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Screening Hardwood Floors - Buff & Recoat

The screen and recoat (also called buff & coat) procedure for hardwood floors is a cost effective method of fixing or revitalizing worn or dull floors. Instead of paying for a complete refinishing, Screening hardwood floorsflooring can be brought back to life, but don't expect deep scratches and dings to be removed. The same holds true for removing paint that may have been splattered over the years. Frequent screen and coat applications can protect, postpone or eliminate the need for a complete refinishing at a later date.

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How Does It Work?

Screening involves abrading the old finish on the existing floor making it compatible for applying another layer of new finish. If you've ever handled any trim painting work, the procedure is similar. A professional finisher will bring in a buffing machine and attach a special sanding screen to the bottom. Minor surface scratches and marring from moving furniture can be removed.

Preparations. What Was Used To Clean Before

This buff and recoat procedure will not work effectively with floors that may have been maintained with oily cleaners unless a complete cleansing is done prior to the process. Often what may be required is a thorough going over with odorless mineral spirits and a fine steel wool pad that is also attached to the floor buffing machine. Others may add another element by using the floor finish specifications in preparing the floor for the re-coat. Some may include their own proprietary agents or a Tri-Sodium Phosphate solution. Loosening the buildup is one thing, removing all of the impurities that can affect a new finish bond is another. Removal should be done meticulously with clean rags. For floors where questionable cleaning agents have been used previously, several applications will provide more peace of mind.

Can We Screen Waxed Floors and Recoat?

If you're contemplating an easier finish to maintain opposed to wax this will not work. Any new finish will react with older waxes and likely to blister or peel in short time. Only a reapplication of wax and buffing will work with these types of finishes. More at the page link below on waxed finishes.

Can Newer Aluminum Oxide Floors Be Recoated?

Original aluminum oxide floors cannot be successfully screened and coated by traditional methods. However, since these floors became popular, prefinished flooring manufacturers changed the method in which the finishes were applied. Instead of the aluminum oxide finish layers being on the surface of the finished product, they began to sandwich them under finishes that are compatible with screening. If in doubt of the original product specifications a call to the manufacturer would be advisable.

How Long Does It Take?

Newer water and oil based finishes will take the same amount of time to apply, with the oil based taking longer to dry and cure. Time involved for a 400 square foot, square room with furniture removed and ready to go will take approximately three hours.

Other Notes

For more challenging and lesser known finishes it's best to consult with a professional floor finisher that has the experience needed to better assess your situation.

View The Video

Video Transcript

Job Notes:

Hardwood species and grade - Red Oak #1 common.
Video transcript Finish type - Basic Coatings Streetshoe.
Square footage -1,800.
Project time - three hours.

“I’m running what they call a rotary sanding machine, commonly called a buffer. I’d like to demonstrate for you today what it takes to do a screen and recoat. Under the buffer I’m going to place a fiber buffing pad. It serves to hold a 220 grit sanding screen. Also, to cushion the sanding screen so there’s no dominant grit marks. The main purpose of abrading the existing finish on the floor is so the new finish when it’s applied, has the ability to mechanically bond.”

Dominant grit marks? What Dan is saying is the setup allows a consistent non invasive method of abrading the existing surface so the new finish bonds properly.

Something to keep in kind when selecting a professional for this kind of work is dust collection. Some do care about your indoor air quality while others do not. Dan’s equipment setup includes a back pack vacuum and a dust skirt attached to the bottom of the buffer, eliminating dust that would otherwise float aimlessly in your home.

Final screening of harder to get to areas that the buffer cannot reach includes open areas or adjacent to other floor coverings, corners, along baseboards and under toe kicks by hand. This does leave behind a small amount of residue that is removed with the back pack system and vacuum attachment seen here.

Besides screening the floor properly, other elements to consider prior to any finish application includes keeping any potential airborne particles away from the job site. This should include turning off any HVAC fans, having doors and windows closed, or turn off any overhead fans that may be running.

“I’m ready to apply my floor finish. Today I’m going to be using a water based polyurethane. One of the great advantages of the water based products today are the quick period of time in which they dry in.”

For the finish application a small amount is poured in row form ready for the applicator bar.

“I’m going to apply my finish with a tool called a T-Bar. The T-Bar is used to spread the finish on the floor with a technique called snow plowing. Simply put a cover on the top of the bar and the weight of the bar regulates the spread or flow of the finish on the floor.”

It’s all about consistency and feel that only the better professionals are apt to handle. More like an absolute art that takes years of experience as each any every finish is different. Environmental conditions with heat and cold can also affect the outcome.

It’s important to note ahead of time to know what a screen and recoat procedure does and does not do. The principle reason behind the process is to revitalize the dull or slightly worn appearance of existing hardwood floors. Keep in mind, this cannot be accomplished with many prefinished hardwoods that contain aluminum oxide finishes. The procedure will also not remove deep scratches and dents. Nor will it allow for color changes. However, gloss sheen levels can be changed.