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.

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.

Wood and polyurethane peeling off wood floor

Q: We had a new prefinished oak floor installed. On several of the more knotty or highly grained boards the finish and actual wood are flaking and peeling up. Is it normal to see wood and polyurethane peeling off wood floor?

I’m being told from the manufacturer rep that it is the “nature of wood floors” and the only solution is to replace the affected boards, at my own expense, of course. I’ve lived with oak floors before (some much older than this one) and have NEVER seen anything like this.

A: The only solution may be to replace the affected boards, but in NO way is this to be considered NORMAL. If a finish is peeling off a pre finished, or even site finished floor, this can never be considered normal. There is a defect in either the flooring (not dry before applying the finish) or the finish and application technique.
You should not have to pay a dime!

Flaking pre-finished hardwood flooring?

Q: We have Bruce pre-finished hardwood flooring throughout our home. Can it be sanded, re-stained and finished without the poly so there is no more flaking? The flooring is 10 years old and I have become so frustrated that I have cleaned it with water, trying to make it look better.

A: Why would a pre finished floor have flaking finish? Did somebody try to apply another coat to this floor? It can be sanded, stained and finished, and if done properly, won’t flake.

Polyurethane peeling off

Q: I have 2000 square feet of hardwood floors, and in some areas I have the poly / polyurethane peeling off. So far I have made one huge mistake: I cleaned all the floors with ammonia, and that took the water, dirt, and wax off of them. Then I used an oil based product called Dura Seal on two rooms. It made a huge difference. I then added a water based poly to one room and it dried great, but you could scratch off the poly. I do not know what to do about that. I do not want to sand my entire house. Can you put a stain over old oil based polyurethane and then use an oil based poly? Any suggestions?

A: You cannot apply either oil or waterborne finishes over top of a floor that has wax on it. If you intend to stain, the entire coating, whatever it may be has to be removed to bare wood first.

You would actually save money and your floors by hiring a professional.

Finish peeling right off

Q: My hardwood floors were just cleaned and then three coats of finish/poly were added. The cleaning did not include any abrasion. I noticed prior to the cleaning that there were areas where the top most part of the oak wood has lifted, almost like it is peeling off. It looks like the poly layers, as well as some of the wood, are dry and about to peel off. How do I fix this?

A: Are you telling me the floors were “cleaned” but not buffed? That would explain the peeling. I would think you are now at the point of needing a full sanding and finishing. No finish, oil borne or water borne, will adhere if not buffed (or more crudely stated, “scratched”) before coating.

Follow-up Q: Yes, they were cleaned with a solution by B********** and then a poly coat with B********** Wood Finish. Supposedly, the cleaning solution pulls up some of the previous poly coats, but I fear that they might have gone about this all wrong. The problem is that I have these beautiful oak floors (circa 1922) that are so thin that they almost look like a veneer floor. Many contractors have told us that they thought the floor started out thin and top nailed. So the cleaning company was afraid to buff as they did not want to thin it any more. But, I was under the impression that the screening process would only scratch the poly coats, and not the wood. This company indicated that buffing could do damage to my floors. Though they look good, I will have to maintain these floors for years to come and I don’t know how to handle without damaging.

A: Buffing with a polisher and fine abrasive would, as you indicate, only scratch/scuff the coating. It would remove no wood at all. However, if they did not buff (This is how a mechanical bond is created to ensure adhesion. The fresh coat of finish adheres to the scratches.) and did not use one of the new products, which are supposed to chemically prep the previous coating to gain adhesion, then the finish will peel, and you will now face a more serious issue. This entire coating will have to be removed. Since your floors are too thin to tolerate a sanding with a professional machine, it will either have to be chemically stripped or the finish buffed off with a polisher and rough screen.

Follow-up comment: Thanks Craig! Wish I had found your site before I had this work done.

A few bare spots in old finish

Q: We own a 116 year old Victorian home and our large dining room area has an original pine wood floor. Since we have lived here for only two years, we have never refinished this floor. The problem is that lately, in quite a few spots, the finish has peeled and cracked, leaving bare spots that are actually deeper than the rest of the wood. Can we repair just these spots and then finish the whole floor? What are the steps taken to fix this?

A: For some areas I have used a polyurethane adhesive in a squeeze bottle. There is also a robust wood filler called Timbermate which could be used. www.timbermate.com

Poly started flaking and buffer circles started showing up

Q: We just went through a major renovation. We added new hardwood floors and had the existing ones refinished, so all would match. Due to some problems with the finish clouding and not drying properly, they were sanded at least three more times, with poly put on after each sanding. Two weeks after we moved back into our home, the poly started flaking and buffer circles started showing up. Now 6 months later it looks horrible. The flaking has accelerated. The guy who did the floors says it’s due to the low humidity and we should get a humidifier and that all wood floors do that. I’ve talked with friends who have hardwood floors and they are NOT having this problem.

Please HELP! What is causing this? He said he may have to do the floors all over again.

A: Applying coatings can be difficult and technically challenging, since a number of factors can influence the final outcome. some of these factors include environmental elements such as temperature and relative humidity in the home. A floor having too low a moisture content won’t cause a polyurethane to peel. Though if a floor is actually wet with moisture reading well above normal, it can happen. I suspect some contaminant of some sort has gotten onto this floor between coats of finish and has caused this failure. Perhaps someone decided to “clean” the floor with something that has affected adhesion. A finish can and will peel off if the previous coat has not been abraded or scratched. And since you mention that you can see swirl marks, we can safely say the man did abrade the floor. I don’t think it is that these marks are just now appearing. They were there before, but you didn’t notice them because the lighting wasn’t just right at the time. This also is a vexing problem for floor refinishers.
Abrading or scratching the previous coat is not optional. If we don’t do this, we have no way to gain adhesion. It is even possible to buff with a maroon pad (320 grit equivalent) with a couple of 180 grit strips applied and still see swirls with gloss urethane under, for example, pot lights. The finer the scratches applied to the finish, the less the next coat has to grip onto. It can become a “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t” scenario.

It can also cause problems applying too many consecutive coats of finish. What you have needs time to fully cure. I would allow at least 1 month before attempting another buff and coat. It will have to be a fairly vigorous screening or buffing to hopefully get below the coat that is contaminated (if that is what the cause is) without cutting into the stain. It may or may not work.

Flaking, dull poly

Q: I have wood floors that have been refinished, stained and sealed with a polyurethane top coat. The poly has started to flake and is also dull. Is there a product I can use to revive the poly and reseal without having to sand it completely and reapply?

A: May I ask what was used as a sealer? If the finish is flaking, the only thing to be done is start over. The finish will flake from lack of bond between the top coat and what it sits on.

Follow-up Q: Unfortunately the previous owner did it, and I don’t know. It appears to be a polyurethane top coat that has dried up and is flaking. Do I have to sand off the poly and apply something else? or do I need to sand down to the stain, restain and reseal? I’ve seen some products that allow for a rough sand to dull the poly and then simply reapply 2-3 new coats. Just trying to figure out how invasive I’ll have to be, so that I only have to do it once.

A: It isn’t normal for a polyurethane to flake off. It can happen if there was a contaminant present, or if a previous coat of finish was not abraded well enough. If the source of the problem does not originate on the wood itself, you might be able to screen/abrade it really well to remove all the flaking and apply 1 more thin coat.

Hardwood floor finish chipping off

Q: I was reading the archives about oil vs. water polys and saw an old article by someone who had pine floors and dogs.

I installed a random-width wide plank heart pine floor one year ago almost exactly. After acclimating it for 14 days (during which we had record humidity for the area, but I have f/a electric heat on) properly with stickers, etc., I put two coats of stain (one per day) and then 4 coats of 100% Tung Oil on it (1 coat per day).

They came out beautifully, until my Labrador started walking on it. I went with the pine because scratches are unavoidable (I also have 3 kids, 7 to 11) and the theory that the more they get beat up the better they look. I expected it to be a little like copper, that it would need time to even out the patina.

However, the problem is, the finish is chipping off. There are scratches, yes, but they just look like regular scratches, and then there are spots where the finish has chipped off, and the wood is the same pale color it was the day I put it in, instead of the dark orange I stained it. These are actually shaped like chips you would see in fingernail polish, etc. Unfortunately, hardwood floor finish chipping all over the whole floor.

I contacted my flooring co. and they could not explain the reason, other than that for some reason, the stain did not absorb into the pine. They advised me to have the floor refinished with a polyurethane this time. They even sent me a check to cover it.

My question is, in the article I was reading, you said something about if the floors were sealed with a quick dry lacquer and then coated with poly, they would never be as durable as they could’ve been.

I would like to know what your opinion is… the tung oil I found to be very easy to put on, not too bad of a smell, and I love the look of it. But again, I have been advised not to use it again. By the way, I trim and file his nails every 5 weeks or so, and he is very very mellow, hard to believe, I know, but true.

I would like to have these refinished this spring, so any info would be highly appreciated.

A: I don’t like applying more than one coat of stain to a floor because of the potential for adhesion issues. If you did not remove the excess when you applied the stain, it would be a very likely that this is what caused the problem. Also, if you didn’t sand the pine floors first but simply applied the stain, that would explain the lack of penetration.

This is what I would suggest for you to do. In the past 6 months I have been introduced to a tung oil based product called Waterlox. I used it, in a similar situation to yourself, on nearly 4000 sq. ft. of new red pine that also had to be stained MinWax Provincial. After all sanding was complete, I was able to mix the stain in the Waterlox at a maximum ratio of 4:1 and apply with a lambs wool applicator. Do not wipe off. Just let it soak in and dry normally. If the stain is not dark enough, apply the second coat of Waterlox/stain mix for the second coat. Then apply 2 more coats of the sheen of choice. Being able to add the stain to the WL and not have to apply then wipe off saved me hours of grief and exhaustion and the colour came out so even throughout. It is also very easy to care for over the long run. Get any scratches through the finish and stain? Simple wipe or brush the tinted WL on the spot. Buffing between coats is not needed for adhesion, as this product co-adheres to itself.
www.waterlox.com

Follow-up Q: Thanks for your reply. I used an additional coat of Waterlox this summer on it. I also used Waterlox on my maple butcher block eating bar. I do like it. I did in fact wipe the stain off, but you’re right, not sanding was probably the key. Do you truly think this would be better in the long run vs an oil based poly? It is truly upsetting to see my beautiful floors looking like this. I lived on the East Coast for about 3 years and am very familiar with old floors. But they did not have the stain issues like I have. I also had a flooring professional come out and he just said to sand, re-stain, and do 3 coats of poly. I wouldn’t mind re-staining and oiling, as even he said I did what appeared to be a great job (I am somewhat of a perfectionist), but I do not want to undertake the sanding, as I understand pine can be tricky to sand correctly.

Will a good professional mind only sanding and not completing the job with stain and poly?

A: I have been applying coatings for over 33 years. Swedish finishes like S****** and G***** are the hardest finishes you could apply in a home. But they are extremely noxious, and I would not use them again. In fact, being very very hard can be a draw back in the long run. This is one of my complaints about pre finished floors. Aluminum oxide coatings are abrasion resistant, which means they are near to impossible to buff and recoat to freshen up the coating.

I did not know there was a product called Waterlox until I joined an online flooring community.

This product has been on the market from the early 1900’s. I have used it on a number of jobs and love it. It is a different from polyurethanes in some ways. Important ways. It does build like a poly. It is softer. but it penetrates the wood even better. That is a good thing. I did a water test between a board finished with polyurethane and WL and after 5 hours there was no penetration on either. Scratch up polyurethane and it becomes an issue to fix it. Scratch up WL and you just have to make sure the area is clean, and apply another thin coat. That is a winner in my books. It is a more grainy look, but it is far easier to care for. I would go so far as to say that anyone can apply it.

Follow-up Q: Hi, I just wanted to add, as long as I’m asking, I would like to stain the floor a little darker and redder. The stain I put on previously came out nicely, no blotches, but I have heard that pine is difficult to stain. I will not be doing it this time– I am having a professional do them.

As it seems that the stain did not penetrate well the first time, do you think it will go better this time? The floors were not sanded the first go around. The flooring co. said it was not necessary, and they were extremely smooth and nice to work with. Also, as a little tidbit, about 2 months after we finished the floors, my newly installed refrigerator leaked about 10 gallons of water on the floor, and although we did mop it up quickly, it got under the counters where of course we couldn’t get to it. The tung oil finish held up perfectly. There was absolutely no cupping or expansion whatsoever. At least I know it is definitely waterproof!

A: Bingo. Just as I said. If the wood was not sanded, that would explain why the stain did not penetrate. With all the handling the wood gets, there is all sorts of grime, oils, etc., on the surface of the boards. Yes, if it is sanded to bare wood, it will go much better this time. I would not anticipate any issues. I think the people who advised you that no sanding was necessary made a boo boo. If the company doing the work decides to go with the Waterlox tung oil based finish, I would recommend they go with the mix of stain and WL and make a small test spot on the wood to make sure the colour is what you want. They may have to apply 2 coats of the mix on consecutive days to achieve it. Testing is the key. If you don’t get the colour you want from the mix, then it will have to be stained as a separate procedure first. Then, 4 coats of Waterlox to follow.

I have confidence that if the company doing the work are decent, experienced, conscientious sanders you should have no real problems this time around. As to water resistance….they don’t call it Waterlox for nothing.

Follow-up Q: I have been reading threads on xxxxxxxxxx.com all day. You guys really know your stuff. I wish I felt as confident in the finishers in this area. No one even knows what tung oil or Waterlox is.

OK, my final question is this: my floor is country grade old growth heart pine from Carlisle Lumber in New Hampshire. It is not antique recovered heart pine. The reason I wanted to stain it is I don’t like look of fresh pine. However, I love the look of old heart pine. Will my pine be that beautiful dark orange/red and how long will it take (obviously I would rather not wait 25 years for it… 3-5, maybe)? It seems to me that if I chose not to stain it, that would eliminate the chipping problem I have with the stain on it now. I am a little worried about the blotchy thing as my floors didn’t blotch at all, probably because the grain was so smooth and flat that the stain did not penetrate. I love the old look, and someone had pictures on the xxxxxxxxxx.com site that I really liked of newly stained pine floors. It is not important and not even desirable that all the boards are the same color, if I wanted that I would’ve done clear maple. (I really prefer old genuine Douglas fir, that is my true favorite). Anyhow, I am wondering if my new pine, since this is not 300 yr. old wood, will still turn that color and after how long?

We don’t see tons of direct sun, especially at this time of year. I hope I haven’t caused you to start banging your head against the wall, it is just so nice to talk to someone who actually knows a lot more than I do, as the finishers I’ve talked to all look at me like I’m crazy for suggesting anything other than 2 ¼ inch red oak finished in 3 coats of builder-grade poly. I will try to send a couple of pictures of the floor as it looks today, and you will see what I mean with the chipping of the stain.

One of the pictures:
Heart Pine

A: I looked at your pictures. Your finish looks like someone in Toronto applied 3 coats of lacquer sealer and then a couple of coats of polyurethane. That chipping and scraping off, even delaminating, is the result.

The only way you can fix this is to have the floors sanded to bare, fresh and exposed wood…with nothing else on top to interfere with adhesion of what you apply on top. I think the Waterlox would be a great choice for this floor. It makes staining this soft wood so much easier too. But you would have to experiment with the colour. I did nearly 4000 sq. ft. of red pine with Min Wax provincial stain mixed in, and it turned out very nice. I used the same mix on some new pine doors I installed in my house. It was effortless and they turned out well. Even stain and they look dated.

Don’t be intimidated by xxxxxxxxxx.com. That site is there because we have problems. That really is how complicated this job can be. A person can have years of experience and still have an issue come from nowhere and bite him in the butt.

Regardless of the stain and finish you decide to use, your floors must be sanded completely clean. After that, you should be able to make a better result. I should add: Jeff’s wife said she tried to stain a board with just the stain and it wouldn’t penetrate. I asked her if she sanded the board? NO. Charlie and Paul at xxxxxxxxxx.com have a lot of experience with Waterlox. Perhaps you should talk to them.