12:02PM | 09/12/05
Member Since: 09/11/05
2 lifetime posts

I recently had a contractor restain the banister in my home. The stain on the handrail is now peeling in multiple places; primarily the underbelly of the rail and the bottom edges, but the peeling is also occurring on posts and sides of rails to a lesser degree. The contractor has informed me that he need only "repair" the damage by resanding the areas that are peeling, then restaining and coating those areas. He does not believe the entire rail need be done.

Somehow this doesn't sound reasonable to me. The stain is peeling because this contractor did not remove all the polyurethane prior to staining. The integrity of the rail system seems to me, therefore, to be totally suspect and would require a TOTAL stripping or resanding... the surface cannot be recoated or repaired as the contractor states, but must be stripped off completely throughout the entire rail system to make sure all problem areas were found. Am I correct? And if so, what is the recommended approach to ensuring all polyurethane is successfully removed before restaining?

Thanks for any and all advice!

Sue in Atlanta


01:05PM | 09/13/05
Member Since: 07/01/05
91 lifetime posts

Did you pay for complete stripping & staining the first time around & these areas were kind of skipped?

Alternately, was he just to do a partial strip of worn areas like the top of the handrail, & then put a glaze type stain on the whole shebang?

Obviously, you are not happy with the results, but it seems to me that you are asking a bit much of the contractor to strip the entire job due to flaws in specific areas that can be corrected.

Use your thumbnail to test areas that appear to be OK. Try hard to lift the finish. If you are able to find several more flawed areas, then you have an argument for a total redo.


01:46PM | 09/13/05
Member Since: 09/11/05
2 lifetime posts
Thanks so much for your reply... In answer to your questions:

I did pay the contractor to totally strip, stain and varnish. Since posting my original message, I have tested other areas on the banister and have found so MANY problem areas that it would be safe to say there are fewer good areas than bad. Most of the stain/polyurethane coat can be removed using the "thumbnail" approach... and a strip of painter's tape -- which I used to mark some areas -- lifts the stain with ease! (I don't think stain should lift so easily with 3M painter's Tape???!!) The original polyurethane coating is totally visible beneath the peeled stain. Needless to say, I've uncovered more areas that are "peel-able" than not. It is my impression, from reading up on sites like this, that the best way to remove polyurethane is with a chemical stripper... that sanding doesn't always do the job as thoroughly as required. If the polyurethane isn't removed in it's entirety, no new stain has a chance of adhering. I get the impression, from written estimates and talking with this contractor, that he though the job entailed a simple "light sanding". In other words, he had no "true" idea how to professionally handle the job. (My bad for not recognizing this flaw in his service before hiring him!)

Thanks again for your advice... I'm still attempting to determine the best next approach... i.e., how to get the old finish off once and for all... I intend to paint the banister next time, but know that I still need a totally prep'd surface.


09:20PM | 09/13/05
Member Since: 07/01/05
91 lifetime posts
Test areas should have been done to determine exactly what procedure was going to be followed.

I personally dislike (& seldom use) polyurethane for many reasons, so cannot say if his plan was flawed from the onset.

On top of lacquer or shellac, it is possible to "sandwich" a glaze-stain under a new clearcoat without much prep work. The new topcoat solvent (lacquer or shellac) will soften the old finish & bond to it 100%

I believe that you are due a 100% refund, based upon the facts as stated.

Even if you get 0% refund, hire a different contractor to correct the problem.

When getting new estimates ask for paint vs. stain, & you may end up with a lower price on the paint.



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