Stairs don’t match newly installed hardwood floors in sheen

Q: We retained a flooring specialist to both refinish our circular stairs top and basement, and remove 2” old red oak floor throughout main floor and install 3 and 1/4 pre finished oak flooring, with a very flat satin finish. The stairs were carpeted so he installed oak treads and risers. We said from the beginning we wanted the floor and stairs to match.

He did the stairs first taking a sample of the floor to be installed and had the stairs stain prepared by a reputable stain company. The stain colour when applied to the treads and stairs was a very good match. However, the type and quantity of clear coat applications significantly reduced the match to the new hardwood floor when he applied the finish clear coats on the stairs. The sheen is too glossy compared to the satin sheen of the new hardwood. We told him to make sure that the stain colour AND sheen needed to match.

He says he was concerned that if not enough clear coat was applied it could be scratched. We said we don’t care about scratches and our main interest was a match. Now we are unhappy that the stairs don’t match the newly installed hardwood floors.

The question I have is, can he do something to remove or reduce the stairs clear coat and sheen? If so, will that bring back the match to the original point where the stain coat alone matched really well? Can he then apply a very thin clear coat that produces a very matte satin finish as we originally requested?

A: This is an easy one to answer because I am hearing an old but false idea that the more coats of finish that are applied, the more shiny the finish will be. This is totally false. The shine or lack thereof is determined by the final coat of finish, whether it be gloss (it will be shiny), Semi-gloss (shiny but less so), satin (a low shine, looking more like polish) and matte or super matte (which are dead flat). All that needs to be done is to have the stair coating thoroughly buffed down with a fine sand paper and a satin finish applied if that is the finish on the pre finished oak. I would recommend Poloplaz Primero or Supreme satin. Especially Primero. Every finish less than gloss needs to be stirred to mix the paste that remove the shine. Primero keeps the paste pretty much suspended in the finish so not much stirring is needed for consistent results.

The number of coats of finish does NOT determine how shiny or dull the next coat will be

Q: In August we had our floors completely sanded, stained (Jacobean) and finished with Fabulon super satin (2 coats). It is an open floor plan with the hardwood laid on a diagonal and we get a lot of light exposure coming into the house.

When we returned to our home after the 2nd coat was dried we noticed some uneven areas. We came to realize the person applying the finish didn’t feel completely comfortable applying finish on a diagonal layout. After speaking with the owner, they advised to do a 3rd coat which they would apply with an 18 inch applicator, instead of the 9 inch they first used. We then asked about applying a duller finish. Thus they agreed to apply Duraseal Matte finish.

After returning back to the house after the 3rd coat, we noticed white spots throughout the house, kind of milky areas (probably not prepared and mixed correctly). Getting back to the floor guy regarding this issue, they said the only solution would be to apply another coat of Fabulon super satin same as the 2 coats. Having no choice they did a 4th coat of Fabulon super satin. Again when returning to our home we noticed some areas that were much lighter and you even see applicator marks in different light settings.

At this point we are consulted with other contractors to fix this problem, knowing full well the previous company wasn’t experienced and comfortable working on a diagonal. We first decided to do some tests with a Bona water base finish (Naturale and the Traffic satin). Naturale is way too dull, and the traffic satin looks OK in daytime, but at night with a little light reflecting in you all most see an ashy white look on both samples. That look at night concerns us, so we aren’t sure water based is a good fit. Contractor has no problem removing the water based test areas and doing a refinish using Fabulon super satin, they are very comfortable working on a diagonal and would apply a thin coat.

Q – If the finish is applied correctly and thinly do we have to worry about the floor being so shiny with 4 coats of oil poly already on the floor? It has been over 2 months when the last coat of oil poly was applied from the 1st floor guy.
Q – Does this contractor just have to do a standard screening and then apply the finish or would it require a heavier screening technique?
Q – As far a the sheen level, is it the top coat that controls the sheen or a combination of all coats on the floor?
Q – Based on our description of the Bona water based tests that were done, does water base appear as an ashy look at night in dim lit settings?

A: The number of coats of finish on a floor does NOT determine how shiny or dull the next coat will be. No matter what, each coat of finish must be screened thoroughly, being careful not to miss any spots which could create an adhesion issue. The issue of seeing applicator stop marks and streaks with finishes below gloss is partly because of the paste added to the product to lessen the shine. In most cases, this paste must be very thoroughly mixed into the finish. An 18″ bar applicator would remove the push and pull exhibited by a lambs wool block. However, with oil based finishes this applicator tends to apply much to heavily. I’ve been using Poloplaz Primero for years and have never had any of these issues with it. As their head sales manager told me years ago, they spent a little extra money in developing this product so the paste would stay largely suspended and require only minimal stirring. Best way to apply it is with a roller. It is wonderful to work with. Application at 500 sq. feet per gallon.

Can I buff the floors with a 220 and apply a semigloss coat over the satin?

Q: I have 3 coats of satin water based poly, over 1 coat of stain, on red oak floors. The satin finish is too flat. Can I buff the floors with a 220 and apply a semigloss coat over the satin?

A: 220 would be a good place to start. You don’t want to cut through the finish and remove patches of stain. 220 should be fine enough to be safe. Whether it will be coarse enough to buff the finish you are using I don’t know. Probably it will, but if not, then you would have to go with the next grit down which is 180.

Changing sheen of prefinished floor

Q: We are installing Pre-Finished Engineered Timber floor (Spotted Gum) in matte finish. But I really like the gloss finish look. Is it possible to polish the pre-finished floor boards again to get the gloss finish after installation? Any issues with applying a gloss polish on top of the existing matte finish? Please help. If possible, can you please recommend a product.

A: I definitely would not recommend attempting this. To have any chance of gaining adhesion the existing coating would need to be thoroughly abraded or scuffed with a fine abrasive. Or a chemical preparation can be used. Such a product can be purchased from Basic Coatings. it is a two part treatment. Also not inexpensive. These modern coatings are developed to be abrasion resistant. This floor also likely has a micro bevel on the edges and ends that would have to be treated so the finish doesn’t de-laminate or peel.

Will putting semi-gloss over the satin really match things up?

Q: I just installed Brazilian cherry floors, which were sealed with Duraseal semi-gloss ployurethane by the floor guy. The painter then sealed the Brazilian cherry handrails and stair treads with Magnalac satin lacquer.

I wanted the stairs to match the floor in terms of sheen. The painter said not to worry because the products are different, he’ll simply put a coat of semi-gloss over the satin, which should match things up. Is that true?

The satin staircase is duller than the floor!

A: It’s true. If another coat is applied to the stairs in the same sheen as the floors it will match.

I would like to go to Semi-Gloss instead of the Satin

Q: I installed and finished the floors (3/4′ Red oak T&G) in our new home, about 8 months ago. They really came out nice and it was a lot of fun! I used Minwax Satin Polyurethane for the finish and protection (no Stain). Anyway, I think that I would like to go to Semi-Gloss instead of the Satin.

My question is: should I remove ALL the poly with a drum sander? Or can I use a square orbital sander to scratch the surface? Also, If I use a square sander and reveal bare wood in some areas and not others, will these be noticed after I put Semi-Gloss poly down?

A: You really don’t want to cut through the existing finish. That would show. You just need to thoroughly abrade the coating, not missing any spots. The fresh coat of finish will adhere to these scratches and is called a mechanical bond. I generally hand rub the edges with 120 grit and polish with 180 or finer screen.

Related Q: Is there a simple way to dull the high shine on my hardwood floors (without sanding)?

A: If you want to do it right, buff the coating and apply a lower finish with a lower shine.

Removing glossy appearance of 4th coat

Q: I was told that adding a 4th coat of poly would look the same as 3, but I’ve found that the floor is more glossy, not the look of a hand rubbed finish it had with 3. Is there anything that can be done at this point to remove the glossy appearance?

A: It can happen that there is a slight difference between different batches of finish. When working with any sheen except gloss it is important to stir well so the flattening agent that takes away the shine is well dispersed throughout the product. The only thing you can do is give it another coat. This has nothing to do with it looking more shiny as you apply additional coats of finish.

Screening to apply matching sheen

Q: I have a newly installed red oak floor in my kitchen. The first 3 coats of finish were semi-gloss and matched the hardwood floor in the adjoining hallway. The flooring contractor put a 4th coat on, because the finish was marred during the rest of the kitchen remodel. Unfortunately, he used satin for the last coat and now it doesn’t match my hall. The satin seemed to lighten the floor slightly. He wants to fix it by screening the satin and applying another coat of semi-gloss. I didn’t think it would match the hallway with out completly removing the satin. Am I wrong?

A: No, there is no need to totally remove the previous coating to change the shine. Buffing is required generally which creates fine scratches and causes inter coat adhesion. The shine level is determined by the finish that is applied last, not by what is beneath it.

How do I change from a clear gloss finish to a semi-gloss finish on hardwood flooring?

Q: How do I change from a clear gloss finish to a semi-gloss finish on hardwood flooring? How do I go about changing finish?

A: Very straight forward. Prepare the existing coating to receive the shine level of choice, in this case semi-gloss. This means you have to buff/sand or abrade the coating which creates (hopefully) tiny scratches which the next coating grabs or adheres to. In doing this buffing the finish will to a large degree be de-glossed. The purpose of the buffing is to create a mechanical bond.

Related Q: If a professional used a glossy poly and I wanted satin, can he come back with a satin and NOT sand the glossy off?

A: No, the finish has to be de-glossed, either by abrading with a polisher and abrasive pad or a chemical preparation.

Similar Q: We have hardwood in our family room and just added the same wood to our master bedroom. Our home is 10 years old, so the wood in the family room was in bad shape (had four large dogs during the first nine years). Anyhow, we had some repairs done to the family room and then they sanded the old/new and then stained the entire floor. We came home today and the family room doesn’t have the same type of shine as the master which has a high gloss finish. I noticed the cans of semi gloss and satin finish in the garage. To correct the finish in the family room would they need to just add a high gloss finish so its the same finish in the master? Would they need to re-sand before adding a high gloss?

A: It is just a matter of screening the coat of finish with an appropriate grit (not too course or risk of swirls exists). Basically this scratches the finish so another coat can have something to grab on to. Clean up well and apply hi gloss.

Similar Q: We put some new pine floors down. They have been coated 3 times with Minwax Satin Polyurethane. My wife would prefer a matte finish. Is there any way to dull the finish without having to recoat it?

A: You will need to lightly sand or buff the finish and apply the matte finish.

Similar Q: I’m having my floor stained and refinished. We are now at the finishing stage, they are applying 3 coats of poly. I request a semi-gloss finish. However, they are applying the first 2 coats with satin poly, and stated the last coat will be semi-gloss. I’m concerned if this is proper procedure.

A: There will be no issue with this. Satin is slightly less hard of a finish and a bit duller as to shine. The level of shine itself is irrelevant as they have to buff between coats anyway.

Should we get a 4th coat (to change from satin to semi-gloss top coat)?

Q: First let me say “THANK YOU” for this website! We just had our red oak floors refinished and added add’l red oak so now the entire 1st floor is hardwood. Our installer put three coats of satin finish (we had semi-gloss before). The floor doesn’t appear to be as wear and tear friendly as the semi-gloss finish. We haven’t yet moved any furniture back on it, because we are considering asking for another coat to be applied. We do have 4 small dogs (under 15 lbs) and we keep their nails trimmed. The pets haven’t been on the floors yet either and we are going to try and keep them off it for 30 days. And we are not moving furniture back in until 1 week has gone by since the final coat. Would we be wasting our money on that 4th coat or is this just the nature/look of the satin finish?

A: Satin has more of an oiled or hand rubbed appearance but generally is a bit less hard than gloss. However, it is nicer to look at and tends not to show marks as readily as a shiny finish. I don’t think it is a good idea to pile on coats of polyurethane. 3 Is a good place to start. I would wait a month before applying a 4th. This will give the 3 coats already applied time to fully cure.

Difference between satin, semi gloss, and gloss?

Q: I’m a flooring installer. I do lots of tile and pre-finished wood flooring, but never sand and finish. I have a good friend doing the sanding as it’s his expertise, but I’m going to finish it. I’m trying to find out what I should use for the finish. I want to see the difference between satin, semi gloss, and gloss. Any instructive sites you can think of? What would you do? The wood is American Cherry. There is not a lot of natural sunlight, but lots of can lights. Any suggestions are appreciated.

A: You should be able to walk into any local hardwood retailer and see the difference between the sheens on an actual piece of wood. Can lights are unforgiving and will tend to reveal scratches when doing inter-coat buffing. The lower the sheen the better. I would recommend satin as the final coat. I’ve been using Poloplaz Primero for more than a year and it is the best oil based polyurethane I’ve ever used. You could first apply a coat of their Fast Dry Sanding Sealer which is a fairly high solids polyurethane sealer. It penetrates the wood very well and generally dries much faster than polyurethane itself. Give that a light buff the next day with a 3M maroon pad. Then apply a coat of Primero hi gloss. When dry, buff it as you did the fast dry. You might use 180 grit sandpaper strips on the pad as well. Finally apply a coat of Primero Satin. All these products roll on very nicely. A cautionary note: try to get back to them the next day or you will have to use a rougher screen to abrade them.

Finish not shining

Q: I put 3 coats of polyurethane on my hardwood floor and it still doesn’t shine, so I just let it go. Now after a couple of months have gone by I would like to know what I can do to make it shine, get a shiny finish, since I am going to refinish the dining room which is right next to the living room.

A: Most finish manufacturers have a choice of sheen of satin, semi and gloss or hi-gloss. The product you apply will determine how shiny the finish looks. Of course the previous coating will have to be properly prepared to allow another coating to bond to it.

Related Q: I recently had “hand stressed” oak floors installed in my home. I am not really pleased with the “dullness” of them. Is there something that can be done to make them a bit more shiny? I like the look they get (for a a few seconds) when I am cleaning them. Brings the color out more.

A: It depends what type of finish is on them currently. If it is an oil you can look into applying a coat of Waterlox tung oil finish which comes in hi-gloss, semi and satin.

High gloss or not?

Q: I just purchased a condo apartment that’s 1000 sq. ft. There are many windows with lots of light and sun all day. I am having the (common red oak) parquet floor refinished. I have selected a rich dark maple/brown stain. The contractor uses minwax products. I love the look of a shiny wood floor, and so I am leaning towards a high gloss oil-based finish. The contractor; however, strongly argued against going with high gloss, recommending instead we use semigloss. He says hardly anyone chooses high gloss. And that because there is so much light coming in, that it wouldn’t look right. PS. I have one cat. Please any comments on my going with high gloss.

A: 99% Of my customers prefer a lower shine than gloss. If you like gloss, there is nothing wrong with that, provided you understand it’s limitations. Any shiny finish will expose/hi-lite defects or irregularities. This is magnified in very well lit rooms or rooms that use pot lights. Understand that each coat of finish will need to be buffed for adhesion of the next coat. That is a more gentle sounding word than “scratch”. But scratching is what buffing is. Even when using the finest abrasive possible, gloss and a lot of windows can reveal faint swirl marks in the finish, and I suspect this is what the boys are really worried about. It is tough because buffing is not optional. It might help them if they are using a higher solids finish which could tend to fill/cover the scratches better.

Can I put satin polyurethane over semi gloss?

Q: Can I put a satin polyurethane over semi gloss finish, on a hardwood floor?

A: Yes. As with all coatings, the finish will need to be thoroughly buffed to gain adhesion.

Related Q: Several months ago I refinished the hardwood floors in my bedroom with a polyurethane. I recently refinished the adjoining hallway, but could not remember what finish I used in the bedroom, so I went with semi gloss for the hallway. After seeing the 2 finishes side by side I now realize I used satin for my bedroom and the difference is obvious. I like the semi gloss look and was wondering if I can just put a coat of semi gloss over the satin in my bedroom to get them to match? What should I do?

A: Sure you can coat the other finish with any shine level you like. You will need to thoroughly abrade the previous coating first to make sure you get good adhesion. That means “scratching” the coating with a fine abrasive in the direction of the grain if you are going to rub it down by hand.

Every coat of poly makes floor shine more?

Q: Two months ago we had hardwood flooring installed in our kitchen. This was bare wood, which was then finished so that it was an exact match to our existing living room, dining room and hall floors. It’s an open plan house and you see all the rooms at once. It turned out beautiful and I was thrilled with it.

Then, several weeks ago, I dropped a heavy pot lid that made a scratch. I called the floor store to ask if there was some way to repair it. The head guy came out, showed me how to use a steam iron, and then offered to have another coat of polyurethane put down for free, which he said would further hide the scratch.

We had the flooring installed while we were on a trip, and made the same arrangement this time. When we came home two days ago, I was shocked to see that rather than another coat of the satin finish, the workmen had put down a shiny one. I called the store, and though the supervisor said on the phone that it probably just looked glossier because it was new, when he came out, he said, no it was semi-gloss, and he didn’t know why his workers had used it.

I asked if it would be possible to put a coat of the satin on top. I think he is willing to do this, but he says that every coat added makes a floor shinier, by it’s nature. Is that true?

He thought maybe the best solution would be to water down the satin finish. I wonder if that would result in bringing back the matte or satin finish I loved so much, or if the gloss would just show through.

I would really appreciate it if you have the time to advise on the finish. My husband says it looks fine the way it is, but I really hate the shiny look.

A: It is not true that each coat, by nature, gets more shiny. All shine has to be removed by buffing to allow for intercoat adhesion. Hence, the previous gloss level has no bearing on the next coat of finish. Satin and semi gloss are achieved by the addition to the finish of a paste that has to be mixed well in the finish. It sounds like they just used the wrong finish. Even if it is coat #10, if you are switching from gloss to satin, if satin is used, it will look like satin, not gloss.

Finish for ebony

Q: We have just refinished our floors in an “ebony” stain. We did one coat, so it is more like a dark brown. We now have to put the final touch on. Semi-gloss finish or satin finish. Any advice on how to decide, or which one looks better?

A: Ebony should actually look black, but you have to make sure you mix up the pigments well, which tend to settle in the bottom of the can. I usually water pop the floor first to achieve a deeper colour. As to the sheen, that is largely a matter of taste. The greater the shine, the more likely any irregularities will be hi lighted. I would opt for satin.

I should have added:

I suspect your ebony is dark brown because you applied the stain to smooth flooring without the water pop technique. If you like the brown, you could always go ahead and coat it. However, if you want the true ebony, black look, you will need to stain a second time. If you do that, make sure you give it plenty of time to dry well before coating…and don’t forget to wipe off the excess after applying and letting it penetrate. 5 minutes is long enough to wait.

Recently, due to customer request, I had to find an alternate to polyurethane coatings. I discovered a terrific tung oil based product made in Ohio that you might want to consider. www.waterlox.com. This stuff is so easy to use, with none of the issues you could have with polyurethane, especially adhesion issues. check it out.

Sheen doesn’t match

Q: I have just had prefinished ******** 3/4 inch cinnamon maple hardwood installed in my living room. It is weaved into the existing floor where it meets the kitchen. The kitchen floors are the exact same product, but two years older. The stain color matches exactly, but the finish of the old floor is more shinny. Why is this and is there anything I can do to minimize the difference in sheen?

A: Very strange. One would have thought, if anything, it would have been the older floor which would lose it’s shine first. Aside from the possibility a different cleaner or product has been used on one side that the other, leaving a dulling residue, I don’t know how to explain it. This could happen easily enough. If you had a lot of wooden furniture in the new side and happen to use furniture polish in that area and it gets on the floor, that could explain the dullness. If none of this could be true, then I would ask the manufacturer. You might want to try out Bona Kemi Pacific floor cleaner first, which does a great job of removing contaminants from the finish surface.

Satin over semi gloss polyurethane

Q: I sanded a pre-finished birch floor. The previous finish did not come off entirely where the ends of the boards joined as they were ever so slightly offset. To remove the remaining finish in those areas, I used a random orbital palm sander. It looked fine until I applied 2 coats of clear water-based semi-gloss polyurethane. Now that the floor shines, the spots at the ends of boards now look like little dents when light is reflected. I was so disappointed when I noticed this. I very much doubt there is anything I can do to fix this except to sand the entire floor again. I was thinking about using a satin over semi gloss polyurethane for the remaining coats to reduce the sheen. Is it alright to apply satin poly over the semi-gloss?

A: You can apply any sheen over another as long as your fully abrade, scuff, scratch up the previous coat of finish. The problem with pre finished floors is the bevel. These have to be done manually.

Gloss, semi or satin

Q: Polyurethane will be the final step for the hardwood floors in the house. We would like to have the satin finish like we have in the condo presently. So, is the polyurethane semi gloss the same thing as the satin finish? If not what would you recommend for the polyurethane that would get us our satin finish?

A: Use satin polyurethane for the final coat. Most oil modified finishes come in 3 flavours-gloss, semi or satin. I generally use gloss for at least the first coat, if not the first 2. Then apply satin for the third.