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Question:

We had the final coat of polyurethane put on our hardwood floors which cover around 1500 sq feet of the first floor of our ranch home last Monday, June 16th. We live in the Philadelphia Area and the weather has gone from extremely damp and rainy to scorching hot and humid. Basically, it's a week and a half later and our floor still hasn't dried. The top film on the floor seems dry but if you walk on it or push on it it leaves imprints and in some spots still appears soaking wet. What can we do? We are a month behind schedule for moving into this place and have a party scheduled for the 4th of July and have to be moved in this weekend!!! Help!

So far we've tried (in this order)

1) Opening the windows and letting the fans run for about 4 days

2) Cranking the heat all the way up with the windows and doors shut for about 4 days.

3) Running the dehumidifiers with the windows and doors shut for about 2 days.

Please advise ASAP!!!!

Thank you, Rich

Answer:



Dear Rich

I'm so sorry to hear of your dilemma, but oil based poly will not function well once the temp reaches beyond 80F and 75% RH. I'm in the middle of a 3 coat poly job, and I won't be doing the last coat until the weather cools on Friday. Schedules be damned.

Anyway, I digress, what you need to do now is cancel your plans and deal with the floor. So first DON'T put the heat on, instead use the AC and cool the floor off to about 70F. Keep those fans running day and night on the floor. And open every window near the floor area about 2 inches. The place must smell like a paint factory.

What happened was the first one or two coats were not yet dry, and the last coat was applied too early. Or possibly the stain (you didn't mention if you stained the floor) didn't dry before you applied the poly. I'll be sending you the URL of my poly article, so you can see how it's done. It may be impossible to dry out this top coat as by now it has lost it's drying capabilities, and is really just a pool of semi-dried oil just sitting there. While it would be nice to get the floor dry enough to walk on, no matter what you do now the final finish will be weakened. So really in the long run, you will have to remove it all.

If you can, in a week, by cooling the place off and ventilating just a little, get the floor to dry, sand the floor all over again and this time follow my article's instructions to the letter, including the brand of poly I suggest. I'm not kidding, we have the same kind of humidity here in Toronto, and with a bit of patience I apply this great finish to jobs that are AC'd even in the muggy month of August.

If you just cannot seem to get this floor dry, and another week goes by, or you feel like you must do something about this today. Hey, Now means Now ! There is a remote possibility that some of the wet spots can be stripped with either paint thinner, or better yet something stronger like Circa 1850 stripper (http://www.swingpaints.com/1800.htm) The paint thinner will remove any undried finish, and the paint stripper works well on any urethane in any state. If it's just a few problem spots this is the way to go. Strip the goo off and just recoat with one or two brushed on coats, waiting two days between coats. Cool to 70F and ventilate. Let the floor cure for a month or two, and then try to recoat the whole thing, following my article's instructions.

But ideally, I'm going to suggest you chemically strip the whole floor instead. In this case you will have to use a safe but effective stripper, or you will poison yourself. Follow the directions to the tee on this next article but I'll warn you that this will take a day for one man to strip each 100 square feet. I'm also giving you the URL of our chemical stripping article. So if you've got 15 guys you could do it all tomorrow. Sure.

I'll stand by in my office here until 11pm EST in case you have some follow up questions. I'm sure you will.

You may also find these articles helpful:

1. How To Apply Oil Based Polyurethane WITHOUT The Pits And Bubbles

2. Hydronic heating under your wood floors

3. Plank Floor: What Special Considerations This Type Of Floor Raises

4. Installing Hardwood Floors On Concrete Slabs

5. How To Take Care Of Your Health And Safety when Installing, Finishing, Repairing or Cleaning your wood floors