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.

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.

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.

Polyurethane peeling in some of the joints

Q: We had our hardwood floor sanded, stained and polyurethaned in May and now in March (less than a year) they are peeling in some of the joints, and the joints are now white in color. what would cause this and how is it fixed?

A: There are so many possible causes for this, without knowing what finishes they used, how they applied them, and a host of other elements I can only wager a guess. It sounds like during the heating season your floor, because of low humidity has shrunk a bit, and the finish cracked on the joints. The peeling is at the joints, not over the entire floor.

The fix is to have the floor buffed really well, paying close attention to board edges and apply another coat. Any gaps should be filled first. Try to keep a relatively stable relative humidity in the house.

Similar Q: I just had my 14 year old wood floors sanded and stained, and 3 or 4 coats of polyurethane applied. There is now peeling at the seams where the boards come together. The floor guy says it is because the floor gives when you step on it. Could that cause the peeling?

A: If there is significant flex the finish will stretch and then break and perhaps chip, but not peel. In my opinion a more likely reason for peeling on board edges would be contaminants such as wax bleeding up from between the boards, or if there is a lot of movement from one board to the next, the mans polisher probably went over top but missed abrading those edges and he hasn’t gained adhesion.

(After further correspondence…) 3rd A: The problem I am having with their explanation is that you can pull the finish off in the middle of the board with a piece of scotch tape. This is totally unrelated to the movement of the boards and would seem to indicate lack of adhesion in general across the floor. I have seen tape pull of the top layer of water borne, but I’ve never seen it happen to oil modified. However, when it happened it was because the workers taped the floor around the perimeter of the rooms soon after the coating was applied (not cured) and it was in place for days before they started trying to remove it. It wasn’t a case of applying a piece of tape and then pulling it off right away with the floor finish stuck to the tape.

I can’t question the ability or integrity of the company who did the work. After 35 years I know sanding, staining and finishing is so hard and technically difficult, sooner or later a job will go south. I would think that if they care about you, their customer, care about the type of work they do, and want to have a good reputation, they should try and make this right even if it means starting over. That really seems like the only option to fix this. Putting another coat of finish over top of one that is not adhering is not going to fix the problem.

You would probably be well served if you could find someone local to provide you a second opinion with a home visit.

Similar Q: What can be done about white lines in between boards of Walnut wood flooring?

A: Difficult to say. What caused the white lines? If the boards shrank and stretched/cracked off the finish you will need to control the environment and humidity or lack of it. A buff and re-coat may get rid of the lines.

Polyurethane coating is flaking

Q: We have a guest house with pine floors. I have sanded them, applied and oil base stain, then went over them with a polyurethane. I applied about 4 coats of poly in 7 days time. The floors looked great for about a month (they weren’t even walked on) and we had a cold snap in weather. I noticed my floors had almost a frost look to them and they were flaking like crazy. Can I just buff the floors with a screen and redo the poly in a day instead of a week? I am learning that I should not of let them dry that long between coats. The floor scratches like crazy.

A: If the coating is flaking seriously you will have to start over. It’s likely you have flaking between all the coats between the first and second all the way up to the fourth. What you have here is lack of adhesion. Adhesion is attained between coats by applying a coat of polyurethane, allowing it to dry and then thoroughly buffing or abrading the coating with a fine abrasive. Essentially you are applying a fine scratch to the finish to allow the next coat to grab. This has to be done between each coat. You will know if a coat of finish is dry enough to proceed if it turns to a fine powder as you buff it and you aren’t having the finish roll of in little strings or clogging the abrasive. 3 coats of finish initially on a stained floor is plenty to start with.

Follow-up Q: Can I do this with just a screen buffer? I am thinking that a sander is to much. I don’t want to pull off the stain.

A: You can certainly attempt it as a last ditch effort before going the extreme but necessary route of total resand. The difficulty is you don’t know for sure on where the peeling starts. Is it failing from the second coat up? You will likely have to screen it fairly heavily, removing a lot of the finish and so there is a very real risk of cutting into the stain with the screen.

Related Q: We have white lines where the polyurethane looks like it is flaking off. The floor was stained with Miniwax and an oil based polyurethane. The main areas of stain were applied at least five days before any polyurethane was applied. The polyurethane was applied in three consecutive days. We have been using a cleaner that contains ammonia and washing the floors every two weeks. Could this have caused the white lines? If not what could be the cause?

A: It sounds clearly to me you don’t have adhesion between coats. This is achieved by thoroughly buffing each coat, that is scratching and deglossing prior to applying another coat. It is really a mystery to me why you waited so long to start applying the finish coats on the stain and why you would be using such a strong cleaning solution in the meantime. Preparation is everything. Clean environment. Good temperatures. It seems clear to me this has not been professionally done.

Finish peeling in sporadic areas

Q: The old owners refinished our floor but they are peeling, in odd and sporadic areas all over the house. Can the areas be fixed or do I have to redo all the floors?

A: I would definitely recommend a complete re-sand and finish. You are either dealing with a contamination issue between the coats of finish, or improper preparation between coats to ensure adhesion. What you apply on top of this now will only be as sound as the coatings it is sitting on, which by your comments is not stable, but peeling throughout.

Similar Q: I finished a floor in my house with Minwax stain and polyurethane and it came out great. I did a 2nd room 2 years later using same steps and same can of stuff, but the polyurethane is chipping/peeling in spots. Was the polyurethane too old? Can I fix just the little peeling spots?

A: If you applied more than one coat of finish either you didn’t buff or scratch sufficiently between coats or there was a possible contaminant on the floor. Believe it or not, but it is true, even typical vasol or mineral spirits bought at the store which one may use to clean their brushes and applicators may be recycled and contain other ingredients that are contaminants.

You could attempt to fix the spots, but I might do the entire floor again if there are many.

Peeling off someone’s hack job coat of polyurethane

Q: We recently bought a small condominium that has an engineered (5 layer) maple hardwood floor. Someone attempted to refinish the original satin finish with a high gloss polyurethane. The shiny top layer is peeling off in sheets all over the floor. My question is, is there any way to “buff” off the shiny coat and get back to the original satin finish WITHOUT having to sand and re-finish the entire floor? The places where the new shiny coat have peeled off reveal a perfectly fine original satin finish which is what we would like to get back. Thanks.

A: I can’t see buffing this off. For example, if you used a car paint finish buffer you would face the risk of flakes of polyurethane getting under the pad and scratching the original finish. Unless you can patiently peel off the gloss coating a situation like this generally requires totally sanding the floor.

Delaminating finish and stain coming up as well

Q: We bought a foreclosure a year ago which had lots of urine stains on the wood. The flooring contractor sanded everything down and patched where needed. The bare floors looked great. We had them use a dark stain and gloss water based poly finish. Again, everything looked great when done. A couple weeks later, we noticed a small round spot where the poly had come off. More spots appeared over the next several months. In most cases, the stain seemed to come up as well. Some spots were tiny, some up to 1 1/2 inches, mostly round but not all. They sanded the floors down and redid everything. 2 Weeks later, I’ve found 2 spots where it is starting again. What could be causing this?

A: This is very strange. Delaminating finish is one issue which can be explained by some type of contaminant on the floor or between coats which prevents adhesion. Stain coming off too is a different animal altogether because the stain does penetrate into the wood surface a little bit. It isn’t just something that sits on top of the wood like a coating, unless he used a tinted polyurethane. Can you tell me what stain he used?

Follow-up Q: Unfortunately not. When my contractor went to have the floors redone, the sub claimed not to have a record of the stain used initially. It was not a tinted poly. It was supposed to be two coats of ebony stain (brand not known), but we found a plain silver can afterwards that had written on it “plus 12 oz. black”. When they redid the floors, the color came out much lighter. My contractor had scheduled a different sub to come in and strip them down again and try to get the color right, but now we have these spots coming up again and don’t know what to do to prevent that. The original contractor argued that some outside contaminant might be being brought in either on our shoes or the dog’s paws. While the ongoing nature of it and the fact that the spots are mainly in traffic areas would tend to support this, the fact the most of the spots were perfectly round doesn’t, plus I don’t know what we could be tracking in that could do this. We don’t have any contact with anything that caustic or acidic. Also, there have not been any problems on the stairs, upstairs, or master bedroom, which are all entirely new wood. Is there anything they could have used on the old floors that would cause this?

A: While I’m not suggesting this caused the problem, I’m not a big fan of applying two coats of stain, especially when using very dark, heavily pigmented stains with more pigment added. If I want to achieve a darker version of the colour I will water pop the floor, which simply means wetting the surface and letting it dry to open the surface and allow better penetration. I tend to think as was mentioned, that a contaminant is being introduced. I was called in to refinish maple floors that somebody made a real mess of. Everything I did looked excellent until I applied the finish which still looked amazing except in areas where the finish was being repelled. The home owner turned his garage into a Harley man cave with plastic tiles on the floor. I walked back and forth constantly over this floor to get to my trailer. I asked if he treated these tiles with anything. Yes, Honda spray. And he had renewed the spray two days before I started work. So, that was the culprit. I was able to polish the floors, wet buffing with Poloplaz Tie Tac which removed the contaminant. Then I screened a recoated. I’m no so sure this will work for you because in this case your finish is peeling off. In my case the finish was repelled and didn’t form a film over the areas of contamination.

Follow-up Q: So that was something that was being tracked in during the refinishing process before the poly was applied?

They are talking about something being tracked on an ongoing basis after everything was finished. That’s part of the issue – that the de-lamination has gone on over a period of months. What type of situation could cause that?

A: When the finish is delaminating and pulling away from what is beneath it, clearly contaminants on the surface are irrelevant. The problem is what is beneath the finish. Someone or something could have walked a contaminant across the freshly sanded floor or over the stained floor before any finish was applied.

Another possibility I thought of as the previous email was leaving is the slight possibility, if the workers who did the job wore knee pads that had something on them. But you say two different crews did the work with the same results so this possibility is stretching the limits of probability. I generally try to look for the simplest, most obvious explanation first: something finding it’s way onto the floor before the finish was applied. That contaminant could be the heavily pigmented stain itself, especially if they used a water borne finish and the stain was not 100% dry. The solvents from the stain would not allow adhesion.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Similar Q: There are 11 spots on my engineered wood, on the edges, that appear to be flaking/peeling off. What causes this?

A: Peeling finish more often than not is caused by inadequate preparation of a previous coat of finish to ensure a mechanical bond of the various coats applied. I would be contacting the store where you bought it first and the manufacturer also.

Follow-up Q: What about moisture?

A: If there is enough moisture to cause finish to peel off the wood there should be other signs also like cupping of the boards.

Similar Q: What would cause flaking and scratching all over? Could only one coat of poly be on the floors?

A: It really sounds like all flaking and scratching is because of lack of adhesion. If it was one coat of finish on a properly prepared surface these things would not be happening. Applying another coat on top of this will not fix the problem. The top coat is only as good as what it sits on. If the one coat is failing another coat will also fail.

Finish appears to be lifting off Brazilian cherry hardwood floors

Q: I have Brazilian cherry hardwood floors, natural finish, 3 coats oil base poly (high gloss). The floor was installed late summer with AC on in house and the material sat in house for 7 days. I still expected the floor to shrink over the winter and it appears to have done so within acceptable tolerance. I have no significant gaps. My problem is that between about 50% of the boards 2 1/4″ the finish appears to be lifting but is not loose (tried to gently scrape it with a utility knife). The coloration reminds me of loose poly. Is this something that will go away over time? Does it need refinished? Is the poly too thick?

A: When coating any wood, if each dried application is not abraded properly there is a risk of de-lamination / delamination of the next coat of finish. I don’t know if that is what is happening in your case. Some exotic woods can also create issues because of ‘extractives’ in the wood which react with the solvent in polyurethane. This floor will likely have to be refinished. I include an article from Poloplaz on how to deal with some of these exotic woods.

Ripple and poly peeling

Q: We put in American Cherry hard wood floors. The floor people sanded and did two coats of oil poly. We felt it wasn’t enough and wanted another coat. They weren’t available, so we hired another person. They have put on two coats on top of the other two. There is one line of ripple like one long “S” and the poly seems to come up/peel off if scuffed. Do we have to start over by sanding all the way down?

A: I agree with you that 2 coats is not enough. On a natural, not stained floor I would typically apply a coat of Poloplaz Fast Dry sealer, which is polyurethane based but offers exceptional penetration into the floor followed by 2 coats of Primero, which is a high solids, tough wearing polyurethane top coat.

I don’t know if the second company used a water borne finish on top or solvent based, but if there are adhesion issues you will likely have to start over I’m afraid. Most likely causes would be inadequate buffing between coats to create a sufficient mechanical bond, or some type of contaminant got onto one of the previous coats of finish. This could be from any number of products used around the home from oily soaps to furniture polish, etc.

Follow-up Q: Thank you for your fast response. What you said makes sense, I think we were just hoping that there was a way to fix this quickly. Just to clarify, do we have to sand down to the bare wood and what would be the best products for the American Cherry?

A: Well, you have to get past the first layer that is peeling. That is where the issue began. For all practical purposes, and to put an end to the failure, sand to bare wood.

I have become partial to Poloplaz products over the past years. Their Primero is the best oil based polyurethane I’ve used in over 35 years. That along with their Fast Dry Sanding Sealer provide an excellent, tough finish that looks great and is easy to apply.

Hardwood floor finish is peeling off

Q: We have wood floors that were installed 5 or 6 years ago. I had them recently re-coated and the hardwood floor finish is peeling off. The flooring company advised that cleaning products such as Murphy’s Oil Soap (which I used on my floors) will penetrate the finished wood in scratches and deep grooves and cause the re-coating product not to adhere. I was advised that I should never use Murphy’s on my wood floors. I am trying to verify if this is correct, in your experience.

A: I wouldn’t recommend oil soaps or any other product that can leave a residue on the finish surface. Such residue, if not removed, can cause adhesion issues. Flooring and floor finish manufacturers in particular make acceptable cleaners for polyurethane finishes which evaporate almost immediately and do a good job of cleaning the floors.

Hardwood finish peeling after 6 months

Q: Approximately 6 months ago I had some hardwood flooring installed. I now see some hardwood finish peeling. What should I do?

A: You could contact the company who did the work. I suspect the floors will have to be sanded over and finished properly.

Similar Q: My wood floor finish seems to be peeling. I have tested the moisture content in the floor and sub floor and the range is 2.9 to 7.6 %. What could be causing the floor to peel? It is a M****** maple hardwood floor purchased in April of 2004.

A: Moisture content is fine. Neither the sub floor or pre finished floor are wet. It sounds like a defective product to me. You should definitely call the company it was purchased from and perhaps also the manufacturer. These products are warrantied against finish wear through and peeling is far beyond normal. It wouldn’t be the first time an event like this has happened with a product.