Dealing With Hardwood Finish Problems

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Dealing With Hardwood Finish Problems

Dealing With Hardwood Finish Problems

Floor finishes are applied to achieve different aesthetic and functional goals. These include the colour of the surface, the gloss effect and how it impacts the rest of the décor, providing resistance to water- and oil-based stains, all through to withstanding the effects of varying degrees of foot traffic, from light traffic at home to busy commercial environments and public spaces. However, things are not always rosy. Here is a look at different issues that affect hardwood finishes, and how to resolve them. 

  • Early wear

While every finished treatment will eventually wear out, when this happens prematurely, it is a cause for concern. Treatments that have already worn down within a short period after being applied point to something being amiss. This can be due to different issues, such as the wrong cleaning agents being used, which dulls the coats, particularly strong solvent-based cleaners that chemically break down the finish coats, all through to large amounts of water being used during the occasional mopping. Heavy traffic is also a concern, especially if the lacquers used to treat the floor were not ideal for the levels handled in the premises. Claw marks from pets, scratches from furniture being dragged on the surface, or cases where there were simply not enough coats of the particular finish agent applied on the floor – these all contribute to the early deterioration. 

Preventive measures that can be taken here include only working with cleaning products that are compatible with the finish agent that has been applied, getting felt pads for the furniture legs, and also having the claws of your pets trimmed. 

To remove early wear, the process used will depend on the level of deterioration, as well as the kind of finish that has been used. There are formulations where you can simply buff the surface and add a fresh coat on top, which is a fast alternative. However, if the wear gets to a point that poses a threat to the structural integrity of the floor, such as scratches getting too deep that more moisture can be absorbed by the wood, then a round of floor sanding will be required to remove the deteriorated finish, then a new treatment applied. 

  • Discolouration

Colour changes of the finish coats are mainly due to the effect that the sun’s UV radiation has on them. For instance, many of the oil-based polyurethanes available in the market go yellowing over time, with the rate increasing when there is more exposure to direct sunlight. The wood itself can also oxidized due to the natural ageing process. These effects can be prevented by being keen on the particular finish product selected, opting for those that have a ‘non-yellowing’ attribute, as well as having a setup that puts the floor under shade for longer. With widespread discolouration, the affected finish will need to be sanded off and replaced. 

  • Staining 

This can be caused by a wide range of spills or when improper cleaning chemicals are used. The effect will depend on the chemical makeup of the liquid winding up on the floor. Powerful cleaners can be used to deal with this, but you want to ensure that you get products that are particularly suitable for wood floors, especially when it comes to the pH. Do not use bleaching agents to remove the stains. Floor sanding can remove the deeply set stains that formed over time. Note that when recoating is done it should be on the entire area for uniformity. 

  • Abnormal gaps

This is in regard to the actual floorboards. Gaps are not always bad, and come with the seasonal expansion and contraction of the wood floor due to the fluctuating temperature and humidity conditions. Usually, the boards revert back to their original state. However, when you have a case of big and irregular gaps that ruin the aesthetics of the affected rooms, then there is an underlying problem. It may be a case of the flooring having been too wet during the initial installation, or the floorboards being set up in an area that is excessively dry. Issues like installing floorboards over heating ducts, or the room receiving a lot of direct sunlight, and cases where wood stoves are used to heat up the home can also result in gapping due to the dry indoor environment. To repair gaps, filler agents are used. This is preferably done during the humid period of the year, when the gaps are at their thinnest. After all, if the filler paste is applied when the gaps are at their widest, there may not be adequate space left between the floorboards for them to expand, which will in turn cause buckling. 

Here, it will be due to blunders made among the different stages of the floor sanding and finishing process. For instance, if the old coats are not properly sanded off, such that there is residue on the surface, then the new treatment will be rough. Failing to properly vacuum the area to remove the dust generated during the floor sanding can also result in this. Ignoring the intermediate sanding between two consecutive coats is a cause of roughness of the finish as well, since you won’t have compensated for the wood grain being raised by the initial coat.  If the roughness is minor, the finish coats can be screened or lightly abraded to smoothen them out. However, if the issue was during the sanding stages, then a full floor sanding will be needed to rectify the problem. 

  • Alligatoring

In this case, the finish coats start pulling away from themselves when they are being applied. The effect looks like an alligator’s skin, hence the name. This is caused by mistakes like applying the second coat of product before the first has sufficiently dried or working with thinners that make the finish dry too quickly. Temperature also plays a role, since there can be alligatoring when the coats are applied when it is very cold. Here the finish is allowed to dry, then the surface is screened and recoated. 

Dealing With Hardwood Finish Problems

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