Q: My friend has a tile kitchen countertop which has an oak border around the tile. The oak trim for some reason has always been tacky to the touch, as if the finish had never really set up. I was wondering if you had heard of something like this and if there is a way to fix this without damaging the tile countertop.
A: It’s not that uncommon, and it’s an easy fix. Mask off the tile and grout very well with blue painter’s tape, then remove the finish on the oak. He can do that with paint remover, by scraping and sanding, or in some cases with a so called “cool stripper,” a half and half mixture of lacquer thinner and denatured alcohol paired with a coarse nylon abrasive pad. Once the stripping is done, remove the masking and mask again with clean tape before refinishing. I’d go with an oil based wipe on gel polyurethane, like the Rockler Polyurethane that has my picture on the label. The worst case scenario is that if the masking is less than perfect, he may stain a bit of the grout. If so, once the finish has cured, simply re-grout the stained area.