Pet stains and prevention

Q: I’m planning on re-finishing my hardwood floors after discovering black, and I mean black, pet stains. I’d had some boards replaced before for the same reason, and thought I solved the problem with the dog, but not so. I didn’t have the floor resanded and refinished, then, just boards being replaced after being taken from another room.

Now I’m faced with a much bigger project. I found the Q & A on your site to be extremely helpful — thanks for setting it up the way you did. I couldn’t find the answer to these questions, though:

1. Assuming I replace pet-stained boards where needed and have the whole floor sanded and refinished, disregarding costs at the moment: Is there ANYthing that can be done to seal a floor so that future pet stains won’t penetrate and ruin it? I just don’t want to have to do that all over again. Or is that just not possible, even if done by a professional?

2. I was told by a local refinisher that the process is what amounts to a MAJOR disruption. This company will NOT remove furniture, but insists on having everything out of the rooms in advance. The company rep said some customers rent a storage truck, put their furniture in it, and park them in the yard. Storage, of course, is a separate, hefty expense. Then, everyone has to move out of the house for at least 3 days for all the sanding and refinishing, so the coats of finish will dry properly and won’t get walked on. Not all of my house has wood flooring, so this company will try (note “try”) to hang plastic so the dust is more or less contained and then cleaned up in the worked-on area. I read your warnings about do-it-yourselfer’s trying floor refinishing, and am more than pleased to let someone else do it. But considering the cost and hassle, I’ve got to ask: Is there any alternative AT ALL to this huge project? Okay, maybe I’m grasping at straws. At this point, I may have to just go to wood-patterned sheet vinyl, which I’m told is the only really pet-stain-resistant material, but I’d sure love to just re-do the floors. Once you stop laughing at my question, please send me any comments, suggestions, or instructions you may have to offer.

3. Assuming I get local professionals out to the house to do estimates: What questions do I need to ask them to make sure they know what they’re doing? (I know that requirements, maybe licensing may not be the same here in the US.) Is there anything I need to watch out for? Red flags that indicate I should run for cover and not shell out money?

Thank you so much for even offering to field questions. I’m glad I found you in a web search.

Knoxville, TN

A: You likely have restrictions in the U.S. regarding the use of oil based polyurethane, which I prefer to use. Such polyurethane offers excellent protection against moisture penetration of any kind if applied with at least 3 coats. I am not so sure that even hi end water based finishes offer such protection to moisture penetration.
If your floors are refinished with an oil/solvent based finish, make sure no sealers are used as a base coat, but only polyurethane, with each coat properly buffed to gain adhesion. Water base is a different approach. Ask what type and brand of finish will be used and check the product out on the Internet. The best water base finishes are those that require a cross linker, though there are a few good ones that don’t. Basic Coatings and bona Kemi both make good quality water based finishes.

For the past year I have been using a dust containment system (see my web site) which captures all the dust, and after using it, I can’t go back to the old ways. It is possible to totally seal the doors so dust stays in the work area. However, it is still all over the walls, sills etc. and will need to be cleaned up by the workers.

I would ask the guys you consider doing the work what their approach and procedure is. Be extremely cautious of companies that “low ball” their prices. If you feel the contractor has your interests at heart, and is really experienced in this line of work, then go for them.

I can understand why they will not move furniture. Floor finishers are not furniture movers. I work alone and can’t clear out a persons house. I am willing to assist in the job if they need me to. My current customer hired 3 guys to move their furniture including piano into other parts of the house. It took about an hour and was well worth whatever they may have paid. A previous customer went the trailer route with her furniture, which is really the better way to go, since it gets the job over and done with in one trip, rather than splitting it into smaller jobs, which will cost more in the end, and prolong the upset of moving furniture multiple times.

It is often the case that there is an area of the house that will still be available to the homeowner, such as kitchen, basement rec room etc. and if they wish to stay in those areas during the procedure, and have access that doesn’t require passage across the wet polyurethane, and can tolerate the smell (some people are very sensitive), then that is fine by me. Water based finishes don’t have a strong odour, and dry/cure much more rapidly than oil based finishes.

I don’t know if any of this has helped, but if your floors are well finished and you try and catch your pet when they have a mishap, there should be no problem maintaining the floors. Periodic, as needed, buff and recoats will keep the finish in good shape.