Hardwood Floors Part 1 - Preparing Your Home for installation

Are you planning to refinish or install hardwood floors?

When we built our home 19 years ago (it's hard to believe it has been that long ago), we installed #1 red oak solid hardwood flooring in the kitchen, entryway and down a hallway. In between these two areas was carpet. For our project, we replaced the carpeted area with the same type of wood, refinished the existing hardwood floors and stained it all a little darker. There are many things to consider and decisions to make before refinishing or installing flooring. Watch for frequent posts addressing many of these decisions. Today I'm sharing a few tips you should know before refinishing or installing a hardwood floor.

How often do floors need to be refinished?
Although our floors were in decent condition after that many years, there were wear marks, dents and scratches, and a lack of shine. In addition, the stain was breaking down and yellowing. It was time!

Oak is known for its durability and long life and because of this oak floors typically last 10 to 20 years before they require refinishing. However, it depends on the amount of traffic and how well it's maintained. Many professionals say that most floors will need refinishing in about 12 years.
Telltale signs that the floor needs resealing include deep scratches that expose wood, wear marks, indentations from furniture and a lack of shine. These flaws often appear in high-traffic areas in front of doors, around the kitchen sink and refrigerator.

If you’re not sure if your hardwood floor needs refinishing, put a few drops of water on it. If the water beads or soaks in slowly over a few minutes, you probably just need a good cleaning and polishing. However, if the water soaks in immediately, it’s time for a refinish. If you're still not sure, consult with a professional.

I was most surprised by how much wear and tear was removed by the sanding process. Now my 19-year-old hardwoods look brand new.

Preparing your home.

There is always the decision of whether to DIY or hire a professional. In a future post I'll be sharing some pros and cons regarding these choices and how to hire a contractor. For our project, we decided to hire a contractor. Here are a few tips to be aware of so there are no surprises:

  • Delivery of Product. The wood will be delivered to your home at least one week prior to the project so it can acclimate to the conditions in your home. Plan on having an area cleaned out and ready for delivery.
  • Removing Carpet. If applicable, make sure to determine who will remove and dispose of the existing carpet, cushion or current floor. If there is not a charge for this work included in your bid, you will be responsible. If YOU are removing the old carpet, you'll need to remove all carpet, padding, staples and tack strips. The floor will also need to be cleaned of all dirt. We included this work to be done by our contractor, but this is an area where you can save money if you choose to DIY. 
  • Move Out. Everything will need to be moved out of the area, including furniture, pictures, draperies, electronics, and all breakable items. Unless special arrangements were made, your contractor will not move these, including pool tables, pianos, appliances and items requiring disassembly.
  • Kitchen/Utilities. You'll be responsible to disengage washers/dryers, hot water heaters (if necessary), water line to your refrigerator, etc. Installers do not disconnect or reconnect any of these items. 
  • Dustless, Not Totally. Even though the sanding process has greatly improved over the years, you are STILL going to have DUST everywhere! To help the situation, we purchased rolls of plastic from The Home Depot and covered doorways, cabinets, closet shelves...anything and everything and secure well with blue painter's tape. It also helps to shove towels under doorways leading into rooms not affected.
  • Moldings. Many contractors require that you remove and discard baseboard moldings, or hire it out which is a separate cost. The reason for this is because during removal the molding often breaks. We decided to save money and my husband removed and installed new baseboards. For a professional and quality look this is not an area to skimp on.
  • Floor Register Covers. Did you notice the beautiful wood floor register cover above? Be aware that you must order these with the rest of your wood. They typically are not included and must be ordered separately. The cost is usually between $25 - $75/each, but they make a beautiful difference in the overall look.  Well worth the cost, in my opinion.
  • Closets. Closets do not need to be emptied; however, all items need to be removed from the closet floor.  We covered the shelves with plastic.
Still trying to clean and replace everything here. Yes, that's Utah vs. Fresno on the TV!
  • Communication: Communication with your contractor/installer is very important to avoid unnecessary delays. Be sure the installer has access to heat, power, light and ventilation. For most installations, the room the new floor is being installed in needs to be an average temperature of 65F degrees. Ask questions and make sure that you are aware of the timeline for the project. It changes periodically due to unforeseen issues so you want to keep the lines of communication open. Our project took five days: 3 days of floor prep, installation, and begin sanding; 1 day to complete sanding; 1 day to stain. Discuss the staining process with your contractor. You will not be able to be in your home during staining and for up to two days afterwards, due to strong, harmful toxins. You can never ask too many questions!
These cuts were made to transition the current wood floor and the new install. 

You cannot tell they were laid 19 years apart - aMazing!
  • Plan, Plan, Plan: If your kitchen is part of the project, plan for meals as you will not have a refrigerator nor access to the kitchen area while work is underway. If applicable, where will you stay during staining for a few days while the toxins are strong? We were out of our home for 3 days while the strong toxins were aired out. Plan on at least 2 days depending on the type of stain being used. Again, communicate with your installer so you know.
  • Warranty: Please read and understand your dealer supplied manufacturer's warranty. Make sure you are provided with a copy. For example, the warranty on my floor is not valid if we do not have a humidifier.
  • Unforeseen Challenges: One last comment related to your bid; the price excludes floor preparation or other work necessary to correct unforeseen floor surface defects not apparent during the original measure. Take time and review your bid or any contract prior to signing and leaving a deposit. I would suggest that you make sure there is a clause (or include one) that you, the customer, will be advised of any and all extra charges at the time of install unless an estimate has been provided by the installer in advance. Any additional charge incurred as flooring installation proceeds and unforeseen challenges arise must be approved by you prior to beginning the work.

We had a wonderful experience working with our contractor and his crew, and I am so happy with the finished product. You'll be spending a lot of money and you want the best service for your investment. These tips, while not all inclusive, will help make your experience one you won't regret.

Part 2  of this segment will cover tips for choosing the right stain, the stain we chose, and caring for your investment! I hope this information is helpful. If you have a specific question, please leave a comment and I'll do my best to get you the information you need.

Warmest regards,


Paul Sawyer said...

After completing home construction, we are now switching towards the flooring parts. Flooring should be unique and attractive and it should be in the budget. So hardwood floors are in demand nowadays. So while installation we should take expert advice to fix the hardwood floor with perfect finishing. Thanks for providing such an informative post.
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