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Very bad finish on new Brazilian teak flooring -- what now?

October 1, 2006

Hi there,

I'm new to this board but a frequent contributor to other boards on GardenwWeb. We just completed a major addition/renovation of our house. With the exception of the kitchen, bathrooms and kids' rooms, the entire house has new Brazilian teak floors. We were absolutely thrilled with the installation -- everything looked beautiful and top notch and we are very happy with our contractor.

HOWEVER, I discovered too late (after we had moved back in) that whomever he hired to finish the floors did a terrible job. The first coat was applied several weeks prior to seal and protect the floors, then paper and cardboard immediately spread out to protect them during the remainder of the finish work. We postponed our move-in date twice to accommodate our contractor, who clearly was pressed for time. He had said all along there would be two additional coats going down after the original coating. For whatever reason, that third coat never got laid down. I believe he became pressed for time and postponed the floor finish until 2 days before we moved in. Without knowing a thing about floor finishing, I assumed he and the floor finishers knew what they were doing.

Obviously not. An oilbased finish was used, but I have no idea what it was (I intend to find out tomorrow). With only 2 coats, it really shows that it is "unfinished". Although it is supposed to be a matte finish, it is TOO matte. It is instantly noticeable that not enough coats were applied -- there are shinier spots in places, but most of it barely has a sheen at all. If you even look at the floor wrong, it scratches. I have seen many, many wood floors in my day, but never have I seen a wood floor so delicate that you can't even gently pull a chair from the dining table to sit down. Everything must literally be picked up and set down, and you dare not move it even a millimeter or you will absolutely scratch the "finish". It is like living on a surface that was very smooth and then painted over without priming -- every slight movement produces a scratch.

Needless to say, I'm furious. Not only was the work not done right, but now we are moved back into our house and it will take a tremendous amount of work to move everything from one room to another, having floors refinished room by room with an oil-based finish that takes a good 24 hours to dry per coat!

I'm not actually certain who is at fault, and the contractor is willing to fix the problem, but this time I want complete control over what transpires. I want to know how many coats should be laid down, and now that an oil-based finish has already been started, I'm assuming we must now continue on with oil-based whether or not that is the best?

Ugh, I'm really hoping someone can offer us some help in choosing the best course of action. We are very unhappy about having to further disrupt our lives because of this error, but we certainly want to make sure it's done right this time -- I don't want to do this again for a VERY long time.

Any help at all would be greatly appreciated.

Comments (20)

  • glennsfc

    I believe the problem you are having is with the chosen finish system. I will know better tomorrow and will get back to you then...but teak is an 'oily' wood and oilbase finishing systems 'may' not be the best choice.

    I think you're in for a resand.

    Where are you located?

  • glennsfc

    The 'exotics' can be a challenge to install and they are definitely a challenge for the finisher.

  • glennsfc

    Just as I guessed...it is the extractives in the teak that can lead to problems.

    The recommendations I received are bacca/Glitsa and Poloplaz. I am sure other professional use waterbornes will also be suitable.

    I'm not going to tell your flooring contractor how to do the job, but information can be gleaned from the internet and by contacting finish manufacturers for advice.

    A sample of recommendations: "We, Poloplaz, recommend tacking teak thoughly with denatured alcohol until the extractives are no longer visible on the tack towel. Then immediately seal with two coats of waterbase hybrid, 3 to 4 hours between coats, without abraiding between coats. This keeps the extractives from rising to the surface. Abraid, then final coat with any waterbase finish. If you want a copy of our tech bulletin e mail me at billj@poloplaz.com."

    Incorrect spelling of abrade is the author's, not mine.

    Godd luck there.

  • lindybarts

    Oh no! I hope you can get it fixed. I'll be watching to see how it was corrected and make sure our contractor doesn't have similar problems with it.

    I'd love to see photos if you have them. We chose Teak on our new home (not broken ground yet) I'm always looking for more pictures. Also, what cabinets did you choose to go with your floor?


  • anthem

    Also, as I'm not that familiar but if this is brazilian teak - you might want to check if it has the same characteristics as the southeast asian teak (which is very oily). I believe Brazilian teak is usually Cumaru, and not sure what the characteristics of cumaru are.

  • Lisa

    Thank you so much for the replies. Although I'm still having little heart palpitations every time I look at the floor, I've been assured by my contractor that he's having the flooring guys come back and make this right. He agrees that it definitely does not look right at all.

    I'm a little sick about the possibility that they should have used a waterbased finish as opposed to an oilbased, and I do intend to ask about it. I was indeed told by my BIL (who is a builder in another state) that teak can be challenging to work with. I should mention that while I'm unhappy with the finish at the moment, to my very untrained eye it simply looks like they aren't done with it, as opposed to it being a "bad" finish. That is, it appears to me that all it needs is another 2 coats to look properly finished. I certainly would have preferred waterbased so we didn't have to deal with the fumes and the lengthy drying time (not to mention it sounds as though waterbased is now the superior and preferred finish), but at this point I will be satisfied if they simply come back and finish the job. I'm still angry that we have to be so inconvenienced -- needless to say it would have been MUCH easier to have this completed prior to moving in, as it should have been.

    I will let you know how it turns out. Lindy, I hope I haven't discouraged you for choosing teak -- we couldn't be happier with the beauty of the wood. Our house previously had low-grade oak from top to bottom and we are SO burned out on oak ANYthing that we simply couldn't bear to install it all over again. We looked at cherry but it was a bit more red than I wanted. It was as a direct result of seeing another forum member's Brazilian teak flooring (I think it was Gardenchick1's?) that we chose the same. Her floor looked so beautiful and rich, I knew instantly that's what we wanted. I'm certain once our finish is, um "finished"!, we will absolutely love these floors. The variation in tones from plank to plank is simply gorgeous. I will certainly take some pictures when it's finished. You won't regret choosing them -- just be sure your flooring people understand and have worked with exotic wood flooring.

  • lindybarts

    I am pretty set on choosing the Teak so don't worry, you won't sway me. It sounds lovely. I just hope the new finish you get helps with preventing scratches. I have two kids and they'll destroy a fragile floor in a heartbeat. Did you say what cabinets you have in your kitchen? We are looking at Maple with a darker glaze to pick up the warmth of the floor.

    Looking forward to seeing yours done!


  • clock906

    If you use cumaru, leave the wood at your house to acclimate for at least a week (preferably months). 95% of the cumaru on the market (from the smallest to the most reputable manuf.) doesn't dry the wood properly. Most wood floor used in North America are klin dried to 6%-9% moisture content, but when Cumaru are dried to under 10%, 20%-40% of the lumber will end up with crack, making the wood unusable and turns into scrap. Thus most manuf. only dry their cumaru to about 12%-15% to prevent excessive waste during manufacturing.

    This is also the reason why you don't see the best brand name sell cumaru (Mirage, Muskoka, Premium...etc). Drying the wood properly ends up with too much waste for them.

  • xemom

    i am having my own problem with newly installed cumaru. ours is prefinished. i heard from so many people that the prefinished is usually very strong because the types of finishing products that can be used outside of california are stronger. when the crew pulled up the protective paper they had put down for a few weeks after the floor was put in it pulled up some of the finish. the finished just chipped off the same way you can chip off chunks of nail polish from your fingers. the contractor will pay to fix all the damaged boards and have a product put on that will tone down the glossy finish. if we want it sanded and refinished (which looks incredible because we did it on the stairs) it would cost us an additional chunk of change. a big one. oh, and to top it off, some of the floor is buckling, which i guess makes sense with the moisture content problem you mentioned. the contractor will fix that too. aaaah, i'm dying to move in.

  • glennsfc

    Teak is geat, However if you use a waterborne it misses. Always use OMU to get that deep rich tone. It is important to use an oilbased sealer with colbalt dryers. Tack with lacquer thinner prior to sealing and coat, this will remove some of the oil that hampers the drying. Screen between every coat.

    Waterbornes will cure with a dull haze, use two coats of gloss OMU to prevent clouding and top with sheen of customers choice.


    Colonial Floors Nantucket

  • vfish

    Handdust, I am just about ready to purchase a lot of the brazilian teak for my new home. I am very curious to know how your finishing turned out.
    Also, do you have any pictures?

  • gardenchick1

    Sorry to hear about the finish issue on your BT. Our brand is Wood Flooring International and their website specifically states that oil finishes react adversely to BT. We purchased prefinished so didn't have a problem with site finishing. I think some of the problem is that this being a product that is fairly new to the flooring market, contractors are not familiar with how to handle it. A quick search would have shown that oil finishing is not recommended for this wood. Also, all wood needs to be acclimated to the environment before installing. The WFI website also gives a very detailed chart with regard to the temperature at installation with relation to the humidity level to determine how long to acclimate the wood. If it is not acclimated, you will get splitting, cupping, etc. This is not specific to BT -- all wood floors need this procedure. Don't let a contractor rush this. We had our floor inside the home for two months before install.

  • lisaerin02

    I am going to install unfinished brazilian teak in my home, but am unsure of how and what type of finish to use in order to get the best results. Please help.

  • wouldman

    Question... I bought some 3/8 inch X 3 inch golden teak. I have a wood subfloor that has one layer of old 1950s vinyl on it. Would there be any problems what so ever with nailing/stapling this golden teak to the subfloor without taken the old vinyl off? The old vinyl is in good condition.



  • kitchenkelly

    I had cumaru/(brazilian teak) floors installed a few weeks ago and they look great (still need to do the final finish when all the remodeling is complete.) The first two coats were an oil based product. No issues here, but I know my contractor said the flooring company he uses are very experienced.

  • flaubert_floor

    I'm getting ready to buy Brazilian golden teak flooring. Prefinished wood has a beveled edge, leaving micro grooves in the floor, which may be impossible to clean. I need this for my kitchen. Has anyone used it in the kitchen? Do the microgrooves fill with dirt and get impossible to clean? Please hurry. Thanks.

  • gardenchick1

    Our prefinished BT has micro bevels. We have it throughout our home including our kitchen. When I say micro, I mean micro. I had to get out my magnifying glass to actually see them. You cannot tell to the naked eye and you will have no problem with them filling with dirt. You may want to get a sample (with several boards) and see how closely they fit together. You will never see the bevels, I assure you.

    Do a search on this forum for Brazilian Teak. You will see a few other posters who have recently installed this floor and love it. I love mine.

  • cippy1025_gmail_com

    Installing 2400 Sq. Ft of Brazilian Teak (Cumaru)

    I have read the posts here and also looked at some of the websites referred to here and I am confused.

    I live in Chicago. 2 installers have told me to use Bona Traffic (Water based) Finish. One installer has said that we have to use Duraseal Natural Stain (Oil based) for the finishing. I hear conflcting approaches. Please help !

    kitchenkelly looks like you used an Oil based finish and you are happy with the finish. Could you please let me know which brand you used ?

    Thx for everybody's help

  • nsskin

    I had brazilian teak hardwood from lumber liq installed 2 and a half years ago. It was called 'hand scrapped" and had the beveled edge. The drying process comment must be true because mine shrunk horribly though acclimated per l.l. directions and used their installers. I have huge gaps between the boards, also the bevel is only cleaned by getting on your hand and knees and cleaning between each individual board. It's a horrible dirt trap. I am thinking about sanding out all of this, puttying cracks and re-finishing. of course Lum liq will not stand behind the product. (see comments on Bob Villa's site).

  • mmmcg85

    I had unfinished Brazilian Teak floors installed throughout my house. I love the various shades of brown and everything about this floor. I'm having difficulty deciding on a finish. I'm not sure what would look best - matt, satin or semi-gloss. Does anyone have an option on what finish would be the best option?

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