Top 10 mistakes made when hiring a hardwood flooring contractor

I hear about numerous mistakes that homeowners make when hiring somebody to sand and refinish their wood floors.
These mistakes involve not knowing which products ought to be used to not hiring a professional hardwood flooring contractor. Some people lose thousands of dollars because they make a poorly educated decision about the contractor they hire and end up giving money to the wrong person.

You don’t have to be one of those people. Here, I’ll list and address ten mistakes commonly made when hiring a team and choosing products for a wood flooring project. If you avoid these ten mistakes you should be able to hire the best team for your project and get excellent results on your floors.

1. Not hiring a professional. There is a saying “Jack of all trades, master of none”. You are getting ready to spend thousands of dollars to beautify your home. Don’t risk it on someone who is not a professional hardwood flooring craftsman. They should have all the marks of being a business: shirts with the company logo, business cards, a website, social media presence, involved in the industry, clean looking, etc.

2. Not hiring someone who is licensed, bonded, and insured. This is the easiest mistake to avoid making. A simple check with the Department of Liability and Insurance will tell you if they are licensed and insured. Simply go to this website if you are in Washington state, https://secure.lni.wa.gov/verify/, and you can search to see if the person you are considering hiring is a registered contractor.

3. Not hiring an expert. Just because someone claims to be an expert doesn’t make it true. What makes an expert floor installer? Even though someone may have been performing a job for a long time doesn’t mean they have been doing the job correctly. Experience certainly is an asset but additional training is necessary to make someone an expert. Ask questions such as: What sort of training has the person had? What certifications do they hold? Do they network with others in the industry to learn the best practices in their trade? Most hardwood flooring experts will be a member of the National Wood Flooring Association and have taken some of the hands-on training classes that they offer. NWFA offers certification in installation, sand and finishing, and sales. You can go here http://woodfloors.org/certified-professional-search.aspx to search for one in your area.  The NWFA also has a Craftsman and Master Craftsman certification which require true skills and attentiveness to detail  in order to receive a certification.

4. Not vetting the person. With social media and the power of the internet it’s pretty easy to vet companies these days. Besides checking their license status, you can check companies’ online reviews through sites such Home Advisor and Houzz. Inquiring about companies in community pages on social media such as Facebook is another good method of checking out people. Search for the company and see what’s on the Web. If there is minimal information on the contractor you may not want to trust them with your floors.

5. Not knowing who will be working in their home. Some companies will have a nice salesperson sell you then send in people you wouldn’t want in your home. Find out who will be in your house and what the company’s hiring policies are. Make sure that you can trust all the people that will be working in your home.

6. Failing to plan ahead. Good companies are usually booked at least a month or more in advance. Thus, when people fail to properly plan ahead for their project they settle for a company that is not the best quality. Often people have failed to plan to be out of the house for the period of time that is required to complete the project. Most finishes require you to be out of the house while it is drying so make sure you know what days you have to be gone and have everything with you that you may need.

7. Not allowing enough time for the complete process. Having wood flooring work done is a major renovation project. Although good companies make it look fast and easy it still takes some time from start to finish. If you are having new floors installed then you have to allow time for the wood to properly acclimate to your home. Depending on the environment and wood species this could take less than a day to a couple of months. The other big mistake we see after the finish process is complete is that people don’t respect the cure times and move stuff on the finish too soon which can cause scuffs. Different finishes have different rates of cure time, some take 24 hours while others take 30 days to dry before you can move things such as furniture and area rugs back onto the floor.

8. Not knowing what products and machines that will be used to complete your project. I’ve seen plenty of videos of guys using the wrong machines to sand a floor and it shows in the final product. Make sure that they are using equipment made specifically to sand hardwood flooring by doing a little research. If the contractor shows up to sand with a handheld belt sander then you are in trouble.

9. Not knowing what finish is being used on the floor. Most people never bother asking what finish is being used on the floor and if it is the best option for their situation. Not all finishes are created equal. For example, water based finish comes in primarily two types: single component (1K) and two component (2K) with 2K being the more durable but also at a higher cost. There is also Conversion varnish, also known as Swedish Finish and poly. Both give the floor more color and richness than a water based finish. Or another type of finish is hard wax/penetrating oil. Each finish has pros and cons. Some will work better in certain situations over others. A true professional craftsman will know these differences and present you with the different options.

10. Not hiring someone with a solid dust containment system. Properly containing the dust is a big issue when it comes to sanding hardwood floors. You don’t want a huge dust bowl created in your home. Employment of professional grade vacuum systems and air scrubbers are expensive and time consuming but they keep the house cleaner and make for a more enjoyable experience for you. Professional grade sanding machines such as those made by Lägler and Festool do an excellent job at containing the dust created by sanding. An air scrubber such as the one made by Build Clean helps keep the air cleaner by filtering the dust out. A properly employed system will yield less dust left behind than if you didn’t dust your home for two weeks.

Bonus Tip: Did you know that the state of Washington has no special testing or requirements for anybody seeking to be a hardwood flooring contractor? Anybody can say that they are a hardwood flooring contractor and pay for a bond and insurance. That is one reason why Joshua Crossman, the owner of PTL Hardwood Floors, became a NWFA Certified Professional Installer, Sand & Finisher, and Sales Advisor. He wants to make sure that you are getting the product that you are looking for and that the job is done correctly according to industry standards. Before you hire someone make sure that they are a NWFA Certified Installer, Sand & Finisher.