Farrell Wills Wood Floors

 

Burlingame, CA                                   Installation, sanding & refinishing, repairs, and recoats

     


 

 

 

Farrell Wills Wood Floors

 

The Sanding and Refinishing Process

 

Welcome!

 

I’m glad you’ve contacted us, and this sheet is designed to let you find answers to the common questions about floor renovation.  What follows is a summary of the whole process, but you can skip ahead to the index to find a particular subject.

 

I take an artistic approach to floor refinishing, and I want to convey the quality and care that I put into the work.  I still work every job that I contract, and I guarantee that the job goes smoothly from start to finish. 

 

A Quick Overview

 

We show up on the morning of the job and begin hanging plastic and sealing off doors. We also put down tarps and blankets so that we can store equipment on countertops, hearths, and other surfaces above the floor. 

 

The 8” drum sander does the large floor areas.  There are up to three sandings, with coarse, medium, and fine sandpaper.  The edger is a small machine that does closets,

 the sides of the rooms, and any area too small for the bigger sander.  The buffer is used for the final overall sanding.  It burnishes the floor, removes sanding marks, and blends the separate areas that the other sanders have covered.  Sanding with the buffer is called screening.

 

Nailholes and cracks are filled throughout the sanding and refinishing portions of the job. 

We spread putty over the entire floor, and let it dry before sanding it.  Many times we need to apply it twice.  The average Bay area living room and dining room have over 10,000 nails, and they appear in lines every 7”, all across your floor.

 

Trimming is scraping out the corners, hand-sanding the edges and doorways, and making sure all sander marks are removed. We use 100-watt bulbs and 250-watt halogen lamps to highlight any sanding marks and ridges.

 

When all the preparation is done, we sweep and vacuum, and apply either a sealer or a stain.  When this is dry, we buff and vacuum this coat, and apply the first coat of polyurethane.

 

Between coats of polyurethane, we fill in all the remaining cracks and nailholes.  We dust

all surfaces with hand brooms, rags, and compressed air.  We then buff the floor for the last time, vacuum it carefully, and tack the floor with wet rags to remove any film of dust that remains.  The last coat usually needs to dry overnight before walking on it.

 

 

Index

 

Sealing or staining? ……………………………………………………………………2

How many coats of finish?…………………………………………………………….2

How dusty will it be?…………………………………………………………………..3

Cracks and nailholes-a very important point!………………………………………….3

The waves in existing floors…………………………………………………………...3

Who comes first-sanders or painters?………………………………………………… 4

Repairs…………………………………………………………………………………5

Matching existing finishes……………………………………………………………..6

Refinishing—the polyurethane choices………………………………………………..6

Oil-based polyurethanes………………………………………………………………..7

Care of the floors……………………………………………………………………….7

Recoating your floors…………………………………………………………………..8

The most expensive floors to refinish……………………………………………….….8

Stair work……………………………………………………………………………….8

The extras that add to the cost of the job……………………………………………….8

Is re-nailing the floor needed?......................................................................................... 9

Can we fix squeaks?......................................................................................................... 9

 

Sealing or Staining?

 

After the sanding, we seal your floor with a sealer or a stain, and then we layer protective coats of polyurethane on top of the base coat. 

 

A natural look is achieved by using a clear sealer.   There is no color in this coat, so it allows the natural color of the floor to come through.  With oak, this is a “honey-colored” or blonde appearance.  There are two choices for this, and I have samples of each.

 

With pigmented stains, there is color added to the floor, usually in combinations of brown and red tones.  Stains require more detailed sanding procedures, and take longer to apply.  If there are to be many repairs on a job, a stain is usually necessary to blend the new wood with the old. 

 

How many coats of finish?

 

I ordinarily use three coats total finish on my jobs, which is the recommended procedure for the finishes that I use.  That is, I put down one sealer or stain coat, and then apply two coats of protective polyurethane.  For heavy traffic areas I recommend a fourth coat.

 

In the case of stains, I can also apply an extra sealer coat on top of the stain, if necessary.  This sometimes helps to match a stain to an existing floor color.

 

 

How dusty will it be?

 

All parts of the house that are not being sanded will be sealed off so that no dust escapes the sanding area.  I use both 2 millimeter and 4 millimeter plastic sheeting, and I use blue painter’s tape.  This is a specialized tape that has holding power, but is designed not to pull existing paint from walls or woodwork.

 

 In doorways we install thick sheets of plastic with zippered door openings, so that people can go in and out of the dust area and seal up the plastic behind them.

 

We bring large fans in, and set them so that a continuous breeze goes through the house.  This helps keep the dust cleared in the work area itself. 

 

The plastic needs to stay up for the entire job.  Even though the sanding is finished mid-way through, there is still light dust raised by the buffing that we do between coats.

 

Kitchen cabinets, stairwells and floor-to-ceiling bookcases involve much more work to seal.  I charge on an hourly basis for these situations.  Sometimes we need to 

construct long walls of plastic that are held up by telescoping poles.

 

When the sanding process is done, we bring in an air compressor and blow out the dust from walls and vertical surfaces.  Then we sweep the job down.

 

Good dust control can be time-consuming.  Not only do we have to set up the barriers, but we also need to maintain them during the course of the job. 

 

Cracks and nailholes--a very important point!

 

Filling nailholes is probably the most disputed topic between flooring contractors and customers.  Standards vary widely on this--when comparing prices, ask how thorough this process is going to be.  I have found that most customers want all the nailholes filled, and I advise this even if the job is a rental.  It is a time-consuming process, but the end result is worth the price.

 

Most of the cracks and many of the nailholes are filled during the sanding process.  The putty is troweled onto the floor, allowed to dry, and then sanded off.  Usually we have to repeat the process twice during the job.

 

There are always nailholes that remain unfilled after even two trowelings.  The sanders knock out some of the new putty on each pass.  And before the floor is coated, it moves enough that putty can work its way out of the holes.  The only way to fill the remaining holes is to wait until at least one coat of polyurethane is applied.  Then we go around with linseed oil putty, and hand-fill holes and cracks.  On a 1,000 square foot job, it can take two men up to four hours to do this work. 

 

I price the nailhole work between coats of polyurethane as a separate item.  It makes it easier to compare my prices with that of other flooring companies.  As you can see, there can be many definitions of “filling the nailholes,” and just applying one layer of putty is usually not going to be sufficient. 

 

The waves in existing floors

 

Almost all floors will have waviness in them, due to subfloor deficiencies and the movement of the house over the years.  The floor boards also sand unevenly because of hard and soft parts of the wood; the sander cuts differently on different parts of the grain.

This waviness is not the same as gouges and dips from the sanding machines.  It is part of the structure of the floor, and the sander will not get rid of these on a normal job.

 

You won’t notice the waves and dips on your present floor, because over time the darkening of the finish with age tends to mask them.  I can point them out to you on the estimate, so that you have some idea of the condition of your floor. 

 

Eliminating these structural features is generally so expensive that it is not cost-effective on the typical sanding job.  It involves the use of heavy-grit screen or sanding discs that attach to the buffer, and can add several days to even a smaller job  (500 sq.ft. and under).

The buffer is used to grind down the floor, with three to four different grits of sanding material.  This happens after the drum sander has taken off all of the old finish, and the floor is down to bare wood.

 

Who comes first-sanders or painters?

 

There can be problems with both approaches to this.  Generally, there are fewer problems if the painters come in first.

 

A compromise that I’ve come up with seems to work well for many people.  We come in first, and do all our sanding work.  We then either seal or stain the floor, and we put on one of the two protective coats.  .

 

Then the painters can come in, and cover the floor.  They don’t have to be as careful of the floor as if it were completely finished-the “work” coats on the floor are not the final coats, so they can get scuffed without problems.  The painters usually need to lightly sand the walls, so any dust we leave on the walls gets removed along with theirs.  The painters can also touch up the baseboards if necessary.

 

Then we come in a do the final coat on the floor, after all other work is done.  This works especially well for kitchens, where cabinets need to be put in.  

 

If the painting is done first, the painters will need to come back and touch up the baseboards.  Even quality paint will fleck off when it is new, and we have to get right next to the baseboards to remove all old finish.  Dust on the walls is usually not that big a problem, especially with smooth walls.

 

 

Repairs

 

Black stained areas usually won’t sand out--these are urine stains from pets, and the acid goes deep into the wood.  Boards that are crowned or cupped from water damage also need to be replaced.  I charge an hourly rate for repairs, plus any material charges.

 

Repairs in prominent places on a floor job sometimes mean that a stain will have to be applied.  A natural finish has no pigment, and does not hide differences in new and old wood.

 

Sometimes repairs need to be put into the estimate on a “maybe” basis.  This occurs if I can’t be sure if a stain will sand out, or if there is carpet or furniture in a room at the time of the estimate.

 

Repair work is also an area for misunderstandings between contractor and customer.

The actual replacing of boards is only half the job, and it’s easy to overlook all the additional work that goes on.

 

 There is a lot of preparation that has to go into doing repairs, and a lot of clean-up work to do afterward.  We have to replace more wood than just the damaged area, for one thing.  A good-looking patch is “laced in” to the existing floor, and that means that the joints are staggered out in all directions.  If you look at your existing floor, you’ll see that the joints are usually not less than six inches apart. 

 

We charge for more material than the size of the patch, too.  When we’re doing a small patch, we may have to go through twice the amount of material to find the best boards.  On a patch job, every piece of wood counts!  On a big install, we hide ugly pieces in corners and closets, but there’s nowhere to hide bad wood on a repair. 

 

Repair expenses can also include these items:

 

1)      Cleaning up the room or rooms after the repair is done.  We can’t sand until every piece of repair equipment is out, and all the old wood and debris cleaned up.

 

2)   The extra sanding or planing needed to bring the height of the wood down.  The new wood is often thicker than the old.

 

3)   The time needed to carry repair equipment on the job, and set it up.  Even the smallest repair can sometimes involve every saw that I own!

 

4)   The nailhole filling that must be repeated several times.

 

5)   The unexpected repair that pushes the job out of schedule.  If an unplanned repair delays a necessary procedure in the regular job, it can cost us more to do the job.  This doesn’t happen often, but is something that needs to be discussed before doing the repairs in question.

 

 

Matching existing finishes

 

I can spend a lot of time trying to match what’s already in your home.  Stain matches require a good eye, and can require lots of testing.  I have small wood samples that I can use to get a general idea of the color, but the actual color that works on YOUR floor can be a trial-and-error process. 

 

Refinishing--the polyurethane choices

 

I apply a satin finish for all homeowner jobs, unless the customer specifically requests a gloss or semi-gloss sheen.   There are samples of each that you can view.  I charge more for high-gloss finishes, as they take more work to apply, and highlight every defect in the existing floor.

 

The finishes I use are all water-based.  This technology has been around for over two decades now.  Water-based polyurethanes are used on all major contracts for government work, and are standard for sports arenas.  Bona “Traffic” is used for coating the Maples Pavilion gym floor at Stanford, for instance. 

 

There are two finishes I offer.  This is a brief description of them, and they are listed in order of cost.  .

 

1)   Bona Mega

This is an excellent finish.  It is a good combination of cost and durability, and comes in satin, gloss, and semi-gloss.

This is a one-part finish—it has no added hardener. 

 

2)   Bona Traffic

The latest in commercial water-based finishes.   Traffic is very expensive, but it is a state-of-the-art finish, and very popular. It does come in a satin sheen, as well as gloss and semi-gloss.

 

Traffic is used for professional sports arenas, dance floors, and stores.  It uses a two-part formula, with a separate hardener added to the finish.

 

Added cost:   .32 per sq.ft.

 

Polyurethane coats usually dry within two hours, on first or second coats.  Final coats can take longer.  You can walk on a first or second coat with shoes as soon as they are dry.

Final coats should not be walked on the day they are applied, and it is best to go in stocking feet for the next two to three days after.

 

 Dogs should be kept off the floor for a full week.

 

 

 

 

Oil-based polyurethanes

 

I have almost completely stopped using oil polyurethanes.  This is for my own well- being, as well as for the health of my customers.  The Bay Area Air Quality Management Board begin phasing out their use in 1987, but various loopholes in the law have allowed the sale of oil poly in quart cans.  If I need to use this product, I charge more for applying it.

 

I do use oil sealers and oil-based stains.  At the present time, there are no professional water-based stains being offered. 

 

Oil sealer on stains:  I allow for the possibility of putting down an oil sealer on top of the stain coat, if I think it is needed.  The oil sealer can serve two purposes.  It helps match the stain to an existing floor better, in some cases.  Oil products add an amber tint to the color, and can also darken the color slightly. 

 

The sealer can also be used to even out blotchiness in a stain coat.  I do not generally have to deal with this problem, but some floors will come up blotchy in small areas, no matter how well we sand them.  The sealer coat can even out most color variations in a stain.

 

Care of the floors

 

Protecting the floor from scratches, dents, and wear is done by following these steps:

 

1)   Use tracking mats outside all exterior doors

2)   Placing throw rugs or small carpets just inside entrances, in front of appliances, or any other high-traffic areas.  The kitchen sink especially needs a mat in front of it.

3)   Buying felt pads and/or glides for all furniture and fixtures.  These come in many different sizes and shapes, and are available at hardware stores.

4)   Keep pet claws clean and trimmed.

 

For cleaning and maintenance, you can vacuum the floor frequently with a brush attachment.  The less water you use for cleaning, the better.  Bona Hardwood floor cleaner is now available at most Ace Hardware stores.  It comes in spray bottles, and is the recommended finish for the Bona products that we used to refinish the floor. If you don't use the cleaner, then damp mopping should work.  Avoid the use of soaps and oils, as these can interfere with recoating the floors.

 

Recoating your floors

 

Once you have sanded and refinished your floors, you can protect your investment by having them recoated every three to five years.  If the heavy traffic areas are protected, floors can often go for longer than this. 

 

Recoating with one or two coats of polyurethane can bring back the original sheen, and re-establishes the protection.  We don’t have to sand, but we do have to powder the original finish with a buffer pad.  I use a special preparation liquid, which cleans and helps soften the old finish.  Then I fill any open nailholes, vacuum and tack-cloth the floor, and apply the new coats. 

 

The most expensive floors to refinish

 

Parquet floors   These are block floors, squares of hardwood where the grain runs in both directions.  They need an extra sanding with fine paper on the drum sander, and then they have to be heavily sanded with the buffer at least twice, to cut out the cross-grain marks the sander leaves behind.  A stained parquet floor needs the most work.

 

Maple floors   Maple is an unforgiving wood, and needs to be sanded very carefully.  Even a natural finish can show machine scratches, and has to be sanded with extra-fine paper.  The finish also shows every defect and speck of dust.  Since maple floors are usually in more modern houses, the lighting cans also highlight the floor.

 

Hallways   For most work per square foot, you can’t beat a hallway.  There may be as many as nine doorways involved, including closets, cellar and garage entrances, and bedrooms and baths.  We use vacuum cleaners and fans to sand each doorway, trim it completely, and then seal off that entrance for the duration of the job.  Hallways can also be installed sideways rather than lengthwise; this means that our big sander can’t run with the grain. 

 

Stair work

 

Stair work on a flooring job usually involves doing only the treads, which are the horizontal surfaces that people actually step on.  The nosing is the rounded front of each tread, and is also sanded and refinished.

 

The risers are the vertical faces of each step, and are commonly painted.  The material is usually Douglas fir softwood.  A curved piece of wood trim is attached just below the nosing.  This is called scotia, and is painted to match the riser. Some stairs do have oak risers and oak scotia, and these are more costly to refinish. 

Balusters are the spindled pieces of wood that support the railing.  If a tread has one or more balusters drilled into it, it makes refinishing a tread more expensive, since we have to trim around balusters with scrapers and hand sanding. 

 

Side nosings appear on some stairs, and also need to be refinished. 

 

 

The extras that add to the price of the job

 

1)   More than eight steps to the house, and long uphill walkways.  This can add much time to the job, as we carry many pieces of equipment in and out of the house.

2)   Thresholds, fireplace trim, and reducers that need to be refinished.

 

3)   Gloss or semi-gloss finish

4)   Stains

 

5)   Oil-based polyurethanes

6)   Work areas on different levels of a house, or in separated areas. 

 

7)   Replacing existing baseboard or baseshoe

   8)   Scraping out the V-grooves on plank flooring, and filling the nailholes on these floors.

 

  9)  Floors that have cupped or crowned wood.

10)  Floor areas that can only be sanded by edgers or grinders; i.e. under a stairway or bench.

 

11)  Large open areas to be sealed off from dust

12)  Broken-up floor plans that have more than the usual doorways,

 angles, and corners per square foot.

 

13)  Matching an existing finish.

14)  Sanding and refinishing stair risers

 

Is re-nailing the floor needed?

 

No, thankfully it’s seldom needed, even with older floors.  Re-nailing is a tedious process, and it interrupts the flow of the job. 

 

A loose floor is not apparent during the estimate, because the old finish tends to bind the floorboards together so that they don’t move.  The floor may move as a whole—squeaky areas, for instance—but the individual strips don’t show movement

 

But as soon as we sand off the old finish, the individual strips are no longer joined, and they can start to flex.  We notice this problem if the new putty is breaking out as soon as we sand over it.  I can demonstrate it to customers by pressing down on boards near the nail row.  The boards will sink a fraction of an inch, which shows that they’re not being secured by the existing nails. 

 

This problem occurs more on floors that were laid at a 90-degree angle to the planks in the subfloor.  If the subfloor planks were laid diagonally, or if the subfloor is plywood, the hardwood is almost always stable. 

 

  Can we get rid of squeaks?

 

We can do this, but not by nailing down the hardwood floor.  Squeaks happen between two parts of the subfloor, and that’s where the problem has to be solved.  The subfloor is often rubbing on the floor joists, and if you go into the basement with a flashlight, and have someone jump on the floor, you can see the gap between the subfloor plank and the joists that hold the floor up.  Driving a shim of wood into this gap will stop the squeak. 

 

This is harder to fix on second story floors, as we have no access to the subfloor from underneath.  In those cases, we remove some hardwood, and sink long screws into the subfloor from above. 

 

So there you have it—an overview of what it takes to sand and refinish your floor.  It’s quite a journey, and I enjoy taking people through the process. I hope you’ll consider working with us. 

 

 

Revised:  4-13