Trouble Shooting Wood Floor Finishes-Wood Floor Finish Problems Wood Floor Finishes-Oil Water based

Trouble Shooting Wood Floor Finishes-Wood Floor Finish Problems Wood Floor Finishes-Oil Water based

Problems with Wood Floor Finishes

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This is a condition in which the finish pulls away from itself, causing ridges in the finish, similar to an alligator’s skin. This condition can occur in both water-based and oil-modified finishes. There are many possible causes, including poor wetting of the finish, contamination of the finish, application under cold temperatures, application of a new coat before the previous coat has dried, application of a heavier coat than is recommended, or the use of thinners that cause the finish to dry too quickly. The solution is to screen and recoat after the finish has dried sufficiently.


This condition is usually associated with water-based finishes. It often occurs when an improper spread rate is used — too much or too little finish is applied — or if the finish is not applied evenly. Excessive air movement and abnormally high temperatures can also be responsible for causing the finish to dry too quickly, so that a wet edge of finish is pulled over one that has already dried. The problem can also be caused by applying a satin or semi-gloss finish that has not been stirred properly. The solution is to screen and recoat after the finish has dried sufficiently.


This condition, associated with stain application, occurs when excess stain seeps from the grain or from the spaces between boards. The most obvious cause is excessive stain application, but low-viscosity stain may also be the culprit. The solution is to wipe off the excess stain and let it dry thoroughly before applying another coat. If finish has already been applied over bleed-back, a complete resand is required.


Some finishes are amber in appearance and will yellow even further over time. Wood lying in direct sunlight will fade over time. These are natural changes — the former condition cannot be prevented, despite the pervasive myth that an oil-modified finish recoated with water-based finish will stop ambering. The latter condition can be prevented by shading the light source. Erratic discoloration can also occur — especially in white oak — if a good sealer is not used. This is called tannin pull.


Often, the cause is improper maintenance procedures that have either failed to fully remove grit from the floor’s surface, or the introduction of water or strong cleaners. Dog nails, high heels and chair legs also contribute to the problem. Make sure the customer understands proper maintenance procedures, including regular dust-mopping with an approved wood-floor cleaner. (Some cleaners may leave a residue that will prevent good adhesion on a recoat.) If recoating is necessary, the owner should pay for it.


If the surface of the finish has a texture that resembles an or- orange peel, the problem may have been caused by rolling a finish, which then dries too quickly. When that happens, the texture is frozen into place before the finish has a chance to flow out and level. The solution is to screen and re-coat.


Trouble Shooting Wood Floor Finishes-Wood Floor Finish Problems Wood Floor Finishes-Oil Water based

Any of these conditions can mean that the floor was not sufficiently screened between coats of finish, or that soap or some other contaminant substance was not removed before coating. It’s also possible that the affected coat is incompatible with the finish or stain previously applied, or a contaminated applicator may be responsible. Problems in the top-most finish coat can be screened and re-coated, although severe problems may require complete sanding and refinishing.


The cause is often contamination of the finish during dry time, although moisture beneath the floor can also cause the wood grain to rise. If a moisture problem is evident, this must be corrected before re-screening and re-coating.

Spilled water and other liquids, including the residue from incompatible cleaners, can stain finish. Cloudy surface finish can be fixed by lightly rubbing with a proper cleaner and buffing, although some stains require screening and recoating. Strong chemicals should not be used to remove stains.


This occurs when excessive tannic acid in the wood prevents the finish from adhering to the wood. This is most common with oil modified finishes and with white oak. When one board or several boards scattered throughout the floor will not take stain or finish, the only solution is to repair the floor by replacing the boards.

Insufficient stirring of finish prior to application, a contaminated finish applicator and uneven sanding or finish thickness are typical culprits. All require rescreening an re-coating. Great care should be take if using different sheen levels. Sometimes, multiple coats of satin, three or more coats will start to give a hazing look to the finish coat.

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