On the “to do” list for these customers was to replace or fix the obviously worn down mahogany accent stripes while we were refinishing their floors. Of particular concern were three distinct areas, the first is at the base of the grand staircase prominently noticeable in the main foyer. The second is near the foyer fireplace in the main traffic pattern to the butler pantry, which is the main entrance to the kitchen. And the last is in the entry to the dining room, and near the dining room fireplace.
Secondarily, there were a few holes where the copper heating pipes were plumbed from the basement up to the first floor area. Now that the heating system has been updated these holes were still visible now that the piping was removed.
The one request, is that when the repairs are done the homeowners wanted the wood accent material replaced with new. The owners did not want the refinishers to just slap wood putty to fill in the voids. It was loudly communicated before the work started, and we acknowledged that we would honor their request.
To prepare for these repairs we sourced our red oak from a vintage wood supplier. While we could easily go to any hardwood floor supplier, they often have newly milled stock. This will not work on a vintage project, because the new wood will never stain up and appear uniformly like the vintage wood. So in order to assure uniformity we had to source similarly aged wood, of the same species, and in some cases extracted from the same area as the wood we are trying to match.
Vintage dealers are often in the business of deconstructing old buildings and carefully removing the stock so it can be sold to contractors such as ourselves, who need similarly aged wood. Of course, you can imagine finding the material can be one challenge, and when one does the cost of the material is at a premium. (Not about hardwood, but of interest worth learning about, visit our case study about how our client sought out vintage stone for their house. Click here Magnificent Marble, Mr Stetson’d be Brimming With Pride.)
Another trick, and of course one that adds time (and money) to the project is to extract boards from different areas in the home are less obvious than other areas. For example, as was the case, our tech extracted boards from hidden areas, and inserted them where the damaged boards were in prominent areas.
In some cases, and not for this job, a tech could swap out some boards in a closet, and replace it with newer material, or even change the surface in the closet altogether. But please, don’t tell our technician we are revealing his secret— that he did pop out the mahogany boards and simply flipped them over and reinstalled them. The underside of the board (that did not succumb to the fatigue of the foot traffic,) was perfectly intact. The edges were well defined, so when they were reinstalled the 90º edges were crisp and completely looked like new. Again, this is and added task, done for an additional charge.
Larry couldn’t be more specific about what he did not want, and communicated it to our team loudly—that he did not want to see any overuse of wood filler to fill in any holes or gaps. And yes, he was right. The constant reminder that hit him in the face daily was the epoxy filler, not even the correct product, that a handyman they hired to fix a board that had a large section of it splinter off. The handyman merely used epoxy fill that stuck out like a sore thumb.
On the list to repair was that transition area blemish discussed above. However, during the walk thru with Claudia, the designer and the homeowners, Claudia suggested that that transition area be replaced with a marble threshold. Serving a couple of purposes, there is no question it is a major traffic area (making whatever hardwood transition used vulnerable.) It is likely any new one would do the same thing over time. So upgrading to a marble transition solves that problem. And, it dresses it up a bit, clearly and completely consistent with the opulent decor′ throughout the house.
Although not prominently noticeable, but one the owners know exists is a destabilized area near the foyer fireplace. It is about a foot area of the red oak boards that sinks when you step on them. Clearly a compromise of the subfloor or floor joists, the boards butting up to the mahogany accent stripe are not supported and move when weight is applied to them. Known in the industry as “trampolining,” the boards need to be carefully removed, and the underlayment needs to be built up with shims or sistering to stabilize the red oak boards when they are replaced.
Our technician did disassemble the destabilized boards and shurred and shimmed up the joists. The boards were set back in, and no more trampolining.
Although one could easily use dowels to fill in the 1″ holes where copper pipes came up from the basement, our technician made decisions about where he could use dowels, and where inserting a replacement board would be a better solution (particularly in more prominently noticeable areas.) Using dowels to fill in the areas is clearly an easier and quicker solution, but weaving a board in results in a better finished product. And after consultation, and adding it as a cost upgrade the homeowners piped up (couldn’t resist-LOL) with approval.
However, during this portion of the repair process, the homeowners decided to keep the brass “scupper” fitting, a period type piece of hardware smack dab in the middle of the dining room floor. Used where the copper pipe would pass up through the floor, usually in the middle of the room, it was used to help support the copper pipe. Considered part of the “character” of the floor certainly unique to the vintage times, it was left alone.
Our tech cleaned up the holes, and crossed that off his “To Do” List.
Honestly, this blemish when undetected because unless you were really looking at it closely, and standing on the hearth you probably wouldn’t see it. But during the process of apply putty to seal in the nail heads (done to create a barrier before the water based finish is applied over top nail, nail heads in a floor,) the floor refinisher discovered that the transition peaked toward one end of the hearth. When he pointed it out, the homeowners gave the green light to fix it (which is common when you have a homeowner in a vintage house, you always have surprises.) And for these folks their mantra is, if it’s not right it needs fixing!
So the solution for this problem is to remove the transition board and level the cement which is the underlayment area that protrudes beyond where the brick makes up the hearth for the fireplace. Our tech pulled out his dremel and ground down the cement so that when the board was re-seated it would lay flatter on that end. Cleaning that up a bit, another blemish fixed for “This Old House” wood floor installation.
Finally most all the repairs were complete, and we began to sand the floor. As that process began we also had to tweak a few more things, but nothing major.
Honestly, many refinishers, and even many homeowners would ignore fixing these little details. But for those who care and want perfection and masterful craftsmanship, refinishers like our guys are the go-to team, as they like everything perfect. (so if your expectation is similar, we are happy to point little details out to you and ask whether during the refinishing process you too would like them corrected.)
And during this refinishing process, these clients were all too happy that we took the time to point the little things that could be tweaked. And in hindsight right now (at the time of this writing,) they are about to award their Stone Harbor hardwood refinishing to us for this very reason. To discover and answer for yourself click here Is Our Wood Floor Sanding, Repairing, Refinishing and Installation Right for You?
Most clients enjoy working with a design consultant, not only for architectural design, decor′ coordination and selection, most designers and decorators have a list of contractors who they use and refer. Typically these professionals are proven, trusted and good at their craft. For the homeowner this can be money well spent, because they well can avoid the pitfalls of working with shoddy contractors, and sail through renovations with a coordinated team all similarly motivated for a successful result, on the homeowner’s behalf.
Never could this be more important when a client is working to restore a vintage home! As is the case with hardwood floor refinishing, there are cheaper ways to restore the floors, but not when the goal is to restore it in a manner to preserve the period architecture.
Unfortunately, and especially in the hardwood floor refinishing, there are a lot of “cowboys” out there performing less than even adequate work. If you are contemplating a hardwood floor refinishing project, whether for a vintage home, or one where you want to be assured you are selecting a professional craftsman team (like us,) click here Why are hardwood refinishing prices wildly different?