Common Finish Problems on Hardwood Floors

Floor Finish Mistakes Image
Finish failure can be a disheartening experience. After working meticulously for hours and possibly days on end, it’s a bad feeling to hear the finish you’ve applied has failed on a hardwood floor.

The best way to prevent finish failure is to arm yourself with knowledge on how to properly apply each type of finish and what to steps to take to avoid common problems like peeling, uneven sheen, lap lines, and blisters.

Here are some of the most common hardwood floor finish problems, and how to prevent them:

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Peeling is when you can lift pieces of the finish off the floor. It kind of looks like pulling up a piece of clear tape. To avoid peeling follow these pointers:

    • Abrade correctly. If you do not abrade correctly, the finish might not adhere and therefore peel off the surface.
  • Know what the current finish is. Some types of factory finished floors cannot be recoated at all. If you try to put new finish on top it will peel off instead of sticking.


Uneven sheen typically presents itself after doing repair work. In order to better match the existing finish, follow these tips:

    • Use a new applicator. If you’re stubbornly clinging onto an old applicator to save money, then chances are you are not applying the finish correctly. Spend the little money on a new applicator now instead of risking spending lots of money down the line if or when your finish fails. Click here to browse our selection of finish applicators and save yourself some trouble.
    • Mix the finish well. The particles in the finish that give sheen sometimes sink to the bottom of the finish container or bucket. By mixing the finish well, you will avoid any discrepancies.
  • Recoat the whole floor. This might be a pricey and time consuming option but sometimes the only way to truly repair a floor is to recoat the whole thing.


Lap lines are usually caused when wet finish is pulled over slightly dried finish. Here’s how to prevent lap lines:

    • Find out the best applicator. The finish manufacturer will usually have a recommendation for which particular applicator — t-bar, roller, lambswool — is best for their product. Failure to use the correct applicator can result in finish failures such as lap lines.
  • Push instead of pull. When using a t-bar applicator it is easier to push the t-bar than to pull it. When you push the t-bar, make sure not to push it beyond three feet in front of you.


Blisters are little bubbles of finish that may or may not have popped on the floor. Follow these guidelines to prevent blisters:

    • Manage air flow. During the application of finish you should turn off the HVAC system and make sure there are no other sources of air flow. Once the finish has been completely applied and “skinned over” (formed a thin film), then you can turn back on the HVAC system or create air flow.
  • Avoid direct sunlight. Either coat the floor when the sun is not hitting the floor directly or put up some sort of shade on the window. Direct sunlight can “cook” the finish, causing it to blister.

There are some of the ways finish can fail. If you’d like more advice on preventing finish failure, feel free to call us at (800) 737-1786 to speak with a wood flooring expert, or email

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One thought on “Common Finish Problems on Hardwood Floors

  1. Tony Brown

    We have been in wooden floor business for over thirty years and have never seen this problem.
    we repaired a large teak floor, sanded and sealed it in our normal way, 1 coat solvent based sealer.
    Left it to dry over night.
    Next day the floor showed bad smear marks and differant finishes from matt, satin, gloss. same batch same sealer.
    The repair was caused through rising damp.
    is it possible for the damp to have gotten into the entire floor thereby damaging our finish


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