Pet Stained Hardwood
Hoping For A Hardwood Refinishing Miracle “With The Clock Ticking”
Delighted they acquired the short sale, this young Medford couple had a “To do” list a mile high with little time to spare. Identifying their priorities, the hardwoods throughout the rancher and the kitchen renovation were at the top of the list. Add some painting, and they could be ready in a few short weeks, as long as the baby would cooperate and give them time before their “bundle of joy arrives.” (She was due in about 4 weeks.)
Clearly a neglected home, they got a deal, but with consequences. Luckily, it was mostly cosmetic. The husband, a road and bridge construction official with a keen eye for structural integrity, saw the potential. Now to look beyond the gaudy wallpaper and paint and the exterior grounds debacle, the biggest challenge was to fix the oak hardwood floor with pet urine damage. Of course the homeowners couldn’t be lucky enough to have the damage isolated to the corners, it was smack dab in the middle of nearly every room. The black round spots looked like target practice where every area rug laid on the floors- in the living room in front of the picture window, marking a perimeter around the dining room table (making it totally inviting for guests,) in front of the fire place and by the sliding door to the porch in the family room, and in the master bedroom near the master bath. Add to that water damage by the front door, the damage overall was hard to see the forest for the damaged “trees.”
The Water Based Hardwood Floor Finish System “Poly Whey” Sealed The Deal For This First Time Expectant Couple- It was a Safer Choice
Along with their wishes for beautifully restored hardwood floors, they were very concerned about the exposure to harmful products because of the baby on the way (or should I say ‘whey’-lol.) And given our training, experiences and beliefs we couldn’t concur more. It has been our mantra to seek out environmentally safe alternatives with all of our work, and hardwood floor refinishing is no different.
Thankfully the trend is to go to more environmentally safe processes, which some companies offer–we being one of them (we needed little convincing as you will now see.) While coating with a very popular coating a few years ago, Chris had 3 violent reactions, of throat closing proportions. Every time he used the finish system the catalyst triggered violent random swelling. With 3 for 3, Chris called our supplier who confirmed that 10-15% of the folks applying the finish have violent reactions and cannot work with it. That was enough convincing for us, this statistic came right from our supplier who was one of the chemists involved in formulating the catalyst. We were done.
Why in the world would we want to use that nasty stuff, and why would we bring that into peoples’ homes (better yet, why do so many other re-finishers still use it in customer’s homes without batting an eye and not even giving their clients a choice?) Suffice it to say we are committed to seek and provide safer alternatives for our customers, and for us, as well.
So after explaining the popular ‘Go-To’ chemical option used by most, and how dis-attached and unconcerned the average re-finisher is, our clients are thrilled we offer a safer alternative for everyone involved. For this couple’s purposes we had a safer choice for them, the unborn baby, and moving forward for when the baby arrives. (Feel free to inquire about The Poly Whey System- Mfg by Vermont Coatings, we can show you The Better Whey!)
About Pet Urine Damage And What Can Be Done
Honestly the damage was so severe that if a lighter stain is preferred we could not save their floors. They would have no choice except be faced with replacing all the hardwood throughout the house. But, because they wanted a contemporary darker updated look we felt we had a good chance of saving the pet stain affected hardwood. With fingers crossed we hinted we would attempt to bleach out the stains as long as they choose a color that would obscure what residual stains were still visible. Also, they hoped we could repair the popped boards that were bursting at the seams in front of the fireplace (from an installation done too tight- which did not allow for correct breathing of the wood during expansion times when it is humid out.) Next on their “wish list” they wanted us to tighten up the squeaky boards in the nursery and do something with the front door threshold. It clearly had water damage and looked like the dickens. They were on board, gave us the green light and wanted to proceed.
Running Against The Biological Clock To Get The Hardwood Refinishing Done
Out of the gate we knew we had roughly 2 weeks, maybe 3 to get this job done. As always, we forecast a schedule, but have to caution folks there are always unforeseen circumstances. For this reason it is always best to have a flexible schedule, because things happen. And although they “got that,” who knows if the baby would too!
Hardwood Restoration- The “To Do” List And The “Wish List” Clearly Defined
As stated above our short list is to bleach the urine spots so they “calm down,” trim the bulging boards to make room for more expansion during damp and humid times (like when we were working, in late August,) shim the squeak and repair the door threshold in the formal entry in a cost effective manner.
So with all that identified we also had our sights set on delivering on their “wish list.” The priority after the repairs was to be able to give them the color they had their hearts set upon. At first it was Q-48, a custom blend of two basic commercial grade quick drying stains (a stain choice that is a blend, but at no additional charge.) But after we put samples down they decided on Q-49, a slightly different stain but still in darker more contemporary range. With the color nailed now we had to test how either would do in obscuring the pet stain land mines.
Our Work Begins
With clear run of the house (the wife stayed off premises while the husband and their cat camped out on the enclosed porch at night) we set to task to deliver on our promise. We started rough sanding off the finish and quickly applied the wood bleach on the pet urine stains. Letting it sit we hoped this would help. Next we trimmed the bulging boards in front of the fireplace. Then we cut out about 5 inches of the ends of the boards in the formal entry and devised a replacement plan to tidy it up.
Oops- A Family Crisis Ensues and Boy Is The Husband In Trouble
Things had been running smoothly, and it was nice to have periodic visits from the “Mrs” of the house. And equally so it was nice to have her other half popping in and out during the work day, and holding fort with the cat overnight. But one night, as luck would have it, the “Mr” of the house took a phone call and left the porch outside door open (luckily it was an isolated part of the house that we had no access to, and the cat was kept there exclusively because she was so timid around people and noises. Also, with this being a big adjustment for her they wanted to be as gentle and supportive as possible so she gets used to her new home.)
So pardon the pun, but you could say he was in the dog house with the cat out of the bag, or porch, should I say. Clearly having to tell his wife, the five of us or more spent the next 32 hours searching for the cat, all the while fearing this might cause the baby to arrive early. With 2 weeks to spare, we had to get the cat back and the job finished so they could move on to the next phase of their lives. Luckily, the cat was found near or under an overhang (well hidden), and we could get back to business.
The Work Continues
We continued to address the boards in the formal entry, and got some replacement boards that we intended to swap out. But instead of replacing about 10 boards, the full 3 foot across the entry, we elected to run 2 in the opposing direction thereby saving labor, time and the client’s money. Also, instead of putting the new boards in the entry, our tech decided to pop some boards out of the closet to insert in the entry, and then put the new boards in the closet.
Why? Well replacement wood, especially newer wood will always be different in coloration than the existing wood. By taking this extra step (which we did not charge extra for, but doubling the time & labor) we made a clean, crisp and blended repair while leaving the slight difference in color in the closet where it will not be seen. No doubt it is the little things most clients don’t even know we do that add up to a superior job.
Meanwhile their choice in stain color was suitable to cover the remaining pet spots. The homeowner ‘sured up’ gaps between the floor joists and the boards in the nursery, which eliminated the loud squeaks in the floor. All in all, the project came along nicely.
Next up, the final prep technique – Water Popping
This procedure (often overlooked in many refinishing jobs) allows for the grain of the wood to open which will allow the stain to accept and reveal the beauty of the veins more dramatically. Simultaneously it also identifies imperfections in the sanding and minute inconsistencies in the wood that need attention. It must clearly be stated that wood, being a natural product holds some secrets, and has characteristics and behaviors in response to refinishing. As with any natural elements, there are conditions and outcomes that are uncontrollable, while there are corrections for others.
So with the water popping test complete which revealed success in the sanding and prep, we move on to the staining. The stain was hand applied and it did the trick covering up what remained of the visible pet spot damage. The spots calmed down, : i.e. they blended in. We were confident they would all but disappear once the sealant and two coats of poly whey (water based) finish were applied. Next up was the seal. It went down after readings assured the humidity level was acceptable. We were done, just as the nursery furniture was about to be delivered, and the nesting process was beginning.
Perfect timing – We Delivered, And So Did They
Being that far along, our client revealed she secretly hoped we would be done and out of the house, with the other contractors, in time to give them a week or so to have the house to themselves, and time to settle in before “show time.” Luckily that is exactly what happened. It was not long that we heard everything went well. They welcomed their baby boy to their new, beautiful home with freshly finished hardwoods. Overall this was truly a home coming in which we enjoyed taking part.