Bubbles only coming out of the soft grain

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

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

Hardwood floor sanded across the grain

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

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

Finish repelled in spots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protecting fish tank during hardwood refinishing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless and thanks for your help!

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

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

Floors stained and finished 18 months ago are now peeling

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

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

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

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

Usual finish for a parquet floor?

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

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

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

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

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

Scraper scrapes off finish in layers

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

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

Refinish the floors without using a drum sander?

Q: My grandmother recently passed away. We ripped up carpeting in her house that has been down for 60 years. The hardwood floors downstairs are finished and in wonderful shape. The upstairs however had unfinished floors. It was carpeted, but not wall-to-wall, more like large remnants used as throw rugs. To make matters worse, my BIL’s dad was trying to be helpful and painted the upstairs. Not only is there spatter from painting the walls and ceiling, he carelessly painted the baseboards and painted (and primed) about two inches of floor all the way around the room. In addition to this, he sanded about two square feet on one side of the floor to satisfy his own curiosity.

Is there any way to salvage and refinish the floors without using a drum sander? I’m a bit unsure of my ability to handle it. The wood looks like cherry, if that matters.

A: There are small hand power tools that don’t require professional expertise to operate. Random orbit sanders are fairly aggressive and would likely do the job. You will likely also need a hand scraper and fine tooth file to sharpen the blade.

Note from webmaster: Are you selling? People tend to change the surfaces after buying anyway.. may not be worth all the time and effort.

White scratches on teak floor

Q: We had a water leak and had to replace a small section of teak flooring. The insurance contractor said that we needed to sand the entire floor down so it would all match. They put 3 coats of oil based polyurethane on the floor: satin, then a semi and then a satin since I was concerned about scratching. Our floors were beautiful and were fine prior to this work. Now there are white scratches everywhere from shoes and our dogs.. within days. Do you think this could be from bad bonding between the coats, not enough buffing between coats? It is getting worse and worse. We had normal wear and tear with the way our old floor was but never white scratches, which really are not scratches in the floor but the top coats of oil. I am trying to figure it out between the contractors and the people who did the work. Thank you.

A: It sounds like the finish is rapidly wearing off because of a poor bond. I suspect the cause is the oil in the wood reacting with the solvents in the finish. I would instead use a water base finish such as Poloplaz Prism or similar coatings from other manufacturers who provide a barrier coat with their sealers.

Should all windows be left open during refinishing?

Q: I am scheduled to have hardwoods flooring stained and 1 coat of sealer tomorrow, but it is supposed to be only 40 degrees and rain, maybe ice. I understand that all windows should be left open. Do I need to reschedule for a warmer day in TX?

A: I disagree that all the windows should be left open regardless of the temperature. When applying any coating one thing that can really mess up the job is to have air moving across the coating before it has had time to flow out and set up.

You will need to have the house well above 40 degrees, and close to 70F would be more ideal. If humidity in the home is high, running a dehumidifier should help with that.

Is this shellac on my hard wood floor?

Q: I was hoping you could give me some advice. I rent an apartment which has nice hard wood floors. I have been here for 2 years now and have noticed the shellac (I think it is) is peeling off in spots. It is becoming worse and more noticeable. How can I fix this and prevent more shellac coming off? I want to take care of it before it gets worse.

A: If your finish is shellac it will dissolve if alcohol is applied. More than likely somebody has applied a coat of finish (polyurethane) over an existing coat without proper preparation to gain adhesion. The real solution is to remove at least that top coat of finish by screening with a polisher and abrasive screen, or more realistically to have the floor completely re-sanded and finished.

Mystery peeling around perimeter after 18 years

Q: We’ve had a decorative wood floor in our dining room for about 18 years. installed by a local guy, with pickled ash finish and a dark cherry perimeter. The wood was prefinished when we installed it. Today we picked up a cardboard box off the floor, and the finish seems to be peeling off the dark cherry. It doesn’t seem to be caused by the box (it was there for a day and was heavy, but no residue on it). The only thing I can reason is that we have skylights above the dining room and they are unobstructed to the sun, perhaps ageing the finish. What happened, and how do we fix it?

A: This is quite a mystery, isn’t it? The sun shining through your sky light didn’t peel the finish in 18 years and I know of no reason it would suddenly do that. The card board box wouldn’t cause this either. At least not on it’s own. Unless something was spilled inside the box or at some point the bottom of the box was set onto any chemical which would attack polyurethane coatings. Things such as strippers, acetone, perhaps nail polish remover? If this is restricted to one or two boards I would wipe them down with a wet cloth to neutralize anything which may be on the board. I would gently but thoroughly rub the entire board down with fine sandpaper or other appropriate abrasive. This scratches the existing coating allowing adhesion of a new finish coat. Apply a thin coat of polyurethane with the same level of shine. If a second coat is needed, repeat the process.