Tech Talk: What is the Strangest Issue You Have Seen Related to Finish?

Michael Dittmer
As many of us have encountered, the customer would like the new oak floors to match in color to the older ambered floors in the home. It seems easiest to match the new to the old because they don’t have to move the furniture and such. On one such project, we mixed the appropriate stains to match the ambered old oil-based poly color. We finished to 100 grit with the multi-head and buffed the stain on with carpet. The color was perfect! We allowed three hours to dry with heat and air movement, then we finished with a water-based finish.

Low and behold, the client called that evening and was upset because the stain did not match at all…I assured them that after another coat of finish it would be perfect!

Upon my arrival the next morning, I was as shocked as the client because the color was indeed gone and appeared as a water-based sealed floor. Yikes! We performed a cross-hatch test to see if for some reason the stain was not dry. This confirmed that the finish was bonded to the floor, and the stain was dry.

The manufacturer rep inspected and could not answer to the issue. What concerns me more is that it happened just last month again. So, as of this writing, we are doing testing on a sample panel with the exact stain mix, and with three different finishes, to see if we can determine if it is a finish or stain issue. What are your thoughts?

Jason Elquest
Although we don’t see them often, it would have to be poly beads. I have only seen them twice in all the years I have been doing floors. And for as weird and scary as they look, they are pretty easy to repair. Poly beads are small BBs of finish that form along the edge of the boards.

I have only seen them after they have hardened, but when they first appear they are soft and sticky like sap. They are caused by unstable job site conditions, where the wood has expanded and pushed undried finish from between the boards. Typically, careful removal of the beads and a recoat will repair the issue with the finish. (BTW, neither of the jobs were mine, but we fixed them!)

Kjell Nymark
The strangest issue I’ve encountered as a contractor was when I was applying a hard-wax oil finish to a large stage. The stage was approximately 2,000 square feet. We applied the finish with a buffer and buffer pads. The excess finish was wiped off with clean terry-cloth rags. We knew that the product we were using was combustible and took the necessary care to dispose of the saturated rags in a metal rag container filled with water. The pads were stacked on top of each other on a sheet of plywood and placed in the hall where we would exit. At the end of the job, we started noticing an unfamiliar odor. We weren’t concerned about the rags because we knew that they were disposed of properly. What we hadn’t counted on were the saturated pads, carelessly stacked on top of one another, and now they were smoldering. We carefully picked up the plywood and took the pads outside and spread them out over a gravel parking lot to dry out. We were lucky to catch our mistake before the pads ignited. This could have been a very costly error.

Scott Taylor
I was asked to inspect a wood floor in the upper Midwest. This home was new construction with a 2 1/4” red oak with a darker stain. The builder, contractor, and homeowner were present for the inspection. The builder felt that the contractor must have done something wrong while applying the finish because there were white lines between each board. During further inspection, I noticed these white lines, under magnification, were the finish stretching from board to board during the contraction process.

Since the inspection took place in spring, the RH was at an acceptable level; however, the moisture content of the wood was lower than expected. I was told that there was a supplemental humidifier located on the forced air furnace. I went to the basement to inspect the humidifier only to see that it had not yet been connected to a water source.

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