How to Finish on Site
Many builders prefer to finish hardwood flooring, staircases and paneling
on site. Attaining a high-quality finish on-site is possible, but it
requires planning, time and careful attention to detail. That deep, glossy,
finished look takes more than the standard three steps. The keys are
repeated sanding, proper cleaning and multiple finish coats.
The following is a step-by-step guide to on-site finishing: (Remember to
follow all manufacturers recommended safety procedures.)
1. Let the wood adjust to the site.
2. Prepare the room. Keep dust to a minimum and
maintain stable levels of temperature and humidity. Seal doorways with
plastic film, and schedule other workers away from the job site. Mask off
any surfaces you wish to protect.
3. Seal it. Solid hardwoods must be sealed on
all sides because moisture can pass through the back, edges or ends as
easily as from the exposed faces. To avoid shrinking, swelling and damage,
you should precoat surfaces that you won't be able to reach after
installation. For strip flooring sealing the back is not generally done.
However, sealing the back of wide plank is recommended. Also seal any ends
and edges that abut a surface exposed to moisture, such as an exterior
doorway or ceramic tile floor.
4. Smooth it. Sanding is critical to an
attractive, durable finish. Items like paneling, stair rails or cabinetry
usually require only light sanding. Hardwood flooring needs to be sanded at
least three times, with successively finer grades of paper. Sweep and vacuum
the floor thoroughly after each sanding. Spot filling and other minor
repairs should be taken care of before the final sanding pass.
5. Keep the surface clean. Smooth any flaws
that appear, then remove dust with a brush, broom and/or vacuum.
6. Stain it. Apply stain generously with a
brush, rag or lambswool applicator. Allow it to sink in, and remove the
excess according to the manufacturers directions.
7. Seal and finish coats. When the stain is
dry, brush on the first finish coat and let it dry according to the
manufacturer's directions. Drying or curing times will vary depending on
type of finish you use. When it’s bone dry, sand the surface with 150-to-180
grit paper, #1 steel wool, and/or an abrasive pad. Sweep and vacuum to
remove the dust. For flooring, wrap a push broom with a lint-free cloth
lightly dampened with water. Wipe the surface clean.
8. Sand, clean and coat again. The second or
third finish coat will usually give you the desired result.