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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Cheap factory floor chipping and peeling

Q: We just purchased a house. The previous owners installed a solid plank, factory-finished hardwood floor a little over a year ago. They now believe that the purchased wood was “seconds”/non-standard quality, although they didn’t realize it at the time. The finish began to chip and peel during installation and there was no warranty. There is a large amount of finish peeling/flaking in between the grooves and on the wood surface.

Will completely sanding down to bare wood and applying a new finish fix this problem?

A: It’s probably #2 or #3 common. Everything is allowed: cracks, splits, large knots etc. I bet it is largely short boards. I hope this floor is not micro bevel because those will have to be dealt with and sanded off if it is a micro bevel.

It will be a lot of work but it will be a big improvement if it is properly sanded and stained, finished. In spite of it’s low quality this floor should still last many decades if properly finished.

Inconsistent sheen

Q: I have sanded and applied 3 coats of oil based semi-gloss polyurethane to an oak hardwood floor. Unfortunately, I have an inconsistent sheen. How can I even out the sheen? Can I simply wipe it down with mineral spirits or sand it with a fine grit paper? What do you suggest?

A: Any finish with less shine than gloss has a paste added to lower the shine and has to be mixed thoroughly to keep it in suspension while applying it. I would suggest sanding the floor down lightly but thoroughly, cleaning it up to remove all dust and applying another coat. I would highly recommend Poloplaz Primero which has always performed consistently for me. They appear to have found a way to keep the dulling paste suspended in the finish without much stirring at all.

Follow-up Q: Thank you for your response! So, I guess sanding or wiping the floor with mineral spirits would not blend the finish?

Do you know where can I purchase Poloplaz Primero? Do you recommend application with lambs wool pad or a roller? If a roller, do you know where I can obtain a 1/4″ nap mohair roller?

A: I would just call their office to find out where the nearest distributor is and failing that if they would ship to you directly. I couldn’t find ¼” pile anywhere. Roller is fine and this product does roll on nicely with no issues.

No, wiping the floor down with mineral spirits will not help.

Loose floor peeling

Q: We recently had our floors screened and recoated throughout the house. They were recoated with high-gloss, oil base polyurethane (2 coats). At many of the board seams in the kitchen, the polyurethane is peeling up and bubbling. Less so in the LR, DR and foyer, but still peeling in some places. The bedrooms are fine. Some of the boards in the kitchen seem to move, especially where the peeling occurs. The company said they will come back and redo the floors, but the floor peeling will probably happen again. We had our floors done 12 years ago with water-based polyurethane and never had this problem. Is there a better procedure to be followed when they are redone. The company doesn’t seem to know why the floor is peeling. Thank you for any light you can shed on this problem.

A: To me the big clue is that the boards move. So, what is the floor installed on? Apparently it isn’t doing a great job of keeping the boards tight to the floor. My guess is When they buffed the floor they missed spots along the edges because the floor was flexing down when they ran their heavy polisher over the floor. Was there any cupping or crowning of the floor? Peeling on recoats usually means either contaminants or missed spots in the buffing procedure.

Follow-up: Thank you for the information. The sub floor in the kitchen is the old fashioned 1″ x 6″ sub floor as is the entire house. Eleven years ago we removed tile flooring in the kitchen and replaced it with wood. We contracted for rock maple flooring that matched the rest of the house. However, we found out after the job (from a neighbor looking at our floor) that it was actually birch. Our entire house was then stained dark and coated with a water-based polyurethane. It lasted fairly well for 11 years. We then decided on a high-gloss oil-based polyurethane for the new recoat this past October (2013). We now have the problem I originally wrote to you about. Also, there is no cupping or crowning.

Poly Flaking Off and White Between Boards

Q: We have an 18 yr old white oak floor that was recently refinished. There were some errors in the staining in a few areas and these were redone. Now some of the poly is flaking off in the cracks and also on the boards themselves. This are also noticeable cracks, where it is turning white between boards. What is the best fix for this? What is the cause? They were done by a reputable company.

A: I would need to know what finishes they used. White oak is one of my favorite woods but it can have issues at time due to high tannin content. Finish turning white isn’t one of them.

Follow-up Q: They used oil based stain and oil based poly. Would high humidity and not enough drying time be a cause? They are returning next week to redo everything (with a much more experienced team) and we want to make sure it turns out right. I thought they chose the oil based products because they last longer and would not show white between the boards if the boards separated a little with changes in humidity and the time of year. Would you recommend covering the air conditioning return ducts? Or just leaving the AC off? We live in Tx. Thanks for your assistance.

A: I’m not really sure what is going on here. Oil based finishes do stretch a bit when the boards shrink. I’ve seen this sort of thing in Toronto where floor companies use lacquer as a fast dry base coat. I’ve not seen it happen when several coat only of solvent or oil based poly are applied to the floor. I believe the floor is going to have to be done again from scratch. the guys need to take moisture readings of the floor to make sure it is dry within limits of about 7-9%. Is there a crawl space under the floor?

I think I would keep the house temperature to around 70F or so while the work is being done. When they are ready to start applying finish coats I would shut it off until the finish has set. 3-5 hours. There are so many factors that can influence this job, without being there I am having a bit of a problem knowing what exactly is going on. This is why, after 40 years, every job still makes me tense.

Wood floors smell months after refinishing

Q: I moved into an apartment with recently refinished floors done with oil-based polyurethane. I believe the landlord used a cheap Behr product. The floors are top-nailed, thin, and creaky with a lot of gaps. The home was built in the 1890’s. The floor was refinished during the winter without anyone inhabiting the space. It is quite likely that the first month after the floor had been refinished the house sat at 50 degrees. The windows were definitely never opened during this time.

We were the first people to inhabit the space after the floors were finished and when we did the smell from the floors was so bad we could not stay. We spent over a month airing the place out with fans and open windows and keeping the thermostat about 75 degrees when the temperature dropped at night.

It has been more than 4 months since the polyurethane was applied. The place is inhabitable now but the wood floors smell. It is especially noticeable when the windows are closed and in areas with gaps in the floor (probably pooling). If you leave a shirt on the floor for a few hours it picks up a strong solvent, like odor from the floor.

The landlord is reluctant to acknowledge that there is an issue. I have been in other spaces where the same contractor used the same product and those spaces did not have any issues.

It has been at least 4 months since the floor was finished. Is this smell ever going to go away? Is there anything we can do? Shouldn’t we not be able to detect any odor even if we put our noses on the floor at this point?

Thanks for your time and input, and I apologize if this is a repeat question.

A: This would be a rare occurrence I would think because under ‘normal’ drying conditions the solvent in the finish (generally mineral spirits and/or kerosene) leaves the finish film as it dries. This can take a few hours to overnight. However, given the long period of low temps in the apartment would definitely slow this process down though it is certainly solved now. However, another potential issue could be larger than normal tiny gaps. If the finish seeps into these gaps, devoid of air exposure, it can stay soft for months, and therefore is still shedding solvent. (finishes generally dry by solvent evaporation). The only thing I can think of at this point is to have a fan blowing directly toward the floor itself. How long this might take is impossible to say. This is my best guess.

Follow-up Q: Thanks very much for your reply. My only follow up question is whether it is safe to be in the space? We can smell it, though it feels more of a nuisance at this point than a serious health hazard.

A: Safe? How does one answer that? The typical warning on a label for such products are against long term, occupational over exposure. If it isn’t causing your eyes to burn and respiratory issues you probably aren’t getting a large dose. Long term exposure, daily to minute amounts? There may be no issue if you are in good health. A lot of furniture items emit minute amounts of formaldehyde because of the adhesives used. There is no odour from such things but I don’t feel good knowing I may be breathing it in every day. I’d rather face the mineral spirits.

Polyurethane too thick in a few areas

Q: I recently tried my hand at finishing my new floor with Fabulon finish, with lambswool. My problem is I applied the polyurethane too thick in a few areas. It took 36 hours for parts of the floor to dry to the touch. I sanded the floor heavily with 220 grit paper and noticed a few spots that are soft and can be pushed with your finger. Will the floor ever harden completely? I am planning on sanding the floor each day to dry and cut down the amount of finish on the floor. Any other recommendations on what to do to buff down this thick poly? Thank you very much for your time.

A: You will likely have to wait at least 3 weeks before you can really buff this down. Apply fresh air and make sure it isn’t cold in the room. The only other thing you can do, provided we are only talking about a small spot, is to hand scrape most of it off and then buff it with fine sandpaper. Most finishes recommend a spread rate of 500 feet per gallon, which means putting some pressure on the applicator on the back stroke.

Similar Q: I just finished applying 3 coats of Basic Coatings Emulsion Pro Satin on my new Douglas Fir floors. There are obvious shiny, smooth spots on the floor now that it’s dry. I can tell they are thick spots where I must not have run the finish out as smooth as I should have. I used a Padco T-Bar applicator but the spots showed up after the finish leveled out. What can you suggest I do to fix the problem areas? Thanks in advance for all your help.

A: It sounds like the flattener in the finish didn’t have time to sink to the bottom of the film before it set up. I haven’t worked with Basic Coatings products in years. If I was you I would give them a call and talk to someone in tech. Unless they have changed as a company, they should be happy to help. I think you are probably going to have to buff and re-coat this.

Rough finish on hardwood floors

Q: I just had solid oak hardwood floors installed in a rental unit. I am disappointed by the rough finish. It appears that there was debris (and in some places brush hairs) under the oil-based poly, throughout. We’ve had hardwood installed in our home and the floors are completely smooth except some roughness around 1/4 inch at the edges near the baseboard.

When I asked the installer about it, he said that it wasn’t debris, it’s the wood grain that was raised when the poly was applied. He also said that he didn’t buff as thoroughly prior to applying the last coat as he generally does because of time constraints.

The pinholes/bumps are throughout all 3 of the rooms that were refinished, not really apparent in looking at it until you get down on the floor. However, the bumps can be felt in bare or stocking feet and some places are rough enough to snag a microfiber cloth. Nylon stocking feet would be destroyed on this floor finish.

The layout of the boards is beautiful, not one gap anywhere, so the rough finish on hardwood floors comes as a surprise. What would be required to obtain a smooth finish? Would this be considered a “sand and refinish” job or can it be resolved less drastically? This job took 3 weeks (had to lay plywood over a concrete composite subfloor). Would it be possible to do it one room at a time and what is a reasonable time frame?

A: Oil based polyurethane doesn’t raise wood grain. It could be considered normal to have an occasional tiny fleck if a tiny fiber comes loose from the applicator. But rough and pimply throughout? That’s not normal. I always strain my finishes after applying so that what is left is clean for the next job. I hope they checked for moisture in the concrete. With a rough finish the solution is to have the floor screened with a polisher and abrasive, hand sand all the edges, clean up well and apply another thin coat. So, no. A full sanding won’t be necessary.

Follow up Q: Thank you very much for your reply.

The installer explained the rough finish as a case of him not buffing that layer as “aggressively” as he would have liked because that churns up a lot more dust and he was operating with 25% less time than he initially thought he’d have to complete the job.

There was difficulty getting the wood delivered to this small island because of storms and the realty company scheduled a renter to come in a week earlier than initially planned. Since he knows more about floors than we do, we deferred to him on the judgement as to whether or not it was possible to complete the job in that time frame. It was 840 square feet, 15 steps. The wood was delivered on March 4 and he moved furniture back in on March 27th.

Is the time constraint a reasonable explanation for the rough finish throughout the floors (and possibly the stair gaps, see below)?

He had a moisture meter and said the wood was acclimated for a week where the install took place. From my understanding the “moisture barrier” is felt paper (I don’t know the weight) and it was placed on top of the plywood.

We don’t see any problems in the layout of the floor (no waviness, cupping, bowing, no squeaks). Is it possible those problems will show up later and if so, what is the earliest and latest they could appear? (A few weeks, months, years?)

Location is a very small island (700 people) and this guy was the most recommended by two realty companies, the guy in the only hardware store in town and some property and shop owners. We saw two other floors installed by him, two refinished by him and did not observe a rough finish on those floors. The realty company said he’s been doing this for 15 years and that he “stands behind his work”, but he didn’t offer to redo anything for us.

We want to be reasonable because we feel he did a very good job getting the rise in 15 steps to feel equal, even though the plywood and hardwood raised the floor from the steps/subfloor by 1 1/2 inches. Also, the overall appearance of the floors when you enter the room is “this looks great”. There were some tricky folding closet doors cut to fit new floors and 4 regular doors. Cleanup was thorough and the floors appear to be installed well (but what do we know about what might occur down the road) other than the finish.

The *appearance* of the steps is a separate issue. My husband didn’t notice, but my eye went immediately to some gaps in some of the steps between the skirt and the riser and/or the skirt and the tread–between 1/16 and 1/18 (not on every tread or riser and not on the same side). He said the risers fit perfectly until he started to install the treads, but the only solution he offered was to hide the gaps with some kind of thin moulding on the riser gaps and then we might not notice the tread gaps. We are inclined to live with those gaps unless it’s more than an aesthetic issue, because we can’t afford to have someone else replace the steps and he didn’t offer (and I think molding might draw more attention to the fact that there’s a problem than just leaving it alone).

Should we give him some slack on the stair gaps because he was retrofitting to an existing skirt? (Our stairs here at home appear to have had the skirt put on after the steps, as there is some putty in the skirt edge. It’s not as noticeable as if it had been on the riser or the tread.)

On a few of the steps (probably 3 or 4 out of 15) there were rough edges on the side of the treads, as if whatever he used to cut them didn’t have a sharp blade. Is there any way to fix that short of replacing the tread?

Given what needs to be done to fix the rough finish, what kind of time frame is reasonable to plan for the recommended fix for 840 square feet (2 bedrooms and a loft)? Is it possible to wait until the off-season (November) to do the recommended fix or does waiting make it more difficult because it’s had time to cure longer?

Given the description of his work in our unit combined with the recommendations that preceded him, are we better off sticking with him or trying to find someone else to do the screening, hand sanding, cleanup and application of another thin coat? If we stick with him, is it reasonable for us to expect him to do this at his expense or should we pay him a “refinishing” rate or what?

We don’t want to be unreasonable, especially since we have good relationships with many of the people who recommended the installer and we need to maintain good working relationships with the realty company, hardware store, etc. My husband thinks we should just live with the floors as is, as it’s a rental unit. But I can see renters complaining about snagging their stocking feet on the floors or being upset that they can’t walk around in bare feet because the floors are too rough. On the plus side, I guess there’s no problem with the floors being so slippery that people would fall!

Thank you again for your helpful reply.

A: There is too much in here to give a huge, detailed answer. There are also things I don’t even know. I didn’t know initially that this was on an island. I don’t know if the guy worked alone or had a crew.

I don’t know what the treads are or how he installed them. It sounds like they are solid slab, probably glued down and it sounds like they may have shifted a bit as the adhesive started to cure. Polyurethane adhesives can move in that what is being glued might move before it cures. I think you have to accept the stairs, and his solution of a very tiny trim piece could work. Given the time frame and the difficulty of getting on and off the island and the amount of work involved, I would tip my hat to him for getting it done.

As you say, when you walk in and generally look at the floors it looks great. So, it doesn’t actually look rough? It only feels rough? I think it would take me probably 6 hours working alone to buff, clean and coat the entire place. I’m 59. He would have been far better off to have taken an extra hour when doing the last coat. As a sign in my garage reads: Why is it there is never enough time to do the job right, but always enough time to do it over!

A re-coat can be done in off season, but you have to have heat in the place. If he is interested in a finish that performs consistently every time and rolls nicely he might want to give Poloplaz Primero a try.

Second Follow-up: Thanks so much for taking the time to reply Craig. We have found the installer to be a very nice person and do not want to be a pain as clients, so I turned to your expertise for guidance about what are reasonable expectations and what is no cause for concern. You have helped a great deal!

The installer usually works alone, but he had at least one other guy helping him this time. Treads are solid slab, but nailed (maybe he glued as well). Given that the gaps are just an aesthetic thing, I won’t worry about those.

It makes me feel better about continuing to work with this guy that your judgement is that the time frame was too short for the amount of work to be done.

The floors only look rough if you’re short, which we are (or in reflective light of course), and from chair height. But when you enter the place, the overall look of the red oak is great. When you run your hand over the surface, you can scratch your hand, so it would not be a good idea to walk around in bare feet, which most people do on an island. So I would like that fixed if it can be done fairly easily. If there’s ANY chance that the floors could look worse trying to fix the roughness, I’ll live with the roughness (unless the roughness is an indication that at least that layer of poly is not going to wear normally over time).

If it would only take a day for one person to buff, clean and coat the 840 sq feet of floors, should we expect us to pay the entire cost or is it reasonable to split it? If his refinishing rate is approx $3 per square foot, would the rate to buff, clean and do one coat be 1/2 of that, 1/4, or what % of the cost to refinish?

Dumb question: is buffing the same as sanding? If so, then we should prepare for him to do the work in the same way as when he installed the floor (e.g., removed everything from walls, covered furniture in other rooms in plastic, put bedding in contractor bags, etc.)?

Thank you for the recommendation of the Poloplaz Primero. Would it work to apply that over minwax brand? Would you be offended if a client suggested you might try a finish that you don’t normally use?

Thanks so much for helping to educate us!

P.S. We all can relate to the sign in your garage, no matter the profession.

A: Wow, he charges $3 per foot for sanding and finishing? No staining? Kudos to him. I only charge $%#&@ and at present, living in el cheapo Niagara Peninsula where, apparently many expect people to work for cost, I can hardly get work. I would probably charge around $1 per foot to buff and re-coat.

Buffing is done like this: down on hands and knees, hand sand the edges of the floor with fine sand paper. I generally use 120 grit. Then the floor area is polished with polisher and a screen mesh disc. Depending on the finish one will use anywhere from 220 grit to more coarse 180 or 150 grit. Then clean up and coat.

Using a different coating for the first time is nerve wracking because you don’t know if the product will perform the way you need it to. MinWax is OK but not the best. Another product, Fabulon, is from a division of that company and I used that product for years as an employee. The stuff is decent but unpredictable. Especially the gloss. None of these products will hold a candle to Primero satin. I fell in love with it from the first brush stroke. I got another guy to try it who was very nervous about it. His conclusion? “That is really good stuff!” If he does a good clean up and applies it with no air moving across the floor until it sets up, you will have a very tough, smooth floor.

Note from webmaster: Here’s a link to a related post from Face Lift Floors.

Similar Q: I just recently had my wood floors sanded and refinished with ebony stain and gloss poly. I am very dissatisfied with the finish – lots of hairs, etc., can be seen. The glossy finish I expected feels like an orange peel. What can we do to get the shiny floors we expected?

A: I pour my finish through a filter after each use to remove any debris that may have found it’s way into it. So, you have to start with a clean finish. After all preps have been achieved, carefully and thoroughly vacuum the floor and wipe it down with a micro weave mop or similar, then apply the finish. It is important to not allow a lot of air movement in the work area while the finish is setting up and has become tack free. You will have to have the floors lightly sanded, generally done with a polisher and a screen pad, 150-220 grit depending on the finish. Care has to be made not to cut through the finish and remove the stain. I hand sand the edges with 120 grit. It sounds like the finish was applied with a roller and perhaps it set up too fast and didn’t have time to flow out and level. I have been using Poloplaz Primero for years. It is just the nicest finish I’ve ever used. It rolls on beautifully and performs consistently very well.

Possible causes of flaking finish

Q: We bought a house and the first thing we did was have the four bedroom’s hardwood floors sanded and refinished. The quality of work was sub par to begin with, but four months afterwards I have noticed in multiple locations a lot of flaking finish and peeling finish, mainly in between floorboards. I have contacted the guy who did it with little response, but I want to know a little about what could be causing this?

Should I be frustrated with his job or is there a climate issue in my house? The living room he did not do, because it was already done, and there is no flaking so this leads me to believe he used a product that was defective or he just did not do a good job. What are my options to fix my floors? I do have pictures I would like to include them if possible.

A: Flaking finish can have more than one cause. It can be as a result of insufficient abrading between coats of finish. Contaminants can also cause bond failure but in that case, especially if using a solvent (oil based) finish, you will see ‘crawling’ or repelling of the finish almost immediately. If a water borne finish was used and there is a contaminant such as wax between the boards the finish may bridge gaps, but eventually break, and you will get some peeling confined to just the board edges. If there has been a lot of board shrinkage since the job was done this could account for the finish, which has bridged the board edges to stretch to it’s limit and then crack. If this is a result of contaminants interfering with proper adhesion it might still be possible to rescue the job. The floor will have to be thoroughly cleaned with a product such as Poloplaz Tie Tac or Basic Coating Tie Coat and then screen and coat again. If the problem is from serious shrinkage and/or movement between boards causing the finish to stretch and break then the issue really goes all the way back to when the floor was first installed… Inadequate nailing, poor sub floor.

Are there major differences in various Poly products regarding end results or ability to protect my floors from scratches? Our floor finish scratches easily…

Q: I recently had my old AK wood floors refinished, stained cherry, with two layers of poly. I’ve noticed that our floor finish scratches easily, VERY easy, and I’m rather concerned about my investment. I’m curious if there are major differences in various Poly products in their end results or ability to protect my floors from scratches? Could I have had a weaker product put on my floors? If so, can I apply another layer of something different to add more protection?

A: Yes, of course there are differences in products as to durability. One of the biggest issues is what was the procedure used when finishing your floors? For example, was a lacquer sealer used as a base coat first? If so, the durability will be very poor. Was proper abrasion performed between coats to assure adhesion? Do you know what products and procedures were used? Another coat may or may not help in the long run, but wouldn’t hurt to try. A sample spot in an out of the way corner might be a good idea. Prep the spot. Apply a thin coat of finish. Give it a week and rub it with a coin edge and see if you have good adhesion.

Similar Q: I had floors refinished, sanded all they way down and polyurethane finished. The floors scratch more now than they did when the finish was 10 years old. What causes this scratching?

A: Scratches generally are from something which is abrasive rubbing across the finish. The larger or sharper the worse or deeper the scratches. It could be something on the bottom of a shoe. A piece of grit on the bottom of a chair leg. The better the finish the more resistant to scratching. Even with a large dog, you will get impressions or little grooves in the floor but it will take some time to degrade the finish itself.

Can polyurethane floor finish problems resolve themselves?

Q: We have Brazilian Cherry floors and had an experienced flooring guy screen/sand half of our floors. He applied a very fast drying, oil-based polyurethane, clean satin finish. The next day we looked at the floors and were not happy. The floors having pooling marks with excess finish, brush marks and start/stop marks. The contractor said the imperfections will all go away within 7 days and that the polyurethane will level out and not show any of the application marks. Is this true, these polyurethane floor finish problems will solve themselves, or should I be calling my bank to stop payment?

A: I don’t believe there is any truth to that. Sorry. After application the finish has a certain amount of time, depending on the type of coating and environmental conditions in the home, to flow out and level. This is generally just a matter of a few hours. Then over several hours or overnight it dries to walk on and over several weeks continues to cure, which means it keeps getting harder. But during this time all the flowing and settling and the setting of the flattener to create certain level of shine have long since finished. I guess that tells you what you need to do.

Swedish finish smell two months later

Q: I have a swedish finished hardwood floor. It’s been almost two months since it was finished, but it still smells if we close the windows. It’s not so bad that the Swedish finish smell is burning ours eyes or throat. The product used to finish is Berger Seidle (or Gerber Seidle? I can’t remember!) from Germany. My questions are:

1. How long will the toxicity continue for swedish finished floors using Berger Seidle? Is that true that once the floor is completely cured it will not emit toxins any more?

2. Is that a good idea to buff it and apply a coat or two water based finish? Do I have to wait until the floor is done with the curing process to apply new water based finish?


A: I’m not sure my comments are going to be helpful. I haven’t used ‘Swedish finishes’ aka acid cure in more than 2 decades. It is very tough finish but it is extremely nasty stuff to work with. I don’t know if it continues to off gas after it is dry. That would be a serious concern. It could be that all the windows were closed during application so the solvents escaping the finish clung to wall, clothing, fabric etc. It may also be an issue getting a different technology finish such as water borne to bond to it. If that proves to be the case it would tell me that, yes it continues to emit formaldehyde even when dry. I’ve used Glitsa and Skandia in this acid cure formulation. I would not use it now.

Circular scratch-type marks

Q: A professional installed a new floor in our kitchen, applied sealer and 2 coats of poly. Now I can see fine circular scratch-type marks in the finish. What went wrong?

A: Unfortunately gaining a bond between coats, especially with solvent type finishes requires ‘scratching’ the existing coating. It could be the previous coat was not hard enough and the abrasive used was too course. Pot lights and shiny finishes will make this appear worse than it actually is.

Follow-up Q: What can be done to fix it? The floor installer stated that he used a new pad and it was too abrasive. Does the floor need to be stripped to bare wood or can the present finish be salvaged?

A: Buff the floor down with 180 grit screen and apply a coat of Poloplaz Primero satin.

Similar Q: Our guy changed the poly this time around and the bubbles are mostly gone, but now I see circular ‘scratch-type marks’ I am assuming are from the buffer. Is the only remedy for this to rebuff and apply another coat of poly? Did this happen because the previous coat of poly wasn’t 100% dry?

A: Buffer swirl “circular” scratches have been at war with us since the days of applying varnish first began. The catch 22 is that we must ‘scratch’ the previous coat to create adhesion. You can hope you have buffed it enough and won’t see marks. This is why special buffing pads such as the maroon one were created. And sand paper strips that can be attached to them. All an effort to ‘buff’ a finish and not leave marks. A gloss finish is likely to show them. It is a vexing issue.

Finish has dried with milky white spots

Q: I have an old hardwood (maple, I think) floor that’s never been waxed since it was last refinished about 20 years ago. I sanded the floor (220 grit) to remove the old finish. In the process some of the old color came off. I used some minwax stain over the entire floor, let it dry good, then tack clothed the entire floor again because of a powdery residue. Then I finished with minwax clear satin. The problem I have is that the finish has dried with milky white spots in it. How do I correct it? I will sand down to bare wood and start over if necessary.

A: It sounds like you did not sand the entire floor down to clean wood, but then wiped stain over the entire floor. You may be having adhesion issues with this, so if that is what is happening, you are better off to take the floor down to clean wood.

Similar Q: Hi, we recently had our hardwood floors redone in our living room and family room. One day they sanded and stained. Day two they put 3 coats of water based sealant on it. I know they sanded in between coats 2 and 3, but not sure if they did anything between coats 1 and 2. I was told on day 3 we could move furniture back, but we kept off it that day. The morning of day 4 we moved a few things carefully back. That’s when I noticed some little white spots/marks here and there. At first I thought it was dust, but the spots wouldn’t move. And they are not necessarily in areas that we had walked over to move furniture. Do you have any idea what is going on? The stain is a medium brown.

A: I’m not sure. I do know water bourn urethane can ‘blush’ or get a milky look if applied in excessively high humidity. However this would be everywhere, not just some spot. Did they use an oil based stain? If they did I’m wondering if these spots are a reaction between your finish and the solvents in the stain trying to escape.