Dents and scratches from installation

Q: We have a newly installed pre-finished wood floor (maple, with a clear finish). There are a number of dents and scratches that apparently occurred during installation, some uneven boards (high or low relative to those next to them), and a few spots where the boards meet at an angle so that there’s a small triangular gap in the floor.

Is this all normal?

Our contractor wants to just fill in the gaps with wood filler. The filled nail holes around the perimeter look pretty bad, and we’re not happy with his solution.

A: Dents and scratches in prefinished maple, occurring during installation? That is why I charge at least $3.00 sq. ft. to install the stuff, which in my view, is still too low. Those boards will need to be removed and replaced. Shouldn’t be that hard to do, since they usually have set lengths in each box, so finding an exact length isn’t a problem. High and low spots may actually be normal. It is one of the reasons I don’t recommend factory finished floors. They are not flat, which is why they have a bevelled edge. As for nail holes, I try to place any face nails (starter and last row) so that they will be covered by baseboard or quarter round. Even if I need to reverse direction, with groove side to groove side, I never have nails on the top of the board. But, of course, now I am blowing my own horn.

Maple is tricky to fill because there can be significant differences in colour shade. He will probably need to pick up several colours that are all in the range of the wood and use each one selectively. Color-rite may be the best choice.

Follow-up Q: You said “Dents and scratches in prefinished maple, occurring during installation? That is why I charge at least $3.00 sq. ft. to install the stuff…” You mean it’s really hard to avoid dents and scratches during installation? You said the dented/scratched ones should be replaced–what about the ones with angles/gaps where the boards meet? Would you accept fill for those, or does it make sense to replace them with boards that fit evenly?

A: What I meant was extra care is needed when installing a pre finished floor. But, no, it is not acceptable to have them. You will get them during use,but who wants to buy a new car pre scratched and dented? The damaged boards should be replaced. Likewise with the triangular gaps. Unless there is some reason I am missing as to why these boards could not have been cut “to fit” then they should be replaced also if the “filler” is going to look obvious. That is my opinion. If I was installing that I don’t think I would have let it pass when I realized it wasn’t cut tight.

In this case, you the homeowner, are the best judge of what you will and will not accept, since you paid to have a new, beautiful floor. That is really how it should look after it has been installed.