Floors still tacky after 12 days, finish not drying

Q: We just had our floors sanded and refinished and they still feel tacky after 12 days. The finish was oil based polyurethane (DuraSeal). Our house is in Hawaii at the top of a mountain where the rainfall is very high, but I do not know our relative humidity percentage. Our flooring contractor is telling us to open the doors every day for the next week to let it air out more, then move in and see how it feels in a month or two.

I had another very respected flooring contractor come and look at it and he said oil-based polyurethane was the wrong finish for where we live and that it might not ever dry. He recommended a re-sanding and using a water based (or combination) finish. In addition to the tackiness, there are lap marks from the squeegee and blistering (looks like air bubbles and feels rough like sand paper) in some areas. We have been out of our house for three weeks now and are extremely frustrated. Hoping the stickiness will go away, but refuse to move back in with it sticky. We can afford to stay our another week, but fear it might be futile to wait any longer. So my questions are 1) if it still tacky after 12 days, is it likely for it to ever dry? and 2) Is there anything short of re-sanding and finishing that we can do to solve the problem?

A: Okay, so it has been 12 days and it is still sticky. And it’s rough. So the really bad news is no matter what, it will have to all be buffed down and coated again to fix those issues. Is a solvent based finish the wrong choice for the environment? Not necessarily. Not all finishes are created equal and some dry much better under difficult circumstances than others. Water borne coatings can have issues of it’s own in high humid conditions.

I have seen solvent based coatings as wet the next day as when first applied in cool, rainy conditions where the house had trees draped all over it. This means high humidity. However, opening the windows solved that issue. The coating was dried the following day. The only time I’ve seen tacky floors after more than a week is when a very old floor which has been waxed for years is finished with a solvent based coating. There is wax between the boards which won’t come out and the solvents in the finish soften it and reacts with the finish. Even then it will eventually dry. Other than getting fresh air and warmth into the rooms there isn’t much more to be done but wait. Or have the other guy sand it over. Not a fun job to remove soft finish. You can use water borne coatings over solvent coatings. However, it must be totally dry and solvent free or it will peel off. So, your choice is: wait it out and then have it buffed and coated with water borne or have the guy come in and sand it all off. It’s unfortunate and I can understand your frustration.

Follow-up Q: Thank you very much for the quick reply. I really appreciate it! The windows have all been open for the past week and a half and I’ve left the doors open too for a few hours on each of the past two days. Still tacky, but I am sceptical, holding out hope. If we decide to wait it out longer, is it safe to move back into the house with tacky floors? Or will we damage the floors by moving furniture back onto them and/or walking around barefoot on them? Is there a certain number of days/weeks/months after which waiting longer would be futile? If they are still tacky after a month or two, is there a chance the tackiness is here to stay?

A: You know, I’ve been at this over 40 years and I have seen floors stay sticky, usually along board edges and in severe cases in heavy grain for a week or more. Not a month or more. and it was always with very old, wax treated floors. Do your floors fit into any of this?

I think the idea of damaging the floors, or more specifically the finish is a mute point because you already said it was rough in spots and not even fully cured. Not even fully dry. So, I don’t think you can hurt anything. The floor at some point would need to be screened down and coated again anyway. But this can’t happen until it is dry. You can’t even coat the floor again with solvent or water borne coating until that happens. Poloplaz has a good cleaner called tycoat. I’d like to see what happens when the floor is scrubbed down with that thoroughly. I don’t believe this is just an environmental issue. It is a contamination issue.

One thought on “Floors still tacky after 12 days, finish not drying”

  1. Yikes all that work and its not your house, hope someone spiecal appreciates you and Mr C! We have just had the whole of the inside of our house painted and apparently professional painters dont pre wash walls! Ha who knew, it was one of the reasons we decided to suck it up and pay someone!

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