Mysterious footprints that won't go away

jim_miMarch 27, 2013

OK, I don't think the house is haunted, but about 5 yrs after building we had some chalky-looking footprints mysteriously show up in the hardwood floor finish. Thesse were initially pretty indistinct, but are getting more noticable with time, especially when late afternoon sun casts a low-angle light. These footprints look like a tradesman's boot. We had lots of tradesmen in and out over the years, as the job was done piecemeal over several years, and it is likely that someone was walking around and tracking something across the floor. The flooring is jatoba (Brazillian cherry) with a sealer and several coats of satin finish. We have tried cleaning with detergent, Murphy's Oil Soap, and Bona. Nothing touches these haunted footprints, which only seem to be getting worse with time. Any advice?

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Sounds like it is in the finish layer or even between coats of finish.

What is the finish?

Some respond better to spot repairs than others (though almost all leave 'witness lines' at the edge of a spot repair since the repair sits on top of the old finish).

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 11:17AM
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The floor looked perfect when initially finished. These footprints showed up several years later, which is why I thought it was something that got tracked in by later workmen (we did more carpentry, cabinets, tile, wallboard, etc when finishing off the upstairs a few years after we did the downstairs). If the footprints were between coats of finish or in the finish layer, wouldn't they show up right away?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 5:06PM
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They may be showing up as the finish wears.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 5:13PM
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Another possibility is that workmen did track across partially cured finish or sealer and left a thin layer of dust. That dust might have blocked some of the UV rays which darken the photosensitive Brazilian Cherry...hence the footprints have become visible now that the floor has been exposed to light for five years. The dust blocked some of the UV rays...and now it appears as footprints in your floor.

That is my best guess...and I'm stickin' to it!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 2:00AM
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Glennsfc - interesting idea about the footprints masking the natural photodarkening. We have some areas (under rugs, for instance) that have never seen sunlight, and these are not as light as the footprints. So I don't think that is the answer.
I guess the next question is how to fix this? There are multiple such areas, each 2-5 sq ft. Anybody know if this can be spot-refinished, or will it require re-doing the whole floor?

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 11:47PM
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Oh, man, that would ruin my day! What brand of BC flooring is it?

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 9:37PM
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I don't think it is any special retail brand of Brazillian Cherry. It was custom flooring from a flooring company. I remember that the whole construction schedule was delayed becuase of a problem with shipping logs or boards or whatever from Brazil. We got tired of waiting and ended up using a different dimension of wood (shorter boards) as these were available. So that tells me that this was not a commercial retail "branded" flooring.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 11:04PM
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U definitely have a Ghost. Call ghost busters immediately

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 8:47PM
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You may try the following on small area first:

Wet clean the floor with mineral spirits / paint thinner. Make sure to
ventilate and extinguish any pilot lights. Charcoal filtered face masks
for workers are recommended. Dry white cotton rags work well, and you
should see a visible yellow residue on the rags (oil residue). Wipe from
the clean area into the contaminated area, refolding the rags to wipe
with a clean face, and changing rags frequently.
Let dry, and clean a second time with a good water based surfactant
cleaner (like Bona / Basic cleaners). Repeat water cleaning until no
color transfers to the white cotton rags.
If the floor is tight with no open cracks filled with reservoirs of oil,
you may have restored the original appearance and gloss.
If this procedure doesn't remove all dulling film, you have greatly
increased the likelihood of a recoat succeeding by removing most of the
contaminant. If the floor is "open" with lots of cracks filled with
contaminant, it may require a resand and refinish.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2013 at 1:51AM
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