WHAT DETERMINES QUALITY

IN THE INSTALLATION OR FINISHING OF A WOOD FLOOR?

“I just want you to know how thrilled we are with the finished product. We have been in Florida since 1976 and have worked with many contractors and many projects over the years.  We have never experienced such professionalism during those years as demonstrated by you.  From our first meeting and discussion of the floor, to the thorough written Proposal & Contract you presented, we felt very comfortable moving forward with this project.”
-- Ed and Sue Mc D., Palm Harbor

HGTV has popularized do-it-yourself home improvement  and we commend the idea. However, these programs have given people the false idea that many trades can be learned in a weekend. Some of the basics can be, but like any other skill, home improvement trades take years to master in order to obtain a long-lasting, high quality product.

Over the years we have encountered many hardwood flooring goofs that have been made by diy-ers as well trade ”professionals” who should have known better. Below are some examples.

This one was committed by a “pro.” The unhappy homeowner asked the installers if those little bumps would eventually go away. They told her, “Sure, unless your flooring is defective.”

In truth, the manufacturer’s guidelines for installing this material were not followed. The installers should have done their homework before installing an unfamiliar product.

The real situation was that in addition to the problem of aesthetics, over time, surface dimpling in prefinished materials can lead to edge-splitting, chipping and finish spidering as the bumps are walked on.  Resanding the floor could have removed most of the dimples but would also void the manufacturer’s finish warranty and would have also removed an excessive amount of the surface. Sadly, a total replacement of the floor was necessary.

In another instance here in Tampa, we were called in because of a squeaky floor. The installer told the homeowner that wood floors squeak. Well, a brand newly installed floor shouldn’t! Our inspection determined that they had used only half the nails that the manufacturer recommended. This voided their product warrantee. We completed the floor using the correct nailing pattern. The homeowners also commented on the fact that our finish work was superior to that of the first company’s. Our trim pieces fit tightly, leaving no holes or gaps.  We cleaned up our messes and theirs too. They had left glue all over the floor which we cleaned for the homeowners so that they could settle in and prepare their children to attend school in the fall.

INVISIBLE DEFECTS IN A HARDWOOD FLOOR

The people in the situations above were actually fortunate in that they could instantly see or hear that the floor had a problem.  Often there are issues that develop later, after the workers are gone and the check has cleared the bank.

Several years ago, we were asked to inspect a Bamboo floor that had cupped soon after installation. The homeowner/builder, a carpenter by profession, had hired a major Tampa Bay wood flooring company, figuring that while he had the skills to install a floor himself, he didn't have the knowledge to choose the correct materials, prepare the subfloor and in general, give himself a Bamboo floor that was the same quality as the rest of the beautiful home that he had built with his own hands. He requested that we inspect his floor.

We discovered that this company had not prepared the subfloor correctly and moisture was coming up from the concrete slab. This was not only causing cupping of his floor, but adding humidity to his home that his HVAC then had to handle. After reading our report, the company refunded his money, but refused to replace the floor. As he and his family were already in the home, furniture, children, pets and all, he figured that he would have to settle for having damp, cupped floors.

FINISH PROBLEMS IN WOOD FLOORING

We are too often the second company on the job, forced to remove another layer of wood to correct damage done by someone who just didn’t have enough experience and/or the right equipment for the task.

best equipment

A key issue in finishing is to make certain that the right equipment is used and that it is well-maintained and calibrated .  Our equipment is state-of-the-art and is cleaned and finely adjusted regularly. You want your floors to be flat and smooth and so do we! We also want to remove the absolute minimum amount of material to prolong the life of your floor, especially if it is historic, old-growth wood.

chatter marks

Chatter marks are one of the most common defects that we encounter. We have been called upon to remove them from many freshly sanded floors and many, many floors that are ready for a refinish. These marks, caused by a machine that is not properly run or calibrated, only become visible after the finish has been applied.

undersanded floor

The floor on the left simply wasn’t sanded enough before the finish was applied- by a “pro”.  There were still bits of old finish left on it and the new finish couldn’t penetrate it. Solution- resand and reapply finish.

Of course, it is important to use this equipment when needed. Recently, we had a call from a Tampa Bay homeowner who had a floor refinished by another company. He wanted to know if it was necessary to lightly sand between each coat of finish. His floors had been coated with a matte finish, and after living with them for a week, he decided that he wanted them to be shinier. So, a coat of high gloss finish was applied, with no sanding to ensure adhesion. He was assured that there would be no bonding issues.  

photo peel

This is not a wise shortcut to take. The probability of peeling is very high, but it can take a couple months for it to happen. The homeowner was being pressured to pay for the work, and he didn’t think he should. He was right. His finish was not applied according to industry standards which are formulated to produce the highest quality, longest lasting wood floor, and its durability was doubtful. Sadly, this floor will need to be completed re-sanded.

HOW YOU CAN BE ASSURED THAT YOU WILL RECEIVE A HIGH QUALITY FLOOR

Read our Buyer’s Guide to learn how to evaluate a hardwood flooring company. It will give you tips on what you need to know before you hire any home improvement contractor.