Bad fall down finished wood stairs: step edges down to bare wood

SparklingWaterApril 1, 2012

Less than five years ago we had our home's red/white oak floors refinished. We've had this done many times in past homes, so we are no novices at wood floor refinishing. Within a year of this big job by a new highly recommended floor contractor(stain and water-based two coat finish over probably 2500 square feet in one week), the wood starting chipping, even large pieces came off, the finish wore off in rooms, and with normal daily wear showed it was down to bare wood (as on step edges). I brought this to the floor companies attention. Basically, the wood is brittle and chips off in random places.

Friday night, while holding the stair-rail, I hit one of those marbleized bare wood areas third step down and proceeded to fall backside down all the remainder of the many steps. My arm and wrist took a bad licken.

What can I immediately do about the smooth, slick, marble-like edges of our main wood stair steps? The rest of the steps, baring chips, have a gripping finish. Stair edges are hard to work with. How do I fix this, short of covering with carpet which our family pet will immediately seize upon and destroy and which was not in our plan when refinishing our lovely wood. I use no wax, just a professional waterborn floor cleaner and only when needed. The applied waterborn finish is dull, lackluster and my friends ask when am I going to get my floors redone ;/!

When my daughter heard I fell and got hurt, she admitted she too fell down these steps when home from school last time but didn't tell us.

My negotiations with the wood floor company will continue. Never have we had problems like this in five prior homes. It's one thing to be upset with the job, quite another to risk your life in a long fall while holding on due to unusual slipperyness. Thank you for your suggestions.

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I don't understand your complaint. What do you mean by "chipping?" Do you mean the finish is flaking off in large chunks or is the wood itself coming apart? How large are the chips?

Are you saying the chipping is responsible for the slick stair treads? The finish?

What brand of water-based finish was used? Was it polyurethane or another finish?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2012 at 7:46PM
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Finish: Pacific Strong, a discontinued Bona waterbased urethane finish in two coats was applied over Duracraft stain.

Chipping: small 1/8th" or bigger pieces of wood individually chip out from the wood floor upon light contact by shoes, full plastic laundry basics, kitchen garbage cans.An opening is left in the floor which is blond, like bare oak. It's not flaking off as I've seen can happen with drums during refinishing, nor are their wavy lines periodically. Rather it's chipping off with contact, as when a tree limb is placed in a chipper/shredder machine outdoors.

As to the stairs, well both the stain and the finish are gone on the edges of the steps (the rounded part at the stair end). Bare wood remains and is very slippery compared to the rest of the step, where stain and finish give it a rougher surface texture. You can see the difference on the step and you can feel the lack of any finish on the edges, precisely where it is needed most.

We keep the house humidified and run house temp at 64 in the winter. We don't abuse our floors.

Thanks for your response. In all my many years owning several homes, I have never encountered anything like this.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 12:15AM
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"small 1/8th" or bigger pieces of wood individually chip out from the wood floor upon light contact by shoes"

Is this real solid wood or some type of 'engineered' wood product?

Even solid wood steps often have nosing applied, and the engineered stuff really needs separate solid wood nosing.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 4:47PM
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The actual wood chipping has to do with the way the floor is manufactured, and nothing to do with the finish. The wood itself sounds defective, and no type or amount of finish will keep wood from disintegrating. The finish is just the surface treatment, and it's only as good as the product it's applied to.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 5:56PM
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These are real wood floors, a blend of red and white oak all throughout the entire 1940's house. When we bought the house, the floors had a darker stain/finish on them and we lived with them for a decade with no absolutely no chipping or wear down of the stair edges. This with two babies, now college age.

Temporally, the chipping and excess wearing to bare wood started after the last floor sanding, staining and water-based urethane finish. I don't agree that this is the wood, or bad quality wood, given the time onset of the problem and generations of families who have lived in this house.

Otoh, my hand and wrist are healing, my body bruises are not as sore and I'm not in as much pain. Life is bigger than this issue. Thankfully I didn't get seriously injured and now I will take steps to ensure no repeat to myself or others. And I will pursue this chipping/wearing issue further.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 9:44PM
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Brickeyee, thanks for pointing out the 'nosing' on step edges. I mentioned that to my spouse today for further discussion. I'm afraid every time I walk down these long steps now, in my own home. :(

Livewireoak, I do look for your posts from which I glean much knowledge.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 9:46AM
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Since the floors were fine before the refinish, perhaps the sanding took the floors down too thin, and this is causing the wood to split. You only have so much wood that can be removed when refinishing, even on solid wood floors. If you sand too much, you can get down to the tongue and groove, which is a weaker area and can split with pressure applied, like just plain walking on them. Do you have a floor register that you can pull up and look at how thick/thin the top surface of the wood is? If this is the case, then nothing short of replacement will cure the issue.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 10:14AM
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