Swirls and tiger stripes, normal?

Q: I have new 4 inch oak floors with a M***** Dark Walnut finish. I have several issues that I an concerned about. For one, there are a number of areas that have tiny sand mark circles. Lots and lots of them. The flooring company said there is just no way around that with a dark walnut stain. Also, there are many areas that have a variance in the color, for instance, boards that are much lighter in color or much darker. Finally, there are areas where there are stripes, like tiger stripes.

Is this true that this is the absolute best that can be done? I want to be fair to my contractor and not have unreasonable expectations, yet I also want to be a good consumer and be treated honestly and fairly. Any insight would be helpful.

A: It is true that board will take the stain differently. Some will be slightly darker or lighter than others. but the difference is not such that it looks like a sanding mistake. If the floor, for example is lighter around the edges of the room, that would be an error in sanding and preparation.

The swirls. It depends if the marks are actually in the wood itself. In that case, they probably did a “hard plate” sanding with a polisher. I don’t like to do that on anything but parquet because of the scratching. If these marks are in the finish that is a different matter. Polyurethane has to be scratched between coats to gain adhesion. We try to make the scratches as fine as possible so that they don’t show. If there is no scratching or buffing, the next coat will fail. It is a fine line to walk. However, it sounds to me the scratches you are talking about are in the wood itself and were there before the stain was applied. I don’t find colours like this difficult to deal with. It will depend how distracting you find the defects. There is no such thing as a perfect job. But I have done many jobs that, as I was on my hands and knees over several days during coating, noticed certain things missed and could have been done better if I had seen them. But when you stand up and look at the floor don’t really show or detract from the over all look of the floor.

I think you have to decide from that perspective whether this job is acceptable. If you walk into the room, and the defects stand out, then it has to be fixed.