Waiting for Hardwood Floor to Dry Before Applying Polyurethane: How Long?

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Doug in Virginia on the line who seems to have gotten something on a hardwood floor that perhaps should not have been there. What’s going on?

    DOUG: Yeah. Basically, my wife and I are trying to restore a home that we purchased that was built in the 1950s. And we’re currently working on the kitchen. And what we found was the floors had tiles put down in the 50s and they used a thick, black, cutback adhesive, like an asphalt adhesive. And so we got the tiles up and we were working on getting that tar up and we used a product called Citrus King.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s an adhesive remover, right?

    DOUG: Right, right. And it worked really, really good. It brought the tar right up but in the process, it made the wood wet. We put it down, we got it up as fast as we could but it did make it a little bit wet. Our flooring finisher, he was – the original idea, we were going to use Monocoat to finish the floors, which is like a natural wood finish and an oil finish. And when he realized we had used the product to strip the floors, he felt that that product wasn’t going to work – the Monocoat wouldn’t work for a floor finish. And so, our Plan B was just a stain and a poly finish. And he felt that the floor being – having moisture in it, that the poly wouldn’t stick.

    TOM: Well, look, if it has moisture in it, the moisture’s not going to be in it permanently; it’s going to evaporate out of it. Has the floor been sanded since the adhesive was pulled up?

    DOUG: Yeah, I sanded it over this past weekend.

    TOM: OK. And it looks good now? I mean it looks like a clean, dry, sanded hardwood floor?

    DOUG: Yeah, it looks pretty good. It’s not – it doesn’t look brand new but we kind of like it. It has kind of a weathered look to it, so we like it.

    TOM: Well, it sounds to me like this guy doesn’t really want to do it anyway, if he’s trying to talk himself out of a job.

    LESLIE: He’s looking for a way out.

    TOM: Well, look, just because the floor got wet, as long as the floor was dried out – when did you actually do the adhesive-removal process?

    DOUG: It’s probably been two weeks ago.

    TOM: OK. And so – and you got up all of the moisture that was there and now it seems to have dried out real well?

    DOUG: Yeah. It feels dry. There for a little bit, you would see some dark spots on it and you could sand them away and they’d actually come back. And so I think the moisture was coming out of it. But I sanded it this past weekend and since then, it’s remained the same color and feels dry.

    TOM: Yeah. I don’t see any reason you just can’t go right to the finish coat on this. I think he’s being a little overly cautious. He doesn’t want to be responsible or having to do it twice. I can understand that. But if there’s any concern, then try finishing a section inside of a closet first and see how it goes. But I don’t know why you need this guy to do the finishing. If you’ve done all the sanding work, applying the finish is the last step.

    DOUG: Right.

    TOM: You know, you would apply it – if you’re using a polyurethane, you apply that with a lambswool applicator that looks a bit like sort of a sponge mop, except it has a lambswool pad on it. You pour the urethane into a regular painting tray and then you essentially mop it on.

    Now, did you mention that you wanted to stain?

    DOUG: Yeah, we’d like to stain first, yep.

    TOM: So, then you have to stain first. Now, I will warn you that the stain – you could – if I was concerned about anything, it would be the rate of absorption of the stain. Because based on how much of that adhesive ended up getting into the hardwood floor, some areas may not accept the stain as well as others. So I would be careful about the stain and I would do that in an inconspicuous area first, just to make sure it’s going to go on as you expect it. But again, you could do that with a lambswool applicator, as well.

    DOUG: Do you think that a preconditioner – I read about those. Do you think a preconditioner would help that?

    TOM: Maybe. Maybe. But it really depends on the condition of that – preconditioners usually go on raw wood, not prefinished – not wood that’s already been finished which, essentially, this has because it has the adhesive on it.

    Do you have some places in this floor layout where you could try it, like a closet?

    DOUG: Yeah, maybe. Well, it’s just the kitchen, so maybe a little bit under where the cabinets will be installed. Possibly there.

    TOM: Yeah, I would just try that and see how it – just put it on carefully and see if it seems to be absorbing evenly. That’s my only concern, especially if you’re going darker. Because if you get a section where there’s still adhesive, it’s not going to absorb and it’ll – you’ll end up having sort of blotches.

    DOUG: And the poly, you feel pretty confident the poly should stick OK, then, too?

    TOM: Yes, I do feel pretty confident. If you sanded it and you got down to sawdust, I think the poly should stick fine.

    DOUG: Alright, great.

    TOM: Alright? You use – make sure you use the solvent-based polyurethane, not the latex-based, not the water-based.

    DOUG: Alright. Well, thank you for your help.

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