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deetu 12-23-2008 03:43 PM

metal left in hardwood floor sealer
Gee, wish I had found this site sooner.
I had a contractor come in a refinish my hardwood floors. He told us not to put furniture in for two weeks so we took the time to reinforce and repair the ceiling. (modular home section crack) Not being great in spackling, it took time for me to finish and when we picked up the canvas tarps, I found little pieces of metal stuck in the sealer. Okay, the first one or two, I picked out and picked flat but then I was finding more, and more until I realized they were throughout the 16x26 room.

Contractor said he would have to resand and refinish (I figured after Christmas for two week drying time) He came to look and proceeded to start picking out the ones he felt and said he would pick it out and touch it up with a Q-tip of sealer. I said it was unacceptable and wanted the resanding he promised. He said it would look good when he was done. Well, I said to pick it and leave an unopened gallon of sealer so we could fix it ourselves when it didn't end up looking right. I left the man with my husband. When I came home, it looked terrible, he didn't get all the metal out and didn't leave the gallon of sealer.

Now for the help, can I sand out the spots by hand? I am not comfortable using a machine, the reason I hired someone. Can I use a different product? It was waterbased, that is all I know. About how much would it cost to have someone come in to fix it? Would they charge a full refinishing or just a go over?

I am so disappointed and told him so but he feels he did a good job and said any job would look bad under a microscope. I don't believe there should be little pieces of metal sealed in the floor and can feel them in my sox and worry about any coming up into my foot or my dog's foot. Sorry for the rant...

Any help will be appreciated.

Maintenance 6 12-24-2008 08:22 AM

If they are "everywhere" as you say, then to me, it looks like the refinisher used a steel wool pad to knock down the raised grain between coats and didn't thoroughly clean before the next coat. He really should come back and sand and recoat. This time he should vac and use a tack cloth to get all of the dirt up before recoating. If there are a few, here and there, then sand as small an area as can with very fine paper and touch up with a small brush. Use the exact same material as was originally applied. Using mixed finishes will give you just that, mixed finishes.

deetu 12-24-2008 04:01 PM

Contractor will not come back, said the floor is fixed. He left us with a little of sealer. Here is a picture of where he sanded and touched up with Q-tip, "fixing" the floor. Last coat had catylis in, this sealer does not.
If we sand the whole floor again, after getting the metal out, can we use a different sealer to finish? Can we sand by hand?

jamiedolan 12-24-2008 04:15 PM


Originally Posted by deetu (Post 202204)
Contractor will not come back, said the floor is fixed. He left us with a little of sealer. Here is a picture of where he sanded and touched up with Q-tip, "fixing" the floor. Last coat had catylis in, this sealer does not.
If we sand the whole floor again, after getting the metal out, can we use a different sealer to finish? Can we sand by hand?

It will take FOREVER, and you will probably never get a consistent look unless you are really good at sanding. "Can we sand by hand?" for a room that size is like asking if you can walk from New York to LA. You can, and people have probably done it... You see my point.

This is really a civil matter if you want to pressure this guy to fix it or offer a refund, meaning reporting him to governing agencies, filing civil suit, etc.

There are some small sanding machines that are made that are suppose to be fairly easy to handle and would make the job possiable.

The machines look like this:

I am trying to find the manufactures site that makes many of these smaller sanders. They have excellent videos on there site that show you step by step what is involved, places to rent the sanders, etc. It is still an involved project, but it is possible for you to rent and learn to use a sander. The rotary sanders are much more intimidating than the smaller drum sanders...

If you really don't want to use a machine, then I would say honestly your only option would be to hire a pro to fix it, in my opinion. Then go after the first guy to recover the cost.

If I can find the site that talks about the smaller sanders I will post it here.

If you strip it down all the way again, which is probably what has to be done unless those flakes of metal are just in the very top layer, then you can reseal it with anything you want.

Good Luck, & Merry Christmas


jamiedolan 12-24-2008 04:19 PM

It is called a Varathane Sander. I can't find the web site right now, but will post if I do. You might find it in google. It has good floor refinishing info on it even if you decide to hire the job out.


Nestor_Kelebay 12-24-2008 11:14 PM

Those metal pieces don't look like a difficult problem to me. Also, I see no reason whatever to refinish the whole floor. This is a relatively easy DIY project in my opinion.

I would just buy a tungsten carbide paint scraper, like the 2 inch one available from Lee Valley shown here:,43040,43041

And just gouge out those pieces of metal carefully with the corner of the blade. Be careful not to gouge into the wood. Leave a piece of masking tape near every place you remove a piece of metal because after the first coat of Wiping polyurethane, you won't be able to find those places easily without the aid of a bright light held close to the floor to make even small depressions in the floor look like Meteor Crater. The masking tape will tell you where to look, and the bright light near the floor will help you find those spots again.

I like these Sandvik scrapers because they're sharp enough to scrape effectively and hard enough to gouge plastics like polyurethane, but they're not sharp enough to cut into wood or paper unintentionally. They are more prone to scratch if you use the corner of the blade, but as long as you're careful in gouging out the polyurethane containing the metal, you shouldn't have problems with gouges in the wood.

Then, after you get the pieces of metal out, then use an eye dropper to fill each spot with Wiping polyurethane. Get the kind with the curved tip at any pharmacy so you can see the fluid level better. Wipe-on poly is a polyurethane that's made using a smaller prepolymer so it's not as viscous as regular brush-on polyurethane, and therefore self levels to a smooth finish on it's own. It's intended to be applied with a rag damp with the stuff, but in your case you only need to apply it to tiny areas, so, in my view, it would be better to apply it with an eye dropper and then just let it dry out. (maybe put a dixie cup or something over each spot so you know not to step on that spot cuz there's wet poly there)

oil based wipe-on poly:

water based wipe-on poly:

You don't need to go with Minwax. Anyone's water or oil based wipe-on poly will do.

If you know whether or not the top coat on your floor is water based or oil based, use the same kind of wipe-on polyurethane.

And, when applying the polyurethane, do it with a bright light on the floor to cast light at a shallow angle over the area. This will allow you to find the depressions in the floor you're filling and to see the surface of the liquid you're applying with the eye dropper to tell if it's below, at, or above the level of the surrounding floor. The poly will shrink as the solvents evaporate out of it, so you want the poly to be above the level of the surrounding floor initially, but progressively less so as the hole fills with poly and you're just filling in the shrinkage.

If your repaired areas start to look kinda rough because each application of poly with the eye dropper results in the poly being applied to and drying in different areas, then just build up the area with eye dropper applications, wait until it's dry and scrape it down smooth with the paint scraper, and then apply the wipe-on poly over the larger scraped area with a Q-tip.

Run some paint thinner and out of the eye dropper a few times between poly applications to wash the poly out of the eye dropper.

The repairs should be near invisible because the refractive index of the wipe-on polyurethane is going to be so very close to whatever clear coat he used on your floor. Where the refractive index of two materials are the same, there will be no reflection of light from the interface between those two materials. So, if there's no light reflected from the rough surface you've filled in with Wipe on poly, you will not see any light reflected from that rough surface. The only light you will see will be reflected from the smooth surface of the meniscus of the poly on top.

That's why after the first application of poly you'll have a harder time finding the areas you gouged the metal out of because there won't be the white light reflecting from a rough surface anymore to reveal the location of the areas you gouged. You'll just see light reflected off a smooth surface, thereby camoflaging the repaired area.

Maybe try one repair in an inconspicuous place and see how it goes.

I use this technique to repair the finish on vinyl composition tile floors when I notice a stain or something on the floor tiles AFTER I've coated them with acrylic floor finish. I'd use acrylic floor finish instead of wipe on polyurethane, but the principle and repair procedure are exactly the same.

PS: You CAN simply gouge out the metal pieces and then paint over the gouged area with Wipe-On poly using a Q-tip, too. The repairs will be near invisible after the first coat of poly regardless of whether it's applied with an eye dropper or a Q-tip. Using an eye dropper to refill the gouge with finish is just intended to get the floor flush again. Truth be known, if you just painted those gouged areas with a Q-tip, they would be equally hard to see. They'd just be small depressions in the floor that you'd have to look hard to find.

deetu 12-26-2008 06:56 PM

So Nestor, if I am understanding you right, we can make the repairs and then seal it in by putting another layer on the whole floor?
I cannot see that we can make it right by doing spot fixes without finishing the whole thing too. Am I right here?

jinx110 12-26-2008 08:51 PM


Just wanted to thank you for the thorough post. I had a similar issue (though more limited in scope) and found your post very helpful - and it's people like you taking the time to respond at length that make this site a great resource!

Nestor_Kelebay 12-26-2008 10:32 PM


I don't see why you couldn't just do spot fixes. That wood looks OK to me if it weren't for the metal shards in the finish. I don't see why you have to refinish the whole floor instead of digging out the steel shards and filling the holes you make with a Wiping polyurethane.

That's why I suggested you mark each spot where you dig something out of the polyurethane with a piece of masking tape. Once you start refilling those spots, they will become much more difficult to find (without the aid of the masking tape).

Another thing I thought of after I posted that last post was to use a cheap 1/4 inch wood chisel (like a Stanley or a Fuller) to get those pieces of steel out of the poly. Use it with the beveled side down so that you can kinda use the angle as a fulcrum to control the depth of dig. You don't want to gouge the wood. You just want to get under the steel, and a 1/4 inch chisel would give you better control than the corner of a paint scraper.

I don't understand your logic. Why can't you make it right by doing spot fixes if the problem is only in certain spots? That is, if you dig the steel shards out, and then replace the missing poly with several applications of Wiping poly, allowing each one to dry, then you've corrected the problem.

If you want to, you could probably apply another coat of poly over the whole floor, but I don't see why that would be necessary.

When I do exactly the same thing using acrylic floor finish, my bright light on the floor tells me that the acrylic finish I build up with an eye dropper DOES NOT form a surface that's FLUSH with the surrounding floor. Often it gets kinda rough where I'm adding finish. When that happens, just use the paint scraper to shave down the repair more or less even with the floor, and this time apply the wiping poly with a Q-tip to make the finish smooth.

I find that a NORMAL paint scraper (like those made by Richards with a regular steel blade, not a tungsten carbide blade) works better for this aspect of the work because I sharpen the blades on a belt sander so that they're real sharp, and that allows me much more control when scraping. When they're dull, you have to force the tool, and the more force you apply, the less control you have over that tool. You can buy spare blades for those cheap Richard's paint scrapers. Maybe take a blade or two to any sharpening or grinding service in your area and have them put a razor's edge on that paint scraper blade(s). It probably wouldn't cost more than $5 or so to have some really sharp blades to scrape the repairs down even with the floor. Light pressure with a sharp blade, and you should be able to shave the repairs flush with the floor, and then go over them with Wiping poly on a Q-tip, and I'd call that done.

Remember, work with a bright light on the floor to exagerate the roughness of your repair. Then, when it looks only semi-ugly under that critical lighting, it'll look good under normal lighting. If it looks good under critical lighting, it'll look perfect under normal lighting. Warning: Having a bright light close to the floor may reveal ALL KINDS of otherwise imperceptible imperfections in the polyurethane, and only a few of them will be metal shards.


that make this site a great resource! Today 06:56 PM
I've posted on lots of DIY web sites, and what I've found is that they're all approximately equal in the knowledge and experience level of the people posting. What makes the difference is in the kind of knowledge you're looking for. If you're looking for advice on fixing your fridge, post on a Q&A forum in an appliance web site. If you need help with a thermostat or furnace, post on a Q&A forum in a site run by an HVAC company or technician. Otherwise it's kinda like asking your dentist for legal advice. This site has several professional tile setters, electricians and painters, but I wouldn't say it's any greater or lesser of a resource than any other DIY Q&A forum on the net. All those other sites have their own pros too, only in different trades.

deetu 12-27-2008 09:35 AM


Originally Posted by Nestor_Kelebay (Post 202870)
I don't understand your logic. Why can't you make it right by doing spot fixes if the problem is only in certain spots? That is, if you dig the steel shards out, and then replace the missing poly with several applications of Wiping poly, allowing each one to dry, then you've corrected the problem.

This is only a 4x5 area of the 16x26 room. The blue tape marks not only the metal, but hair, hard pieces of something black, and his "repairs". As you can see, it isn't only a few spots.

Because this is in print, you cannot hear the tone of my voice so I appreciate and like your advice but you were the only person from different sites who said that spot fixing would be okay. What you suggest would be great for me because I wouldn't have to use a big machine. But the Wiping poly said not to use for floors but is okay for small repairs. My worry is having so many repairs that it will chip in future. (that tile leads to a woodstove that makes the floor shrink in the winter) That was why I was asking if the whole floor should be sealed after the repair.

Again, I like this advice and appreciate it, just wanted to makes sure that once it is done, it's done.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that this is a semi-gloss finish. Does the wiping poly have a semi-gloss?

Nestor_Kelebay 12-27-2008 11:39 AM

You should be able to get wiping poly in Semi-gloss. But, if there are this many spots in a small area, I'd overfill the gouges with regular hardwood flooring poly, scrape them down flush with the floor and then sand down only the area that needs to be redone; not the whole floor.

That's a lot of spots in one area. I'd continue as we'd discussed, and build up those spots with HARDWOOD FLOOR POLYURETHANE using an eye dropper to above the level of the surrounding floor. Then scrape those spots down and give that whole area a light sanding, and then apply a polyurethane hardwood floor finish just over the area sanded. You don't need to do the whole floor. Just do the affected area.

You can thin the hardwood floor poly with mineral spirits and apply it with something called a "lambswool applicator" to get a thinner coat that will blend in with the surrounding floor; it'll just take longer to dry, but it will dry to the same hardness as an unthinned coat. Whether or not the edge of the refinished area will show or not, I can't say. You might have to discuss this with a professional hardwood flooring finisher. Or, gouge out the metal and stuff, fill with regular hardwood flooring poly and see if any hardwood flooring finishers can refinish only the area in front of the wood stove.

When I repair damaged areas on acrylic floor finish, there's no way that you can see the edge of the repaired area, and I've done that many times to have confidence knowing it won't show. Whether or not it would show on a hardwood flooring polyurethane is something I don't know, but any hardwood flooring contractor should be able to say. I'm sure they're called upon to do repairs on a regular basis too.

The reason why Wiping poly isn't meant for floors is that it doesn't dry as hard as a polyurethane meant for floors. However, if it's only a small area then it's the surrounding area that's going to be carrying most of the weight.

deetu 12-27-2008 12:56 PM

Hee hee, Nestor, the 4x5 area I spot taped was just an example of what the WHOLE floor looks like. I just picked a spot as an example. The whole 16x26 floor has that many spots more or less in it.

Now you can understand why I keep asking about sealing the whole floor. The contractor did leave a small container with the sealer (was suppose to leave a gallon) but there is not enough for the whole floor. That is why I keep asking if another product can be used to seal the top. At least the gouges can be filled with the same product but it doesn't have the catylis in it that the last coat had (really stunk up my house for a few days) and I wonder if that will make a difference too.

Unless I get part refund from the contractor, I cannot have a new one come in to repair, that is why I've been asking for advice. When he "fixed" it, he used his fingernail and sandpaper. I found a new "burn" mark on the floor that wasn't there before so I want to do it right. I'm not adverse to going on my hands and knees gouging out the defects (thank you for the advice on that)as long as I can get it finished right. Sign...

Nestor_Kelebay 12-27-2008 05:42 PM


You're saying the last coat had a catalyst in it. There are many kinds of polyurethanes, but the kind that are used as floor finish fall into two broad catagories:

1. Alkyd based polyurethanes - Which is the oil based "varnish" that people use on furniture and as a hardwood floor finish.

2. Isocyanate based polyurethanes - which also fall into two broad catagories:
A - Moisture cure polyureas - which cure by reacting with the humidity in the air, and
B - Catalysed waterborne polyurethanes, two component polyurethanes and UV cure polyurethanes - In this case, we're only concerned about the catalyzed waterborne polyurethane which comes in a gallon jug and you pour a small bottle of catalyst into the gallon of prepolymer and shake it up before applying it to your floor.

All the #2 kinds of polyurethanes dry much harder than the #1 kind of polyurethanes. You may be able to fix your floor with the #1 kind of polyurethane, and then either just sand down the surface of the whole floor and apply a coat of the #1 kind of polyurethane. I wouldn't recommend you apply the #2 kinds of polyurethane yourself because they do smell and there's no room for error when using them. Basically, once you pour the catalyst into the prepolymer, that stuff is going to harden up regardless of whether you're having trouble getting it onto the floor properly or not.

The #1 kind of polyurethanes are a lot more user friendly because if you have problems with them, you can always put the lid back on the can and continue the next day. The #2 kinds aren't that easy to get along with.

So, maybe you could fix your floor with the #1 kind, and then sand it down and hire someone to put another coat of the #2 kind on it.

So far as I know, if you sand the surface of your floor, you shouldn't have any trouble getting EITHER the #1 or the #2 kinds of poly to stick to that surface.

Can you give me the name of the stuff the guy left behind for you. Also, can you find out the name of the stuff he used for the "last coat"?


PS: From the photo, that hardwood floor really doesn't look bad, and the natural wood grain camoflages any little bits of stuff because they don't stand out against the wood grain like they would against a solid colour background. Instead of digging out every speck, maybe if you limit the repair to digging out the larger bits, and Stay with the original plan of fixing only the big stuff emcased in the finish. Only you will know there's some small bits of stuff in there because no one else will be looking that closely. And, the floor look much the same and will wear equally well with or without those little bits in it.

After all, it is a really nice looking floor even with the tiny bits of stuff in it that no one will ever even know is even there.

deetu 12-27-2008 06:49 PM

Thank you Nestor, you have been so helpful.

I don't know the name of the product. He had my husband get a tupperware container to put it in. I was mad at my husband that he didn't get the full gallon that we had agreed upon for that reason. I should have asked his wife while I was talking to her. I'm sure he has some bottles stored in the house that she could have given me a name. I know what the bottle looks like if I saw a picture if that helps :)

It's the 2B that we are talking about. He did two coats from the gallon bottle, then poured the little bottle in for the last coat. Made me dizzy and I had to live in the basement for a few days. The smell even went upstairs to my bedroom.

I thought the waterbased didn't smell so I am surprised you say the oil is better. My husband said the oil looks better to him.

Nestor_Kelebay 12-27-2008 10:40 PM

Did the gallon jug look like one of these:

or did you see gallon cans there that looked more like this:

Both the first two pictures are of catalyzed waterborne polyurethanes, (#2B) whereas the gallon can is an alkyd based polyurethane (#1).


He did two coats from the gallon bottle, then poured the little bottle in for the last coat.
I've never heard of that being done. My understanding is that the catalyst is needed to activate the prepolymer in EACH application, not just the last one. (Unless he divided that little bottle into 3 equal quantities and mixed 1/3 of the catalyst with 1/3 of the prepolymer before applying each coat (?).

Anyhow, the "polyurethane" in the gallon can is technology that's been around since 1956 when the Bayer Company (the Aspirin people) patented the very first alkyd based polyurethane. The Bayer Company is still a major supplier of alkyd and alkyd based polyurethane resins to the coatings industry. The catalyzed waterborne polyurethanes in the plastic jugs are a much newer technology and dry to a much harder film that is longer wearing that the stuff in the gallon can.

You can sand down either kind of polyurethane and put on another finish coat of either kind of polyurethane on top. However, if your existing top coat is the catalyzed waterborne stuff, you can't really "fill gouges" with the stuff like you can with the alkyd based polyurethane. The reason why is that it needs that catalyst in it to cure. So, you'd have to mix tiny quantities of catalyst into minute quantities of the prepolymer to fill in the gouges. It could be done, but you'd have to measure tiny quantities of liquid quite accurately.

I think it would be more practical to:

1. fill those gouges with the alkyd based polyurethane, and then sand and recoat the whole floor with another catalyzed waterborne polyurethane, or

2. Gouge out only the largest of the bits encased in the floor finish and fill in those gouges with the alkyd based polyurethane and rely on the fact that wood is a natural product and has it's own markings which will camoflage any tiny bits of other stuff in the finish. That is, take the bigger pieces out and learn to love it the way it is. After all, it is a nice looking floor from the photo in your post. That photo isn't as highly detailed as the human eye can see, but human eyes aren't going to be inspecting the floor as closely and won't even notice tiny bits of other stuff in the finish; especially against a woodgrain background. REAL wood has little marks and stuff on it. The only perfect looking wood is printed on plastic laminate.

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