Hardwood Floor Finish Advice


Old 06-10-08, 07:34 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 159
Hardwood Floor Finish Advice

We had a floor guy come in back in late April to sand/finish three of our hardwood floors (guy says they are Birch, but I am not sure) while we were on vacation. We came back and the floors looked great from a distance, but upon closer inspection, they looked bad. Major problems:
-applicator marks (start/stop)
-appearance of bubbles
-Even after dry, "wet" appearance between boards.

Floor guy came back and looked at it with us and was disgusted. He did indicate that he had a hard time with our heat. We have a programmable t-stat and he wanted 72 deg F, but the set point was 62, so the drying time was tough. Addtionally, we had standing water (not much, maybe 20 sq, ft. x .125") in the basement. He assured us that he had done floors with 10X that much water in the basement. He said that typically, he does a floor, then leaves while it is still wet and never has a call back. So, he comes back the following week and screens the floor, then applies another top coat of finish (oh, we are talking polyurethane here).

We come back home (had to stay out of the house for the weekend) and check the floor. It is 100% better, but still we see the same problems, just greatly diminished. He comes back and again he is disgusted. We agree he should try one more time. Oh, now he is saying that there has been some known issues with the VOC laws in the states and that the lower VOC products he can only buy do not produce as good results as the older non-VOC compliant products. So, the agreement is that he will come back and do the floor, then come back and check it before we come to see it.

We are heading home and he calls and is so disgusted that he offers to refund us the money (we paid him half up front). He does not knwo what to do. The same problems were there. He is stating that it must be drying times and the VOC levels of the product. Oh, I do temperature/humidity mapping for pharmaceutical companies for a living and decided to check the temp/humidity over a 36 hr period. We averaged 72 deg F and 30 RH in the rooms, so that was not the problem.

Now we are faced with the decision to make. We purchased in Quebec 2 gallons of the old nasty High VOC polyurethane and will see if that takes care of it. Of course, by that time, we will have 6 coats of finish on that floor!!!

Any thoughts on this? Sorry so long...
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Old 06-10-08, 11:05 AM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 3
[B] I am not very versed in unfinished hardwood floor allthough I do install finished hardwood floors. But this issue seems to me it's the contractor that is resurfacing your flooring improperly. I see re-finished floors everyday and never see moisture problems such as what he is saying to you. My advice is to consult another flooring contractor which is more experienced in the finishing process and get a second opinion on what to do.
Old 11-15-08, 03:31 PM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Loveland, Colorado
Posts: 11
Re-finishing hardwood floors science and art

I just re-finished my red oak floors. I sanded and put three coats of oil based polyurethane and it looks great. That said It has some of the same problems you describe a few bubbles (dust covered with finish) start and stop marks and streaks across the grain. In my kitchen I was able to rock and roll with the grain as the grain runs parallel to the long dimension and it looks great in my entry the grain runs perpendicular to the long dimension so it was very difficult to apply the poly with the grain. After I re-installed the baseboards and put everything back in it’s place I’m the only one that notices the imperfections. Before I re-finished the floor it had warped water damaged floor boards an area in front of the sink that had been sanded flat and covered with water based poly this stood out like a sore thumb an area of clear poly and the rest golden poly. It had a large diagonal scratch and the finish was worn down to bare wood. The floor looks better now than when the house was brand new it has the natural patina that make hard wood floors look so good. The floor is now virtually bullet proof.

My recommendations.
Use Oil based poly it’s more durable that water based and the yellowing is highly desirable. When I put the last coat down we took off for 5 days and left the heat off so the fumes didn’t get circulated through the house. It’s been 2 weeks and the smell is completely gone. I wore a respirator when I applied the stuff. If you live in California where it is known that everything causes cancer smuggle in Oil based polyurethane and use it you will be glad you did in the long run. I used water based on a re-coat 5 years ago and it peeled in some areas and did not last.

My temperature ranged for 78 to 54 degres with no air circulation during the 5 days of curing. I suspect that the finish was drying too fast during the application. I realy had to move fast and lay the poly on thhick but not puddled to avoid even more imperfections. The perfectionist in me wanted to re-coat my entry but my older and wiser self said it looks great leave it alone.

Last edited by huffjohndeb; 11-15-08 at 03:42 PM. Reason: replaced frying too fast with drying too fast

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