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.

Greasy substance on unfinished floor

Q: I am about to screen/lightly sand my floors and apply a couple coats of polyurethane. I have done some years ago, but never had this problem: There is a greasy substance which has gotten into the oak hardwood (the finish has been worn off/there’s no sealer) and regular cleaning/washing did nothing to fix it.

How do I be sure to get it out before putting the new finish down? I don’t know if light sanding will remove it.

A: Are you saying the wood in that area has no finish and is totally exposed? In that case, it must be greyed and discoloured. If that is the case, you will need to make sure the wood is sanded clean.

If you are concerned about contaminants you could wipe the area down with alcohol (not Jack Daniels), perhaps apply a coat of de-waxed shellac and then coat the floors.

Dish out / raised grains

Q: I’ve been managing my floor company for some time. I have guys who do the work. I get the jobs, manage them. A problem keeps coming up after they poly the floor. I see raised grains all over the place especially with high gloss. How do I solve the issue? Thanks for your help.

A: What kind of finish are your guys using? Raised grain generally means moisture right? Such as water popping a floor prior to staining. It raises the grain and the floor feels a bit rough. I’ve seen water borne finishes and some water borne sealers cause serious grain raise. Nothing that a quick buffing won’t knock down. It should not occur after the initial coat in any case.

Follow-up Q: Oil base poly with Dura seal stain. Does it make sense that it could be the machine is not balanced? Images attached.

A: I’m seeing ‘dish out’ of the soft grain. Hard to avoid that with a heavy grained wood like oak. I’ve read using a 3 disk polisher-sander like a ‘trio’ can help eliminate it. After more than 40 years and at age 62 I don’t think I’m in the mood to buy another toy like that, never mind carrying 175 piece of equipment in and out by myself. I think I’d try and move people away from the very shiny finish. Dark stain and gloss? It is like shining a spot light with a magnifying glass on the floor.

It doesn’t hurt if you suspect a drum issue to find some place you know is flat and level. Remove the belt from your machine and lay a used 100 grit down, grit up of course and gently bring the spinning drum down on it to see how much of the drum is initially making contact. The stain job itself looks good.

Lap marks in amberized sealer

Q: I am in the middle of refinishing a 75 year old white oak parquet floor. The customer wanted the older yellowed look and opted for amberized sealer. While applying I noticed I left a large 10 inch path a few feet long where it wasn’t smoothed enough and now shows a line. I applied a second coat of amberized sealer and am waiting to see if it disappears by tomorrow morning. If not, how do I get these huge lap marks out of a water base amberized sealer?

A: I’ve never used amberized water born sealer. I would call the manufacturer of the finish. However, especially being white oak, isn’t it possible the streak is a tannin reaction? I suspect you will have to scrape the mark out and try that spot again.

New wood is shiner than the old wood after finishing

Q: I have a original 1957 wood floor that we sanded. We had to replace some parts due to damage. When we put semi gloss poly on it the new wood is shiner than the old wood. How can we make it come out all the same?

A: It should all be the same if you stirred the finish well. It could be the old wood is now well dried out and more porous than the new. You have more of a build on the new wood than the old. Apply another coat. Satin also looks very nice and would be closer in look to a floor from 1957 where wax was common. In any case make sure satin or semi gloss are stirred well, not shaken. This will evenly distribute the paste in the mix which determines the level of shine.

Oil based polyurethane finish looks “dimpled”

Q: We recently had our red oak floors refinished, using Min-wax Red Oak color, and we chose oil based polyurethane. We contacted the refinishing company after the third coat of polyurethane was applied because we thought the semi gloss sheen looked somewhat cloudy where the light hits it, but clear when standing directly over it. Is this normal for semi gloss finish?

Also, I’m not sure what the correct word is, but dimpled comes to mind. The poly appears to be dimpled, or lightly bumpy, meaning not totally smooth. Is this normal? It’s not referring to sand or granule stuck in the finish, but a subtle dimpling across the entire floor.

The room was kept at 60 degrees for drying, and one day in between each coat. The flooring company explained this “dimpling” was normal, as the floors take 6 months to cure and therefore appear smooth, I am wondering if this sounds accurate.

A: The finish may have set up too quickly, not allowing it to flow out level.

I don’t know what finish was used but all except gloss have a paste (silica) added to reduce shine. I don’t know if something was up with that – not mixed well enough or an issue with the paste settling to the bottom of the film.

I had that happen once years ago. But since using Poloplaz Primero I’ve never had any issues. It is an excellent coating.

Blending finish overlap “ridge”

Q: I just redid my hardwood floors and they turned out great except for one area. There is an overlap ridge and I would like to know how to get rid of that ridge so it blends better. It has been sitting for almost 24 hours.

A: Are you saying this is with the finish you applied? If so, it sounds like probably a water borne urethane which sets up very quickly generally. You could try lightly abrading (very fine sandpaper or an abrasive pad; don’t use steel wool with water borne coatings) the entire boards affected, taping off the boards involved. Apply another thin coat and immediately remove the tape. If that doesn’t work you will have to re-coat everything. Remember, thin coats are always better than thick ones. All finishes have a recommended ‘spread rate’ such as 500 sq. feet per gallon.

What if I cannot remove all the old stain?

Q: What happens if I cannot remove all the old stain from the floors? Do the floors have to be sanded to absolute perfection, or can there be slightly different shades?

This house is very old and I don’t want to stain the floor, I just want to polyurethane.

A: If a floor has been stained in the past, it is near impossible to remove every trace from the heavy, soft grain. If such trace amounts remain, it doesn’t detract from the overall look of the newly finished floor.

Related Q: I had #2716 dark walnut on my floors, but I am now trying to sand it off. A lot of the stain is down in there still. What color of stain would be able to cover over it? I don’t want to go too light, but don’t want it too dark either.

A: A professional flooring contractor, both fully trained and equipped would have no issue removing all but trace elements from the heavy grain, after which the floor could be successfully stained any colour (except a pastel colour) without any real noticeable difference.