Fish eye bubbles in epoxy coating

Q: My builder was required to resand and recoat my timber floors with a full gloss epoxy coating. This is his third attempt due to what I believe are fish eyes appearing. I told the builder the biggest mistake he made was painting over silicone that was used around the base of the kitchen joinery.

With his third attempt at recoating he removed the silicone, but fish eyes reappeared and reappeared in different locations. He has now contaminated the entire floor area and cannot get a contaminate free finish. Do you agree with my assessment, and if so, what do you recommend he do to get a quality finish?

A: I’ve never used an epoxy coating on a wooden floor and can’t even imagine the nightmare of trying to do so. This is not a usual product to apply to a floor.

I agree with your assessment regarding the silicone. Nothing is going to adhere to that.

Fish eye bubbles are generally caused by air flow across the floor while applying the coating and not from contamination. This causes far too rapid evaporation of the solvent before the finish has even settled down. All windows and doors need to be closed initially.

Webmaster’s note: This reminds me of a question we got where the home owner had accidentally contaminated the floor job with over spray from the cleaners they used on the cabinets. This also involved fish eyes.

Yellow streaking after 3rd coat

Q: My daughter had her floor sanded and recoated. After the first two coats everything looked great. The contractor said he wanted to add a 3rd coat so they said okay.

After the 3rd coat yellow streaking showed up when it was dry. Mostly at all the seams. Why would this happen?

A: I would say they have used a water borne coating. Who is the manufacturer of the finish? Perhaps this is a tannin reaction.

Duller finish in touch-up area

Q: I recently applied 3 coats of oil-based poly from *****, clear satin, to my new red oak floors. The poly looked good, but there were a few isolated areas that needed to be refinished, where poly had pooled a little and formed a small line/berm.

I applied the poly initially from a 5 gallon drum. I sanded and used poly from a 1 gallon container, same clear satin as the 5-gallon container. The touch-up areas came out a little duller than the surrounding areas.

I have sanded and tried to touch-up 3 times now, but consistently getting duller finish in touch-up area. I have tried different sanding grits between 100 and 220 with same duller results. Wondering if 1 gallon container will result in a duller finish than 5-gallon container, even though they both say fast drying clear satin?

A: All finishes except gloss contain a paste to dull the finish which has to generally be mixed in and tends to settle on the bottom of the pail. It is likely you had the product mixed more thoroughly in the gallon an than the five gallon and this is why you are getting a duller shine when using it.

The best finish I’ve used to avoid this problem is Poloplaz Primero. While you can’t get it in gallon cans anymore but only in 1 quart pouches, they came up with a way in manufacturing to keep that flattening paste suspended in the product so very little mixing is needed to achieve a consistent shine level. If you are doing areas larger than a gallon for example (spread rate is 500 feet per gallon) it’s always a good idea to mix what is needed into one container. Primero goes on great with a brush to cut in the edges and a roller for the main area of the floor.

Stepped on finish before it was dry and left a dull footprint

Q: We just had our oak floors sanded and re-finished. The guy did a great job. Today in the morning he put the last glossy/shiny finish – looks wonderful. We came home after 7PM and I tried to get to the bathroom. The floor looked to me like it was dry. But in one spot my foot got stuck, it wasn’t dry enough, and I left a dull footprint on this beautiful glossy finish. Can I fix it somehow?

A: It happens. The boards affected would need to be lightly sanded and a thin coat of the same finish applied. Maybe your floor guy wouldn’t mind dropping in to do a quick fix.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Milky marks appearing in finish of exotic wood floor

Q: We have Brazilian cherry floors with Swedish finish, installed in 2004. There are milky marks appearing in the finish. They now look like tread marks from athletic shoes. We don’t have any shoes that match the pattern. Any clues to what is happening?

A: I don’t have a great deal of experience with exotic woods such as Jatoba. To tell you the truth, I try to stay away from them.

I know it can change colour rapidly and in fact have seen it.

I’ve also heard that white marks can appear in some batches of Jatoba as an interaction with extractives in the wood and solvents in floor finish but I don’t know why it would take this long to appear if that were the issue.

Finish peeling due to too many coats of stain

Q: We really need some advice. We just moved into our new construction home about a month ago. The moving company used packing tape to tape down blankets to protect our newly finished hardwood floors. When they pulled off the tape, big sheets of the polyurethane came off. Thinking it was just an issue with the adhesive on the tape being too strong, the floor guy came back and “redid” those areas. However, we have noticed that wherever our dog (about 50lb and nails always clipped) has made any scratches (even slight) in the floor, the polyurethane is flaking off. You can literally peel it off with a fingernail. We have had dogs before on other hardwood floors, and while they may scratch it, the clear coat has never flaked off like this. We have wide plank, new heart pine. It was stained with 3 coats of Dura Seal Dark Walnut stain. They used 3 coats of Gerner Clear Satin polyurethane. It was sanded in between coats. Any guidance you can give us as to why this is happening would be greatly appreciated.

A: This issue is definitely not the fault of the tape. I’ve done tests on boards I’ve stained and finished with a variety of tapes including Gorilla tape, pressed onto the boards and left 5 days. I removed the tape after that with no issues. I have to ask why your floor guy applied 3 coats of Dura Seal stain. I’m afraid to apply two coats in case the first coat of finish isn’t able to reach the wood to gain a bond with that. 3 coats? Wow, I’ve never heard of that and as you can see, it isn’t a wise thing to do. If they wanted a darker colour they perhaps should have considered water popping first which opens the wood grain for a darker, more consistent colour. The only way to fix this I’m afraid is to start over.

Follow-up Q: We did 3 coats to achieve a darker color. 2 coats wasn’t enough to achieve the color we wanted. I’ve never heard of water popping. Can you explain that please?

A: It is easy. After all wood has been completely sanded and prepared with dust vacuumed up, wet (not soak) the surface of the floor with warm water. It doesn’t have to be warm. Don’t miss any spots. Allow this to completely dry and start staining. Do not drag or scuff your shoes on this lest it close up the grain in that spot and you end up with a light spot. That is all there is to it. If that doesn’t give you a dark enough colour then go with something darker. Final sanding should be finished with 100 grit and not finer than that. If the wood is too smooth you won’t get any stain penetration and the colour will look awful.

Follow-up Q: So, in your opinion, too many coats of stain were used causing the polyurethane to not adhere properly? And our only option is to start over completely?

A: If each coat was lightly sanded between each coat then that would appear to be the reason. It sounds like it is peeling, not between coats but right off the stain. There is no other way to fix it I’m afraid.