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Floor Finish Troubleshooting Guide

Jul 26, 2019

Floor Finish

Every facility deserves a first-place finish, but there are a lot of ways to get off track. If you've got floor finish problems, we've got answers. This troubleshooting guide lists common problems faced by those applying or maintaining floor finish, along with their causes and best solutions.

Betco® offers a complete line of high-performing finishes to satisfy a variety of facility and maintenance program needs. Whether you have time constraints to maintain finishes properly or you want the highest appearance level, we have a floor finish for you.

Problem  Cause Solution
Streaked appearance of floor finish Too little polish in mop during application Scrub and recoat; do not overwork the mop. Avoid using wrung out mops.
Use of dirty mop Be sure mop heads are washed thoroughly before applying finish. 
Poor rinsing If residue has been left on the floor surface, or an alkaline stripper was not properly rinsed prior to applying floor finish, re-stripping of the floor will be required.
Finish too thick Apply each coat evenly and thinly. If a coat is applied too thickly, dry buff with a blue pad and recoat.
Recoating too soon before prior coat has dried properly If streaking appears after more than three coats of finish have been applied, the most likely cause is “cut in.” This occurs when the top coat of finish appears to be dry enough to apply the next coat, but there is still moisture trapped in the finish film. If this happens… stop. Do nothing further to the floor until it has had a chance to fully dry, then dry buff the surface with a polish pad and recoat.
Poor leveling, spreading, or wetting of floor finish Floor finish applied over factory finish on new tile  

Strip thoroughly, rinse, and reapply finish.

Floor not adequately cleaned Stop…do not apply floor finish until you have followed the proper cleaning procedures.
Floor not properly rinsed No floor finish will properly bond or spread over a floor which has an alkaline residue. Rinse floor if necessary, but apply finish only after you have a clean, dry floor.
Poor initial gloss Not enough floor finish Apply a minimum of four to six coats of finish/sealer on all stripped floors.
High floor porosity Be aware of this prior to applying your finish and apply one or two coats of sealer first.
Poor after gloss Floor dirty Clean floor and rinse thoroughly, use a restorer and burnish to bring gloss back.
Wrong pads or brushes used (usually too aggressive)  Use red pad for routine scrubbing, blue or green pad for deep scrubbing, and tan, coral or white pads for buffing. On uneven floors, an appropriate brush is recommended to restore gloss. Use a mop-on restorer and burnish or recoat with a thin coat of finish.
Excessive amount of sand and grit on the floor Use mats, dust mop frequently, and remove grit outside doors. To restore gloss, use a mop-on restorer and burnish or scrub and recoat.
Using an alkaline floor cleaner Use of an alkaline all-purpose cleaner or degreaser will cause finish to dull and may even leave a hazy film on the floor surfaces. Spray buffing or use of a mop-on restorer will bring back the gloss. Use a neutral cleaner for routine cleaning.
Tacky or sticky Too much finish applied in too short a period; improper drying time Apply thin coats and allow to dry before applying subsequent coats. High humidity, low temperature, and stagnant air conditions require longer drying time.
Finish applied over improperly rinsed floor Re-strip the floor with a no-rinse stripper.
Sticking of chairs and other objects to freshly coated floors Too long a drying time, especially under high humidity conditions Normal dry time for most finishes is between 30-45 minutes. If the floor is not dry to touch in 30 minutes, a fan may be applied to provide air movement.
Finish applied too heavy Strip the floor and start again with thin coats, allowing adequate drying time between coats.
Washed-out appearance Too frequent cleaning without sufficient use of restorer/spray buff Check to be sure you are diluting your cleaning agent properly or reduce cleaning frequency. Rely more on dust mop treatments and review recommended cleaning schedules.
Harsh cleaners Use neutral detergents that will not attack the finish film.
Abrasive material Clean entrance mats. Dust mop frequently with water-based treated dust mop. Use less abrasive cleaning pads.
Color bleeding Solvent cleaners or solvent finish Use neutral cleaners and water emulsion finishes. (Never use solvent products on resilient floors.)
Harsh alkaline cleaners Bleeding is the transfer of color from the flooring to the clearing solution and represents an attack of the flooring. Do no use harsh cleaners. Rinse floor well.
Color fading Direct sunlight Curtains, screens, or tinted glass will reduce the effect of sunlight on resilient floors.
Strong cleaners Use neutral detergents.
Excessive black marking Inadequate amount of floor finish Build up enough coats for a protective coating. Buff regularly to maintain high gloss.
Powdering Poor film formation upon drying of the finish due to an alkaline residue on the floor Re-strip the floor and rinse thoroughly. Give the floor a final rinse of 3 oz. Mild Acid Detergent per gallon of water.
Poor film formation due to cold temperature Minimum temperature for application is 50° F.
Factory finish not stripped from new tile before finishing Thoroughly strip, rinse, and re-apply finish.
Applying coats too thinly Apply in medium coats, approximately 2,500 to 3,000 square feet per gallon of finish (avoid wrung-out mops).
Wrong buffing pads or brushes used Use less aggressive pads or brushes.
Loss of gloss Use of hot water, solvents or harsh cleaners Use neutral cleaners in cold water.  Avoid highly alkaline cleaners or solvents on resilient flooring.
Using dust mops treated with oil-based agents Strip top layers of finish. Apply floor finish and subsequently use only water-based dust mop treatment.
Insufficient finish on mop during application Scrub and recoat, avoiding use of wrung out mops.  Apply finish at a rate of 2,500–3,000 square feet per gallon of finish.
Conspicuous formation of traffic lanes Too little touchup of traffic lanes with new coats of finish Use touch-up techniques of feathering new coats into old coat of finish at the edge of traffic lanes. Recoat as required by traffic wear.
Over-polishing of non-traffic areas Do not finish around furniture or near baseboards except when stripping the entire floor and refinishing.
Yellowed film Infrequent stripping Apply less finish or strip more often. Preventative maintenance schedules should be followed.
Recoating the entire floor every time floor is cleaned Don’t finish the non-traffic areas as often as the rest of the floor.
Buffing, spray buffing, or burnishing without proper cleaning. Anytime a floor machine is used on a finish film, the floor must be totally clean first, otherwise dirt and soil will be driven into the finish film, giving it a yellow appearance.
Mastic bleed Mastic bleed is caused by the glue used to put the tile down bleeding up through the cracks. Strip the affected area, use solvent to clean the excess glue, wash with detergent, rinse, and reapply floor finish.
Water spotting Applying finish over an improperly rinsed floor Select a finish made to resist water spillage, particularly in areas subject to spillage. All finish will turn white if water is allowed to sit for 30 minutes or more.
Scuffing of the finish Excessive scuffing under normal conditions for the floor A harder floor finish is recommended.
Wrong scrubbing or buffing pads/brushes used Use the proper pad or brush for the floor finish.
Scratching of the finish Excessive dirt and grit on floor Use entrance mats and dust mop frequently with a water-based dust mop treatment.
Floor finish film is too thick from excessive recoating Deep scrub with a green or blue pad before recoating (maintain 4 to 6 coats).
Not scrubbing or buffing often enough Identify and separate main from secondary traffic areas and schedule appropriate maintenance procedures for each based on traffic patterns.
Wrong scrubbing or buffing pads/brushes used Use a pad or brush recommended for each maintenance procedure.

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