See You Later, Alligator: Finish Aesthetics from the NWFA

  • Hardwood Floor Care Tips and Recommendations
  • Blogs
Return to Blog Return to News
May 07, 2019


Alligator print cycles on and off the runway but is never in fashion when it comes to your floors. Alligatoring, also known as crazing, is when a system of tiny, interconnected cracks appears in a floor finish, so that the surface texture resembles the skin of an alligator.

So, what unleashed this reptilian beast on your hardwoods? It could be environmental, application-related, or the finish itself.

Environmental issues:

  • The wood’s moisture content was too high during coating, which can result in water becoming trapped in the finish once the solvent has evaporated (also known as a coalescing problem).
  • The finish was applied to a floor that was too cold or at low ambient temperatures, which can also cause a coalescing problem.
  • The finish was applied at high ambient temperatures, causing the top of the finish to dry more quickly than the full depth, which can result in uneven shrinkage and internal stress.

Application issues:

  • A compromised previous coat was ineffectively removed and is telegraphing through the top coat.
  • One or more coats were applied too heavily.
  • Not enough time was allowed to elapse between two or more coatings.

Product issues:

  • The finish or catalyst was expired.
  • The finish contained insufficient solvent or solvent efficiency, which could be a result of manufacturing or exposure to improper conditions.
  • The product was not thoroughly mixed or was past its pot-life.
  • Excessive amounts of or the wrong catalyst or hardener was used.
  • Improper solvents or additives were added to the finish.

Once alligatoring has sunk its teeth into your finish, your only option is to abrade the surface and then recoat. A full resand may also be necessary in some cases, depending on the severity of the issue and the number of coats affected. There are, however, a few steps that you can take to ensure the best outcome:

  • Ensure the conditions of the jobsite are optimal with respect to temperature, moisture, airflow, etc., consulting with the finish manufacturer as needed.
  • Choose an abrasion method that will completely remove imperfections and then proceed through the correct grit sequence.
  • Work at the spread rates appropriate for the finish as suggested by the manufacturer.
  • Allow each coat to dry sufficiently before applying another.
  • Double-check that the finish and catalyst have not expired and have been stored properly.
  • Thoroughly mix the product, using the correct catalyst or hardener in the correct amounts.
  • Keep track of the time elapsed since catalyzation, remembering to recatalyze or discard once finish is past its pot-life.

Are other floor issues rearing their ugly heads? Email us at with floor finish problems you’ve encountered, and we’ll select one each month to feature on our blog!

Source: NWFA’s “Problems, Causes and Cures 2018”