Tung oiled floor taking a beating

Q: I have a pine floor which was stained and then tung oiled. I don’t think there was enough tung oil applied. Like maybe there should have been 5 or 6 applications instead of 3? The floor is taking a beating. In some places the stain is actually worn (we have several dogs and lots of people in and out). Could waterlox be applied over this floor now?

A: Pure tung oil isn’t really practical as a floor finish. Waterlox is an excellent product. Smelly though. I think you would be fine going with that now, but would probably email the manufacturer to get their view. You could get a small tin of it and try a sample spot, but given that in each case you are using a penetrating oil, I don’t anticipate any adhesion issues. You will need 4 coats of Waterlox.

Do you sell Waterlox or just really believe in this product?

Q: I see on your site that you recommend Waterlox versus 100% tung oil. Do you sell Waterlox or do you just really believe in this product?

A: No, I don’t sell it. I’ve had some very good experience with it and at least for staining pine, mixing the stain with the Waterlox saved me hours and hours of ‘on my knees’ staining. Excellent water repellency and decent durability to foot traffic in a real penetrating oil which is easy to apply with no adhesion issues between coats.

Contractor said to use a tung oil finish

Q: We had new wooden floors installed in our kitchen/living area in 2000. We were advised by the contractor to use a tung oil finish, saying it would last longer and be durable, and because we have a southern facing 12’x9′ window, for reduced fading. I hate it! It has faded, scratched, spotted and can’t be cleaned with traditional cleaners. I feel we are abusing it. How can we better care for it to restore our floors luster and condition. If necessary, what is involved in having someone refinish it? What would be more suitable?

A: Tung oil on it’s own won’t work, as wonderful as it is. I had to get into this when a customer with 3700 feet of new pine wanted it stained and finished but didn’t want polyurethane or wax! What to use then?

I tested 6 so-called ‘penetrating oils’ and had a lengthy consult with a technical adviser with Lee Valley. He explained that pure tung oil would take 2 days per coat to dry and I would need 10 initial coats, all of which would have to be repeated every 3 months. That’s not going to happen.

Then I found Waterlox which has tung oil as one of the top 5 ingredients in the product along with Mineral Spirits, linseed oil, another resin and I forget what else. This product was different from all others which had to be applied, left to soak 20 minutes and all the residue removed with a cloth (which was practically all of what had just been applied). With Waterlox you apply a good coating and let it soak in. Next day apply another and then another on hardwood and 4 coats of softwood. Excellent penetration and water resistance. No need to buff between coats to gain adhesion. There are no adhesion issues. After the second application it starts to build a film that stays on the floor surface. Touch ups are simple. Clean the board or area well and apply a thin coat to affected boards. I also finished some floors with this product while major renovations were ongoing. In spite of the pounding over 1 year, this floor appears to need only a good cleaning and another coat. I was impressed. It also offered a brilliant way to stain pine since I was able to add the stain to the Waterlox at 4 parts WL/1 part stain and just mop it on. I couldn’t have done a more even stain on pine, and since I didn’t have to apply and wipe off the stain as a separate step it saved me hours and hours on my hands and knees. You may need to contact them to see if it is possible to apply their product over what you have without a full sanding. I suspect it can work. http://www.waterlox.com

Polyurethane is a good choice to, but somewhat different that this penetrating oil. Certainly a harder surface than WL, however the general upkeep with Waterlox is so easy any home owner can do it themselves and not have to call in a professional every so many years to buff and coat the floor again.

Wood floors coated with tung oil

Q: I have wood floors coated with tung oil. What is the best way to keep them looking good?

A: I had a discussion with a technical rep of Lee Valley tools regarding the use of Tung oil as a floor finish. He said you would need an initial 10 coats with 2 days drying between coats to be repeated every 3 months. Not very practical and quite expensive to maintain tung oil floors. A better way to go is to use a product that combines Tung oil as a major ingredient with other oils and resins. The best I’ve used is http://www.waterlox.com I would look over their product and get their advice.

Poly or varnish?

Q: We have a 218 year old home with original maple floors. We are in the process of sanding them and refinishing them. We have used poly in the past, but recently someone told us varnish was better. What do you think, is polyurethane or varnish finish better? We really want low maintenance and something that will last a long time.

A: I would consider polyurethane to be a type of varnish. It is the combination of various resins along with other additives that will give any product it’s distinctive characteristics. I use Poloplaz Primero polyurethane which is the best such product I’ve ever worked with. It is nice to apply, and very tough when cured.

However, on your very old pine floors* you may prefer a different type of product which may be more complimentary to the age of your pine. I have used a penetrating oil finish which contains linseed oil and tung oil as 2 of the top 5 ingredients. Excellent penetration into the wood, which will build to a film after several coats. Buffing is not necessary to gain adhesion between coats, making it a very easy finish to refresh and keep looking it’s best. You can read about this product at waterlox.com and in other Q&A here.

*Note from Rachel: sorry about the obvious mix-up I spotted when editing this Q&A- the person has maple floors, not pine!

What is better: water based or oil based finish?

Q: We just bought a house and are having the floors professionally done. What is better: water based or oil based polyurethane finish?

A: I still believe an omu will out perform a water borne finish, but it depends on the situation. There are circumstances where a water borne is superior. I don’t know your situation…

Similar Q: We`re just about to have previously waxed hardwood floors professionally sanded and refinished with a sealed finish. We have had 2 estimates done, but both use very different products. One is oil-based, the other waterbourne. I`m finding it very confusing. I`ve checked out various sites comparing both but there seems to be as many opinions as sites. Could you help please?

A: Each type of finish carries with it certain advantages over the other. I’m still more convinced that oil or solvent finishes tend to have better long term durability because they take longer to set up and dry, therefore they actually penetrate better into the floor surface. Some of the higher end water borne finishes are very tough. This doesn’t mean they are necessarily very safe and environmentally friendly as they almost all use a cross linker containing Iso-cyanate. They tend to also be quite expensive compared to the solvent type counter parts. One distinct advantage a water borne may have with an old floor that has been waxed is that it won’t activate wax that is lodged between the boards, causing wax bleed out. If there are no personal issues with finish odour and slower cure times, I would tend to still go with the oil based finish.

Please tell me all you know about Waterlox

Q: Please tell me all you know about Waterlox. Will it work on 10′ wide pine planks (not reclaimed) and look good? Do you need to sand between coats? Can I stain first and then apply or should I just put the waterlox down?

A: Waterlox is amazing on pine, especially if staining. Mix he stain with WL 4-1 and apply. No adhesion issues. No need to buff between coats. Easy to apply another coat. What more can I say?


Q: I bought some antique maple beech flooring 3/4 unfinished and put Duraseal on it. I think I made a mistake. I wanted the patina to come through. Can I apply an oil based sealer? With screening or not?

A: I think you will need to sand over, but if you are intent on now applying an oil based (polyurethane) sealer to the finish coat, absolutely screen. I don’t see what applying this way will accomplish however. The polyurethane sealer is meant to penetrate the wood, which it cannot do now that you have applied a poly finish coat.

Choosing a finish

Q: After applying the stain to the hardwood tread what do you suggest should be applied next? Any suggestions on types, brands, etc.?

A: It depends the look you want. You really only have a few choices. Oil modified which can be a tough finish but will darken with age to some degree. Water borne which is clear and won’t change as much. A product like Waterlox which is a penetrating oil which has more of a natural look. I prefer Poloplaz coatings. Great finishes. Great company. Their Primero is the best finish I’ve used in 35 years.

Amateur friendly finish?

Q: I have spent an excessive amount of time preparing my hardwood floors in my home for refinish. I have come to the conclusion (through reading in forums) that oil based polyurethanes are the most durable, therefore, that is what I want to use. My question is, what are your thoughts, as a professional floor refinisher, of M***** Super Fast Drying Polyurethane for floors? Have you ever used it? Is it a long lasting finish? Is it user friendly for amateurs as myself? Would you recommend it? Thank you very much for your opinion.

A: I have not had great feedback on that finish. So, no I would not consider it user friendly. Professionals go through a lot of stress with finishes. For an amateur, I would suggest Circa1850, and though I had used that finish for a number of years, it won’t stand up to what I now use. This is not do it yourself work. You are trying to do this work as cheap as you can with the cheapest products. In the end, you will be lucky to get satisfactory results.

Stain and polyurethane compatible? And pricing…

Q: Is there a way to tell if the stain and polyurethane are compatible? I have heard that sometimes using ones that are not compatible will cause it to flake? I had a quote from a gentleman to lay about 1200sf and finish a total of 1500sf for $3700 with H**** brand stain or poly– I am not sure. Is this a good or bad price? How do I know if the job he does is good? What are the proper steps in finishing the floor; including sanding, buffing, how many coats, etc., so that I can supervise him?

A: I know prices may vary from one area to another. Let me understand this… He is installing 1200 sq. ft. and then sanding, staining and finishing 1500 sq. ft., for $3700?

If I was doing this job, my price would be $7725. This is to install, sand, stain, and finish; but not to supply the flooring nor any trim needed. I would get several quotes to see where this price is compared to others. It sounds far too low to me, and that throws up red flags, if your main goal is to have a good job done.

Most stains are compatible with polyurethane provided they are properly applied and allowed to dry before coating.

Follow-up Q: That is correct. I would be providing the flooring. There is about 300sf of existing flooring that needs to be refinished. There are no doors, and no baseboard installed anywhere in the house. I saw a house he did and it looked “good,” but I have no idea how to tell if it specifically is a good or bad job.

A: This is how I look at this work. I’ve been doing it more than 34 years. I’m not getting rich. Price break down is: $3.35 sq. ft. to sand, stain and finish with 3 coats. I use Poloplaz finishes which are second to none. I am not an “installer” per se. Generally, a floor installer is someone who is really fast. I have yet to see one of these guys pay any attention to detail. Their entire objective is to get the floor down fast and cheap. I do a good install, but I’m not fast. Certain issues with installing take time and attention. $2.25 sq. ft. to install… If someone is doing this work for half what I charge, and I am not making a killing, then the only way they can make a dime is to get in, get out fast and get paid. It makes me wonder.

Refinishing floors by hand, using shellac?

Ralph’s step by step instructions:

01) Remove molding

02) Vacuum all cracks

03) Wipe floor down with damp rag & let dry

04) Sand lightly with ridig sander (finishing paper) or by hand

05) Vacuum floor

06) Repeat steps 2-4, 3 times

07) Wipe floor down with alcohol, let dry

08) Mix 1 qt: 1/2 5 lb. shellac & 1/2 alcohol

09) Using 1″ fine brush — paint on slowly in direction of grain, board by board, no bubbles

10) Clean brush

11) Repeat step 9-10, 2 times

12) Using 1″ fine brush – paint on (1) coat un cut 5 lb. shellac in direction of grain, board by board

13) Let dry for 1 week

14) Sand and shellac molding using the same process. replace molding

15) Clean brush

16) Apply 1 even coat of spar varnish on floor & molding — let dry for 1 week

17) TAKE PICTURES — Floor will be like a mirror AND LAST

I understand I do an overkill, but the quality of the results are worth it, to me. I only use shellac/brush.

I have wood I did in this manner 45 years ago. I looks like I did it last week. If you want a quality job you have to put in the time and effort. This may not be for everybody. I hate the words “cost effective” — to me this means a cheap/quick schlep job.

I have gone through 8 pen knives scraping corners.

For a few pennies more you go first class.

(Ralph Fry)

Craig’s suggestions: I would question using “shellac” as a seal coat. It contains a natural wax which will not allow adhesion of other top coats. There are de-waxed shellac products that offer better results. Zinsser universal sealer or Dura Seal Universal Sealer are good choices. Good adhesion on both sides of the shellac.

The main advantage of de-waxed shellac is it’s adhesion properties on certain old floors that contain “contaminants”. Current floor finishes far exceed such finishes generally. Everything has its place and time. With de-waxed shellac, you can coat in about 45 minutes.

I think wasting 8 pen knives, scraping corners, was unnecessary. You could have bought a hand scraper and fine edge file, and done the job a lot better and faster, not even coming close to using up the one blade.

I would consider your methods out of touch with modern technology.
(But to each his own cup of tea, eh?)

Go with Duraseal’s liquid wax products

Q: I have newly installed wormy red oak floors, installed over felt paper, over a 3/4″ plywood sub-floor, over a structural concrete slab, which was covered with plastic cement and plastic sheeting (calcium chloride tests were performed and results were well within acceptable limits).

The wood has not yet been sanded or finished. We would like a wax finish on these floors, and we also want to stain them. Do you recommend a paste wax initially, or can we go with Duraseal’s liquid wax products, which can be maintained with their Renovator? Can paste wax floors be maintained with the Duraseal product?

I have personally used the Duraseal liquid wax and renovator products on the previously waxed floors, on the second floor of our home, and the products seem to work well. If you recommend the Duraseal over paste wax, can we just add the stain to the Duraseal liquid wax?

A: I would stick with the Dura Finish. You have used it and had good success. Why switch? It is a lot easier to apply than paste wax. I would stain the floor as a separate process and let it dry well before waxing. I think they also have colored wax. The problem with it is you tend to pick up the colour on your socks.

An optional finish to wax you might consider is Waterlox Tung oil based finish. Easy to apply and maintain/refresh. And if you can achieve the desired colour, can add stain to it on the first and second coats at 4:1 mix or less and simply apply. Stained and coated in one step! www.waterlox.com

Seal Coat uses, concerning wax

Follow-up Q: I understand that once wax is put on polyurethane floors they have to be stripped to bare wood, if they have to be refinished, but is there any other disadvantage? I like the rich look of wax more than polyurethane. We have had to refinish our 200 year old wide board pumpkin pine polyurethaned kitchen floors every 4 or 5 years because of the volume of traffic.

Would it not make more sense to protect them with wax from the very beginning so that this won’t be necessary, as often? Also, you mentioned Zinsser Seal Coat that can seal wax so that polyurethane can be reapplied… Did I understand you correctly? Have you actually used the Seal Coat and has it stood up?

A: First, regarding Seal Coat: I didn’t mean to imply that if a floor is finished with wax that Seal Coat will adhere. Where it does come in handy is for old strip floors which, over the years had been waxed, and that wax has gotten between boards and cannot be removed. Applying your typical omu finishes with mineral spirit solvents will likely activate/soften that wax and cause what I would describe as “wax bleed” along the edges of each board.

The idea with a top coat type of finish is that it will give good wear ability and when it comes time to brighten it up, it can be buffed and re coated. However, there is another product I have used on several jobs over the past year which I am quite impressed with. Waterlox. www.waterlox.com

It is a tung oil based penetrating finish that is extremely easy to apply and touch up. It is also #1 if you want to stain your floor. Simply mix 4 parts Waterlox to 1 part stain and apply. No wiping off. Then apply the number of coats of Waterlox after that has dried. I would say their satin is somewhat of a wax look alike. this finish offers decent durability, and excellent moisture resistance. It is also very easy to apply another coat to refresh the finish and take care of the assortment of scratches that will happen with daily use. Buffing is not required for adhesion purposes. I suspect this product may be the perfect solution for you. I totally agree with you that we don’t want to be sanding the floor every so many years.

What is the very best finish for hardwood floors?

Q: What is the very best finish for hardwood floors that you can get? One that resists traffic flow wear, scratches, pet markings, etc.?

A: There are a lot of excellent finishes on the market. I was recently sent 4 gallons of one product to sample recently and was so impressed with it, I had 120 gallons shipped from Arkansas! The company is Poloplaz. The product is Primero. It is oil modified. High solids. Very tough when cured. Excellent drying, even under poor conditions. Applies like velvet. Absolutely the best finish in every way that I have ever worked with. And I have been applying coatings for more than 34 years.

Related Q: What is the best finish to use on hardwood (no stain) floors? Oil based polyurethane or shellac?

A: Oil or solvent based polyurethane is better. Much more durable and safer to apply. Shellac has a low flash point which presents a significant explosion risk when using over a large area.

Different finishing styles

Q: I am in the process of having my wood floors redone. I am getting different opinions about finishes from each refinisher that I have questioned. Some have recommended 2 coats of gloss for durability, and finish with a 3rd coat of semi-gloss. Another refinisher said there is no difference in durability between gloss and semi-gloss. He insists that 3 coats of semi-gloss will be just as durable as 2 gloss, 1 semi. Who is right?

A: If you are talking about oil modified compared to water borne finishes, I always apply gloss first. It does seem to be a bit tougher. I say this because it is harder to buff down between coats than satin or semi. Besides that, gloss does not contain silica, which is used as a flattening agent. This flattening agent can cause grief to the coater at times, with streaking and mop stops. Gloss is harmless on that front.

Using tongue oil as the conditioner

Q: We have 8 wooden chairs with rush seating. They were left on a covered porch in the rain and a serious mildew(ing) occurred. I have cleared the problem with a 15% bleach/85% water solution and they are looking very good. My next move will be to soak them with a mildew-resistant sealer, but first I would like to apply some type of conditioner/moisturizer. Do you have any suggestions? The actual rush seems to be a natural fabric. Someone suggested using tongue oil as the conditioner before the sealer is applied. What do you think?

A: With a tung oil based product such as Waterlox, you would get excellent penetration and moisture protection. www.waterlox.com