What is a screen and recoat?
Screening and buffing are the same thing. They are synonyms for each other, and both mean that you “scuff up” or abrade the floor, and then you apply a coat of polyurethane for protection and sheen. Screening is often called buffing, since the screening is done with a buffer. Screening both smooths the floors a bit, and the abrasive action allows the polyurethane to adhere to the surface better. The screen and recoat process can restore the glow of the floors and give them a refreshed look.
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Some customers call this a “light sanding,” but technically, it’s a screen and recoat since you are not sanding the wood, but rather are just sanding the top layer of polyurethane. Other customer refer to this as “adding a top coat” or a “buff and coat.”
When you screen and recoat hardwood floors, you have the options of changing the gloss level of the finish. So, if your floors are too glossy and you want more of a satin look you can do that (or vice versa).
Screening (or buffing) will not address deep scratches or changes in color. If you have a stain on the floor and scratches that have penetrated down to the raw wood, the screening will not help with this. It is simply adding on a coat of clear protection on the floors (think about nail polish…if your nail polish color has chipped and you add an extra coat of gloss, it will help preserve the existing polish, but it will not change the color underneath).
Screening will save you money, labor and time. Not only will a screen and recoat help refresh your floors, but it will also postpone the need for a complete sanding and refinishing later.
When will screening NOT work?
- Screening will not work on waxed floors as it can not adhere properly to the surface. Also, it will not work well if you have used products that have wax in them (e.g. mop and glo or orange glo).
- If the floors have worn down past the color (and/or you have portions of the floors that are gray from oxidation), screening is not the right process. Instead, it’s time for a full sand and refinish.
- If you want to change the color of your floors. In order to change the color of your floors, you need to sand the floors completely down to the raw hardwood and then apply the stain.
- If you have gray patches on the floor, it’s too late for a screening
- A screening will not address UV discoloration under area rugs
How does screening work?
Unlike sanding and refinishing (which is rather messy), screening just scuffs up the floor and is relatively clean. It is a faster, and hence less expensive process as well. After the floors are screened (which could take an hour or two…or sometimes 1/2 day to a full day, pending on the areas), we then apply 1 coat of polyurethane – either oil based or water based polyurethane can be used. The buffer has a mesh that is embedded with abrasive particles – just enough to allow proper bonding for the new coat of poly. It is basically the last step of the sanding process.
Typically, for a screen and recoat, you add one coat of poly, but if you’d like even extra protection, you can add on 2 coats. You would screen before each coat.
Screening is generally a 1 day process (or 2 days if you opt for 2 coats). Just like sanding and refinishing, all the furniture needs to be moved. There is some drying time involved as well – usually 24 hrs before you can walk on it and a few more days before you can move furniture back.
How long does a screen and recoat take?
Generally, a screen and recoat can be done in 1 day and it needs to dry for 24 hours. It depends on the area to be done, but often the work can be done in a few hours. An oil based polyurethane will take 24 hrs to dry, and a water based poly will usually dry in 4 hrs. All furniture and items must be moved off the floor. With an oil based poly, it’s advisable to wait 4 days before putting furniture back; for water based poly, you only need to wait 2 days. It’s ideal to wait 30 days before putting area rugs back so that the floors fully cure.
Screening is great maintenance plan for your floor
Screening can help prolong the length of time between full sandings. Over time, the top protective layer of finish will wear down. This leaves the wood more vulnerable to scratches and spills, and the lustre becomes more dull. The key is do a screen and recoat before your floors get badly scratched up. Once the scratches have gone through the color, it’s often too late. How often should you screen your floors? Well this depends on how much traffic your floors get and whether or not you wear shoes. But, as a general rule of thumb, if you screen every 3 years or so, you can avoid a full sanding for a very long time.
If you have a stenciled floor (which can be rather expensive), screening every couple of years is a “must do” so that you maintain the beauty of the design. Sanding and refinishing and repainting stenciled work can be very expensive and very time consuming. (you would generally add on at least another week for this work). So, if you want to avoid the large expense and hassle, a regular maintenance screening program will be much easier.
Can you just screen a portion of the floor?
In general, it’s better to screen and recoat the full area or at least a full room. You can not stop at the end of the room if there is a clean break in the wood (e.g. if there is a saddle, if the wood changes directions or if it is along the grain of the wood. But, you can not stop if the edge of the area is perpendicular to the grain of the wood as you won’t have a clean line. If your wood floors from one room into the next, an alternative is to add a saddle at the door to create a clean breaking point.
Also, I would advise against doing part of a room rather than a full room, as you can usually see a difference in the two sections if part of the room is restored while the other part isn’t. The sheen will be different.
Other related sanding articles:
- How long does it take to refinish hardwood flooring?
- Water based vs oil based polyurethane: which is better for hardwood floors?
- Which are the best brands of polyurethane?
- How to prevent scratches in your hardwood floors
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