Are You Dreading the Finishing of your Hardwood Floors? You Aren't Alone!
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?
- How do you avoid drips, turn lines, or stop marks, especially because you must plan your route carefully because you have to walk on the surface you are coating, and you can only coat with the grain?
- 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?
- Your schedule is tight, so you do some coats after sundown when you might not 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
That is a long list of 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.
So, does it 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, two things:
Pall-X Power and Pall-X 96 are the solutions to all the anxieties of the first-time flooring coater. Here are the reasons why:
1. Aggressively self-leveling. They 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.
2. TOUGH. Pall-X Power is a single component finish with the solvent and wear resistance of a two-component. This finish is strong enough for commercial locations, which means it’s tough enough for your kitchen floor. But because it is a single component product, there is less measuring and less waste.
3. NO Isocyanate. Most two-component finishes are using an isocyanate 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. Any time we can make a wear-resistant finish without exposing people to corrosive materials is a win.
4. 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.
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 young and they do present an chemical engineering challenge to make them flow without leaving bubbles. 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.
I get that it's easy to apply, but how exactly do you that?
Here at Pete's we prefer to apply our Pallmann with a t-bar, which is essentially a narrow, weighted cylinder with a coater over it and you use it to "squeegee" the finish across the floor. Sounds weird, but it works well! Watch us t-bar a floor starting at minute 4 on our YouTube video here. Alternatively, Pallmann invites you to roll these finishes on. They recommend a high quality 3/8" roller, but watch their video for the best rolling technique ever here.
Can 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. 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. And if you use a light grey or white stain on your wood first, the Pall-X 325 is also the perfect sealer to use before your topcoats.
But if you want to add a little 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.
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?
Alas, no. While the Pall-X 98 is a tough finish, it is much trickier to apply smoothly. If you are a do-it-yourselfer and your floor needs extra protection, I would recommend adding an extra coat of the Pall-X Power instead of using the Pall-X 98.
What 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. So, you have choices. 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?
450 to 500sqft per gallon.
What if I don't want a glossy finish?
Both the Pall-X Power and the Pall-X 96 come in gloss, 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.
What is the difference between Pall-X Power and Pall-X 96?
Pall-X Power is tougher and slightly more expensive, but they are both equally well-behaved when it comes to self-levelling.