Hardwood Floor Refinishing Shortcuts Leave Consumers with a “Red Hot Mess”

Hardwood Floor Refinishing Gone Wrong

Just as with anything, you get what you pay for, and with hardwood floor refinishing that is certainly true. Unfortunately, consumers who make decisions in refinishing merely on budget may regret their decision and find what they have paid for is not only unacceptable, but ends up costing more in the long run.

It is a disservice to consumers, and one that de-values the reputation of the wood floor refinishing industry, when some re-finishers make it their business to cut corners, not refinish them. To explain further, there are short cuts and tricks these guys pull that results in sub-par work, much of which is not discovered until after the damage is done.

The Problem

Unsuspecting consumers may get a few estimates for hardwood floor refinishing and don’t really read the tea leaves for what is being promised by those providing quotes. Price alone is a dangerous platform consumers fall trap to. But in their defense, contractors slide in with appealing estimates that are tempting, which snap a consumer’s wishful thinking, only to perform sub acceptable work that may go undetected until it is too late, leaving them high and dry.

To demonstrate this reality, two prospective clients found themselves with one red hot mess. The first, an architectural landscaper (with an eye for detail), just had his floors re-finished. Despite certain promises and with growing concern during the process, the re-finishers failed to deliver not only a decent job, they ignored the very basic objectives the consumer wanted addressed. The second, the homeowner paid for and was taken in what floor inspectors labeled one of the worst jobs ever witnessed.

Our Hardwood Floor Post Refinishing Inspections Confirm “Red Hot Mess” Refinishing Debacles

Client No 1 (the Architect) greeted us just days after the refinishing. By this point he had become more educated in the hardwood floor refinishing process, and was shooting bullet holes with the workmanship he received. We concurred. The job involved refinishing the living room, the foyer, the stairs, the upstairs hall, and 3 bedrooms. Upon entering, the mess was hard to avoid.  What we observed:

  • Staples (perhaps 30-50) were hammered in to the floor and coated over-  all staples need to be removed, period. Just what you want to see in your formal entry- staples flattened into the finish
  • Large holes from nails (from previous transitions) were left unfilled. Large gaps, gouges, nail holes, etc are normally filled with wood putty prior to coating, but were left as pock marks in the floor, in the opening from the entry to the living room
  • Drum mark lines created by improper technique that left a line imperfection that the stain embellished. The heavy sander was handled by an inexperienced hand that left divots where it is engaged on the floor. The negligence created a sanding blemish that climbs through the stain- a line of demarcation clearly noticeable when looking at the floor
  • Imperfections in the edge sanding left a differentiation in how the stain absorbed in to the wood, and was evident by patches of light and dark areas
  • Imperfections in the stain application that results in ‘blotchiness’ and unneveness across the floor
  • Several boards stained lighter- which may or may not be a technical error
  • The bottom stair tread edge was sanded down too far, creating an uneven edge that was obvious
  • There were numerous swirl marks on every stair tread, from the edge sander that were left unaddressed only to climb through and be very noticeable once stained- a permanent reminder every trip up the stairs
  • No stair trim was installed under the bull nose at the perpendicular edge where the tread meets the riser
  • There were edges where the stain was not applied
  • All surfaces had numerous (and we mean numerous) blemishes – hair, saw dust and bubbles in the finish:  3 -D flecks and blemishes and bubbles a finger nail could scratch off
  • A gouge in the upstairs hallway, despite being mentioned by the homeowner, was promised to be filled, but was not
  • Waves of stain appeared in the upstairs hall, again by the improper sanding pattern- this time with the edger
  • Imperfections in the stain acceptance along the edges revealed improper sanding
  • Dig marks that look like scratches were left at corner points in the upstairs hall, by trim corner angles
  • The client expected, asked for and was promised a matte finish sheen level. Even after the lst gloss finish was applied the homeowner discussed the sheen level as being too shiny, and was promised the final coat to be matte, again when high gloss was applied
  • The combustible sanding refuse (in plastic bags) was left on the homeowner’s front porch, where it left a permanent stain. Any bags with saw dust should never be left near the exterior dwelling area whatsoever. It should have been discarded, and perhaps diffused at time of disposal to exterior collection and storage point, and certainly prior to discarding it. The client should never have had to collect and handle the bags of sawdust refuse, nor should they have to clean up sandpaper and other refuse used and sloppily left strewn in the customer’s yard
  • Other debris (sanding belts) were left outside on the front porch- where the presense of revealed the ‘wham bam thank you ma’am”  cheap job
  • Saw dust coated the walls, trim and baseboards upstairs indicating sloppy preparation

Client No 2- (Mrs. Cherry Hill homeowner)- again greeted us after the refinishing debacle was revealed.  This homeowner took us on a tour, and subsequently a second tour with a Certified Wood Inspector (who admitted to the homeowner that in 10 years of inspecting hardwood floors was one of the top 3 worst jobs he had seen.) Additionally, when pictures were sent for review by a second wood floor inspector (world renowned expert certified inspector-trainer), he commented to us that he literally threw up upon viewing the pictures (he gagged as he was viewing the pictures while eating.)  What we observed:

  • Waves and inconsistent very large patches of unevenness in the stain
  • Deep scrapes and digs along the trim and door corners
  • Burn marks in the floor that appear and light patches in the field (middle) of the floor
  • Crust in the finish- from sawdust, debris, even rough bubble patches the result of finish that was stirred before application, as well as improper technique of the sponge roller
  • Light and dark marks near windows and doors from oxidation exposure (areas by glass window and doors that heat up due to the strong sun beating down on the area, indifferent than the overall field
  • Footprints from workers who came thru a sliding door from the back yard, where their footprints struck an imprint on the vulnerable raw unfinished floor. This severely erroneous mistake revealed in the stain for all to see in the family room, at the back door, due to gross technician error
  • Floor was left rough, and the finish was not buffed in between coats
  • Additionally, it can be suspected that either of these projects had finish layers that were applied at less than full strength- whereby the common “cheapy- woodpecker” rip off artist cuts the finish strength with paint thinner so the finish goes further, is watered down, and is thinner leaving the coating clearly at less than full and rec-commended strength

Each of these jobs, quite simply are embarrassments to our industry. Each of these jobs were grossly performed. And while we do not know the outcome of the second described client, we are further disgusted with the reaction by the first client’s contractor upon walking through and observing his staff’s unacceptable performance. (discussed within.)

With Rip Offs Revealed The Unapologetic Contractor Offers Nothing To Resolve The Deplorable Job

At least for the first homeowner he is out no cash at this point. We walked through and confirmed his fears- this was in no way a professional, let alone acceptable job. And for this customer he has swallowed hard and realized the re-finishers involved have no intention upon making good on their work. He is left to his own resources to plow forward and call in others to fix what he was foolishly given.

Upon completion, the architect dissatisfied, did the right thing and called the owner to walk thru the job. Unfortunately, in this case, this company was referred to him by several friends & family who have used the very company, and were pleased (some whose refinishing took place 10 or more years ago.) With recommendations coming in from more than a few trusted sources, he was confident in his decision to hire the company involved. And for the record, not one of his trusted friends who had the same company, not one experienced anything close to what was experienced here.

But prior to the walk thru, giving the company the benefit of the doubt, the first homeowner called the contractor. The contractor met with him. Thinking this was a chance to rectify his concerns, the client was hopeful the walk thru would have a promising outcome. No such thing.  A first observation, and a subliminally obvious one, the contractor entered the room, began looking and was witnessed by the homeowner to have reacted where his eyes got real big as he quietly walked through, but nothing was said. No apology, no taking responsibility for the obvious poor, deplorable job. After going down his punch list, the only thing the owner offered to do was to install quarter round trim that would cover up barely an 1/2 inch.

Being reasonable and fair in his thinking, the architect (Homeowner No 1) was trying to be not only fair but also diplomatic. But at the conclusion of the walk thru he found it unacceptable to be left with the job as is. He, for good reason, is unwilling to let the guy back in to correct the job.

Homeowner No 1, “The Architect” Researches, Reads Our Reviews and Gains Faith His Floor Can and  Will Be Fixed

Likewise, as we discussed the workmanship, defined or identified the issues, he was comforted in the fact that we validated his concerns. We also explained what we would have done differently from the beginning, and would do differently when given the chance to correct the problems for him. Frankly, he was very relieved. He admitted he was glad his research on the web directed him to us.

Also, if for some insane reason we ever, ever produced work like that, we would apologize, take responsibility and do whatever it takes to fix the problems. Far from perfect, everyone has a bad day- but workmanship like either of these jobs, NOT. Admittedly there are circumstances when floors need to be taken back down, and both of these are instances are precisely in need of being re-done.

Moving On

Clearly having to move on, the architect also built his case showing us the trash left behind by the contractor. We discovered their sanding belts and sand paper, also left on the guy’s porch where the trash bags stained it. Picking up a sanding belt that was a 20 Grit, we concurred this was one of the re-finishers who definitely cuts corners and dilutes the good, decent workmanship other finishers like us strive for.  For the record, there are tell tale signs and questions you can ask and things we know that will tip you off the company will not do the work as is needed to be done properly and thoroughly. (FYI- there are standard procedures recommended by the NWFA, The Nat’l Wood Flooring Assoc, that cover the procedures in detail. Companies doing refinishing should adhere to them for sure.) Also, working with and choosing a firm who has certified sanders and abides by the standards will not produce either of these hard wood floor refinishing debacles.

Conclusions for The Architect

Establishing a good rapport, he is thrilled to have found us, and wants to work things us to bring us in. So hopefully we should be hearing from him.

Conclusions for Mrs. Cherry Hill Homeowner

After 2 walk thru’s this homeowner was very embarrassed and sheepish about having made a very foolish and expensive mistake. She allowed her painter to do her floors, and now sees they had no skill or proper training to even touch a hardwood floor. With such a grossly negligent job she also said it would not be possible to get any recourse from them. And, with her husband out of the country for a month she had no idea what she would do, when, and worst off, how she would pay for it.

Conclusions For Us and For You

If you are thinking of a hardwood floor refinishing project, don’t rush to go with the cheapest price. Also, can you speak with some of their customers (we’ve even had clients ask to visit a completed job, and graciously we have had clients welcome them to take a peek.) Get a comparison of tasks, and the time line of for each bidding company. Ask questions and listen closely to the company rep’s answers. During the course of the conversation you should begin to get a feel for how a company does their work, how they prepare, what their experience and credentials are, what you can expect, what they charge and why, etc.

Just a hint or a hunch- when the representative does not fully explain things, when they are quick to change the subject, when there is a significant language barrier that leaves your answers or concerns unaddressed (either pursue for clarification, or be skeptical if you are not satisfied,) you might want to proceed with caution. If what is promised (for the price) is too good to be true, or their answers are short and the work they promise seems much less than other prevailing bids, it might wise to dig in a little deeper, before you dive in!

As a result of these 2 jobs we have decided to develop and list of questions that are good to ask before having a hardwood floor refinished. We also will compare what was done for the architect, as opposed to what we would do, and the corresponding time line. The questions and comparisons we believe will be quite help.

ps- the update: we have jumped in to fix the issues and give the lst homeowner the job he deserves; already, and still underway, he has seen the upgraded work first day in. Results posted soon.)

Hardwood floor refinishing is a complex and invasive process. Sadly the industry is rampant with quick buck re-finishers anxious to deliver about half the job, for a too good to be true price. Buyer of hardwood floor refinishing beware! We suggest your visit our website and reference our :”Case Studies- Hardwood” to get feel for our workmanship and results. We provide free consultations and estimates for hardwood, explain the process in detail, from the preparation to the system of refinishing, a careful assessment of the timeline, and choices for you the customer along the way.  Whether in places like Medford, Moorestown and the surrounding Burlington-Camden County Area, across Central Jersey and the Jersey Shore, as well as parts of PA & DE we will give you a very fair price for the quality workmanship we believe our customers, and you are looking for.. Call us for a free consultation- we can clean it (if that is only what is needed),  fix any repairs, refinish the floors with a similar or different look. Or if preferred we  can replace the hardwood floor entirely if that is a better solution for you.  Call us at 609.953.0472 or contact us online .