I applied four coats of Fabulon Crystal Gloss water-based finish over 600 square feet of sanded unstained red oak using a T-bar and synthetic applicator. The temperature was between 80 and 95 each time, with low humidity, and slight breeze through the house from a fan in the window. The finish was beautiful. I was so happy I chose Fabulon. Unfortunately, the sanding screens on the orbital sander left marks deep enough to be easily seen through the final coat. My nightmare begins here.
I sanded off about one layer of finish, and then applied a fifth coat of Fabulon, same process as before. This time there were long (2-4 feet), wide (1/16 - 1/8 inch) dry streaks EVERYWHERE where the finish refused to stick to the floor. The streaks followed the path of the applicator. The main difference this time was the temperature and humidity. It was a cool 65-70 degrees and rainy outside. The finish took 15 or 20 minutes to begin drying, instead of 2-3 minutes as before.
Not knowing what could have accounted for the problem, I sanded another layer of finish off and reapplied finish under similar conditions. Again, streaks everywhere, and sanding marks worse than before. I replaced broken rubber springs in my sander and switched to regular 220-grit paper sheet sandpaper.
I waited for a warm day to reapply the finish a seventh time. It was about 80 degrees inside, and dry. The finish dried nowhere near as smoothly as the first four times, but it is barely acceptable. There are only few narrow dry streaks, but brush marks are visible and now I have bubbles in the hallway. My wife and I have been living in the garage and under the back patio for six weeks, so my tolerance for imperfections is quickly increasing.
On my final attempt, I sanded only one small back room and waited for a warm evening. The house was 75 degrees inside, windows open, but no fan circulating air. I made every effort not to overwork the finish, to spread it only once, then leave it alone. During and after drying, I had streaks. Lots of them.
Every application of finish was allowed to dry at least 24-hours before sanding.
QUESTIONS: Can anyone suggest why I am getting these dry streaks? The finish covers the entire path of the T-bar when I apply it, then it quickly (1-3 minutes) separates, revealing streaks. Do you think it is the temperature and humidity alone that account for this? The instructions require a temperature between 65 and 85, and I am within that range each time. Another possibility is the fine sandpaper – perhaps the finish can’t grip the floor.
In all fairness to Fabulon, I think it is the person/process and not the product at fault.
Thank you in advance for your advice.
P.S. As a newbie to wood floor refinishing, I want to list some lessons I learned during the course of this project. They might prove useful to others.
- After several unsuccessful attempts at applying finish, and a budget blown on extra sandpaper, finish, and rentals, I have spent $1000 on 600 sq. ft. of floor, with somewhat acceptable results. I estimate that this is about 1/2 to 1/3 the cost of hiring a professional, and also 1/2 the quality of a professional job. Not to mention, I have been working on this part-time for six weeks.
- When using a drum sander, it is helpful to have someone hold the extension cord to keep it out of the way of the drum, the wheels, and your feet. It allows you to keep your full concentration on maintaining a constant speed.
- Read instructions for using an edger-sander. You will learn the correct motion to make while sanding. The difference between right and wrong is huge.
- An orbital sander should be used with the handle in the loose position, free to move up and down. Read the instructions.
- Sanded finish can build up in clumps on a sanding screen. Lightly rubbing a piece of old sanding screen over the bumps easily takes them off. It's much better than picking or scraping them off.
- Every sanding screen (120- 150- 220- grit) I used scratched the floor deeply enough for marks to be seen after finishing. I has similar results with two different orbital sanders. In the end, I used a fine-grit solid sheet sandpaper, but it takes a lot of finish off. That was OK for me because I had mistakes to erase.
- Use tack cloth. Use it again. Use it until it does not pick up any more dust and hair.
- When tacking the floor and applying the finish, wear a long sleeve shirt with the sleeves closed at the end (I used rubber bands). Wear a plastic shower cap. Wear pants with socks pulled over your pant legs. All these steps finally worked for me. Just take precautions to keep your body hair off the floor and out of the finish.
- I used an old 1/2 gallon Kool-Aid pitcher w/ lid purchased from Goodwill ($1.99) to pour the finish. I was easily able to control the quantity of finish poured by adjusting the position of the lid.