A Recoat Gone Wrong & Two Hard Lessons Learned

recoat failure

A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from a distraught homeowner. It seems this nice young couple had chosen the lowest bid for a screen & recoat to refresh their hardwood floors, and now, just one day before they were to put the house on the market, the new polyurethane coat was peeling and flaking off like a nasty sunburn.

As it turns out, the contractor they hired went in with the assumption that this was a “standard” screen and recoat, and he didn’t take any of the critical precautions that should always be taken before even thinking about touching someone’s hardwood floor. If the contractor had asked, which he didn’t, he would have learned that this couple had used an acrylic polish—known as a rejuvenator—on the pre-finished wood floors sometime in the past, and so of course the new, oil-based coating had no intention of sticking.

I hated being the bearer of bad news, which moved the husband nearly to tears: The only way to remedy this colossal mess was a complete refinish.

Two Dire Mistakes

The contractor’s first mistake was not testing the floor for substances that might keep the new coat from sticking. Wax, Murphy’s oil soap, Mop & Glo, Orange-Glo, and pretty much any other cleaner that isn’t formulated specifically for hardwood floors by a reputable and knowledgable manufacturer are the kiss of death for a screen and recoat if you don’t take the proper steps to remove the residue first. They’ll also leave a dull coating on your floor that will leave them looking far older, dirtier, and more worn than they should.

The contractor’s second mistake was using an oil-based polyurethane on a pre-finished wood floor, which wouldn’t have stuck even if the rejuvenator hadn’t been used. A catalyzed water base was the way to go in this case.

Unfortunately, this particular floor was a value-driven model that was only designed to be sanded one time—and that was done in the factory—so what started out as a simple, $275 job is now going to cost the homeowner $5,200 plus any legal fees incurred and headache medications purchased in the process of trying to recoup some of that cost from the original contractor.

Lesson Number One: Choose Your Cleaners Wisely

With well-meaning HGTV hosts telling homeowners to use vinegar on their hardwood floors (please don’t!) and products like Orange-Glo promising to make your hardwood floors beautiful again (they won’t!), it’s very common for folks to use these and other damaging products on their floors, but doing so can come back to haunt you in the long run. Properly maintaining your floors from the get-go whenever possible can save you a lot of heartache later on. 

It’s important to only use professional cleaners designed specifically for hardwood floors. BONA has a line of nontoxic, asthma- and allergy-friendly cleaners that I always recommend, especially for people with children or pets, but nearly any cleaner recommended to you by a knowledgable hardwood floor professional will do the trick and do it beautifully.

Lesson Number Two: Choose Your Contractor Wisely

Here’s an extremely valuable tip for you the next time you’re in the market for a recoat. If a contractor gives you a quote before seeing—and testing—the floor and asking a lot of questions about how you’ve maintained it, keep looking for another contractor, unless you want to risk having your new finish crawl across the floor, flaking and peeling as it dries. A skilled and reputable hardwood floor professional will ask you about the products you’ve used to clean your floor in the past, and even if you have the right answer, he or she will still want to test it with a professional testing kit, just to be sure.

Keep in mind that not every floor can be recoated. A floor that’s been cleaned with oil soap, wax, or a silicon cleaner can’t generally be stripped of these impossible-to-remove substances well enough for the new coat to stick. Additionally, some pre-finished floors are factory-treated with Teflon or Scotchguard, which may not accept a new coat even if the floor is abraded or chemically etched first. A finish that has worn all the way down to the wood also can’t be recoated. A knowledgable contractor will be forthcoming about any possible problems that may occur so that there are no surprises once the recoat is complete.

Contact the Floor Doctor Today

If you’re considering a screen and recoat to restore and protect your hardwood floors, contact The Floor Doctor today. We offer free in-home consultations and use state-of-the-art equipment and technologies to first test, and then beautifully recoat, your hardwood floors.

Trevor Hayden is The Floor Doctor, a dedicated and passionate professional who always strives to stay on top of new breakthroughs and changing technologies in the world of hardwood floors. An Omaha native immersed in the hardwood flooring industry since the tender age of eleven, Trevor has extensive knowledge about everything hardwood and specializes in restoring worn and damaged floors to their former glory in the least invasive and most economical way possible. If you want your floors done right the first time, Trevor will deliver.

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