If you recall from my last post, I needed to help James re-sand a maple floor I messed up. We worked last week together; both of us got together and came up with the plan.
The plan? We will not step outside the manufacturer’s guidelines, giving each step the full attention it needs and double checking each step we take. James had most of the work done when I got there, so I jumped in where he asked me to join in. We got the bottles of stain and went over the information on the back. First step with maple and stain? Water-pop the floor. The key to maple is getting a uniform color with no marble look or blotchy look. It’s always a task to do that with an oil stain or standard floor stain, so many guys will use dye, or I have even seen paint. The dye works well and is very uniform, however in a cut up room, lap lines can become a problem. The paint is not something I like or want to try.
This is why we looked at water-base stain from General Finishes. The micro pigments in the stain works great for maple, hickory and other woods that are hard to stain. In order to get the uniform look, we needed to water-pop the floor. Now with this step and this manufacturer, we can water-pop and get on it without letting it get 100% dry. We did just that, we put the stain on with a cut-in pad and I went behind him and hand-wiped it off. Folks, it looked great! I was now on pins and needles for finish time. Once again we looked at the back of the bottle for information. It said that we can first coat it after four hours. We went to dinner (aka lunch) and let it sit while we took flooring to a job he had going and unloaded flooring from a truck for a job in a few weeks. That gave us the time we needed to wait get to the point I messed up last time: finish.
We put the first coat on, and it went down just like it was made to do. We headed home for the night, James to his family, me to the hotel room. I was so sure it was all good I checked out of the hotel the next morning. Then, in my terms, I was snake bit … we had a new mess on our hands. Look at this photo, see the spots that look wet? But guess what, they were dry:
I was not a happy man, and James was looking at the floor saying, “What did we do now?” What was it? We did everything by the books. How can I get bit twice on the same job? I pulled an ace in the hole out of my pocket: I took photos on my cell phone and sent them to my teacher and friend, Daniel Boone. He asked me about our steps and timeline, and he asked me about how we put on the finish. His answer was so simple but so clear. Daniel shared a story with me from the ’80s when he just started using water-base finish and he had the same thing happen to him. The manufacturer was not sure why, because he did everything by the numbers, but here’s the key: We are not in a lab, and our job site is not perfect. We just had too much of one thing: water.
We had water-popped, used water stain, water-based finish, and we had this thing called RH. The finish dried very slowly and laid down great. In 95 percent of the floor it looked good. He said, “Get a dehumidifier, leave it alone and come back tomorrow.”
That is what we did. Let me share a side note: I am not saying that the manufacturer is not able to handle problems or is clueless, but there are times when wisdom comes from being snake bit before. Daniel has 40 years of knowledge and 40 years of getting into the snake pit. He always was open to try new products, learn and share his stories. When you call someone for advice, use it. Don’t blow off the wisdom, knowledge and years of skills.
Rather than sit in a room for a long day and have my mind run wild, I helped James install 500 feet of flooring. It was nice to just hit something and not think about the day’s troubles. The night passed and we went to job site, where the RH was down to 30 percent and the finish was ready to pad and coat. We took extra time to do hand work on the spots and make sure we were not going to tear the finish or damage it with the light sanding. We went through the steps to prep the floor, then had our last chance to get it right. The finish went down like butter—it laid down sweet. Would it look good? I sat on the job in the truck, because I was not going to leave until it looked good. Guess what? It looks great, and the homeowner is very happy with the stain and finish:
This week I am back to working in the Nashville area, and it’s that time of year when the calls about cupping floors have started. Cupping floors and crawl space troubles are the world we live in here. More out and about next week … until then, be safe.