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Water Based poly on the stairs

Triya June
June 17, 2016

We recently switched over our carpeted stairs to natural maple. The contractor used Water based poly on the stairs. He did 3 coats offsite and one coat on site. He also left more of the poly if i wanted to apply more but i think the water based isnt durable and when something like tea spills and isnt wiped off right away, its soaking and staining the maple wood underneath. I was thinking to apply a satin oil based poly on top instead but wonder if i need to sand and first or if i can try to apply the oil based poly right on top.....anyone with experience?

Comments (8)

  • PRO

    Could you share the specific product that was used?

  • Triya June

    Unfortunately i am not sure what the water based coating brand was used. The finish is matt or satin at best. The wood underneath is natural maple, brand new install.

  • acm

    Why don't you trust your flooring guy to have chosen well? I'd ask him. Satin finish doesn't mean it isn't well sealed.

  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting

    There is very little difference between water and oil based floor coverings as far as durability I am not sure what you mean by tea staining the wood underneth but if that is the case talk to the guy who did the stairs and maybe post a pic so that pros on here can have a look.

  • Triya June

    I noticed a new stain on the floor, i tried to wipe it off but i wasnt able to at all....i rubbed hard but hardly made a dent in getting it out. I know it is a new stain and was not there before. I will try to post a photo when i am home.

  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.

    Many finishes are permeable to water. It takes a long time for it to "soak through" but it still happens. This is how "pet stains" soak into wood floors. The polyurethane on top SLOWS IT DOWN...but it doesn't stop it. You have an hour or two to catch the event or else you suffer a stain.

    This permeability does NOT CHANGE with oil based. The only thing you will do to your stairs is cause more damage than you are facing right now. Oil based finishes are HIGH solvents (you might want to read the post about oil based polyurethanes STINKING for 4+ months; headaches; nose bleeds; etc). Those solvents are STRONG ENOUGH to EAT THROUGH the water based polyurethane you already have.

    The worst case scenario = the whole thing bubbles and peels like a bad sunburn and you end up paying a few thousand more to have it fixed. Worst case scenario has a 50:50 chance of happening (depending on which finish you purchase...because the off the shelf finishes are pretty nasty and have some horrible results).

    My suggestion: add another coat of the water based if you feel you aren't getting the protection you thought you would. You will need to do a GOOD CLEAN (TSP) and a light abrasion (hands and knees with a high grit sand paper) and then clean it with a little bit of water on a rag (known as water tack cloth) and then let it dry for a few hours (no traffic allowed during these steps). Then you apply 1 coat of the water based poly and let cure x 5 days (yep...very little traffic on those stairs for another 5 days).

    Once this is done, you will have 4 coats on the stairs. Four coats won't offer much more protection from spills than you have right now, it could possibly look like grandma left the plastic on the sofa...but you will have done something.

    As for oil based finishes: you will have the same problem...but with a horrible smell and an orange finish...and possibly cause more damage than you have right now if you go over the water based finish.

    My suggestion: do nothing but clean up spills a little faster. This is wood. This is what it does. Oil or water based polyurethane is still polyurethane which is permeable to many liquids.

    Triya June thanked Cancork Floor Inc.
  • Triya June

    So is the finish on the pre-finished hardwood floors different? Are they harder? I have those in my house and never have this issue?

  • PRO
    Berlin Flooring Inc

    The pre-finished hardwood floors are usually an aluminum oxide finish done at a factory. They are not available to finish floors on site. The waterbase finish on your stairs should not be staining so easily, I would talk to your contractor. 3-4 coats finished on site is normal. Do not attempt to re-coat yourself. If the oil-based finish is not compatible, you will ruin the stairs and they will have to be sanded down to bare wood again.

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