Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

December, 2008

Refinishing Hard Wood Floors

Q. I spent all day sanding my oak floors. I put three coats of oil based poly on them waiting 24 our between coats. It has been 3 days and it is suposed to dry clear. It looks really bad. It is not drying clear. What can I do? Do I need to resand it? Help me please.

A. You're off the hook until after the holidays and shouldn't even think of sanding anything until after you've enjoyed your time off. Seriously, though, wood finishes require humidity for their curing. You might need to wait a few more days for the moisture in the air to penetrate the coating and complete the curing process.

If the polyurethane does not become clear even after you've waited for it to harden, you might need to sand and start over again. The more important question is why the coating did not cure as advertised? Again, the polyurethane oil requires moisture in the air for its curing process, but if you left the can open while you were coating the floor, or if moisture got into the can before you started the work, you could expect a milky finish. Is it possible that the hardwood was moist before you started painting?

If you need to start over again, I suggest that you first experiment to determine what went wrong.

It is important that you allow the water in the coating to evaporate before you apply subsequent coats. If you applied each layer too heavy (thick) you might have prevented the water from fully evaporating. Therefore, if you need to redo the job, please do not apply thick layers, and wait sufficient time before applying the next coat. The 24 hour period you mentioned in your email is relative, since the recoating time depends on humidity in the air, thickness of each layer, and perhaps even on the wood.

I hope the coating turns clear so that you don't need to do all this hard work over again.

Good luck and happy holidays,


Ron Joseph

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