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Are you dreading the finishing of your hardwood floors? You aren’t alone!

What is the best way to seal my sanded floor?

So, you had so much fun sanding your floor, but now you’re hesitating because you don’t know what to do next. You know you must protect that floor, but you’re worried about choosing a good product and applying it correctly.

And for good reason! Even professionals worry about this step. Even the toughest, most expensive finish can perform poorly and look unsightly if you don't apply it well.

Among the aspects of coating that first-time DIYers find most challenging:

  • How do you apply an even film thickness across all your rooms?puddles for web2
  • How do you avoid puddles, turn lines, and stop marks?
  • Lower-VOC products (i.e. the ones that stink less) have much shorter working times and show stroke lines and overlaps more readily.
  • You have a complex floor plan that forces you to stop and start in different areas to avoid getting painted into a corner. But your wet edges are drying while you are off coating other rooms – will you be able to overlap those now-sticky edges without leaving craters and boogers?
  • You really want to get the job done , so you apply a coat after dark with just artificial light and can't see your skips or puddles. Until it’s too late.
  • Floor finishes require at least three layers – you have to avoid all these mistakes for all THREE coats

This are all real problems. But they could all be solved with a finish with one special attribute: the ability to self-level.

Self-leveling finishes are the holy grail that even professionals seek. Such a finish would allow skips, drips, and puddles to flow out before it dried, plus give you the luxury of time to calmly handle complex floor plans and tight corners.

Do self-leveling finishes exist, or is it a myth?

We're getting close to achieving a perfect, self-leveling finish, but it’s still a work in progress. But chemical engineering for polurethane finishes has come a long way. Twenty years ago, what we thought were "forgiving" waterborne finishes have been surpassed by newer, better formulations.

For example, we’ve been using and selling Bona Traffic and Bona Mega for years because we thought they flowed well, but when we sold those products to first time DIYers, they complained about puddles and turn marks.

So, the power of chemical science has delivered something better; actually, three things:

Pall-X Gold, Pall-X Power, and Pall-X 96 Nexgen soothe the anxieties of first-time floor coaters.

Here are the reasons why:

Pall X POWER jug semiAggressively self-leveling.

All three of these products are intended for use by the flooring trades, so are not readily available in large chain home improvement stores. But their forgiving natures make them ideal for the DIYer.

These finishes can be applied with a t-bar or a roller (3/8” microfiber) and maybe even with a hockey stick, but please don’t try that at home.

The de-foaming agents in these products are so strong the manufacturer requires you to shake the product vigorously to mix it prior to application. If you shake a regular waterborne, it foams like you added baking soda to it and bubbles like that do not pop out before the finish hardens.


Pall-X Gold is the toughest of these three products. It is a two-component cross-linked waterborne polyurethane recommended for restaurants and for long-term rental units. In orther words, floors that get a lot of wear, but can't be easily or regularly recoated. We use it here in our store in the walk-off area from outside that gets the most water, gravel and salt. But even though it's designed for commercial use, you can still use it in your house. It's the most expensive, but it buys you the most amount of time before you need maintenance coating. 

Pall-X Power is next toughest in the Pallmann line-up. It is a single component finish with the solvent and wear resistance of a two-component. This finish is not quite as tough as Pall-X Gold, but is still sold for commercial applications, which means it’s tough enough for your kitchen floor and room where your dogs chase tennis balls (we're joking! People, please don't throw balls for your pets in the house!)

NO Isocyanate in the Pall-X 96 Nexgen or Pall-X Power.

Most two-component finishes are using an isocyanpall X 96 gallonate as their crosslinker and catalyst and OSHA warns that this chemical can damage skin and, in individuals who are especially sensitive, lungs and other soft tissue. Pall-X Power is a single-component finish, but with much of the toughness of those two-component products. This is HUGE. 

Any time we can make a wear-resistant finish without exposing people to corrosive materials is a win.

Sparklingly, crystal clear.

And it will not yellow over time. Older technology waterborne finishes apply clear initially, but gradually get dingy and faintly yellow in 5-8 years (we’re looking at you Bona Mega). Pallmann relies on both acrylics and high-quality urethanes to promise that it will stay clear eternally.

Buy Pall-X Power in Pete's online shop

Buy Pall-X 96 Nexgen in Pete's online shop


You probably have questions like these: 

I’ve never trusted water-based finishes. Oil-modified urethanes have been self-leveling forever. Why reinvent the wheel? Just use an old-school solvent based finish and call it good.

Oil-modified urethanes are indeed naturally self-leveling , but they are also extremely stinky, difficult to clean up, and they are no longer the toughest finish on the block. Waterborne finishes are still a young and developing chemical engineering challenge. But that is where all the research, development, and improvements are focused.

Oil-modified urethanes are adequate, but finish companies are not wasting their R&D budgets on a product that can’t even be sold in some states because of its toxic solvents.

And, given the current fashion for keeping yellow and red tones out of floors, you want to keep in mind that those old-school oil-modified urethanes make the wood immediately amber and keep it that way.

rolling pallmannI get that it's easy to apply, but how exactly do you that?

Pallmann self-levels best when it is rolled on with a microfiber roller cover. Pallmann would prefer us to use their roller covers, but the price is a little prohibitive. We have been using high-quality 3/8" microfiber roller covers from our local paint sundries supplier and have had excellent results with them. 

Rolling these finishes allows you to get enough finish on that it will flow level. Pete's loves t-bar applicators for most of the other finishes we sell, but rolling the Pallmann finishes is what makes them so forgiving. Normal procedure is to use a pad painter to cut in the edges of the room (as you go, not all at once) and to pour the Pallmann finish of choice directly on the floor and roll it out, rather than dipping into a tray. (if you have extremely rough, reclaimed, dry floors that are absorbing the finish too fast, a roller tray would be advised). 

Pallmann's waterborne rolling video

Pall X Color vs Pall X325Can I use Pall-X Power directly on my wood, or do I need a sealer first?

Definitely use a sealer first. If you prefer a colorless waterborne sealer, we recommend Pall-X 325 Clear. It is just as forgiving to apply as the Pall-X Power, and acts as primer coat that bonds firmly to wood fiber and is perfect base for the Pall-X Power or Pall-X 96 Nexgen.

And if you don't want the harshness of a completely clear base coat, Pall-X Color is their warmer, browner sealer coat. It is not as amber as the oil-based sealer options listed below, but it is also much less smelly than using oil-based sealers.

But if you really want to add amber to your floor, but don't plan to actually stain, Pallmann topcoats play nicely with other brands of oil-based sealer! We've used both Bona DriFast Sealer and DuraSeal Quick Dry Sealer underneath the Pall-X Power and it was as though they were designed to work together. Oil sealers must be dry enough to lightly sand before topcoating with any of the Pallmann products.

Buy Pall-X 325 Clear in Pete's online shop

Do I have to abrade between coats?

Pallmann sealers never need to be abraded to bond to later coats, but you may have to sand lightly between Pallmann top coats. For example, if more than 24 hours has elapsed between layers of Pall-X Power or Pall-X 96 you will need to lightly sand with a buffing screen or sanding strips at 150grit, then wipe away the dust with a cloth dampened with water.

Want the nitty-gritty coating directions? Click here for the product data sheet for Pall-X 96 and here for Pall-X Power.

I’ve heard that water-based finishes are difficult to abrade – that they are so stretchy that they “grab” your sandpaper and gum it up. Do the Pallmann products do this?

Nope. This is another reason why we like recommending them to do-it-yourselfers. Many waterbornes, even when they are completely dry, ball up like rubber cement when you try to sand them between coats. It is so frustrating!

The Pallmann sealers, the Pall-X Power, and the Pall-X 96 powder beautifully when you sand them. No gumming.

I’ve read that Pallman has an actual 2-component waterborne – do you recommend that finish?

Yes! The Pall-X Gold is a cross-linked two-component waterborne that we feel comfortable selling to any first-time coater, which can't say about other two-component finishes that we use. Two component finishes are generally very expensive, so we don't want to mess up during coating. Pallmann has made a finish that can be rolled both with and AGAINST the grain, which makes it much easier to get out of tight spaces and keep a wet edge on large and complex room layouts.

oil vs water on mapleWhat about color? Waterborne finishes are too light for what I want. What if I want some amber, like with an oil-based urethane? Or what about using stain under these finishes?

You are exactly right. If you use Pall-X 96 or Pall-X Power over a regular clear sealer, the effect will be very light (see photo at right for the color difference between waterborne poly like the Pallmann and traditional oil-based polyurethane). So, you have choices to think about:

You can use any reputable oil-modified urethane sealer (we sell and recommend DuraSeal Quick Dry or Bona DriFast sealers) with excellent results if they are fully dry and abraded with 150 grit before the Pallman coats are applied.

If you prefer to stain the floor first, you can use any brand or type of stain, as long as the drying guidelines are strictly followed. Once the stain is dry, you will get best results if you use a Pallmann brand sealer prior to coating with Pall-X 96 or Pall-X Power. 

How many coats do I need?

Pallmann recommends one coat of sealer, and two topcoats of either Pall-X Power or Pall-X 96. If you stain your floor, Pallmann urges you to use a sealer after the stain (use Pall-X325 over light grey or white stains and Pall-X color over browns or dark stains), and then apply two coats of Pall-X Power or Pall-X 96.

What is the coverage rate?

Expect Pallmann sealer to go about 350sqft per gallon and topcoats 450sqft per gallon.

What if I don't want a glossy finish?

All three finishes, Pall-X Gold, Pall-X Power, and the Pall-X 96 Nexgen come in semi-gloss, satin, and matte so you have exactly the sheen you want. Pete's only keeps satin and matte in inventory, but the other two are available by special order.

How long before I can walk on my Pallman Pall-X Power floor?

It depends on what you mean by “walk.” If you just need to get across the floor to the bathroom or bedroom, you only need to wait 4 hours. But for actual foot traffic and lifting furniture onto the fresh finish, 24 hours. Full cure is after 5 days, under ideal conditions.

Bonus: full cure for Pall-X Gold is only THREE days!

What is the difference between Pall-X Power and Pall-X 96 Nexgen?

Pall-X Power is tougher and slightly more expensive, but they are both equally well-behaved when it comes to self-levelling.



Pallmann Magic OilJust as there are many manufacturers of paint, there are many different manufacturers of hardened oil. Different brands have different qualities and application methods. Unlike paint, which is applied the same way regardless of brand, application of this type of product can vary greatly from product to product.

Pallmann is a German company, founded in 1900, that has been producing “parquet lacquers” in Europe, since 1949. “Parquet lacquer” is just a fancy term for wood floor finish, but any company that has been producing them since 1949, especially one that developed a waterborne polyurethane in 1982, is not to be trifled with. Pallmann has been selling a hardened oil, Pallmann Magic Oil, in Europe since 2005, so they have more history than most manufacturers in this product type and their oil is well-established and respected in the marketplace, both in the US and abroad.

Why would I choose Pallmann over other brands of hardened oil?


  1. Extraordinarily short cure time!
    Their clear hardened oil (which Pallmann refers to as Neutral) is touch-dry in 30 minutes after application and accepts light foot traffic in 4 HOURS. We thought this was balderdash, until we applied a double coat of Pallmann Magic Oil in our machine maintenance room, and hauled sanding equipment across it four hours after application. This is certainly not what Pallmann meant by “light foot traffic,” so don’t try this at home. But if you need a finish that allows you to access to crucial areas (the refrigerator! the keys you left on that shelf! the bathroom!) within four hours of application, this finish will allow it – not all hardened oils do. But what is still more astonishing is that Pallmann Magic Oil reaches full cure in 12 hours, and in 24 hours for the colors. Think about how this compares to polyurethane – you need to spend at least two days applying three coats and, even under perfect drying conditions, most require 24 hours after the two coating days even before allowing light foot traffic.
  2. It’s designed to be a two-coat system
    Two coats are always better than one. Two hardened coats are even better than that. We think that explains why we have found Pallmann Magic Oil to be tough and scrappy and able to handle heavy foot traffic as well as chemicals and solvents. In this part of the country, our biggest problem is wet, salty, sandy foot traffic in winter. Pallmann resists it like a boss. Also, the two coats can be applied on the same day, one right after the other, so most floors can be completed on the same day they were begun.
  3. Layered effects
    Pallmann calls it their “two-tone” effect. Because Magic Oil is a two-coat system, if you wait at least twelve hours between coats, you can get dramatic, cumulative artistic effects when you use a different color for each coat. A layer of black on day 1 followed by a coat of white on day 2 is intense and theatrical. You must waterpop the wood prior to the first coat to get this to work. Read more about the whole two-tone procedure here (LINK)
  4. The manufacturer supports coating the product with poly.
    It’s not a quick or easy process, but if you change your mind about Magic Oil, you can use a bonding agent and then apply polyurethane over the top. Most other penetrating oil manufacturers won’t even discuss this as an option
  5. Free stuff!
    Every liter of Magic Oil comes with a free 4oz. bottle of their maintenance product, Care and with free shoe covers to wear while you’re coating.

Pallmann FAQs


How is Pallmann Magic Oil applied?

 Unlike other hardened oil finishes that we carry, Pallmann Magic Oil is applied to wood floors with a trowel -not unlike how grout is applied to a tiled surface. Normally we would have buffed this product into the wood, but the viscosity of the Pallmann Magic Oil is thicker than other brands, so the trowel application really does allow the product to be driven deep into the wood fibers (remember though, bevel-edger floors are the exception: use the buffer in these cases). If you find that a metal trowel is scratching your floor, a rubber window squeegee is a great alternative. 

Divide you floor up into manageable, 100sqft sections (roughly the size of a small bedroom).

Add hardener to the appropriate amount of oil for total size of your job. The ratio of oil to hardener is 5:1 for Neutral and 4:1 for colors

Start with the section furthest from the exit, use the trowel to spread the Magic oil over the entire section.

Wait ten minutes, but no more than 30 minutes.

Use a buffer with a red pad to remove excess oil. Use a small piece red pad to work the oil along room edges and in corners. When the red pad seems loaded or begin to sling oil around, replace it with a fresh pad (don’t just flip it over – it will coat your pad driver bristles with oil and it won’t hold pads!) Always work backward out of your designated zone so you can erase your footprints.

Also, beware the dreaded “buffer donut!” When you roll the buffer back off the floor, the pad will live a big, pad-shaped imprint of excess oil. Use a piece of the same pad to wipe that imprint off!

After removing excess with the red pad, switch to a white pad and continue to remove excess product. This will require several white pads.

Second coat application can begin immediately after WHITE pad buffing. Apply second coat by repeating steps 1-3. For best results, Pallmann recommends applying the second coat the next day.

Pallmann Magic Oil Product Data Sheet


What sizes does Pallman Magic Oil come in?

The standard packaging is a 1 liter can ($130) or a 75mL puck for testing ($14). The 1 liter can comes with its own separate bottle of hardener (Neutral includes .17L of hardener; the colors have a .2L bottle of hardener).


Can I apply Magic Oil over my existing finish?

Alas, no. The Magic oil can’t penetrate through a finish coat enough to establish a bond to your floor. So, sand your floor back to completely bare wood (always using sanding best practices – being especially mindful not to sand finer than 120 on any sanding machine. LINK here to Pete’s instructions for best sanding procedures) before using Pallmann Magic Oil.

If I can’t apply Magic Oil over finish, can I at least apply it over a plain stain coat that has no finish over it yet?

Yes, Magic Oil 2K CAN be used over traditional penetrating hardwood floor stains that are fully dry.  It is important to keep in mind that when we use Magic Oil over stain, the floor MUST be water popped to allow maximum absorption of the finish.  It is equally as important to keep in mind that a stained floor will not accept as much finish, and in some cases, we may only use one application of Magic Oil over the top.

How do you feel about Magic Oil on furniture and countertops?

We adore it on any wood surface that needs protecting – and cured Magic Oil 2K is food safe. You’ll still want to trowel it on when applying it to non-floor surfaces, and if you’ll be rubbing it in by hand, instead of by buffer, you’ll need to put some muscle into it to make sure you get it into the wood grain. Our favorite tip is to save retired credit cards and use them as little “trowels” on small projects. And, even though it’s furniture and we know you want it super smooth, don’t sand it finer than 120 grit or you will prevent the Magic Oil from penetrating properly.

I’m just putting Magic Oil on a little table-do I really need to use the hardener?

You absolutely do – Magic Oil 2K will simply not cure without the hardener. The only time we will use it unhardened is if we are testing for color. The product is sold together with the hardener for good reason: use both parts!

Is Magic Oil non-toxic? And how does it smell?

Like most penetrating oils Magic oil has no added solvents, which is what makes it such an environmentally responsible product! While it is not technically VOC-free, its VOCs are extremely low: 5 grams per liter and 9 grams per liter for colors. As a point of comparison, the lowest VOC level waterborne polyurethane come is at 110 grams per liter! During application, there is a very low odor that smells vaguely like a household cleaner, and once it’s cured, it smells like nothing. It is the ideal product for coating inside in winter. Check out their MSDS here.

If it has such a low VOC level, why do I still need to ventilate during application?

Because Magic Oil is a curing finish (one that forms a permanent solid by combining with oxygen), not just a drying finish, it needs a supply a fresh, outside air to harden.  So, make sure you crack a window to create a gentle airflow in the affected rooms.

Do I have to trowel it on?

While we find that trowel application really is the best way to get maximum penetration into the wood, the manufacturer does off the option of applying it with a buffer. So, you can pour the oil into the center opening of the red buffer pad and spread it with buffer. In fact, Pallmann insists that you use this method if you are finishing a floor with beveled edges.

Do I have to use a buffer?

For the oil-removal stages of application, we absolutely think you do. It’s pretty difficult to replicate the weight and RPMs of buffer with just your arms, especially over a large area. So, you risk leaving too much oil on the surface, and leaving too much product on the wood is as problematic as applying too little.

My rental store doesn’t have round buffers, just those 12x18” rectangular kind. Can I use that to buff off the excess oil?

I know it sounds like those should work just like buffers, but we have never been able to make them work for application or removal of any hardwax oil or hardened oil. Use this only as a last resort.

How do spot-fix Magic Oil if I get a stain or a big dent on my floor?

The repair procedure will depend on what kind of damage you have and what color Magic Oil was originally used:

Stain or long scratch across multiple boards in Natural or Neutral:

Isolate the affected boards with blue painter’s tape, use 100 grit until the scratch is erased, cutting back to wood only if necessary. Reapply one coat of hardened oil inside the tape lines. If there is a sheen difference in the area you’ve repaired, use steel wool in the area to rub down the excessive shine.

Stain or long scratch across multiple boards in colored Magic oil:

Isolate affected boards with blue painter’s tape and sand to completely bare wood inside taped lines, being sure to replicate the grit sequence used to sand floor prior to the original Magic Oil application. Reapply two coats of Magic Oil inside the tape lines, following Pallmann’s recommended procedures. If you originally applied both coats on the same day, make sure apply both repair coats in one day as well.

How long do I have to wait before I walk on my Magic Oil floor?

Light foot traffic is acceptable after 4 hours for Neutral and 12 hours for colors. Neutral is fully cured in 12hours, and colors in 24 hours

Other brands of hardened oil recommend a final wipe with rags after buffing with the white pad. Should I do this with Magic Oil?

The problem with rags and Magic Oil is that they can take off too much oil. Because it is so important that the Magic Oil 2K be driven IN to the wood fiber, you want to be careful not to pull it back out, and cloth and towels just absorb too much fresh oil.  The more open texture of a white buffer pad, even when doing small areas by hand, is much more effective for the removal stage of this product. Rags just get sticky and leave unsightly wipe marks.


My Magic Oil looked great when I put it on three days ago, but it’s already water-spotting – what’s going on?

There are two common causes for this. The most likely cause, especially if it was your first time using a hardened oil, was not removing enough oil with the white pads. This can happen when you don’t replace your white pads often enough, especially if you are trying to do your oil removal at night or without adequate light. When excess Magic oil is left on the surface of the wood, the leftover wax layer is prone to water rings. If the problem is everywhere, you’ll just use a buffer with a 100 grit screen slowly and gently over the whole floor to try to just remove the excess hardened oil. You are NOT trying to sand it back to bare wood. Then reapply one thin layer of Magic Oil, making sure to let it sit on the wood for a full ten minutes. And then be sure to buff it off thoroughly this time! If you just have a few problem areas, use a green, 3M scrubby and sand back just the affected areas – you may not even have to add back any oil – just bring it down to the level of the rest of the correctly applied finish.

The other cause is that the wood was finished with too fine a grit (anything finer than 100 grit on your main sanding machine and edger or finer than a 120 grit screen on the buffer will close the grain too much for this finish to bond properly), and the Magic Oil is sitting on top of the wood because it couldn’t soak into the over-smooth wood surface. The solution is the same as for fixing inadequate oil removal as described above.

I applied the Magic Oil according to the directions, but the coats look streaky and mottled and the sheen is inconsistent. Did I get a bad batch of oil?

Not to sound like a company shill, but we have yet to see a bad batch of anything from this manufacturer. And when we hear the words “streaky” or “mottled” that is a telltale hallmark of grit-skipping during the sanding sequence. When deeper scratches from the early stages of sanding are not removed by the proper order of carefully calibrated grits, those deep scratches can catch and hold a lot of excess oil. But the oil doesn’t truly penetrate – it just pools in the voids left by the sandpaper. These deep pockets of oil don’t cure properly, and they don’t look the same as the adjacent areas where the oil may have penetrated properly. Hence the lack of uniformity. Alas, this is not a problem that is easy to fix. The best solution is to fully resand the floor, making sure that no grits are skipped (LINK here to best sanding grit sequences), that nothing finer than 100 grit is used on main sander or edger, and nothing finer than 120 on a buffer.


Pallmann Magic Oil Colors


Pallmann magic oil Black BrownPallmann magic oil BlackPallmann magic oil Dark BrownPallmann magic oil GreyPallmann magic oil NeutralPallmann magic oil WhitePallmann magic oil red brown

This is a very bossy article about using woodfiller on hardwood floors:

Because filler is not a cure-all; it is a necessary evil

filler looks bad in big scratches for webI know you’ve seen those old-timey ads for tonics that claimed to cure dandruff, bad breath, warts, bunions, indigestion, shyness and malaise, all with one dose. And you've laughed at the idea that anyone ever beleived those outlandish claims. You would never believe unrealistic promises. But even though we’ve all been trained to doubt products that sound too good to be true, most people continue to believe that woodfiller will fix just about anything that ails a hardwood floor.  But in the world of hardwood flooring, woodfiller is designed to camouflage small holes and chips in the floor, and that’s it. It can't make large scratches disappear. It doesn't hide large holes. No matter what the packaging promises, filler does not take the place of wood. Ever. Look at the example board we made on the right. Long diagonal scratches look worse after filling. Large round areas of fill look like round areas of Play-Do. 

So here, in no particular order, are all our favorite thoughts on the many weaknesses (and occasional strengths) of woodfiller on hardwood floors.



Woodfiller does not permanently fill gaps

gaps-filled-with-dirtregular-hardwood-floorNotice the important word here: permanently.  Woodfiller can temporarily fill anything, even the annoying gaps that run parallel to the long edges of your floor boards.  But the size of those gaps changes all year long and the woodfiller in those gaps isn’t elastic enough to swell and shrink with the seasons and so will just get pummeled and eventually break up and look like kitty litter.  Kitty litter trapped forever in your flooring gaps. Open, honest gaps are far more attractive than dirty, poorly filled gaps.


My Floor Guy says I should always trowel-fill floors before sanding. What does that mean?

gappingfloor.jpbTrowel-filling is exactly what it sounds like: spreading large quantities of filler over theTrowel fill is a mistake 2 entire area of a floor, allowing it to dry hard, then sanding off everything that doesn’t fill a void. In some cases (and in the hands of a professional) this procedure can have some benefits: on very new floors in climates where the boards don’t swell and shrink very much through the seasons, trowel-filling does help keep the finish contiguous. But in older, already gappy floors in climates with season extremes (yes, like Minnesota) the benefits of trowel-filling are short-lived. Within a year, the movement of the floor will break up the filler, leaving you with a finish which is no longer contiguous, plus a lot of loose fill between the boards. In the photo at right, the filler must have look great when it was freshly done - it even took the color of the stain perfectly. But just a few years later, it looks like someone tried to fill the gaps with Nutella.



Woodfiller is not a substitute for board replacement

shame fillergouges wicked badWood has grain; woodfiller does not, so large areas of woodfiller look nothing like the wood that surrounds it.  Even when it does take on the color of the stain or finish you use, it will still look like a big, undifferentiated blob on your floor.  When you use filler on nail holes and chipped board corners, it camouflages well in the grain pattern of the wood.  But large areas will stick out like a black eye. This is especially important if you have hollows or depressions in your floor – these are better simply sanded clean and left alone.  Hand-coat those spots if you must to keep the finish from getting too thick, but do not try to “level” a hardwood floor with filler.

The bigger the area you fill with woodfiller, the more it will shrink. Larger voids also require that you apply the filler in stages (because it will shrink after each application). And the more applications, the longer it will take to dry before you sand it.  If you are using so much filler that it takes more than an hour to dry hard enough to sand, you are probably using it inappropriately. 


I get it - you don't want me to put filler in those cracks.  But my finish will run into those gaps and fill them nice and flush, right?

Again, no.  Floor finish is designed to be quite runny so it will flow and seek its own level on your floor, and it will run right through your cracks and down to your subfloor. Glues and epoxies will do the same thing because the gaps in your floor have no bottom. 

My hardware store has these cute little pots of Color Putty in dozens of colors - why can't I just fill all my cracks with that?

This is the perfect juncture to explain that there are two different kinds of products you can use on a floor. Up until this point we've been talking about the kind that starts out soft and pliable so you can work it into all the holes, but it dries hard and must be sanded flush to the level of the floor, and to remove all the extra filler that went into the wood grain around the hole. This kind of filler comes in a narrow range of colors and you choose the one that best matches the background color of your RAW wood, and it should then take on color (stain or finish) as your wood does.  Color Putty and other soft putties are designed for wood that is already finished. These fillers are already pre-tinted in a much wider variety of colors than hardening fill. Because you simply press them into the hole and you're done, you need to have a precise color match to the finished tone of your wood. The problem with Color Putty is that it NEVER HARDENS! It is designed this way - this allows you to putty it into the void in your floor, and then wipe away the excess without having to sand your nice finished floor. But Color Putty stays soft and, if applied in frequently walked-on areas, will eventually work itself out again. You can easily reapply it, but it is something you have to keep up with.

Igap shrinkage cork’ve heard about filling my wood gaps with rope – why can’t I do that? 

Cork is better than fillerIt’s true that rope won’t crack and fall out like filler, but it won’t look like wood either.  At best, it will reduce the amount of sand and debris that can collect in your floor cracks, but it won’t do much else.  You can use rope as a way to fill up a big crack and then just top up with filler (so you don’t have to use as much filler), but the filler itself will still crack and fall out over time; there will just be less of it. If your gap is truly wide enough to even consider filling it with rope AND the gaps don’t close up in summer, use cork instead.  It’s sold in strips of different thicknesses, it’s easy to cut and you can use a cheap dental tool (Harbor Freight has good ones) to push the strip of cork into the gap.  You can even use a little paintbrush to apply finish to the cork when you’re done.  If you’re using cork on gaps, do it after you sand and finish the surrounding floor. (threshold gap photo from customer).  Cork is also a great material to use where leaving an expansion gap might be unsightly, for example when wood is installed flush against a fixed obstacle like a fireplace or a sliding glass door


Then what should you do with wide gaps, big holes and gouges?

First, try to fill them with actual WOOD; it doesn’t sink and it shrinks and swells with the wood surrounding it. If the problem area is too small to warrant removal of the board, but too big for fill, drill it out to a regular circle and fill it with a face-grain wood plug (or even several in a row) in the same species as your floor. These blend into the floor beautifully, and are a fraction of the work of replacing a whole board. Slices from a dowel will work in a pinch, but they will absorb stain more deeply than the wood of your floorboards and will appear as a darker circle; face-grain plugs match the grain direction of the actual flooring and will blend and take finish much more seamlessly. We sell the most darling, tapered face-grain plugs in maple, red oak, walnut and cherry in various sizes.  For wide gaps, use a Dutchman – a tapered shim of wood that is pounded in to the gap, nipped off and sanded flush.

When you do choose to use filler, there are some products that we adore and use on the Timbermate for thumbnailcontracting side of our business and will be delighted to sell to you.

We adore this pre-mixed filler because it shrinks less than any other filler we have tried, which makes it a better choice if you insist on filling larger areas.  It also takes the color of stain, Rubio and polyurethane better than other fillers. And even if it dries out, it easily reconstitutes with water. We carry it in Red Oak, White Oak, Maple, and Ebony. Also can be tinted with universal colorants if you need to make a custom color.

$15 for 8oz Click here to buy some!



Wood Flour Cement 1Glitza Wood Flour Cement mixed with 80 grit wood dust that matches the wood of your floor. Don't use wood glue and dust to make filler - it always dries more yellow that you think - unsightly!
The wood flour cement has two main strengths: the epoxy itself lasts forever, and you can mix up only as much as you need for each job, so there is no waste. Second, you can mix up a different color for the spot you’re filling, just by mixing in a different color of dust.  Because sometimes, a light spot in an oak board will actually look better with maple-toned fill.

Unfortunately, this is only available by the gallon and, because of its toxic nature, cannot be shipped

$66 per gallon  Available in-store only



Once you've decided to use woodfiller, use it responsibly! These tips will help:

  • Fill after you've sanded through 36 grit.  Don't fill at the very beginning - you won't see all the places that need fill. But don't wait until the end of the job either because the filler that sticks in the wood grain around the void you've filled needs to be completely removed or it will look like a liitle halo around each filled spot, once the finish is applied.
  • filler badMatch the filler to the color of the spot you are filling, not just to the specie of the whole floor. Maple floors have dark spots and oak floors have light sections, and all floors have at least one dark knot. Use your eyeballs, not the name of the filler to guide you.  If you are filling knots, use an ebony fill, or use universal tints to darken a small amount of your red oak fill. But don't assume that one color will fit all your filling needs.
  • Give your filler time to dry before you sand it flush. We recommend applying filler right before stopping for lunch or before you leave for the day. As long as you aren't trying to fill the Grand Canyon, it will be dry by the time you're ready to start sanding again.



But Rubio is complicated! 
Please buy from us, but feel free to ask questions first. 

Call us up at 651-698-5888 and let us help you buy the right Rubio for your project.
And then surf on over to our online shop to purchase with confidence!

Do not order this from Amazon or some know-nothing reseller just to save $6.
Buyer's remorse is expensive. 

Rubio on the phone

 Monocoat Oil 2C Pure

1.3L                           $162
350mL                       $  56
100mL                       $  25 (accelerator not included)

Monocoat Oil 2C Colors

1.3L                            $207
350mL                        $  65
100mL                        $  25 (accelerator not included)

Natural Soap 1L       $42
NEW Eco Refresh    $52

You can try buying elsewhere, but will they be able to answer your questions later????

The Two Biggest Myths about Sanding Exterior Porches and Decks

Exterior porch refurbishment is a great summer project, but misconceptions about the process abound.

Let’s debunk some of them.

Myth #1: Porches are easy and quick to sand. My porch is only about 300sqft and just has some paint on it. I’ll be able to sand that clean in a couple hours, right?

kirkhanson1It takes more work to sand a porch than you might think:

  • Porch paint is difficult to remove because it is dense and thick. Because it was intended to resist the wear of foot traffic, contains a higher percentage of solids than ordinary exterior paint. Paradoxically, even when porch paint looks worn and scratched, it is still a beast to sand off.
  • Every customer who comes to us with a porch with any paint on it, even when they swear up and down that their paint isn’t very thick, eventually resigns themselves to using the coarsest grits available, starting with 16 or possibly even 12 grit. That means you’ll take several passes, just to get the paint off, then more passes to get out the scratch from removing the paint.
  • Old porch paint is more likely than clear finishes to contain lead. And while it is perfectly legal for a homeowner to sand off this lead-paint bearing finish, the lead dust that you release will poison you and your neighbors. Do a Lead Check test ($4.95 here at the shop) and if it’s positive, hire an RRP accredited flooring firm. It will be worth every penny.
  • Porches in Minnesota are primarily installed the short way, meaning the boards run parallel to the short depth of the porch (see photo at right). That depth is typically only 7-8 feet, which makes it more awkward to use the drum sander.
  • Porches have railings. You have to sand under the railings. We rent a special radiator for that, but you still have to do it.
  • Because of their direct exposure to water, the individual boards of most porches are likely to be cupped and you’ll have to sand that curvature level before you can sand the boards clean. Luckily, most exterior porches are made with fir which is relatively soft and easy to flatten.

Myth#2: Outdoor finishes should last at least a decade without maintenance. Wooden boat decks were constantly exposed to the elements and they never rotted – you should sell me something that lasts like that.

decayed porch floor side viewFloors in porches are exposed to more sunlight and more water than any other area of the home. Water and sunlight are deadly – and let me say that again more emphatically -deadly- to wood.

We have tried everything in our search to sell something that protects exterior wood for long periods of time without maintenance. Even reputable boat maintenance products, when you read the fine print, require sanding and coating every year, or at best, every other year.

So why do ship’s decks last forever? Historically, ships had abused, shanghaied sailors who scrubbed those decks with bricks and sand every week. Those pretty wood decks on current day ships are coated with 4-5 coats of spar varnish and then re-coated annually or every other year.

If you could scrub your porch with sand every week, or topcoat it every year, it too would look fabulous!

But most people, even the good citizens at Pete's, expect that once you put a coat or two of something or a porch or deck you should be able to ignore it for years at a time. But we've learned that those expectations are unrealistic for the amount of environmental abuse that exterior wood must withstand. Especially horizontal surfaces.

Clear finishes will degrade very quickly on a porch because, unlike paint, they let the sun right into the wood where it can break down the lignins, which are essentially the connective glue that makes wood hold together. Once those lignins are broken down, the varnish has nothing left to cling to, and so it peels or powders away. 

Paints are better at protecting wood from sun damage – they are much like wearing a sweatshirt to the beach; they block the sun from reaching the wood.

But paint still can’t block everything, and standing water from snow and rain, the weakening effect of sunlight, plus the erosive action salt and sand underfoot will eventually grind paint away too.

decayed porch floor top viewThe simple answer is that, no matter what finish you put on your exposed porch, you will have to periodically reapply a top coat of some kind, even if you use porch paint (enclosed, three-season porches are more protected so the finish will last longer there).

There is no magic bullet that will protect your porch forever; the longest you can completely neglect that wood is two years.

Two years?!?
Yes. Two years. But the good news is that if you refresh or reapply a top coat to your exposed porch every two years you should be able to avoid resanding it for at least a decade. But compared to the huge effort of resanding, recoating is child’s play and worth every minute of your time.

What product should I use? Right now, we offer two options. 

Rubio Monocoat Hybrid Wood Protector.

The reasons we recommend it:

  • 1798Rubio Monocoat Hybrid Wood Protector NaturalIt's a linseed-oil-based, zero-VOC finish – no need for a respirator, and no worries about fumes drifting over to your neighbor's yard.
  • It is a one-coat finish that is water-resistant in 36 hours and ready for traffic after 48 hours – very helpful if you are trying to coat during the thunderstorm season.
  • It does not form a film layer of any kind and has a very matte appearance.  Flaking or peeling is essentially impossible because there is no build above the wood whatsoever.
  • Because it is a penetrating, rather than a film-building finish, you maintain it by just cleaning the surface and reapplying a thin coat of the original product. If you do it annually, there is usually no need to even sand. Just re-wash with the Exterior Wood Cleaner and then coat.
  • The oil contains UV blockers to slow down the sun damage and mold inhibitors to keep the algae at bay.
  • It comes in twenty colors – and the colors can be mixed with each other to increase your design options.

But there are a few caveats:

This product requires that you prep your wood (new or old) with their Exterior Wood cleaner. We know firsthand that this is true: earlier versions of the product did not require this step and there were multiple adhesion failures and many disappointed customers. So, use the Rubio Exterior Wood cleaner, even on new wood and even when recoating.

Covered porches will need an oil refresh every other year, but fully exposed decks will need touchups annually. Yes, you read that right: annually. A touchup is much easier and faster than a full resand, and it does involve re-washing the deck with the Exterior Wood Cleaner. But putting a booster coat on an otherwise intact Rubio coat is fast and uses less than half the amount that the project would have intially required.

Rubio now recommends that you add their Accelerator to the Hybrid Wood Protector in a 1:10 ratio. This is a relatively new recommendation, but significantly improves performance. However, they do not package the accelerator with the HWP so you must buy it separately.

The darker the color of the Hybrid Wood Protector, the better the protection. The color known as "Pure" does not contain pigment, which increases the rate at which sunlight can reach and damage the wood. So Rubio discourages the use of Pure on decks and southern-facing porches because they will "grey" more quickly.

Hybrid Wood Protector will bond to green-treated lumber, but performance over time is not as good as it is for untreated woods. Expect a more frequent recoating schedule on these woods.

Rubio Monocoat Hybrid Wood Protector 1 liter  $160 (+/- 300sqft per liter)
Exterior Wood Cleaner 1 liter $52 (+/-250sqft per liter) and this is required before applying the Hybrid Oil!

This product is safe to ship to all 50 states, so we sell it right in the e-shop. 

Waterlox Marine Finish. We love it for many reasons:

  • This is essentially a “long-oil” varnish, which means it has a higher proportion of oil to resin, which makes it stretchier and better able to handle all the swelling and shrinking your outdoor wood will encounter through the seasons. 
  • The high proportion of tung oil in this finish also allows superior penetration of the finish into the flooring.  This allows most of the Waterlox to cure below the top level of the wood, which makes it less likely to peel or flake, but it still has a lovely sheen.
  • The penetrating nature of Waterlox makes it forgiving to touch-up.
  • Marine Waterlox has a UV protective component that slows down the destructive effects of sunlight. 
  • Its fabulous, rich, deep-amber color looks good on every wood type, but is especially attractive on the older fir and pine of many porches.

waterlox marineSome caveats for Waterlox Marine:

Waterlox Marine Finish must be used over two base coats of the Waterlox Orignal Sealer or Waterlox Marine sealer. Don't use the Waterlox Marine directly on bare wood; it just won't bond as well.

Most porches require at least two coats of the Marine Finish, and both Waterlox and Pete’s would recommend three coats, allowing at least 24 hours between each coat. Do not apply coats if you are expecting rain within 24 hours.

This product is relatively high in VOCs and the vapors can drift back into your property or affect your immediate neighbors.

This product should be touched up or recoated at least every other year.

Marine Waterlox Gallon $130 (400-500sqft per gallon)
(VOC restrictions affect where we can sell this product and how it can be shipped, so we don't offer  it in the e-Shop. Call the shop at 651-698-5888 and we'll figure out a way to get you some!)

Marine Waterlox Quart $50
(VOC restrictions affect where we can sell this product and how it can be shipped, so we don't offer  it in the e-Shop. Call the shop at 651-698-5888 and we'll figure out a way to get you some!)

Sorry, due to hazardous substance restrictions, we can’t ship this outside of the 7-state area of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota.