Some of the most often asked questions are those that are easily addressed in a forum such as this. These are common questions and concerns that customers have posed through the years that we thought would be advantageous for you to review at your discreet leisure. If you have any particular or unique questions that you would like included in this page, please let us know via our Contact page feature; or, if you’d like the more personal approach, just give us a call–we’d be more than happy to provide you with the professional answer you deserve.
Q. Which is Better, Pre-finished or Site-finished Hardwood?
The short answer on this would be, “It’s a personal preference, application and deadline requirement that drive this decision.” Realize that underneath the finishes, the wood is a constant, common denominator. Yes, there may be subtle grading or regional harvesting differences but, for the most part, the woods (relevant to species) are identical. The significant difference is really the installation application. A pre-finished room can be available in a single day (minus acclimation time) while a field, or site, finished floor will take several days to finish. So, convenience tends to be the most noteworthy variable when considering either type.
Q. Why are Pre-finished hardwood floors beveled on the edges?
First of all, not all pre-finished hardwood floors have a bevel or, specifically, a downward edge deviation of the horizontal plane of the surface. There are a (rare) few floors that are still square-edged, but the choices there are dwindling by the day as technologies change in lieu of beveled edges. There are a few reasons why there’s a ‘bevel’ along the edges, but let’s look at a couple of the major ones: 1.) The inclusion of a bevel can reduce or diminish the appearance of milling flaws like ‘over-wood’ and ‘under-wood’. From end to end or side to side there may be an extremely modest variance in the gauge or cut of any particular board prior to being finished at the factory. For example, one side of the strip may be precisely 3/4” and its opposing side measures at 51/64” or 3/64” ‘strong’ (this may be due to a number of environmental causes and not just a skewed blade on the saw). If you should install this board against a ‘true’ board, then there’s a noticeable ‘lip’ that you can feel and is enough to cast a shadow (over-wood). A field-finished floor, prior to sanding, shows hundreds of these events, but the sanding takes care of all that. The addition of a bevel reduces the angle of the event and, therefore, ‘corrects’ the objectionable lip. 2.) Oftentimes the finishes used on pre-finished floors are so darn hard and rigid that, if the edge of the finish strikes directly with the edge finish of the next board, a chip is likely to occur during installation. The bevel or declined edge prevents a direct strike of finish edge to finish edge.
Q. We want a 8-inch wide plank floor, but I don’t want it nailed on the top because the plugs show. What can I do to alleviate this?
Any solid hardwood floor with a face width of greater than 5” must be blind-nailed and fastened from the top as well. Your best bet is to have wood plugs cut from the same flooring stock (called ‘matched plugs’) and installed over the top fasteners (screws). This technique can render these plugs nearly invisible. Keep in mind that a great part of the appeal of a plank floor is the appreciation of antiquity; and the plugs help in defining that era of flooring.
Q. Underneath our door mats and rugs our hardwood floor has gotten black with some sort of mildew that bleach won’t even touch. Help!
That’s probably not mildew or any other form of organic growth. It’s likely that your mats have a cushioned rubber or urethane back on them and this is the culprit. Those backings (exacerbated when wet) create an unwanted chemical reaction with the finish on the hardwood and permanently discolor it. Inasmuch as removing the contaminated finish (via sanding) is the only remedy, you might as well wait until you’re due for a sand-and-finish job; and don’t use those types of mats on hardwood (or vinyl) floors.
Q.What’s the difference between ‘sand-and-finish’ and ‘screen/buff-and-coat’?
‘Sand-and-finish’ is the complete removal of the existing finish (if it exists) and a removal of 1/32 to 1/16” of the wood itself, followed by 2-3 coats of urethane finish. ‘Screen or buff-and-coat’ is a process whereby the existing urethane coat is abraded and evened, followed by 1-2 coats of urethane. The latter is more of a maintenance practice and the former is generally used for new floors and as a ‘restore’ task (eliminating most stains, photo-chemical deviance, scratches and marring in the wood itself).
Q. How often should I have my floors professionally sanded and finished?
This decision is really predicated on the condition of the floor and its finish. A better intervention to put into practice is to have your floors ‘screened-and-coated’ every 4-5 years (again, depending on traffic, etc.) which essentially may prolong the necessity of sanding the floor for 20-25 years. If your floors are dull in the traffic areas, showing inconsistent sheen, then schedule to have them screened-and-coated. If actual wood is showing in spots and is discoloring, then a sanding-and-finishing is the only cure.
Q. What do the ‘Class Rating’ numbers mean on Ceramic tile?
These are, generally speaking, hardness classifications or scales that are there to give you a reference for proper applications. The hardness of the tile is basically predicated on the type of clay body that’s used and how hot the tiles are fired when manufactured: the denser the clay and the greater the heat, the harder the tile is. There are two different Scales used in the United States: The American Rating, 1thru 4; and the European Scale 1 thru 5. In either scale, the 1 thru 3 ratings are as follows: (1) Vertical surfaces only, no foot traffic; (2) Vertical or light foot traffic (baths); (3) Any residential floor or vertical installation. In the American scale the #4 indicates commercial or residential installation, vertical or horizontal (floor) installation and, in some instances, exterior applications as well. In the European scale the #4 constitutes a residential or commercial application and the #5 implies that these may be used anywhere, including exterior applications.
Q. What’s the difference between Ceramic Tile and Porcelain tile, or are they the same thing?
Visually, they may be identical, but they’re manufactured entirely differently. Ceramic tile is made of clay or clays and is formed, pressed and heated in its intended shape or form. It is then subjected to colorizations and ‘glazing’ and then fired again. Porcelain, by contrast, is of a sand composition and is actually melted, like glass. Sometimes the ‘glass’ is colored as it is processed (thru-body porcelains), and sometimes it is colored and glazed in a similar fashion as ceramic tile is (glazed porcelain tile).
Q. I’m having radiant heat installed in my home. I want solid wood floors. My heating contractor said that it would be fine. Will it be fine?
Radiant heating systems are a significant challenge to a solid hardwood flooring installation. There are some remote cases that are classified as ‘successful’ installations but they are rare and typically are correlated with elaborate temperature and humidity controlled/stable homes and the inclusion of a quarter-sawn solid wood (quarter or rift-sawn tends to be more stable). The heating contractors and salespeople will generally inform you that it’s not a concern because the temperature of the wood flooring won’t exceed, let’s say, 85 degrees Fahrenheit; and this is true, but it’s not really the problem when dealing with wood flooring. Water vapors are drawn toward heat. If you have a damp basement or your home is on a slab, you have a logical and probable source of moisture. Radiant heat draws the moisture from these spaces because it is warmer than the basement or the slab. While some of the water evaporates in the process and some is kept at bay with the vapor barrier that is installed underneath the hardwood, a great deal of this heated water vapor enters quite easily into the wood and can cause some significant swelling or structural damage (cupping or crowning). At this point, find a well-made engineered wood floor and enjoy the benefits of radiant heat and hardwood flooring.
Q. Is Hardwood Flooring suitable for an active kitchen?
Yes, absolutely. Harwood floors are very resilient and are quite easy to keep clean. It’s important to keep them swept, dry and attend to their needs of screen-and-finish regimen; but they are an extremely attractive and serviceable kitchen flooring surface. Ceramic tile, Stone tile, Concrete and vinyl flooring tend to be more popular in kitchens because they tend to be more ‘forgiving’ with heavy traffic and negligent maintenance and don’t require a bit of a ‘freshening’ every few years.
Q. White spots on Hardwood or Laminate Flooring.
If your hardwood or laminate flooring has little white spots, here and there, and they can be removed by a dry or slightly damp cloth, then this is likely due to alkali, salt or white mineral deposits that are present in your household water supply. After you clean your floor, make sure to dry-towel the surface. This practice will keep the residual water from evaporating on the surface (which is not healthy for the floor anyway) and leaving the white spots behind. A better remedy would be to use an approved mist-spray cleaner and dry-mop as a healthier alternative to water solutions.
Q. White spots or shadows are showing in my Brazilian Cherry (Jatoba) hardwood floor.
It’s quite likely that you’d only experience this phenomenon in the summer or, more humid, months of the year. This is a normal response that occurs with Jatoba when the relative humidity of the household increases to a certain level. These are the natural oils that rise to the surface of the wood, drawn by heat, that appear milky beneath the finish. The white cast will diminish when the ambient humidity becomes drier; and this can be accelerated by the use of dehumidifiers or air-conditioning.
Q. I’ve seen semi-trucks in mall parking lots loaded with Brazilian Cherry, Teak, and other exotic woods and these guys are selling the wood ‘dirt-cheap’. Is it any good?
It may be of a milling quality and grade that is satisfactory; it’s hard to tell without seeing it myself. What you’re likely witnessing is the retail end of a ‘pirate-and-poacher’ chain. Unfortunately, these woods are a recognized asset and commodity in that part of the world where they grow. Given that, there are ‘companies’ who tend to harvest and haul at night in protected forests without authorization from legal authorities; and, as you’d imagine, there are a few guns around to protect the theft. While it may appear to be a great deal, you may be supporting the efforts of these operations. It’s always best to check the sources and purchase your product from those who can stand behind what they sell—and not be carrying weapons as a business practice.
Q. Is oil finish better than water-based for hardwood floors?
Ten years ago that would have been an easy question to answer with a resounding, ‘yes’. However, with new water-based compositions hitting the market every year, the answer is not as clear-cut as it used to be. With the global trend of ‘earth-friendly’ and ‘green’ movements there’s been a fair amount of pressure on the industry to formulate finishes that perform (to meet the demands of the contractor and the homeowner) and satisfy the environmental requirements as well. Given this push, the water-based finishes have made huge strides in performance features. The oils still tend to ‘level’ more evenly and provide, generally speaking, a harder surface to walk on. One great advantage of water-based features is that multiple coats can be applied in a single day without compromising the results; and, of course, the odor is near non-existent. These types of finishes are absolutely ideal for quick-turnaround projects like kitchens, retail establishments and anywhere else where forfeiture of a space is dramatically inconvenient.
Q. We had water damage on our hardwood floor and some of the boards are crowned. Can this be professionally sanded smooth again?
The quick answer for this is, ‘no’; but this depends largely on the level of pitch or crown that you have. A minor crown, real minor, may be able to be softened by a sanding; but if the board is arched to the point where the tongue-and-groove is visible, and not tight, then this intervention is pointless. In these situations, it’s best to call a professional installer, like us, to evaluate the problem. Single board as well as zone board replacements are usually indicated and are not as awful a job as one might think. It’s always best to make the right repair rather than the easy one—and sometimes they’re one and the same.
Ceramic tiles are coming off my floor.
There are a multitude of reasons why this may occur and it’s best to contact a professional, like us, to properly diagnose the problem and fix it for you. However, there are a few common causes that I can describe for you so you can get a better understanding of what might have gone wrong.
- Failure along walls or cabinet bases only–Quite often this is created by the installer who cuts the tile too tight to the cabinet or wall sill. Remember that wood expands and contracts with humidity changes and this force can test the bond of the tile. Also, oddly enough, tile expands as well. If an expansion allowance hasn’t been made along the wall or cabinet, this is likely the problem.
- Group of tiles failing in the field–Here the diagnosis is determined by the removal of one of the tiles and examining the mortar. 1.) If the back of the tile is covered in mortar, but the substrata is relatively clean, there is probably a contaminant present on the sub-floor (gypsum sheetrock dust is a common cause). Check the plywood sub-floor and see if you note any extreme raise of wood grain or shiny spots as this will compromise the bond as well. 2.) The back of the tile is clean and the mortar has noticeable trowel marks and is bonded well to the floor. This is often lightly referred to as ‘the smoke break’. Sometimes an installer will spread the mortar on the floor and leave the mortar there for a few minutes for a ‘smoke break’ or to tend to something else. In the meantime, the surface of the mortar has cured a bit and will not bond to the tile. 3.) The tile has mortar on it, the sub-floor has mortar on it and no trowel marks or ‘grooves’ are visible. This is indicative of either too much tile compression (someone may have put a foot on them too early) or an inadequate spread of mortar. 4.) Both the tile and sub-floor have mortar on them, trowel marks are present and there’s a random, intermittent white outline on the tips of the mortar contact points. This is trademark mortar shearing. If the mortar can be scratched-off with a fingernail (from either surface) then the mortar mix was too dry to begin with or there’s an uneven blend of latex additive. If the mortar is rigid, then this usually indicates a dramatic crowning of a floor joist or mortar failure that caused the tile to lift.
Q. Is laminate flooring suitable for a bathroom?
When laminate flooring was first introduced to the marketplace it was a product that was completely glued together with a waterproof adhesive; and, by virtue of this installation criteria, it was very appropriate. Laminates today are dry-fit or ‘clicked’ together, without glue. This system does make them more vulnerable in a potentially wet or damp environment. You have a couple choices with selecting a laminate for a bathroom installation: One, you can be absolutely committed to keeping the floor dry and have the entire perimeter and penetrations sealed with a high quality silicone sealant. Or two, you can have the installation supplemented with adhesive which, I’ll remind you, eliminates the modular features of the laminate—it becomes one solid sheet of flooring; and, again, the perimeter and penetrations must be properly sealed. The latter method is quite effective and foolproof, but not without its compromises.
Q. Why do carpets shed, fuzz or pill?
This is a common and normal occurrence with carpets that are tufted with a yarn made of staple fiber. Carpet yarn is constructed of one of two possible fibers: staple or filament (continuous filament). With filament yarn products, each and every fiber is infinite or continuous in length. All carpet is tufted in rows of loops and then the tips of the loops are clipped-off in the shearing process. Each tuft ends-up having a ‘V’ shape. Filament yarns never shed. Staple yarns, on the other hand, are created by spinning together fibers of various sizes–usually 3-12” in length. After the shearing process, some of these fibers are not stuck or captured in the backing (lower point of the ‘V’) and the unattached pieces slough-off with foot traffic or vacuuming. This is a normal ‘cleansing’ process of the staple yarn. Typically, it takes about 3 months of normal traffic and maintenance to relieve the carpet from all its little bits of fiber. If, after 3 months, a carpet is still shedding mounds of fiber then have a professional take a peek at it.
Q. We want to go ‘Green’ with our flooring, any suggestions?
A quick reference to these products is to think of their origin, like wood, for example. Wood floors are an easy choice and if you couple this decision with a water-based finish, that’s a pretty shade of ‘green’. Bamboo is also a popular choice because, unlike hardwood which needs to be replanted, bamboo is a grass and simply renews itself. Cork, of course, is another option as its source is the bark of the cork tree. Ceramic tile is another choice, drawing its origins from earthen clays. If you want a resilient sheet material for your home, then real linoleum (not vinyl flooring) is a great choice. Linoleum is a composition of cork, wood flour, natural pigments and linseed oil—all products that Mother Earth bore.