Recommended hardwood floor retailers

Q: I’ve heard that some hardwood floor retailers with large discounts have floor products that may not be the same size on each end, which can create installation problems for contractors. What are the preferred retailers contractors usually order oak hardwood from? I’m reluctant to make a purchase on line for fear of a substandard produce.

A: What you’ve heard would be correct. From my experience, B**** tended to be an awful product and consistently so while Mirage tended to be better. At the end of the day though still prefer unfinished without the bevels. Sheoga was the best I’ve used in unfinished and I understand they are now making pre finished also. Your best bet is to go buy a product from a retailer who specializes in hardwood. Goodfellow may put out a decent floor also.

Mirage Engineered Wood Flooring or?

Q: Mirage or *****- Engineered hardwood flooring? I’ve been looking at both brands and can’t decide which is better and why? Will engineered hardwood cup? We do not run our air conditioner that much in the summer and our RH level was reading around 70 plus on an extremely humid day – most of the time it is 62+. For this reason we are looking at engineered, but reluctant to make the leap! Thanks for your help!

A: Any wood will cup and twist if enough moisture is present. Are you expecting a flood? My experience with ***** products has not been good. Mirage engineered wood flooring has an excellent engineered floor with a thick wear layer. I’d go with them if I was installing that type of floor, but I’m a fan of solid wood.

Pieces that did not fit tight – is it the manufacturer?

Q: I bought ***** flooring at $4.99 a square foot. I had problems with the flooring not fitting together. There were many pieces that did not fit tight, along with many gray streaked pieces in one box. Is this common at this cost range? I would estimate at about 30 % were sub standard. FYI I purchased 4 inch prefinished gunstock in oak.

A: It is the manufacturer! Back in the early years when I was struggling to establish my own reputation as an independent floor contractor I had to do sub contract work to get by. Much of this involved installing ***** flooring in new homes. I kept warning the flooring company I was doing the work for that sooner or later somebody is going to complain about all the gaps and poor milling of these floors. And sure enough the complaints did come. It appears there is poor quality control during the manufacturing process. I wouldn’t buy this product or recommend it to any home owner. Generally, I don’t like factory finished floors, which will cost more in the long run to maintain. They offer initial convenience but that is all the good I can say about them.

Levelling compounds

Q: I am installing a wood floor and have some areas of the plywood subfloor that need to be levelled prior to installation of the wood floor. I have looked at a number of products, such as Mapei Planipatch. As far as I can see, none explicitly state that the wood flooring can be nailed down through the levelling compound into the subfloor. Is it OK, or even possible, to nail through these concrete-based floor levellers? Will nailing through leveling compound damage the floor levellers? Is there a special floor leveller made for such an application?

A: You might take a close look at these Bostik products: http://www.bostik-us.com/products/index.asp?fa=subCategoryPages&divisionId=2&categoryId=2&subCategoryId=49&subCategoryPageId=34 Could you lift the plywood and fix the sub floor?

Best product to fill gaps

Q: What is the best product to fill gaps in a hardwood floor? What is best wood filler for hardwood floors? Or putty? I am refinishing.

A: There are a lot of different fillers on the market. I haven’t used them all. Woodwise is OK, but like most of them will crack out if there is movement between boards. The toughest one I’ve ever used is Timbermate but it is quite expensive and difficult to work with. For small, occasional gaps and nail holes I like a tube filler called Color-Rite. It comes in hundreds of tones and is easy to work with and being more of a caulking won’t pop out. There are also stain-able adhesives on the market that have a place.

Related Q: I have old, wide plank chestnut flooring in my kitchen/dining area. The boards are approx. 12′ wide and 1 1/4′ thick. The house was built in 1803. I am looking into what I need to do to prep and refinish (seal) the boards. They have not been addressed in approx. 10 yrs. They are not smooth and there are spaces between ranging from 3/8 to 1/2′. Is there a caulk of some sort that I can fill the gaps with?

A: Wow. I’d love to see that floor! You might take a look at Timbermate: www.timbermate.com

Amateur friendly finish?

Q: I have spent an excessive amount of time preparing my hardwood floors in my home for refinish. I have come to the conclusion (through reading in forums) that oil based polyurethanes are the most durable, therefore, that is what I want to use. My question is, what are your thoughts, as a professional floor refinisher, of M***** Super Fast Drying Polyurethane for floors? Have you ever used it? Is it a long lasting finish? Is it user friendly for amateurs as myself? Would you recommend it? Thank you very much for your opinion.

A: I have not had great feedback on that finish. So, no I would not consider it user friendly. Professionals go through a lot of stress with finishes. For an amateur, I would suggest Circa1850, and though I had used that finish for a number of years, it won’t stand up to what I now use. This is not do it yourself work. You are trying to do this work as cheap as you can with the cheapest products. In the end, you will be lucky to get satisfactory results.

Torly’s and Uniclick are 2 of the best

Q: We recently purchased Torly’s Laminated flooring with the 4 bevelled edges. It is supposed to be 9.5 mm thickness… What does this thickness refer to, the wear layer or the core? I am asking because we have only had the floor for 5 months and have found it is not standing up to the durability of the laminate in our previous house (only 7 mm thick and much cheaper). I am in fact very disappointed with the durability of the Torly’s floor – we have several scratches on it already, as well as dents, and we have not abused the floor. In fact, we are treating it much more carefully than the previous flooring that was used at our last house. Have you ever had any other complaints about the durability of Torly’s flooring for scratching and denting, etc.?

A: I try not to get too involved with laminates, because they are not a “lifetime” floor. However, Torly’s and Uniclick are 2 of the best. 9 mil, 7 mil etc., I believe refers to the thickness of the floor in its entirety. If you are not happy with it and feel you have a legitimate complaint, I would suggest you contact them. They do have a tool that can be used to remove a panel or plank from the middle of the room, and replace the board.

Cracking filler in gaps of poorly manufactured floor

Q: Our house has dark Brazilian Mahogany hardwood floors. Unbeknownst to me, last year, at the time of purchase, the floors ranged anywhere from 4 1/2 inches wide to 4 2/8 inches wide. Where the boards don’t match up, some kind of gap filler was used. However, over the course of the last year, the filler has been falling out of the gaps, leaving unsightly gaps in the boards, sometimes as wide as 2/8 of an inch. This has occurred particularly in the higher traffic areas, but it is occurring all over the main floor of the house. In addition, where the filler has not fallen out it has cracked, leaving zig-zag looking patterns in the filler. I am at a loss. Is there a product that can fill the gaps that have lost their filler? Will it prevent this problem in the future? Is it something that I can do?

A: Sounds like a poorly manufactured floor. There are 2 products you can look at. Timbermate makes great claims for their filler: www.timbermate.com. Another product I like is called, I think, Colorrite, which comes in tubes with hundreds of colours to choose from. It is more like a caulking.

Plug cutter?

Q: Have you ever heard of a plug cutter that drills a pilot hole for the screw, a countersink for the screwhead, and a plug hole at the same time? I am installing random width, and this plug cutter also has a built in stop to not drill the plug to deep. My father said he used to use one all the time, yet I cannot find one.

A: I’m quite sure I have some counter sink bits somewhere around here that also have “stops” so you can pre set the depth. I also have a few different sizes of plug cutters to cut my own plugs, but they are a separate item. I think I bought all these at Canadian Tire. You might want to try a company called Atlas Equipment.

Medallions

Q: I am a reporter for a Canadian TV network. I have read a press release re “Real Wood Floors: Look Beyond the Ordinary” from Canada Newswire, the release was sent by National Wood Flooring Association. I am very interested in making a feature story on the new flooring trend stated in the press release. We are most interested in reclaimed wood floors, hand scraped distressed floors and customization trends like borders, medallions, inlays and mixed media (stone, granite and even leather), etc… Do you have any referrals for me?

A: …If you want to know anything about medallions, I have a friend who runs Olde World Flooring and he specializes in this. He makes his own, and they are quite fantastic. His name is Allan Macdonald, oldeworldflooring.com.

Color variation in Brazilian walnut

Q: I just bought unfinished Brazilian Walnut, 5″ wide. How much color variation should Brazilian walnut have? Should there be greens and yellows and red, along with the browns? Is it customary to stain it darker if there are too many color variations?

A: According to one excellent resource, www.woodfloorsonline.com this is what to expect from this type of wood:

“Color Range: Brazilian Walnut”
Click for in depth info.!

I haven’t worked with this product yet. It isn’t actually walnut, but looks something like American walnut. American has quite a range of colour in it from light and creamy, with yellow to quite dark red, brown and orange. If you don’t like the colour range, or if some of the colours you don’t like are so prevalent as to make picking those boards out and not installing them, then you really have the wrong species of wood. I can’t yet grasp why I might install a floor like this and then not want to enjoy the rich colours it offers. As the above resource indicates, like some other exotic species, the colours will change rather rapidly with exposure to light, and become more muted.

Hardwood floors in basement

Q: My home is located in the Kansas City area. I am currently in the process of finishing the basement. My wife would like to have hardwood floors. My main concerns in using a wood floor is moisture, the cold feel, and losing headroom from a built-up floor. I intended to use a subfloor material and install a floating engineered wood floor on the subfloor. I am considering two products to use as a subfloor for the wood floors. The two products are Delta FL (www.deltafl.com) and DRIcore (www.dricore.com). Both products are similar in that they use high density polyethylene (HDPE) as the vapor barrier. The major difference is the DRIcore product a 5/8” wafer board attached to the HDPE and per the Delta FL website, the wood floor can be installed directly on the HDPE. Do you have any experience with these products? Which product do you recommend or is there a better method?

A: Unless you have a serious water infiltration issue into your basement, a floating engineered should be fine. I am not an expert on Delta or Dricore. I am somewhat familiar with both. Basically Delta is Dricore without the chip board surface and comes in rolls, whereas Dricore comes in 2X2 squares, as you mention. It seems a bit of a coin toss. If you lay down the Delta, I think you will still need to install a plywood sheeting. It seems to me that the way to go will depend on how you see your basement floor changing over the years. If you think the floater is not a long term floor, and eventually you might go with something even better, you might want to go with the Delta and real plywood over top. something you can nail to. If not, the Dricore might be a better choice. What I don’t like about Dry core is that there are 4 joints every 2 sq. ft. The more joints in a sub floor, the more potential for problems.

Q: Thanks for your reply. I do not think that moisture will be a problem in my basement. Prior to staring construction on the basement, I did apply a deep-penetrating reactive concrete sealer on the walls and floor that claims to penetrate deep into concrete (up to 4″), chemically reacting with lime and alkalis, and hardening as a mineral. I did notice considerable difference after the concrete sealer application, there was not longer a moisture smell. So with that being said, would you recommend installing a floating engineered wood floor directly on the concrete slab? What (friction/sound) foam layer would you recommend? Is a thick foam like “Quiet Walk” better?

A: If you installed a Torlys or Uniclic floater, they actually have their own pad which they say you must use. It serves as a vapor barrier, complete with overlap and tape and gives cushion to the floor. If you feel confident in the concrete, go for it. The worst that can happen is you lose the floor.

Floating (glueless) engineered hardwood

Q: What do you think of floating (glueless) engineered hardwood?

A: It depends who the manufacturer is. Torly’s and uniclick appear to make the best, while for a glue down, Mirage engineered is the best I’ve used. The advantage of the floater, of course, is you don’t have the expense of the adhesive.

Follow-up Q: I have heard of Torly’s so I will look into it a little more now that you recommend that product. As you say, the advantage of a floating floor is that I don’t have to buy the adhesive (and I’m sure I wouldn’t like the fumes either).

I was wondering whether the installation cost is lower with floating floors since the whole step of applying the adhesive is removed. Or did you mean that $3 per sq. ft. is what you charge for floating floors?

A: The installation may be about the same, but you would still save a few hundred on the adhesive.

Which of these two hardwood floor cleaners is better?

Q: Which of these two hardwood floor cleaners is better or are they comparable: Basic Coatings Squeaky Clean or Bonakemi cleaner?

A: Both cleaners do a good job and will not leave a residue. I suspect Bona Pacific is somewhat of a stronger solution, since you can dilute it to 7:1 rather than 4:1 with Squeaky cleaner.

I did get a glowing recommendation from one lady who used the Bona cleaner to remove a years worth of nasty product that made her finish go dull. She said it peeled it all off like a bad sunburn.

Is a cleat the same as a nail?

Q: We are installing 1400 sq. feet of 3/4″ X 5″ wide maple prefinished flooring. Would you recommend using a stapler or nailer?

A: I prefer to use cleats. If you have a misfire with a staple, I hear they can be a pain to deal with. Cleats hold just fine.

Follow-up Q: Is a cleat the same as a nail, and if not can you rent a cleat applicator?

A: Yes, a cleat is similar to a nail. They come in strips of 100 nails. See, for example, the web site for Powernail.

Poloplaz floor finish

From Craig’s About Us page, for his business site at FaceLiftFloors.com:

I am excited to let past and prospective customers know that I have made what I consider a major floor finish upgrade. Poloplaz, a U.S. based company that specializes in manufacturing floor finishes, was kind enough to send me samples of their product to test. I tested their Primero oil borne polyurethane. In 34 years, I have never applied such a wonderful product, nor seen a nicer finish when it dried.

Poloplaz floor finish has higher solids than I usually use, which means a thicker finish film. It dries better and faster (even under poor conditions) and cures harder than any other oil based finish, including 2 part water borne urethane finishes. Poloplaz boasts tremendous durability for this product. I will now be following, for the most part, a finish system that sees one coat of Poloplaz fast dry sanding sealer (2-3 hours dry time), and a coat of Primero gloss polyurethane applied generally in one day, followed by a coat with the sheen of your choice. I have not used separate sealers in the past, because of the particular type that has been used in the Toronto area, which I highly dislike. (See my comments far above.)

Poloplaz sealer is different. It is a polyurethane based sealer with near the same solid content as my current floor finish, except it penetrates the wood well to protect it in case the finish itself became damaged. It dries incredibly fast, allowing 2 coats in one day. This will be good for me and good for my customers, as it will cut a day off the finishing of the floors.

Poloplaz has a complete line-up of finishes to meet any need, including a huge urethane/stain colour line which also dries fast and seals the floor in one application. They cover all the Dura Seal/Minwax colours. All their finishes are lower VOC and compliant to regulations in the U.S. All products have a high flash point, above 100 F. I consider this product an important upgrade which I am happy to now be able to offer all my clients.

I will, of course, continue to watch for the latest and greatest products.

Waterlox

As for Waterlox, the top 5 ingredients in each can are:

Mineral Spirits
Specially Processed tung oil
Ester gum
Phenolic resin
Specially Processed Linseed Oil

It is not a pure tung oil finish. However, cooking the oil does not make tung oil “impure”. When it is heated it is called polymerized tung oil. this process helps the oil dry. They have to add mineral spirits to it at this point or it would be unworkable. It would be amazing if I could use pure tung oil on a floor. However, speaking with tech people, I have learned it won’t work. It would take at least 2 days per coat to dry. You would need at least 10 coats. This would have to be repeated every few months.

The Waterlox finish doesn’t bother me. However, it does bother others. My wife said she doesn’t know how I work with it. It gives her a head ache. So, it is probably best to vacate for a few days during staining/finishing.