Clear coat peeling off prefinished flooring

Q: I have prefinished wood floors that were installed about 3 months ago. In areas where a board had to be ripped to fit, the clear coat (finish coating) is peeling back. This has also happened in the few places where the last board was nailed in. The clear coat is pulling back around where the nail was shot in.

I felt this was most likely a product defect but the hardware where I bought the floor says it was an install problem. Do you have any thoughts on this?

A: I totally agree with your assessment. This is a product defect. There is zero chance a nail or fastener going through the finish or ripping a board so it will fit against the wall will cause the finish to start peeling. Do you have any scraps left of this? I’d be interested to know if scraping them with a coin would cause the finish to release.

Follow-up Q: Wood Flooring Guy, thank you so much for your quick response. I will see if I can find any scraps of the flooring (not sure but will check) and do the coin scraping test.

If I could ask your opinion on one other thing. If I need to prove my point on this.. as the seller of the wood is trying to deny any responsibility (or responsibility for the manufacturer).. would you have a suggestion as to how I would do that? In other words how could I “prove” or push the case that this is a product problem. I think they just want to tag it on the installer and have me go away.

A: There are ‘official’ resources you can search for what causes peeling finish. National Wood Flooring Association would be one. I am 100% sure you will never find reference to ripping a board or driving a nail through the finish as a cause of this. It doesn’t even make any sense! I’ve been in this trade for over 45 years, installed many floors. Never had a peeling issue from these causes on factory finished or floors that I have finished myself. It is just ridiculous that it was suggested to you that this is installation error. Did they explain how this is true? It isn’t.

There is a limited range of issues that can cause a finish to peel or delaminate. What you have mentioned is NOT in the list. This is a factory finished floor. These coatings are by design tougher and more abrasion resistant. However, something has clearly gone wrong during the finishing process at the factory. If you have a few scraps put some nails into those and see what happens. It sounds to me like the finish is coated over each piece. But if you cut it or put a nail through it causes a break in the film. In other words, the coating is sitting there, bonded in some parts of the board but not in others. And if you cause a break you can peel it off.

It is kind of like a situation I had on a job years ago. I used painters tape (it is suppose to release easily) to seal off some doors. The white paint looked smooth and perfect. When the tape was pulled off, all the paint pulled off to. It pulled off because the underlying coating was not prepared for another coat of paint so there was no bond. It was just sitting there. I think that is what you have with this floor. The finish may have bonded in some areas but in others not. This is a manufacturing issue. Who made this product?

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