Below are four issues often misunderstood about floorsanders and contractors in general.
1. This is not easy work
As a flooring company, we receive a ton of urgent messages detailing do-it-yourself floor jobs gone awry. There are many and detailed steps to jobs like sanding and refinishing a wood floor. There’s a need for experience in handling all the heavy equipment and oftentimes tricky materials used for such a job. The processes and products also change from year to year!
It doesn’t surprise us to receive emails about circular grooves in the floor from misuse of sanding equipment, panicked messages about blotchy stain or floor finish fiascos.
Some tasks are easier to wing (like snap-together laminate flooring done with careful measuring), but jobs like sanding and finishing are not for the average home owner to attempt. Even installing an engineered wood floor can be quite difficult, and if done by the average homeowner will likely later require a smart use of area rugs to cover up large gaps.
It’s not just attention to detail, professional equipment, and expertise that result in a quality job. Forward thinking also comes into play. Most floorsanders start out as apprentices, gradually accumulating knowledge from their mentors. The best and brightest floor men are thereon always learning new things about their line of work. Most floorsanders are using new technology every year (both in machines and products), pushing the industry along. One example of “new technology” is the newer, more “floorsander specific” dust containment systems, which keep the job area dust-free. Lately they’ve become more affordable for small floorsanding businesses.
Craig Mouldey the Wood Flooring Guy [http://www.woodflooringguy.com] said, “You are right. This is not easy work. The flooring industry is not static and there are always new things to learn and new things to try. There are always new developments for better ways to do this work, for us to chew on, if we are progressive thinkers. Given how difficult this job really is, it is to our benefit, not to mention the customers benefit, to be this way.”
2. Construction workers are [usually] very intelligent
There’s sexism, there’s ageism, and… “jobism”? Not to sound snobbish myself, but I’ve heard of surprised reactions at some of the big words contractors I know have used in conversations with clients. Face it, we live in a world where “labour work” is often looked down on, and the first image that comes to many peoples minds when hearing the word “contractor” is a guy bent over with his crack in the back peeking out from above his belt.
Any random contractor is probably of above average intelligence. Many of them are entrepreneurs, running their own flooring businesses and doing so successfully. I know one pair that makes some of their own equipment (engineering brilliance!), like their custom dust containment system. Good contractors are skilled craftsmen, and often very analytical.
3. Our job hazards won’t kill you, but they may hurt us
There have been cases of flooring guys getting cancer, like that of the sinuses, probably from breathing in wood dust and fumes for decades.
Floor finishes have warnings about prolonged exposure. The key word is “prolonged.” Worse, most floor folk are men, who are always boys at heart and taking risks (not wearing masks, gloves, etc.) and avoiding check ups at the doctors office.
It is rare for a contractor to get sick and die before his time, but in many ways these kind of jobs are Russian roulette as far as health is concerned. How many chemical exposures can a man take?
Fortunately, customers don’t get anywhere near the level of exposure for such damage. A customers exposure is minute and passes by like a sigh. Luckily for customers, finishes dry quickly and cure 90% within days, and rooms can be ventilated in the meantime. The later offgassing of hardwood is nothing compared to, say, carpet. It is comparable to the offgassing of your dining room set. For the customer, there’s no need to fret over the temporary strange smells and sounds of floor work.
Unfortunately, because of prolonged and repeated exposure, flooring is one of those jobs in which there is some risk to a contractors health. With the new dust containment systems, fast drying stains and finishes, safety equipment, cancer awareness, and other developments, the products involved in flooring have lost some of their punch. Hopefully the trend toward safety and awareness continues.
4. There are hacks in every business
We love watching Mike Holmes around here. He’s the knight in shining armour contractor on TV who rescues burdened and abused home owners from bad contractor disasters and schemes. There are more men like Holmes than the cunning Mr. Hack-it. Despite this fact, many good men and women are treated with suspicion now and then, because of the bad name the hacks have given to contractors.
Sometimes this auto-suspicion is expressed by checks being withheld, contractors paying for work out of their own pocket, or schedules being flopped around on contractors without much thought. Once in a while it’s expressed by poor treatment, with suspicion and a dash of hostility, from the get-go.
Any profession has its hacks, including auto sales, medicine, and accounting! There are simple steps a home owner can take to nearly eliminate the possibility of being left high and dry. These include:
a) Ask for references, maybe 5-10 (upwards of 20-100 for very expensive renovations!)
b) Get more than one estimate
Getting multiple opinions could also save you if the first estimate is by a bad contractor who says he’ll be in and out in one day, when the next man to quote the job, a good contractor, knows that’s an impossible promise to keep without cutting corners and pulling a fast one. You could safe yourself a drive by hacking by getting familiar with the job at hand and what expectations you should have. Take advantage of the fact that most of those who quote your job are real experts.
c) Check the Better Business Bureau or your countries equivalent to make sure they aren’t involved in fraud
d) Dot your i’s and cross your t’s
You may want to have a contract to save along with your estimate and any email correspondence you have. Many businesses already have contracts ready to print.
You can successfully avoid Mr. Hack-it, and treat the knights with dignity!
Most flooring contractors are like everybody else. They’re smart and capable. They know what they are doing, with experience, forward thinking, and the right tools for the jobs. They’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on equipment that will make your floors look superb. They even risk their health to varying degrees, so that homes everywhere can have beautiful, glamorous hardwood floors.
The next time you have a floor man over, smile, and shake his hand. Treat him as an equal being. Maybe even share some extra hospitality by providing caffeinated beverages or TimBits! Remember, the only thing a floorsander likes more than the odd treat is a pleasant, welcoming home owner!