Just the old blood rising up through the wood floor again.
June 24, 2012 1:33 PM   Subscribe

Do I need to sand & refinish my hardwood floors? I would really prefer not to.

I purchased a house a few months ago and since then we've been renovating. Most of the big crazy stuff is almost done, but now the floors are refusing to cooperate. This is a picture from about a week and a half ago. Since the picture was taken, I did a thorough cleaning and polish with two coats of this floor restorer. Since the floors looked in pretty good shape, no bare wood or deep scratches, just a bunch of gray/white spots, I hoped that would do it. After the clean/restore, the floor looked like this, not perfect, but good enough. Gradually (within a day or two), however, the same white/gray spots began to emerge, though not as many.

I don't know what the floors were previously coated with or whether these spots are signs of water damage or the finish/wax being worn away in spots. I'm not even sure what kind of wood it is. I know the best thing would be to sand down to bare wood and then refinish from scratch, but I'd rather not do that.

So what next? Is there something I can do to the spots themselves or do I have to work on the whole floor? Should I just keep applying coats of polish until no spots come back? Help please.
posted by eunoia to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you post some close-up pics of the problematic areas? Are the ones that are reappearing in heavy traffic areas ("restorer" being worn away), or more random ("restorer" evaporating or soaking in)?
posted by jon1270 at 1:38 PM on June 24, 2012

I have gone down on my hands and knees and scubbed the floors with a green scrubbie and very strong soap like TSP. You'll need a lot of towels to soak up the dirt.

Let dry very well and put coats of water based poly on the floors.
posted by andreap at 1:46 PM on June 24, 2012

Here is a close-up picture.
posted by eunoia at 1:57 PM on June 24, 2012

I would really prefer not to.

So, don't? Not trying to be flip. It sounds like maybe you would be a happier homeowner if you took a breather. Re-visit how you feel about the floors in a couple of years. As is they are not floors that normal folk would look askance at.

Google for "hardwood floors white spots" fetches up a lot of advice but I would buy a nice rug and relax.
posted by kmennie at 2:08 PM on June 24, 2012 [8 favorites]

The remedy I have used successfully before for water damage is 0000 steel wool and paste wax.
posted by francesca too at 2:48 PM on June 24, 2012

It appears that the original staining didn't take evenly to some planks, possibly when the wood was raw it wasn't cleaned properly. The uneven staining, different pieces of wood take stain differently. It takes a pro to do even staining.

After staining unevenly, the top clear coat was applied.

It could be water stains that penetrated the clear varnish that had worn away, but that's just a guess on my part, not positive about that.

If you really want evenly colored floors, I'm afraid it's sanding down to the raw wood (course, medium then fine grit sandpaper), yes,3 passes over entire floor, new stain, let dry followed by3 topcoats (light sanding between coats, washing with turpentine properly between sanding - if using urethane, oil based top coats) for a super fine finish. Check the thickness of the planks prior to sanding! I don't know what kind of planks were used.

A cheap and cheerful method may be applying a top coat with a darker than original tint added.It'll hide the differences a bit.Clean first with turpentine, do not clean wooden floors with water (or TSP). Open all doors and windows, ventilate well and keep fire extinguisher handy, wear a chemical mask, seriously.

Memail me if you have any questions.

Regarding steel wool and wax...you'll only take the top coat off and you can't use a top coat varnish over wax afterwards and you'll only spread the wax throughout the house by walking through!
posted by alicesshoe at 3:31 PM on June 24, 2012

Those are oak floors and they look fine to me. If you like everything to be absolutely perfect, then you should have them refinished.
posted by sulaine at 5:39 PM on June 24, 2012

If the existing stain is OK, then you can Screen and Recoat your wood floor...less trouble and mess than sand and refinish...
posted by Exchequer at 6:06 PM on June 24, 2012

Judging from your photos, I'd say that those "milky" spots are oxidation/water damage in the FINISH. Not in the wood.

I would find a very mild "stripping" agent, mop on, mop off, and then build up the finish again with whatever you decide to use.

FWIW, I've never seen this on wooden floors before but I see it all the time in old furniture that has waxy build up. The milkiness in your last photo is a dead give-away.

Also consider...not as many (from your post)...that means you're doing the right thing. Give it a light stripping and a light refinishing and your floors should be spectacular.

(Aside from the milky spots, they actually seem to be in great condition.)
posted by snsranch at 7:51 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

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