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 topmost 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 waterborne, 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 anymore. 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.

Peeling in several spots

QQ imported from our old site, Face Lift Floors: I have two rooms. One is 9×12 the other 11×20. They are already stained with a Royal Mahogany Minwax stain. It has a high gloss finish and the finish is now scratched and starting to peel. Not all over, but in several spots. What do you suggest we do, strip and sand right down? Or is there another option? What would the cost be approximate? How long would it take?

A: 2 Small rooms, previously stained Royal Mahogany, now with peeling finish! Hmmm. You don’t tell me what type of floors you have. For example, 1 3/4 X 3/8 or 3/4 thick. Has it been sanded previously? This can be an issue especially if it the traditional 3/8 thick strip which has been sanded at least twice. How much wear surface is left on the boards? (The thickness of the floor from the top surface to the top edge of the groove).

I have done a few Royal Mahogany jobs. Very dark, rich color! But it might take considerable sanding to clean the floor off enough to re-stain or re-finish. If you planned to finish natural, you should know that it is practically impossible to remove every trace of the stain from the grain of the wood. My biggest question is your choice of the word “peeling” with reference to the finish. If it is indeed peeling then there is likely a failure of the first coat of finish.

The fix is to start from scratch. If the first coat of finish to be applied as a quick dry lacquer type sealer then, yes, the finish can peel, since there is likely a poor bond between that and the polyurethane top coat. I never use sealers under oil modified polyurethanes. The idea is to apply successive coats of polyurethane, abrading each coat to aid adhesion. This would give a finish which, like any finish, could be scratched, certainly, but does not wear off the floor easily. I would have to probably see the job my self, but if you know the steps the previous company took to do this job, and compare that with my comments, you may have an idea what approach to take. If I may be of further assistance, please don’t hesitate.

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