Tips For Stripping and Finishing Floors

Stripping and finishing a floor is one of the most labor intensive and time consuming jobs in the cleaning industry. Because of the time and labor it’s common to see mistakes made in the stripping and finishing process. Floor stripping is completely removing old wax, soil, and debris from the floor. Floor finish provides a coating to your floor that protects the original floor surface from scuffs and high traffic wear and tear.  Stripping and re-finishing your floor is essential in promoting a safe and clean environment for employees and customers. Even cleaning professionals can sometimes make mistakes during the strip and re-coat process; some errors are due to rushing though the job, others can be attributed to not accounting for heat or humidity.

The good news is that mistakes can be avoided! Here is a list of some tips on how to prevent them.

Be Prepared and Know the floor type

What type of floor you will be working on? The tools and chemicals that are appropriate for one floor are not necessarily appropriate for all floors. Make sure that you have all of the necessary equipment to strip and finish the floor. Choose the best stripper for your floor type because not all floors are created equal. Before you begin it’s often best to check the manufacturer’s instructions for floor types. Make sure you have all the necessary tools and chemicals on hand. Not having all the tools necessary and on hand before starting the job can slow down the entire floor stripping and refinishing process. Stripping and refinishing a floor is a learned skill and will take some practice.


Work on Small Areas

Stripping and finishing a floor is very time consuming. Section off the floor and work in one area at a time. Sectioning the floor will help ensure proper techniques are followed. When stripping a floor make sure all old finish is removed. Any missed spots of finish with show up as ‘dirty patches’ when the floor is refinished. Be sure to start at the far end of the floor you are finishing and work your way out to the exit. The last thing you want after all of your hard work is to realize you’ve boxed yourself into a corner.


Don’t Rush.
Don’t Rush the Rinse

Don’t rush the final rinse. After you are done stripping the floor use clean water, a clean mop and a neutralizing solution to do a finial rinse. If the floor is not completely clean and neutralized before laying floor finish, appearance issues will quickly become evident and you may have to start over. Don’t make the obvious mistake of rushing.


Don’t Rush the Application

Don’t rush the application. It’s easy to want to rush this stage because after each layer of finish you must WAIT before adding the next coat. It’s been said that patience is a virtue when applying floor finish. Always wait till the floor is completely dry before adding another layer of finish. If the floor is not COMPLETELY dry, additional coats of finish will soften and ‘bite’ into the previous coat, resulting in a floor with both dull and shiny areas. The only way to fix the floor will be to re-strip and refinish. NEVER rush the application of additional coats of finish.


Bonus Tip: Lay product in a tight “figure eight” pattern to help eliminate streaking and uneven finish application.

Bonus Tip: Apply seal/finish only when floor surface is above 45*F otherwise a coating failure could occur.


Don’t Rush Dry Time

Never force dry a floor with a fan pointed directly at the floor. If a fan or air mover is needed, raise it or point it above the floor to move the air above the floor. Don’t forget to leave doors open and the AC running until the floor is completely dry.


Bonus Tip: The higher the humidity the longer it takes between coats

Bonus Tip: Fuller coats take longer to dry and may cause pudding and uneven application. Thinner coats dry more quickly but may result in streaking. A general rule is to use a gallon of finish for every 2,000 sq./ft.


Don’t Rush Moving

Keep furniture off the floor for at least 24 to 48 hours as the floor continues to cure. If the humidity is high it may take longer for the floor to cure. If furniture is replaced before the floor has dried and cured, the legs may stick to the floor and cause damage.


Swap the Mop

In case you didn’t know, there’s a big difference between cleaning mops and finishing mops. Cotton cleaning mops can leave lint on the floor, and may cause streaking because of uneven application. Only use mops or applicators that are specifically intended for finishing floors.


Use Clean Tools

Always use clean tools. If you use a moping bucket, insert a plastic trash can liner to prevent contamination. Also, during breaks or between coats wrap a liner around the mop head to prevent the finish from drying out. Never pour unused finish back into the container because it will contaminate the finish for your next job.


Planning can result in a finished floor you can be proud of. Plan your timeframe in advance so you’ll be less tempted to take short cuts. Remember after the finishing is complete daily maintenance is the best way to keep floors looking great.

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