Minimizing air bubbles

Q: I have recently sanded, stained and varnished the floors. They Look really nice but the last coat has accumulated air bubbles. I was wondering if there is a quick and easy way for me to remove the top layer containing the air bubbles and re vanish them.

Or, is there any solution, like sprays or liquids to minimize the air bubbles to make them disappear?

A: The finish will have to be buffed again with a fine abrasive to knock off the tops of the air bubbles. These fish eyes are the worst kind. After a thorough clean up, make sure there is no air moving across the floor which would cause the finish to set up too fast before it has flowed out and levelled. There will be some air in the finish, likely from the applicator you are using, and it needs time to flow and allow the air to escape.

Related Q: We just had red oak floors installed throughout our home. They were stained and had 2 coats of semi-gloss finish. My concern is that you can feel rough spots when you rub your hand across the floor. Is this right?

A: You say the floor ‘feels’ rough when you run your hand across the floor. You don’t say it looks rough, i.e. debris or pimples/bubbles, etc. It could be simply the heavy grain of the wood which is much more porous than the rest of the board. At most you might at some point need an additional coat of finish, but from what you say I don’t think there is anything abnormal with your floor. Remember, this is not a Yamaha piano with multiple coats of lacquer so that it is smooth as glass. This is a floor which you walk on.

Follow-up Q: Thank you for responding to my question. You’re right, I didn’t say the floor looks rough, but it does. It looks like there are pimples scattered across it. Is this what they call fish eyes?

A: Fish eyes are raised bumps with a crater in the middle. The floor will need to be ‘screened’ down well and another coat applied. Make sure there is no air movement across the floor while it is being coated and for several hours thereafter.

Second Follow-up Q: If I decide to live with the air bubbles I have after applying three coats of oil based polyurethane will they “open up” and end up worse? I also had bubbles in my second coat but didn’t sand as it was enough doing the first coat. Thanks.

A: The bubbles won’t become worse on their own, but not buffing between coats is a bigger issue and it might be a serious one for adhesion.