Posted by NIEL MORLEY on

Getting Good Performance From Floor Coatings

Avoiding poor performance in floor coatings.

The performance of all floor coatings is directly related to the application and preparation.  For example, if a coating needs to be applied at a certain coverage rate and it is under applied you can often see almost immediately very poor wear performance.  An example of this was a coating designed to be applied at 10 m² per litre but that was applied at 15 m² per litre.  The person thought that they were supplying sufficient finish to the floor, but because they were using the wrong roller choice, they were applying less than adequate floor coating.  This just created work because the floors then needed to be recoated and significant remedial work was required.  Even from the very beginning the floor looked as if it did not have enough finish on the face of the timber.

In flooring the relationship between sanding the floor and the amount of material that needs to be applied is extremely important.  And there is a huge variation. 

Floor coatings are very different.

Of late a lot of coatings have been released that are applied at 10 m² per litre, but this is not consistently the case.  Therefore, a person can pick up the products and think, yes, I know how this works, it must be applied in this application.  And they can be completely wrong regardless of how many years there have been involved in the sanding and coating industry.  As a writer of this article I have to tell you that sometimes I have been caught out myself making assumptions that were wrong.  And I have been to many sites and seen many floors where the same mistake has been made because of not reading the label correctly.  10 m² per litre as a general average does apply to a number of coatings but the reality is that it may be either insufficient or too much depending on the coating used.  So always check the application rate and use the recommended roller and roller technique. 

It’s good to use the recommended roller.

Rollers do release products in a very different manner depending on the construction of the material in the role of fibre and the size of the role of fibre.  Some materials are designed to be quick release and some are designed to be slow-release.  Some are designed to be used with oil based on some are designed to be used with water-based and very few cross over.

The sanding method is also extremely important.


We ran a training seminar in which we were looking at the sanding and application of coating on the floor and the contractors present spoke about the fact that they had applied coating to a timber floor and that the coating had peeled.  A coating had literally begun to peel away from the surface of the timber.  They thought that perhaps this was something to do with contamination or poor application.  They recoated the floor and the same thing happened again.  They wanted to know whether there had been a problem with the coating.  However, when we went through the application technique we saw that they had sanded the finish to a sanding grit far in excess of what was appropriate for the coating.  The coating being applied was a traditional solvent based coating and yet they were sanding the floor as if they were applying waterborne coating.  The timber in question was an Australian hardwood.  Australian hardwoods often sand up to a shiny polished finish very quickly.  They looked at the tin and they noted that in fact the tin had said that they should stop sanding at a 120 great grade sandpaper.  They had concluded that by sanding the floor to a much finer finish they would achieve a much better result.  They failed to appreciate that their sanding had interfered with the ability of the coating to adhere correctly to the timber.  In fact they had recoated the floor three times by the time they discussed the issue with us in the training session.  They then went back to the site and sanded it to the level specified on the label and then applied to coating at the correct metres per litre and they achieved a perfect result and had absolutely no problems with delamination or peeling.  It was a valuable lesson and one that they would not quickly forget.  The business in question at the time was really endeavouring to do a really good job but failing to perceive the importance of following the coating and sanding instructions.  Once they got their head around what they needed to do and they focused on what they wanted to achieve with flooring the company quickly grew and soon had more than one vehicle on the road.  Overall, the people were really nice and really good at what they did, they just didn’t appreciate the importance of not closing down the grain on the timber too much. 

Another example.

Another example we can give us a coating company that was used to using petroleum based products with oil mixed into the formula.  Many oil products sold in Australia are heavily diluted in solvents and derivatives.  So they were used to applying a coating at 10 to 12 m² per litre and then began to use a pure oil product with a coating application of around 30 to 35 m² per litre.  They applied the oil at the same rate that they would normally apply a standard diluted oil and of course it just couldn’t work.  He had no scratch resistance and no ability to wear and immediately began to show excessive wear.  There was literally too much excess product on the surface of the floor.  Again, it was a failure to read the instructions on the tin.  

Labels are worth reading.

Label instructions are incredibly important.  This is especially true in Australia where people have released a lot of the less full-bodied Hardwax oil products in an effort to compete on price.  They are very different from a pure full-bodied Hardwax oil product.  

The Osmo oil advantage.

Pure full-bodied Hardwax oil products are applied sparingly.  (Point of note.  For full-bodied Hardwax oil products like Osmo Polyx with its unique heavy duty application. The application rate on the tin relate to products manufactured in Europe and is based around an oak timber which is one of the principal timber flooring choices used in Europe.  Oak is not available in flooring to the same degree in Australia as it is in Europe and therefore this was a valuable lesson.)  When they re-sanded the surface and applied it in the way that it was designed to be used, they found that they used less than one third of the amount of coating that they had applied previously and achieved a considerably better result and a floor that the owners were incredibly happy with.  Simple really.  Interestingly when Osmo is applied correctly the wear performance is amazing.

The moral of the story

The Moral of the story is simple.  Follow the instructions.  Follow the instructions for sanding and follow the instructions for coating that is applied.  The performance of a timber floor is directly related to using the correct sanding technique and the correct application technique and the correct application amount.  Commercially coatings offer an exceptional level of wear and durability.  That being the case when you get a floor that is correctly applied and sanded, the results will be impressive. 

Don’t learn your lessons the hard way.

So our suggestion at the conclusion of this is not to learn the lesson the hard way.  If in doubt, read the instructions.  And whenever you use a coating that you have never used before, regardless of the fact that you may have used the coatings of that specific type before, do not assume that you know the correct sanding and coating technique for the coating.  There are significant differences and sometimes the differences are so great that the difference is well outside any tolerance that may exist when using a different sanding or coating method, that it simply does not allow for a trial and error approach. 

Experience does not mean that we know everything.

Just because a person has driven all their life does not mean that they would have the ability to get into a Formula One performance vehicle and drive the car.  The same is true of the difference between domestic and commercial coatings.  They are relatively easy to use however as long as you read the instructions on the label and follow them carefully.

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