Hardwood Hints: Touching Up Natural Oil/Hardwax Oil Finishes

Photos courtesy of NWFA

Over the last several years, natural oil and hard wax oil finishes have grown in popularity. Still, they function and touch up slightly differently than your traditional stains and polys. For example, if you have some cross-grain scratches on a floor, generally, you may catch these when you’re staining with a traditional stain. You can take some stain on your sandpaper, blend it, and rub it in. But with these finishes, because no polyurethane is going over the top, your sheen or the way the floor reflects light depends on your sanding and the abrasive you’re using. When you touch it up, not only do you have to add color to it, but you have to mimic the original sanding process on the floor.

If I find a scratch in the floor, I’ll go ahead and finish sanding the floor and come back the next day to do the touch-up. Remember, if you’re doing a natural oil that has a hardener in it and come back to do the touch-up, you want to do the touch-up with just the oil and not with the hardener. Putting extra hardener in oil on top of an oil floor will give it a different sheen, and that will show up on the floor.

With scratches, add a little more oil on top of them. Then, take some sandpaper – generally, you can go with the same or a slightly lower grit – and hand sand the floor. It pushes the oil back down into the floor, and you keep that color. Eventually, you have the color match that blends into the floor.

However, with natural oils, I can stand back about 10 feet and see the exact spot where I’ve hand-sanded that. The reason is that where I’ve hand-sanded that, I’m going horizontal with the wood grain, which will show up when light reflects off it. So, I’ll add a little more oil on the top. I generally like to take a pad on a palm sander because it’s orbital, take it across it, and put the oil underneath it so I’m not sanding into the finish. I’m driving that oil down, but polishing the floor with the same orbital motion that the rest of the floor has. That way, when I stand back at an angle, I’m still getting that same reflection because the wood has the same texture as everywhere else, and I don’t get a shiny or dull spot on the floor.

Watch It!

See Jared Fitzgerald complete this process.

For additional information about oil finishes, check out the NWFA’s Installation Guidelines at nwfa.org/technical-guidelines/

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