Michael Dresdner

straight talk about wood finishing

Poly who?

Q: I just had an oak dining table refinished in a dark brown, shiny poly finish. It looks great, but only after two weeks I am seeing dozens of little superficial surface scratches everywhere. Do you think this is normal?
A: Fine scratches on the surface of a gloss finish are certainly common. Of course, a lot depends on what, exactly, the finish is. Poly may be shorthand for polyester, polyurea, polyvinyl, or one of five different categories of polyurethane. Each has different durability characteristics, so your expectations of scratch resistance would be different for each one.
At this point, there are two questions you should ask. The first is whether or not the finish is fully cured. Most oil and waterbased polyurethane coatings take up to a month to cure fully, and may be more scratch resistant after that time. If the finish is not cured, you might want to wait until it is, then rub out the scratches and bring back the original gloss using automotive polishing compound. Better yet, have your finisher do it.
The second, assuming the finish is fully cured, is can I live with this level of surface scratching? If not, go back to your finisher and ask what options are available from him or her. While any gloss finish will show scratches, some types are certainly more susceptible than others.