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Recoating Hardwood Floors

by Adele Joy

It’s a fact, your hardwood floor is going to become scratched and dull through general wear and tear over time. However it’s best to recoat your floor while it still looks good, prolonging the life of your floor and reducing the number of times it has to be refinished. Recoating will revitalize the shine and get rid of any mild discolorations that haven't penetrated the wood. By committing to the proper care and maintenance of your hardwood floor, including recoating and refinishing when required, you can give your floor a life of up to 300 years.

Recoating is a simple process, involving thorough cleaning and light sanding (scuffing) of your floor's last applied layer of finish, before a fresh coat of finish is applied. It rejuvenates your wood floor and extends the life of its protective finish layers.

Be careful not to confuse recoating a hardwood floor should with refinishing a hardwood floor. Refinishing hardwood floors involves extensively sanding the floor to expose the wood - necessary when there are deep scratches, damage, or if the floor has been waxed. Click this link for more information on refinishing hardwood floors. If you are unsure whether or not the floor has a wax coating, you can do your own home test: just wipe a small area with a rag dampened in paint thinner. If the thinner removes the existing finish, the floor has a wax coating and will require complete sanding and refinishing.

To find out if your floor can be recoated, do a small patch test in an inconspicuous area.

  • Start by thoroughly cleaning the area with a wood floor cleaner,
  • then lightly sand it with fine (120 grit) sandpaper.
  • Wipe away all traces of dust before
  • applying polyurethane floor finish to the area, and
  • then wait 24 hours.

The finish should be smooth, not rippled or of an orange shell like texture, and it shouldn't flake or peel away (test this by scratching the surface with moderate pressure using a coin). If the surface does not pass these tests, the floor will need to be completely sanded and refinished.

Once you’re sure your hardwood floor can be recoated:

  • Begin by lightly sanded it using a screen disk. Screening disks are open mesh abrasive screens that are used on rotary 300 rpm rotary buffing machines. Floors in good condition can be screened with 120 grit screens, though if the floor is in poorer shape, 100 or even 80 grit screens are recommended. If you use one of these more aggressive screens, it is advisable to re-screen the floor using a 120 grit screen to remove some of the swirl marks and ensure a nice smooth surface. Note that if your floor has a polyurethane finish, it can usually be recoated without having to sand the entire floor first. Recoating is suitable if the floor is only mildly scratched and worn, the finish has not worn through and it does not have a build up of wax or other chemicals - these will create adhesion problems and cause the floor to reject the new finish, resulting in peeling and flaking.

  • Sweep and vacuum it to remove wood dust and dirt.

  • Dampen a tack rag with pure mineral spirits and run the rag over the floor to pick up any fine dust and oily residue. Avoid using rags treated with less refined oil-based materials such as kerosene or wax-based treatments, as they could leave a residue and cause poor adhesion and peeling.

  • To ensure compatibility when applying the finish, it is best to use the same finish that was previously applied: problems such as peeling can occur if an existing coating is not compatible with the new coating. Of course, if you don’t know what the existing finish is, the safest method of determining compatibility is to select a small unobtrusive area and apply a small patch test. If after a couple of days the material shows no signs of bubbling, peeling, or reduction in film integrity, it should be safe to seal the entire floor.

  • Ensure the area is well ventilated and apply the finish to the edges of the floor with a brush, then coat the rest of the floor using a foam or lamb’s wool applicator. Use smooth, even strokes in the direction of the grain.





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