Hardwood troubles (long story)

NYSteveAugust 15, 2011


As part of a kitchen renovation, we had new #1 red oak flooring installed in the kitchen and family room -- the same type of wood that was installed in the LR and DR when the house was build 40+ years ago.

We had the floors in the LR & DR refinished (no stain with an oil based poly) when we moved in about 7 years ago.

The kitchen is now open into the FR which is open into the LR.

The original plan with the GC was to finish the new floors to match existing. This turned out to be a bad idea for several reasons, so we instead stripped the LR down to bear wood (the DR will be done shortly; we needed someplace to move our stuff and there is only a small doorway connecting it to the kitchen). We were still under the impression that everything would come out like the old floors.

We were aware that the GC (and the flooring sub) were planning on using water based poly rather than oil-based but it turns out there was not great communication about what they would do to make them look like the old floors.

On the day they came to finish the floors, I was not home... and my wife was running out the door. Long story short: we next saw the floor with two (we thought it was only one but it turned out to be two) coats of water-based semi gloss poly and were not happy. The floor looked "raw" and "cold" and there was a lot of board-to-board variation in color ... variation that I thought would be someone less visually striking if they had used oil-based or a light stain.

We had a long chat with the floor guy. We determined that a stain would darken the floor too much; oil based was not seriously considered as an option. We were also told that part of the rawness was the lack of sheen -- semi-gloss oil is a lower sheen than semi-gloss water, so he would do the final coat in glossy. I say that I don't want it to look *too* glossy -- just a bit more sheen. No problem.

They put on coat #3... and we find lots of brush marks, swirls, bumps. sawdust, and the like. Color is "growing" on us, and additional coat makes it look more finished. Flooring guy comes to look at it and agrees to a 4th coat -- which should fix the problem.

Guys come to do coat #4 and the floor is now a basketball court with even more drip marks, bumps, etc.

I'm not even sure what I should ask him to do? GC says he will ask him to sand down this last coat *well*, taking out all of the bumps, and then he will personally supervise vacuuming and cleanup, and have him put down coat #5: back to semi-gloss.

If you've read with me so far: will this solve the problem? I already see some dishout so I don't want them to sand down too hard, but there are *lots* what I think of as "mistakes" on this finish. Was part of the problem the fact that they put a glossy finish on top of a semi?

I think the real mistake (on my end) was not insisting on samples when I realized that they were using different materials than what we are accustomed to having on our floor. Describing colors and sheens is inherently imprecise. In retrospect, a well-done 3rd coat of semi would have probably done the trick (I know that glossy finishes show more imperfections)... but that is not where we are.

Thanks for any help or advice on how we can move forward.

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Have them sand and do the last coat in a semi. If you are ok with the color...start using it and get some of your own marks on it...it will grow on you and you will learn to love it. Just my opinion.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 9:18PM
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My parents had the same problem and this was 20 years ago. Problem is bad tack job after each sand, that is between coats. Try Waterlox next time. It goes on nice and no sanding between coats. I just finished my hickory flooring, and it looks great.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 11:34PM
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They sanded and did semi. We are OK with the color, and the finish looks much better. Not too shiny, almost no brush marks/swirls, but still a few minor bumps that we're going to deal with. I think we'll never notice them, and they'll either wear down or get overshadowed by our own marks, as Floortech said. So everything is great ... except that the literally missed a spot. They skipped the toe-kick area under one short cabinet run. Hopefully, this is a simple touch-up and can be feathered in.

As for the bumps, etc, we think there were two problems. One is probably the bad cleanup between coats as brandygirl suggested. The other problem probably should have been more obvious to everyone, but the GC is the one who figured it out. He hung up plastic to protect the cabinets and the rest of the house from the sanding before they started. When they sanded, lots of dust clinged to the plastic. Then they started to put down the poly. We think that general air motion through the house -- from the AC, from closing or opening doors, etc -- send enough turbulence to shake dust off of the plastic. It then landed on the floor.

Re: next time -- I'm not planning on having a next time!!

Thanks for the help.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2011 at 11:12AM
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