Almost every home in Milwaukee and the surrounding areas have hardwood floors, which will require maintenance every few years to keep them looking their best. Because several years usually pass between maintenance, homeowners may have difficulty trying to gather accurate information and choosing the best contractor. To simplify wood floor installation, below is a summary of the most important things to ask for and expect from your wood flooring contractor.

Q: What do I ask when interviewing potential contractors?

A: Among the obvious things you should be asking for when interviewing potential contractors are experience, proper insurance, applicable licenses and references. The wood flooring industry is an unlicensed trade. Virtually anyone can purchase equipment and materials and refinishing hardwood floors. There is no one to formally train guys on the proper procedures to be used and there is no apprentice program, unlike other  contractors like electricians or plumbers. There are also no requirements to be considered a “skilled craftsman”. Make sure your contractor is committed to the industry and to ongoing training. There are independent organizations that the contractor can send his employees to for proper training/schooling. However, these schools take time and money since a tuition fee is always attached to the classes. 

 The other important items you should be asking about include what kind of finishes and dust containment your contractor uses. These two should be at the top of your list because one determines how long your floor finish will look good and the other determines how much prep and clean up Will be needed before, during and after the flooring process.

Q: What are the most common types of finishes used? 

A: A decade or so ago the most common type of finish used was an oil-based polyurethane. They had extremely noxious odors and dry times that took days, not hours, to cure and dissipate. Additionally, they were harmful to the environment because of the VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) they emitted into the air as they cured and solvents used in the manufacture. Now the gold standard in wood floor finish is waterborne polyurethane. These finishes have much lower VOC’s and are friendly to the air quality in your home and the environment. They have three to four hour dry times, minimal odor and are considerably more durable than oil-based products. This is good news for the homeowner because they no longer have to vacate their house while the refinishing process is going on and it makes the process faster and more convenient.

Q: How important is a dust containment system? 

A: One of the major advancements in the hardwood flooring industry during the past decade is dust containment. In the old days canvas bags hooked up to the sanding equipment as the only form of dust control. In an occupied home, going through a refinishing process meant months of clean-up afterward for the homeowner. It should be a requirement that the contractor you hire have some sort of dust containment system. But be aware, there are some really great systems and others that are not very effective.  

Q: What can I expect to pay for wood floor refinishing?

A: Because of the economy everyone is looking for bargains. But you must distinguish between a bargain and value when comparing your estimates. If the contractor says he will apply two coats of a waterborne finish, ask your contractor to specify the name of the products he uses, and then do your own independent research online to verify his claims. There is a very big difference between the $20.00/ gallon finish you can buy at Home Depot (bargain) and the $110.00/gallon Bona Traffic finish (value) that reputable companies use. Just like anything, the better quality of finish used, the more longevity you will receive in the wear of your hardwood floor and the less attention it will need in the future in the way of re-coating or refinishing.

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