Over spray from house cleaning products contaminated floor job

Q: I’ve been a wood floor guy since 1990. Owned the business since 1995. In my years I’ve seen it all, but here’s my issue – My client has a floor finished with poly and wanted a new top coat. He was informative and knew what the existing finish was and that it had never been cleaned with anything other than water with a little vinegar. I didn’t worry about any oil or another cleaner that leaves an incompatible residue. (I should have.)

The client is the ‘keen eye and hard to please type’ This coat needed to be extremely clean. My crew screened and prepped the entire floor but only had time to coat 2/3 of the floor. They came back the next day to coat the last 1/3, but when I saw the contaminants in the coat they did the day before I chewed butt and made them re screen the 2/3 then coat the 2/3 and the 1/3.

When I inspected the floor I liked how clean it was, but to my dismay the finish in the 2/3 area can be flaked off with a finger nail. On the part that only got one coat, the finish adhered properly. Looks like the flake is between the original finish and both new top coats. Not between my two new top coats.

My initial thought is we need to re sand it, like you, I’ve seen to many peeling floors and know the only way to fix it is to re sand. I met with the client and his theory is maybe the first coat we did hasn’t had time to dry since we coated it the very next day. It hasn’t had time to adhere. The second day the first coat didn’t ball up on the screen and powdered normally so at least on the surface it was dry.

If I had the time I might wait a couple weeks to see if it hardens completely and sticks, but I don’t have that luxury. Have you heard of anything about coating floors too quickly and having problems?

A: We’ve both been around long enough to have seen it all. One never knows when something is going to sneak out of the shadows and bite us in the backside. As far as applying another coat to soon, we look for clues while buffing/sceening as you mention. I hand rub the edges with 120 grit sandpaper. If there is any balling up, forget it. I’ve had a few occasions where everything seemed fine. The finish powdered up, etc., but it still was not quite ready. If the previous coat is not dried sufficiently, with all the solvent having vented out of the film, the next coat will cause wrinkling, every time. And you will see it happening in front of your eyes. It happens immediately.

You never know with the contaminant issue. I stained upper bedrooms to match the living room/dining room. After, the guy asked me to apply another coat to the older stain job. I asked if they had used any type of cleaner on the floor. Nope, he said. I screened, cleaned and started to coat. The finish was being repelled everywhere. Clearly a contaminant. And what was that, over in the corner? A certain mop! Go to their web site to check what is in it. The data sheet used to say Paraffin, which had since been changed to Wax. There was the contaminant. Poloplaz has an excellent cleaner for issues like this called Tie Tac. I sprayed this on the floor in sections, buffing with a white pad. Then I wet a towel in this solution, wrapped it around a push broom and went up and down the entire floor. Let dry. Do the buff procedure. No more issues. This stuff has rescued more than one floor for me. If the peeling is down to the original coating, you and I know there is only one way to fix that. If a floor is factory finished, forget about a buff and coat. Go for the full resand at expanded price because I’ve found it takes about 6 sandings to remove the finish and the micro bevels. Nasty. Hope any of this helps. Sounds like you know what you are doing. I would have had a word for the crew also for not having a clean job. I am constantly straining my finishes, vacuuming and wiping the floor down with a micro weave mop before applying the coating.

Follow-up: Thanks. I imagine I will have to re sand it. The coat looks beautiful, no wrinkling or fish eyes (I see that when cleaners, during a construction clean, will use pledge or similar to clean the face of cabinets before we come back to apply a final coat. If the floor is uncovered while they are cleaning the over spray will land on the floor. I can’t see it when we come back to screen and coat. The finish fish eyes only right in front of the cabinets.)

On this floor I cant understand why the only side that is peeling is the side we did two coats. The side that only got one coat over the original surface seems to be adhering good. It seems like my second coat over the first made the first not adhere to the original surface.

A: If the side with two coats is peeling down to the original finish, that is really difficult to explain. I think this is when I start chasing my tail!

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