When Screen and Top Coat Might Be An Option
Perhaps the floors are showing some minor battle scars, but nothing deep or radical. Maybe the shine is obscured or the finish appears “thin in areas.” Maybe you need some TLC on a budget or are readying the house to sell and need a little spiffing up without breaking the bank.
The service is known as a “screen and top coat” process. It is ideal for the floor that is “lightly” used and in need of a little pick me up. This process is suitable for minor (I mean minor) surface scratches. Generally the floor overall isn’t in bad shape. While the shine may be revived, even subtle damages like minor sun fade will not be corrected (as the picture shows- this client intended to reset her area rug, so the fact that the sun fade would not be corrected was of no concern to her.)
Very subtle surface scratches may improve or be removed, but scratches which go deeper than the finish, into the raw wood will not be corrected. If while inspecting you see the scratch being white or lighter than the finish, that is deeper and through the finish. It will not be corrected with the screen and top coat process. Another test, take a fingernail, run it across the scratch (perpendicular to it), if it stops in the scratch, then it is through the finish. If this happens you need full sanding and refinishing.)
One Note of Caution- Not All Floors Are Suitable For Screening and Top Coating
The floor must be tested for compatibility. Should a polish or popular shine restoring product have been applied to the floor, there is no option of this “in-between” service. These products are easily found right along side cleaning products for hardwood floor care. Unfortunately, as the homeowner begins to focus on their floors before calling in a professional, they often do apply these coatings, in a DIY effort. Therefore, the light-duty option may not be possible.
Why? Because polishes and some coatings are not compatible with the polyurethane coatings used. They will reject each other, and fail. Some of the products applied by homeowners which cause failure include:
- Wax- i.e. Butcher’s Wax
- “Shine Restorers”
- Oil Soaps
Again, use of these products to restore these floors limits what can be done. There is usually little choice but to resort to sand and refinish them.
Screening and Top Coating Explained
In general this process involves buffing or sanding the floor with an abrasive pad called a screen (to scratch the surface finish.) In plain terms, the floor will be lightly sanded to prepare the floor for a fresh coat of polyurethane finish.
After careful vacuuming and tacking the floor, using a sticky tack cloth for dust, a polyurethane finish is applied to dress up the floors. This will brighten the shine, obscure minor blemishes, etc. But it will not address gouges, sun fade areas, or scratches thru the finish. It will not remove pet stains, watermark spills or water damage. And, it won’t cover up rotted areas or insect damage.
To sum it up, this interim process is rarely ideal. Homeowners wanting this may accept some risk of floor failure at their own expense. Commonly some will accept the risk knowing they are selling the property once it is sold. Some refinishing companies will not even offer it. Others will do so with complete release of liability. Careful consideration should be given when entertaining this process.