Floor rough after 2 coats of water-based polyurethane

Q imported from our old site, Face Lift Floors:  We have sanded and stained our oak wood floors. We have put on 2 coats of water-based polyurethane. The floor still feels rough. How do you get that hard smooth finish?

A: Professionals sometimes find water-based urethanes hard to apply. There are specific rules to be followed in applying any finish, whether oil or water based. With water-based polyurethane finishes, you generally don’t have to buff after each coat to achieve adhesion if it is applied within so many hours. But, you always have to buff it once. Water-based urethanes raise the grain of the wood to some extent.

After the first or second coat, you have to buff the floor smooth, tack rag with a slightly damp cloth after vacuuming, and apply another coat. It should also be said that you must make sure the stain is dry, or you could have adhesion failure of the finish.

It also needs to be said that you must allow the water-based finish to dry back to the original moisture content in the wood before applying another coat of finish. You can know this by using a moisture meter and hygrometer.

This is not a job to be done by the homeowner, in most cases. I have been at it for over 30 years, and with all that time, it can be a very stressful job. You might do well to check out the Q & A at www.duraseal.com. They are a major water-based urethane manufacturer. They have a cause and effect/solution section.

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We have done the second coat of polyurethane but the floor is still rough and not shiny

Q imported from our old site, Face Lift Floors:  We have done the second coat of polyurethane but the floor is still rough and not shiny – do we continue with the same process of sanding with 120 and then polish again?

A: Are you using gloss polyurethane? The typical flavors are satin, semi-gloss, and gloss. Adding additional coats does not change the gloss level since each coat is buffed to remove the gloss prior to the next coat. Whose finish are you applying?

And how are you applying it? It is often recommended that the finish is stirred well prior to application. Some can be applied with a roller, but I prefer using a lambswool applicator, which is attached to a wooden block (2 pieces, a top, and bottom, held tight by 2 wing nuts). After you have thoroughly buffed the floor, and vacuumed well, it is a good practice to tack rag the floor with a lint-free cloth. Wet the cloth with water, and squeeze it as dry as you can get it, then wipe the entire floor surface to remove all contamination that may have been missed with the vacuum. Make sure you suck the dust out of any air vents you have.

I would suggest preventing any air movement across the floor at least for several hours until the finish has started to set up. This will allow the finish to flow out and level properly. Therefore, it should be room temperature when applying, around 70 F, but cut off the furnace for an hour or 2 until the finish has had a chance to settle.

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Professionally refinished floor still rough

Q imported from our old site, Face Lift Floors: We just had maple wood floors installed in our home (living room, dining room, kitchen, hall, and bath) by a contractor. After the job was finished, I noticed a large dent on the wood floor in one area of the living room. The contractor came back to look at it and said that it was the result of the sanding equipment. He explained that maple is a soft wood and if not careful in handling/operating the equipment, dents can be made easily. He further expressed that his crew was not careful.

He returned later to resand the entire living room area in order to blend in the dent and polyurethaned the room again. After 24 hours, I noticed there were some dull spots and the floor was not as smooth as the other rooms. To make a long story short, he has returned several times to resand and polyurethane the floor, but we continue to have the roughness. My kids can slide on the other floors with their socks but are unable to in the living room. He is very baffled as to why it’s not finishing up with a smooth, clear finish. We all are very frustrated. It’s been now a month since he started the job and we are still not finished.

Our contractor said he has been in the wood floor business for 10 years and has never had this happen. I’m now noticing that the living room area is more glossy than our other rooms. He mentioned that we might want to get another contractor to come and look at it. I really hesitate to go that route as I know there will probably be a charge. Also, I’d like him to fix it.

Upon my request, he is checking within his network system to see if he can find someone who may know what the problem might be. He seems to be an honest man and has returned promptly each time to try to fix the problem. He said that he will not expect us to pay the balance as it’s been a long-standing problem, and it’s not been good business for him.

Do you have any suggestions as to what might be the problem?

A: Maple is not a soft wood. It is rather hard, with a very tight grain. While it is very hard, harder than oak, it does show marks more readily than oak because of it’s tight and slight grain.

The gloss difference you mention could be simply a variance between the finish manufacturer in the other rooms and what he is using in this room. They don’t all have the same “recipe” for their finishes, so I think you can give him a break on that one. As to smoothness: You don’t say there are flecks in the floor or bubbles or anything of that nature. If the previous coats of polyurethane are buffed with a fine grit screen (220 grit) and the floor is thoroughly cleaned before coating, then it should be smooth. It is a rare day that I have a problem with the floor being smooth. Sometimes a satin (especially) or a semi-gloss will streak if they dry to fast because they have a flattening agent in them, which gloss does not have. This does not affect the smoothness of the coat.

Perhaps they need to use a different floor finish. what product are they using?

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