Grain Raise, Go Away: Finish Aesthetics from the NWFA

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Jun 18, 2019

NWFA Grain Raise

Like rain on a summer day, nothing will ruin a hardwood floor quite like grain raise. Grain raise occurs when some of the wood fibers swell and become elevated, so the surface feels rough to the touch. Grain raise is also accompanied by a dull appearance.

So, what combination of circumstances created your grain raise perfect storm? Like usual, the answer is…it depends.

Environmental issues:

  • It is simply a natural characteristic of wire-brushed or other sculpted floors.
  • A steam cleaner added moisture to the floor.

Application issues:

  • Abrasion between coats did not adequately knock down the expected grain raise that results from water popping the floor or applying waterbased finishes, sealers, or stains.
  • Grits were skipped, the final sanding utilized an abrasive that was too coarse, or other sanding mistakes were made that rendered the process ineffective.
  • Oil finishes or finish systems were not properly applied or maintained.

For certain textures, like distressed wood, roughness is no cause for distress. Otherwise, don’t let grain raise rain on your parade! Abrade the surface and then recoat. A full resand may also be necessary in some cases, depending on the severity of the issue. It’s important when addressing grain raise to know which way the wind blows:

  • The moisture content of the floor must reflect normal living conditions.
  • You must follow industry-accepted standards for sanding and finishing techniques as outlined by the NWFA and the recommendations of the manufacturer. When using Basic Coatings® HyperTone™ Stains, for example, we suggest using a thick red pad on a buffer about 15–20 minutes after applying stain to knock down any grain raise and smooth out the floor.

Have other issues cast a dark cloud on your floors? Email us at with floor finish problems you’ve encountered, and we’ll select one each month to feature on our blog. If your finish issue is selected, we’ll name you in our post and also send you some Basic Coatings swag!

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