They scoured off some of the wrinkled coat of polyurethane yesterday and then put another test coat on yesterday after we had the heat on and it started wrinkling almost immediately.

He said he’s going to give it a few more days with the heat on and do another test of polyurethane and if that doesn’t work he’ll go with a wax finish instead (as opposed to abandoning the project now..). I think you’re probably right about the first and second coat reacting, but it sounds like this is the first time this has happened to that guy in 10 years and he doesn’t really know how to handle it. I’m a little nervous about the wax finish, but we really just need to get into the house and I’m sure it’ll look nice.

Thanks for your feedback! I was finding it hard to believe as well that there were “environmental” conditions that he couldn’t work around.

A: If it is going to wrinkle it will happen immediately. Is there a basement under this floor or a crawl space? I’ve heard Texas is really getting punished. Flooding, and then major snow storm? If you have cold air coming from under the floor it can take several weeks to dry unless you have a heated floor or a heat source under the floor. He may need heat and a bit of ventilation also because this means there likely is still a small amount of solvent left in the coating. While not always the case, generally if the finish is dry enough to recoat it will powder when the first coat is buffed. If it isn’t dry enough the finish will roll off as tiny clumps.

How to sand, stain and finish pine flooring

Q: We’re installing pine flooring. I’ve searched your site and can’t find your recommendation for the proper sanding – staining – finishing technique. Should the floor be sanded prior to staining? What type of stain? What type of finish? I’m a newbie to wood floors..

A: All wood needs to be sanded prior to staining and finishing. Pine can be challenging because it is so soft and the sand paper can leave scratches, especially with the edger. I’d probably start with 50 grit on the big sander. 60 grit on the edger. 80 grit on the big sander. 100 grit on the edger. Finally 100 grit on the big sander. I prefer a random orbital sander rather than orbital because it tends to leave fewer marks. any abrasive that picks up some pitch or resin, even a tiny particle will leave squiggle marks. Special attention needs to be given to the edges, hunting down and removing fine edger scratches. I use 80 grit on the random orbit sander for this. I also generally go over the entire floor with this tool. Then proceed as normal. Vacuum and stain. I like Dura Seal Quick Coat. It dries reliably and contains some polyurethane resin. Love Poloplaz Primero polyurethane. it is a tough finish that dries well and cures fast.

Missed a couple spots coating with poly

Q: Our wood floors have had new poly top coat. There are a couple of places that appear were missed (part of one board). How do I correct this? Since it is still bare and recently sanded and cleaned is it as simple as brushing over the missed area with poly?

A: I think I would lightly but thoroughly sand with a fine abrasive the entire board affected. Clean off all the dust and then apply painters tape on all 4 joints, 2 end joints, 2 side joints. Apply a thin coat of finish and remove the tape immediately.

Repairing factory finished floor defects

Q: I live in an apartment with prefinished hardwood floors recently installed throughout. The floors are solid maple with a factory applied satin finish. On two of the boards in one room, but nowhere near each other, I have some pretty bad flaking off. It’s of the entire finish, all of the way down to bare wood in a couple of small strips, going with the grain. I know for a fact that no damage has been done to these boards and one of them has always been covered with an area rug. It is pretty obvious to me that this is a factory defect in preparation and most likely this was one bad boards that has been cut and placed in the same room as one of the damaged pieces is quite short. I would like to repair the damage myself prior to moving out because my landlord is crazy and I know he will blame me for this. The chipped areas are small enough that they could be filled but I am having a hard time finding a way too match the texture of the sprayed on satin finish. I am also not sure what type of finish would be best for filling in these chips. Thank you for your advice!

A: Nothing you could do would match the existing look from the factory. So, without some spare boards from the box so you could remove the damaged boards I don’t know what to suggest. It sounds to me you are correct that it is a defect from the factory.

Keeping temp up in house while refinishing

Q: I just refinished the wood floors in my 1920s house. I was told to keep the heat at 75 during to process, which is now over. I am in CT and outdoor temps are anywhere from 10-40 this time of year. I normally leave the house at 62 during the day when I am not home and bring it up to around 68 when I am. Humidity is reading inside at 16-24 depending on the day. It has been about 26 hours since the floors were finished. Should I still keep the temp up in the house? If so, for how long?

A: You needed the extra warmth to help the finish dry. But 60 to upper 60 is fine. Since the finish is dry, the curing or final hardening process is achieved simply due to exposure to fresh air.

Flaking polyurethane finish

Q: We recently refinished the 1700 sq ft of red oak wood floors in our home. It had been a prefinished floor when initially installed, so it was a bear to sand down, but we got it done. We sanded them well, vacuumed and wiped them before applying stain. We stained with oil based stain then put on 4 coats of oil based varathane polyurethane. Now, just weeks later the floors are flaking in small areas and in between boards. How can we fix this? Thanks!

A: Question: given that this was factory finished, did you sand it down until the bevels disappeared? Or, if they were large bevels, did you hand scrape the existing finish off each one? If not, that could account for the flaking finish. Adhesion issues generally fall into two categories: contamination issues and insufficient inter-coat abrasion. In other words, if the previous finish application is not thoroughly abraded with a fine abrasive you may fail to gain good adhesion. You are likely going to have to start the entire process over because you likely can’t know at what stage the adhesion issue begins: between the 2nd and third coats? Maybe between every coat? If you attempted to screen most of the finish off it would be near impossible not to disturb the stain. 4 coats sounds like a bit of over kill also. By piling on too many coats at once, you impede the time for the previous coats to cure. If I used a stain containing urethane resin such as Dura Seal quick coat, I would stain and apply 2 coats of poly. Other stains I would apply 3 coats.

Follow-up Q: Yes, we sanded down beyond the bevelled edge, so the floor was completely even. We sanded with 20 grit, 40, 60, 80, then 100. We followed the directions on the varathane can, which stated we needed 3 coats at minimum, but more was preferred. The thought of starting over makes me sick, but if that’s what needs to be done, so be it. Is there a better finish we should be using? We have many scratches already (though we knew some would be inevitable, as we have a large Labrador). Thoughts on tongue oil? Thank you for your advice.

A: For a polyurethane finish I’ve never used one better than Poloplaz Primero. It’s tough and easy to work with. Waterlox is a nice tung oil finish, though somewhat expensive. While not offering the hardness of a polyurethane it is very easy to refresh it.

Screening to apply matching sheen

Q: I have a newly installed red oak floor in my kitchen. The first 3 coats of finish were semi-gloss and matched the hardwood floor in the adjoining hallway. The flooring contractor put a 4th coat on, because the finish was marred during the rest of the kitchen remodel. Unfortunately, he used satin for the last coat and now it doesn’t match my hall. The satin seemed to lighten the floor slightly. He wants to fix it by screening the satin and applying another coat of semi-gloss. I didn’t think it would match the hallway with out completly removing the satin. Am I wrong?

A: No, there is no need to totally remove the previous coating to change the shine. Buffing is required generally which creates fine scratches and causes inter coat adhesion. The shine level is determined by the finish that is applied last, not by what is beneath it.

Sanding methods for wood floors

Q: Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you yet about how the floor turned out, I got really busy. What I did was exactly what you told me and it turned out great. I rented a sander from Lowe’s that took 3 round pads and rotated like an orbital sander. I used 80 grit paper and sanded the floor and because I had stained the floor. What it revealed to me was how horrible a sanding job I did using the drum sander. I thought I was very careful not to have the “bump” marks from setting it down or reversing directions. As a result I was able to tell when the sanding was even and smooth as the stain disappeared leaving the floors very smooth. I then used an orbital sander around the edges and after vacuuming I “water popped” the floors. After the floor dried I applied stain and it took the stain evenly, they turned out awesome.

What sanding method would you recommend when I do this in the future? I chose to use the drum sander because I thought it would remove the old finish faster and give me a decent finish however, after seeing how it looked when I sanded with the orbital sander the floor was really uneven. What are your thoughts?

A: I’m happy the rescue process I came up with worked for you too. In my case I had 2 issues that contributed to a real mess. It wasn’t my old drum sander. I was trying some cloth abrasives. They are very thick, heavy and stiff and they left awful marks. And the stain I used failed. This is very difficult work, technically and physically. You never know what you are going to face with each floor. The machine you used I assume was rental, 115 volt. You couldn’t rent what I use, 230 volt sander with belts. Regardless, I use aggressive equipment and it takes practice to get good results. Abrasive selection is important too. First, I don’t really like aluminium oxide (generally red). They don’t hold an edge. Silicon carbide is better (black). Some guys just start out with 36 grit regardless of what the floor condition might be. That is far too coarse in many cases. Basically I use the finest abrasive practical for the initial sanding. Generally not rougher than 40 grit. On natural, not stained floors I finish with 80 grit. Stain jobs always go to 100 for the final sanding and not finer than that. I hand scrape the corners and run either an orbital sander or random orbital on the perimeter to remove edger marks and also the shading line where the big sander stops along the walls. I fine edge and then final sanding with the big sander which leaves a shading line, not a trench! I have to use a flash light too when orbital sanding because scratches hide. I finish off by screening with a polisher and 100 grit screen. Water pop and stain after vacuuming. Those are general guidelines. Keep in mind also that if you hit a lot of nail heads when sanding it scores the abrasive which will leave lines or fine grooves in the floor. Not a good thing. Punch down the nails and change the abrasive. There is a lot involved in this work as I’m sure you know. It’s one of the reasons I don’t take people’s suggestion to wear head phones playing music. No, I need to be paying close attention, even to the sound the machine is making.

Floors still tacky after 12 days, finish not drying

Q: We just had our floors sanded and refinished and they still feel tacky after 12 days. The finish was oil based polyurethane (DuraSeal). Our house is in Hawaii at the top of a mountain where the rainfall is very high, but I do not know our relative humidity percentage. Our flooring contractor is telling us to open the doors every day for the next week to let it air out more, then move in and see how it feels in a month or two. I had another very respected flooring contractor come and look at it and he said oil-based polyurethane was the wrong finish for where we live and that it might not ever dry. He recommended a re-sanding and using a water based (or combination) finish. In addition to the tackiness, there are lap marks from the squeegee and blistering (looks like air bubbles and feels rough like sand paper) in some areas. We have been out of our house for three weeks now and are extremely frustrated. Hoping the stickiness will go away, but refuse to move back in with it sticky. We can afford to stay our another week, but fear it might be futile to wait any longer. So my questions are 1) if it still tacky after 12 days, is it likely for it to ever dry? and 2) Is there anything short of re-sanding and finishing that we can do to solve the problem?

A: Okay, so it has been 12 days and it is still sticky. And it’s rough. So the really bad news is no matter what, it will have to all be buffed down and coated again to fix those issues. Is a solvent based finish the wrong choice for the environment? Not necessarily. Not all finishes are created equal and some dry much better under difficult circumstances than others. Water borne coatings can have issues of it’s own in high humid conditions.

I have seen solvent based coatings as wet the next day as when first applied in cool, rainy conditions where the house had trees draped all over it. This means high humidity. However, opening the windows solved that issue. The coating was dried the following day. The only time I’ve seen tacky floors after more than a week is when a very old floor which has been waxed for years is finished with a solvent based coating. There is wax between the boards which won’t come out and the solvents in the finish soften it and reacts with the finish. Even then it will eventually dry. Other than getting fresh air and warmth into the rooms there isn’t much more to be done but wait. Or have the other guy sand it over. Not a fun job to remove soft finish. You can use water borne coatings over solvent coatings. However, it must be totally dry and solvent free or it will peel off. So, your choice is: wait it out and then have it buffed and coated with water borne or have the guy come in and sand it all off. It’s unfortunate and I can understand your frustration.

Follow-up Q: Thank you very much for the quick reply. I really appreciate it! The windows have all been open for the past week and a half and I’ve left the doors open too for a few hours on each of the past two days. Still tacky, but I am sceptical, holding out hope. If we decide to wait it out longer, is it safe to move back into the house with tacky floors? Or will we damage the floors by moving furniture back onto them and/or walking around barefoot on them? Is there a certain number of days/weeks/months after which waiting longer would be futile? If they are still tacky after a month or two, is there a chance the tackiness is here to stay?

A: You know, I’ve been at this over 40 years and I have seen floors stay sticky, usually along board edges and in severe cases in heavy grain for a week or more. Not a month or more. and it was always with very old, wax treated floors. Do your floors fit into any of this?

I think the idea of damaging the floors, or more specifically the finish is a mute point because you already said it was rough in spots and not even fully cured. Not even fully dry. So, I don’t think you can hurt anything. The floor at some point would need to be screened down and coated again anyway. But this can’t happen until it is dry. You can’t even coat the floor again with solvent or water borne coating until that happens. Poloplaz has a good cleaner called tycoat. I’d like to see what happens when the floor is scrubbed down with that thoroughly. I don’t believe this is just an environmental issue. It is a contamination issue.

Bad floorsanding job

Q: I am an idiot. My buddy and I sanded floors and re-stained them. Here are the numerous ways we did it wrong: 24 grit using a block sander then 36. shop vac’d the surface, no tack clothing, stained with a brush, no in between sanding, no tack cloth, 2nd stain coat on second day. Result: rough floors with debris in lots of areas and wet places everywhere. Before my buddy makes the final fatal step and applies poly, what should I be doing to save this disaster? PS it’s been 6 plus days of having heat at 72 at night and plenty of ventilation during day. I say that I wipe up excess stain that’s not drying with mineral spirits or something, and sand at least with the mesh/metal sanding paper, tack cloth it and then stain again. This time carefully removing all debris with tack cloth and hand brushing to avoid excess stain again. I would like to finish the floor with poly eventually. Yes, I know. We are morons. Can you help? Thanks so much.

A: Ha! Well, I won’t comment on everything you said here but I will tell you what I know having been doing this type of work more than 40 years. Most of my floor renovations involve staining.

First, I try to remove the finish to clean wood with the finest grit that will do the job. Generally this means starting with nothing rougher than 40 grit. I would only go down to 36, 30, 24 or rougher is the floor was truly nasty and gummy. Somehow you thought you could stain the floor after using 36 grit? For staining I always finish sanding with 100 grit, orbital sand the edges with 80 grit and then use a polisher and 100 grit abrasive screen over the entire floor. Thoroughly vacuum before staining. Most colours tend toward darker tones so I almost always water pop the wood first and let it completely dry before staining. This opens the grain allowing better and more even stain penetration. I apply the stain on my hands and knees, row by row with a cloth. After each row (4 feet wide) I go back and wipe off the excess with a clean cloth before staining another row. I do not favour applying 2 coats of stain. You didn’t wipe off the excess stain and you did this twice.

You will need to get the machines out that you have been using and start working your way from where you left off with 36 grit. I would go next with 50 or 60 grit and then finish with 100. Then follow the steps I mentioned.

Little 2 inch circles on sanded wood floor

Q: I used an edger as part of sanding down a floor. Now, there are little circles around 2 inches in diameter that are incredibly light compared to the rest of the floor. I have sanded the floor several times, even with 20 grit paper to try to blend the color, but the circles are still there. I can’t move on to sealing and varnishing the floor until I get these circles gone. I am certain it was the edger that created them… How can I fix this?

A: I’m a bit confused by your description. You mention using 20 grit which is extremely rough sand paper. I only use it for extremely nasty floors on the initial sanding to remove paint or old shellac or a wax on varnish type coating. It leaves very heavy and deep scratches. Little circles sounds like a mark one might get from the bolt holding the paper to the edger pad when the edger is in bad repair and the shaft is worn out. Regardless, the entire perimeter should be sanded with an orbital or random orbit sander using 80 grit followed by screening the main area with a polisher and 100 grit screen. This is assuming hardwood and not softwood.

Follow-up Q: Hi there. I appreciate your quick response. Here is the scenario: oak floors, and first time sanding and refinishing. Actually, I was mistaken… it was 36 grit on the edger. I rented a sander and an edger and 36 paper for both as well as 80. I ran the edger first, which was a mistake, then ran the sander. I saw the horrible difference and went back and got 20 paper for the sander to match the edgers job. 2 Passes with 20 paper and its still awful.

I finally found last night that hand sanding with 60 paper is blending the wood. However, I was only able to get half the living room so far before having to stop and with the exception of the bathrooms and kitchen. Every room has the swirl marks and this is going to take days and days at this rate. Is there a faster, easier method?

A: I try not to use anything rougher than 40 grit for the first sanding and work my way to finer grits, not skipping more than one grit. For example, if I rough sand with 40 technically you should go to 60 though I generally go to 80 and if it is for staining, finish with 100 grit. It sounds to me your grit selection is way off. And it takes quite a lot of practice to become skilled at running these machines. Maybe you can call in somebody to finish it off? Or perhaps you can rent one of those flat pad machines. I’ve never used one but now that the finish is all removed you may get a smoother job.

Perimeter of hardwood floors peeling

Q: I refinished my hardwood floors a couple of months ago. In a few areas, mostly close to the walls, there is some peeling and flaking which suggests to me that I failed to sufficiently sand those areas. Even though the areas are small, a noticeable ridge is left where the poly flaked away. Is there any way to smooth out the ridge without damaging the finish?

A: You could try buffing the affected boards thoroughly with fine sand paper and applying a thin coat. If you have a noticeable ridge it causes me to wonder how heavy a coat of finish did you apply? Many finishes have a spread rate of 500 sq. feet per gallon. Thin, even coats are always much better than heavy. If this peeling continues you may have to have the floors taken down to clean wood again which means starting over.