FLOOR, WOOD FINISHES - CONTENTS: Guide to choosing and applying finishes on wood floors. Penetrating Sealer and Wax Systems Useful for Solid Wood Flooring. Surface Finishes for Solid Wood Floors. Maintenance and Reconditioning Procedures for Solid Wood Floors.
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This article explains how to choose and apply finishes to wood flooring.
This article series discusses and provides a best construction practices guide to the selection and installation of building interior surface materials, carpeting, doors, drywall, trim, flooring, lighting, plaster, materials, finishes, and sound control materials.
Our page top photo shows a satin polyurethane applied by the editor (D Friedman) over a hand-restored 1850's wide plank floor in Wappingers Falls, NY. No stains were used. Original paint, a mixture of oxblood and milk, had to be stripped by hand. Power floor sanding would have risked grinding the floor to an un-natural flatness.
If possible, allow the home’s heating, ventilating, and air conditioning
(HVAC) system to run for two weeks after
the flooring is installed before sanding and finishing. The
most common site-applied floor finish today is oil-based
polyurethane, although waterborne urethanes are rapidly
gaining market share due to their fast drying, low level of
volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and non yellowing
appearance (although “ambering” formulas are now available).
For those seeking a more rustic, lower-gloss appearance
and willing to wax and buff periodically, traditional
oil sealers and wax remain an option. Finishing options are
summarized in Table 5-6.
[Click to enlarge any image]
Penetrating Sealer and Wax Systems Useful for Solid Wood Flooring
are generally made from mixtures of linseed or tung
oil, sometimes with synthetic polymers and additives to
improve hardness and drying time. Usually two coats of a
penetrating sealer are applied, followed by a coat of wax,
providing a low-sheen, rustic appearance. While easy to
apply, the finish is fairly high-maintenance, requiring periodic
buffing and rewaxing to keep it looking good.
time, the wax will become discolored from dirt and grime
and will need to be stripped. In its favor, high use areas of
the floor are easy to touch up without sanding and refinishing
the entire floor.
Surface Finishes for Solid Wood Floors
Most site-applied finishes today are
oil-based or water-borne urethanes applied to the surface
of the wood in three or more coats. In general, any high quality
urethane applied properly will provide a durable,
While water-borne finishes had
some quality problems when first introduced for residential
use in the late 1980s, they have continually improved
and now offer durability equal or superior to traditional
oil-based urethanes. While most floor finishes claim in
their marketing to be the toughest, hardest, and longest
lasting, moisture-cured urethane is generally considered
the toughest site-applied finish.
The most durable finishes,
some with warranties of up to 25 years, are available only
on factory-finished flooring.
Whatever finish is applied, follow the manufacturer’s
instructions closely. The following recommendations
apply to most site-applied finishes:
After sanding, wipe the floor with a lint-free tack cloth
and allow to fully dry. Use mineral sprits for oil-based
finishes, water for water-borne finishes.
If you use a stain or penetrating sealer, make sure
it is completely dry before applying the top
Make sure the temperature is right—65°F to 85°F for
most finishes. Colder will delay drying; hotter will dry
too fast and the finish will not level.
Keep indoor humidity from 45% to 75%. Higher
humidity will delay drying and can harm the finish.
Provide exhaust ventilation during drying. Poor
ventilation can cause a soft or rough finish.
Allow each coat to fully dry before applying the next
coat. Multiple thin coats make the best finish.
Lightly abrade finish between coats as recommended
by manufacturer. (Not required with some water-borne
finishes if recoated within 3 to 6 hours—follow manufacturer’s
Prefinished Strip and Plank Flooring. Many solid
wood floor products are now available prefinished in
4 inch for roughly twice the price of
comparable unfinished wood. In addition to speeding up
the installation and eliminating the dust and fumes
associated with job-site finishing, these finishes have
several other advantages:
The most durable finishes, such as UV-cured urethane
and acrylic impregnation, can only be applied in a
factory (see Table 5-6 shown above)
Finishes are applied in a dust-free, controlled
Factory finishes typically carry long-term warranties.
There are no surprises in the color of the finished floor.
The main disadvantage of this approach is that the
installer must take extra care not to mar or scratch the finishes
during installation, adding to the installation cost.
Also, most prefinished flooring is chamfered to some
degree to hide the inevitable differences in thickness from
one board to the next, called overwood, which results from
small variations in water absorption, swelling, and shrinking
among flooring boards. Debris or irregularities in the
subfloor can also cause an uneven surface.
The grooves in deeply beveled flooring tend to trap
dirt and can cause problems when it is time to sand and
refinish, particularly with stained flooring. Unless the
bevels are sanded away, they are hard to strip and difficult
to match, leaving dark lines in the refinished floor. One
approach is to refinish before the old finish is completely
worn through by just lightly abrading the surface prior to
recoating or using one of the no-sand refinishing products.
To address these concerns, most flooring manufacturers
now offer prefinished flooring products with no bevel
(square edged) or nearly invisible “microbevels” that minimize
the effects of a beveled edge.
Maintenance and Reconditioning Procedures for Solid Wood Floors
A sealed and
waxed floor typically needs rewaxing no more than once
or twice a year to keep it looking good.
ith surface coatings, most manufacturers do not recommend
waxing. If a surface-coated floor gets lightly
scratched over time but has not worn through to bare
wood, it can be recoated in most cases without complete
re sanding. After thoroughly cleaning the floor with a non residue
cleaner, rough up the old finish with steel wool,
light sandpaper, or a sanding screen, then apply a new coat
of finish. Many coating manufacturers now offer no-sand
refinishing products as well, formulated to bond to the old
finish without sanding.
No wood floor should be flooded with water during
cleaning. Either use a dry mop or a wet mop that has been
squeezed dry. Water can find its way between floor boards
and through scratches, swell the wood, and undermine the
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Steve Bliss's Building Advisor at buildingadvisor.com helps homeowners & contractors plan & complete successful building & remodeling projects: buying land, site work, building design, cost estimating, materials & components, & project management through complete construction. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Steven Bliss served as editorial director and co-publisher of The Journal of Light Construction for 16 years and previously as building technology editor for Progressive Builder and Solar Age magazines. He worked in the building trades as a carpenter and design/build contractor for more than ten years and holds a masters degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Excerpts from his recent book, Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, Wiley (November 18, 2005) ISBN-10: 0471648361, ISBN-13: 978-0471648369, appear throughout this website, with permission and courtesy of Wiley & Sons. Best Practices Guide is available from the publisher, J. Wiley & Sons, and also at Amazon.com
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
"The Elimination of Unsafe Guardrails, a Progress Report," Elliott O. Stephenson, Building Standards, March-April 1993
"Are Functional Handrails Within Our Grasp" Jake Pauls, Building Standards, January-February 1991
Access Ramp building codes:
Access Ramp Standards:
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), Public Law 101-336. 7/26/90 is very often cited by other sources for good design of stairs and ramps etc. even where disabled individuals are not the design target.
ANSI A117.4 Accessible and Usable buildings and Facilities (earlier version was incorporated into the ADA)
ASTM F 1637, Standard Practice for Safe Walking Surfaces, (Similar to the above standards)
Asbestos products and their history and use in various building materials such as asphalt and vinyl flooring includes discussion which draws on ASBESTOS, ITS INDUSTRIAL APPLICATIONS, ROSATO 1959, D.V. Rosato, engineering consultant, Newton, MA, Reinhold Publishing, 1959 Library of Congress Catalog Card No.: 59-12535 (out of print).
Asbestos Identification and Testing References
Asbestos Identification, Walter C.McCrone, McCrone Research Institute, Chicago, IL.1987 ISBN 0-904962-11-3. Dr. McCrone literally "wrote the book" on asbestos identification procedures which formed
the basis for current work by asbestos identification laboratories.
Stanton, .F., et al., National Bureau of Standards Special Publication 506: 143-151
Pott, F., Staub-Reinhalf Luft 38, 486-490 (1978) cited by McCrone
ASHRAE resource on dew point and wall condensation - see the ASHRAE Fundamentals Handbook, available in many libraries. The following three ASHRAE Handbooks are also available at the InspectAPedia bookstore in the third page of our Insulate-Ventilate section:
2005 ASHRAE Handbook : Fundamentals: Inch-Pound Edition (2005 ASHRAE HANDBOOK : Fundamentals : I-P Edition) (Hardcover), Thomas H. Kuehn (Contributor), R. J. Couvillion (Contributor), John W. Coleman (Contributor), Narasipur Suryanarayana (Contributor), Zahid Ayub (Contributor), Robert Parsons (Author), ISBN-10: 1931862702 or ISBN-13: 978-1931862707
2004 ASHRAE Handbook : Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning: Systems and Equipment : Inch-Pound Edition (2004 ASHRAE Handbook : HVAC Systems and Equipment : I-P Edition) (Hardcover)
by American Society of Heating, ISBN-10: 1931862478 or ISBN-13: 978-1931862479
"2004 ASHRAE Handbook - HVAC Systems and Equipment The 2004 ASHRAE HandbookHVAC Systems and Equipment discusses various common systems and the equipment (components or assemblies) that comprise them, and describes features and differences. This information helps system designers and operators in selecting and using equipment. Major sections include Air-Conditioning and Heating Systems (chapters on system analysis and selection, air distribution, in-room terminal systems, centralized and decentralized systems, heat pumps, panel heating and cooling, cogeneration and engine-driven systems, heat recovery, steam and hydronic systems, district systems, small forced-air systems, infrared radiant heating, and water heating); Air-Handling Equipment (chapters on duct construction, air distribution, fans, coils, evaporative air-coolers, humidifiers, mechanical and desiccant dehumidification, air cleaners, industrial gas cleaning and air pollution control); Heating Equipment (chapters on automatic fuel-burning equipment, boilers, furnaces, in-space heaters, chimneys and flue vent systems, unit heaters, makeup air units, radiators, and solar equipment); General Components (chapters on compressors, condensers, cooling towers, liquid coolers, liquid-chilling systems, centrifugal pumps, motors and drives, pipes and fittings, valves, heat exchangers, and energy recovery equipment); and Unitary Equipment (chapters on air conditioners and heat pumps, room air conditioners and packaged terminal equipment, and a new chapter on mechanical dehumidifiers and heat pipes)."
1996 Ashrae Handbook Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning Systems and Equipment: Inch-Pound Edition (Hardcover), ISBN-10: 1883413346 or ISBN-13: 978-1883413347 ,
"The 1996 HVAC Systems and Equipment Handbook is the result of ASHRAE's continuing effort to update, expand and reorganize the Handbook Series. Over a third of the book has been revised and augmented with new chapters on hydronic heating and cooling systems design; fans; unit ventilator; unit heaters; and makeup air units. Extensive changes have been added to chapters on panel heating and cooling; cogeneration systems and engine and turbine drives; applied heat pump and heat recovery systems; humidifiers; desiccant dehumidification and pressure drying equipment, air-heating coils; chimney, gas vent, fireplace systems; cooling towers; centrifugal pumps; and air-to-air energy recovery. Separate I-P and SI editions."
Brick Nogging, Historical Investigation and Contemporary Repair, Construction Specifier, April 2006. Historical use of brick in timber-framed buildings, drawing on the investigations of the Kent Tavern in Calais, VT.
"Brick nogging is a European method of construction which was brought to the new world in the early-nineteenth century. It was a common construction method that employed masonry as infill between the vertical uprights of wood framing." -- quoting the web article review.
Building Research Council, BRC, nee Small Homes Council, SHC, School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, brc.arch.uiuc.edu. "The Small Homes Council (our original name) was organized in 1944 during the war at the request of the President of the University of Illinois to consider the role of the university in meeting the demand for housing in the United States. Soldiers would be coming home after the war and would be needing good low-cost housing. ... In 1993, the Council became part of the School of Architecture, and since then has been known as the School of Architecture-Building Research Council. ... The Council's researchers answered many critical questions that would affect the quality of the nation's housing stock.
How could homes be designed and built more efficiently?
What kinds of construction and production techniques worked well and which did not?
How did people use different kinds of spaces in their homes?
What roles did community planning, zoning, and interior design play in how neighborhoods worked
Energy Savers: Whole House Systems Approach to Energy Efficient Home Design [copy on file as /interiors/Whole_House_Energy_Efficiency_DOE.pdf ] - U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Whole-House Supply Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Whole-House_Supply_Vent.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11880?print
"Energy Savers: Whole-House Exhaust Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Whole-House_Exhaust.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11870
"Energy Savers: Ventilation [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Ventilation.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Natural Ventilation [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Natural_Ventilation.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Energy Recovery Ventilation Systems [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Energy_Recovery_Venting.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy energysavers.gov/your_home/insulation_airsealing/index.cfm/mytopic=11900
"Energy Savers: Detecting Air Leaks [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Detect_Air_Leaks.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Savers: Air Sealing [copy on file as /interiors/Energy_Savers_Air_Sealing_1.pdf ] - ", U.S. Department of Energy
Falls and Related Injuries: Slips, Trips, Missteps, and Their Consequences, Lawyers & Judges Publishing, (June 2002), ISBN-10: 0913875430 ISBN-13: 978-0913875438 "Falls in the home and public places are the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths in the United States, but are overlooked in most literature. This book is unique in that it is entirely devoted to falls. Of use to primary care physicians, nurses, insurance adjusters, architects, writers of building codes, attorneys, or anyone who cares for the elderly, this book will tell you how, why, and when people will likely fall, what most likely will be injured, and how such injuries come about. "
Fiberglass: Indoor Air Quality Investigations: Health Concerns About Airborne Fiberglass: Fiberglass in Indoor Air from HVAC ducts, and Building Insulation
Gypsum Construction Guide, National Gypsum Corporation
Construction Handbook [purchase at Amazon.com] H17, Technical
Folder SA920 and PM2, PM3 and PM4, United States Gypsum Company, 125 South Franklin ST., PO Box 806278, Chicago, IL 60680-4124,
Humidity: What indoor humidity should we maintain in order to avoid a mold problem?
Ice Dam Leaks in building attics and roof cavities, how to inspect for evidence of leaks, identify causes, and correct bad attic ventilation, improper roof venting, and these causes of attic mold or roof structure damage
"Insulation: Adding Insulation to an Existing Home [copy on file as /interiors/Insulation_Adding_DOE.pdf ] - ," U.S. Department of Energy - tips on how to do your own check for the presence of absence of insulation in a home
Insulation: Selecting Insulation for New Home Construction [copy on file as /interiors/New_Home_Insulation_DOE.pdf ] - , U.S. Department of Energy -
"Your state and local building codes probably include minimum insulation requirements, but to build an energy-efficient home, you may need or want to exceed them. For maximum energy efficiency, you should also consider the interaction between the insulation and other building components. This is called the
"whole-house systems design approach" [copy on file as /interiors/Whole_House_Energy_Efficiency_DOE.pdf ] -
Insulation Types [copy on file as /interiors/Insulation_Types_DOE.pdf ] - , table of common building insulation properties from U.S. DOE. Readers should see INSULATION R-VALUES & PROPERTIES our own table of insulation properties that includes links to articles describing each insulation material in more detail.
Lath & Plaster Systems [copy on file as /interiors/LathPlaster_Nat_Gypsum.pdf ] - , 092300/NGC, National Gypsum Lath and Plaster Systems, National Gypsum Corporation, 800-628-4662 describing National Gypsum's Kal-Kore brand plaster base
Lighting, proper use of: proper aiming of a good flashlight can disclose hard to see but toxic light or white mold colonies on walls.
Metal Lath Specifications, Specification for metal lath and accessories, Lath and Plaster [copy on file as/interiors/Amico_lath-inside.pdf ] - from Amico, a lath and plaster accessory producer.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology, NIST (nee National Bureau of Standards NBS) is a US government agency - see www.nist.gov
"A Parametric Study of Wall Moisture Contents Using a Revised Variable Indoor Relative Humidity Version of the "Moist" Transient Heat and Moisture Transfer Model [copy on file as/interiors/MOIST_Model_NIST_b95074.pdf ] - ", George Tsongas, Doug Burch, Carolyn Roos, Malcom Cunningham; this paper describes software and the prediction of wall moisture contents. - PDF Document from NIS
Pergo AB, division of Perstorp AB, is a Swedish manufacturer or modern laminate flooring products. Information about the U.S. company can be found at http://www.pergo.com where we obtained historical data used in our discussion of the age of flooring materials in buildings.
Piquet Wall Construction: See this photo of
piquet wall construction - involving timber-framed wall construction with long top girts, diagonal timber bracing, and small diameter logs
placed vertically along with concrete chinking to fill in the wall plane.
Plank House Construction: weblog from plankhouse.wordpress.com/2009/01/25/plank-house-construction/ and where plank houses were built by native Americans, see
Large 1:6 Scale Plank House Construction / P8094228,
Photographer: Mike Meuser
06/12/2007 documented at yurokplankhouse.com where scale model Museum quality Yurok Plank Houses are being sold to raise money for the Blue Creek - Ah Pah Traditional Yurok Village project.
Plastering, PM 5, Product & Systems Technology, US Gypsum, May 1998, web search 10.5.2010, original source: http://www.usg.com/rc/technical-articles/plaster/
[copy on file as/interiors/Plastering_USG.pdf ] -
United States Gypsum Company, 125 South Franklin ST., PO Box 806278, Chicago, IL 60680-4124,
Paraphrasing from this document: USG uses the term shadowing in this document in describing the visual effect over gypsum board joints caused by the lower moisture absorption rate (take-up) and lower capacity than gypsum base face paper. Shadowing at joints occurs where veneer plaster is applied over tape joints, requiring a second coat to completely hide the tape, providing a visually uniform surface. USG Advises: "This [second] cover coat must be allowed to harden and dry before plaster application is started.
Plastering Skills, F. Van Den Branden, Thomas L. Hartsell, Amer Technical Pub (July 1, 1985), ISBN-10: 0826906575, ISBN-13: 978-0826906571 [purchase at Amazon.com]
Re-Bath, tub lining products is a bath tub relining manufacturer and distributor located in Tempe, Arizona - see rebath.com
Rubblestone Wall Filler: See this Lartigue House using exterior-exposed rubblestone filler between vertical timbers of a post and beam-framed Canadian building.
Slips, Trips, Missteps and Their Consequences, Second Edition, Gary M. Bakken, H. Harvey Cohen,A. S. Hyde, Jon R. Abele, ISBN-13: 978-1-933264-01-1 or
ISBN 10: 1-933264-01-2,
available from the publisher, Lawyers ^ Judges Publishing Company,Inc., www.lawyersandjudges.com email@example.com and also from the InspectAPedia Bookstore (Amazon.com)
The Stairway Manufacturers' Association, (877) 500-5759, provides a pictorial guide to the stair and railing portion of the International Residential Code. [copy on file as http://www.stairways.org/pdf/2006%20Stair%20IRC%20SCREEN.pdf ] -
Lighting, proper use of: proper aiming of a good flashlight can disclose hard to see but toxic light or white mold colonies on walls.
Manufactured & Modular Homes: Modular Building Systems Association, MBSA, modularhousing.com, is a trade association promoting and providing links to contact modular builders in North America. Also see the Manufactured Home Owners Association, MHOAA, at www.mhoaa.us. The Manufactured Home Owners Association of America is a National Organization dedicated to the protection of the rights of all people living in Manufactured Housing in the United States.
Mold-Resistant Building Practices, advice from an expert on how to prevent mold after a building flood and how to prevent mold growth in buildings by selection of building materials and by anti-mold construction details.
Slips, Trips, Missteps and Their Consequences, Second Edition, Gary M. Bakken, H. Harvey Cohen,A. S. Hyde, Jon R. Abele, ISBN-13: 978-1-933264-01-1 or ISBN 10: 1-933264-01-2, available from the publisher, Lawyers & Judges Publishing Company,Inc., www.lawyersandjudges.com firstname.lastname@example.org and also from the InspectAPedia Bookstore (Amazon.com)
Steps and Stairways, Cleo Baldon & Ib Melchior, Rizzoli, 1989.
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: email@example.com. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
The Horizon Software System manages business operations,scheduling, & inspection report writing using Carson Dunlop's knowledge base & color images. The Horizon system runs on always-available cloud-based software for office computers, laptops, tablets, iPad, Android, & other smartphones