Finish peeling off because there is wax in the grain

Q imported from our old site, Face Lift Floors: I sanded a 980 sq.ft. job and when I coated the floor (oil base/satin) the finish started flaking off the floor from the grain. I have had this problem one other time in the 4 years that I have been sanding floors. I know that the problem is wax in the grain of the wood, and I also know that even if I sand the whole floor again the same thing will happen in the same spots (been there done that).

So my question would be – wouldn’t waxing the floor solve this problem? And if so, what is the process of waxing? I do not know anything about waxing a floor (how many coats, etc.), because since I have become a hardwood flooring contractor waxing a floor is pretty much a thing of the past.

I take great pride in my work and have a hard time leaving my name on a job with a flaking floor even though its not my fault.

A: I have sympathy for your situation. If you do this type of work long enough, a failure will occur. The finish must have taken quite some time to dry also. The wax problems I have seen are mostly confined to the edges of the boards, and when you use an oil-based polyurethane, the solvents in the finish activate and soften the wax between the boards and it bleeds out on the edges. To have this so severely in the grain itself.. well, how old is this floor?

If you have known beforehand, a water-based finish may have been a better choice, since they lack the petroleum solvents that will reactivate the wax. Mind you, if the wax is on the surface of the floor, no surface coat product will bond.

The safest way to deal with a floor like this, I think, is to sand it. Apply a couple of coats of penetrating oil. Deal with this application like you would a stain. Apply it. Wipe off any excess and let it dry. You can either use the oil as a finish itself, which has to be repeated by the homeowner periodically or thereafter apply a light coat of wax. Thankfully, waxing is not done that much anymore. It is a nice look, but not very resistant to spills.

I would suggest checking out Dura Seal. They manufacture both oil and water based finishes as well as penetrating resin stains and oil/wax finishes.

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