Subfloor Prep

Leveling is one of the HARDEST parts of my job. It is impossible to know what the cost is going to be on any given job, and I cannot tell you until we are hired and my installer has demolished the existing floor and has a level on your subfloor. My best advice: choose a company you trust and take their professional advice.

If you have a concrete subfloor, flatness depends on both how it was poured and how the ground settled. We don’t worry much about cracks in the concrete, it is expensive and unnecessary to get them filled. It also doesn’t have to be 100% flat; it needs to be planed 3/16” in 10ft for flooring standards. You do not want dips that will cause inflections in a floating installation or air pockets in a glue down installation. There can be large valleys in the middle of a room or a drop off in the corner, or nothing at all. We use a combination of grinding high spots and leveling compound in low spots to level the floor and charge per hour of grinding or bag of leveling compound. If you are going to glue to whole floor has to be ground to open pores for adhesion and clear contaminates.

If you have a wood subfloor there can also be leveling issues, but there are different variable to solve them. If you were planning on nailing and there is need for leveling compound, you now need to glue. Often upstairs start to sag between joists every ten feet and you can get large variations. Sometimes it is possible to unscrew plywood and shave it down in the high spots above the joists, this will save money instead of using a lot of leveling compound to fill in the low spots. Upstairs you need a primer for the plywood and a more expensive leveling compound.

This is hard because it cannot be predicted, It is a large amount, and there is great variation from job to job so I cannot give accurate projections. But I can tell you it is one of the biggest attributes to a successful, sturdy installation.


We can get 70% of the flooring in our showroom in 24 hours! Depends on the brand, if it is locally distributed, if there is stock, and what time we place the order!

If you have existing hardwood there is a great chance we can help you figure out that room addition you have been thinking about. If you have the manufacturer name and color we can look it straight up! If you have a plank or a picture we can try to find something close! Or we can contrast the floor with something that compliments if we cant find a close enough match to blend and you don’t want the colors to be slightly off. These are the options if it is a separate space, like a separate room; it is much harder to lace in to an existing floor exactly.

This is a floor we did in four stages, several years apart. She was lucky, they still made the floor and the colors were close enough to match and continue on in the same space!

Hickory Flooring

Hickory is a beautiful American Species. The price range is $4sf to $10sf and is offered by many different manufacturers. You can get it smooth, hand-scraped or wire-bushed (to accentuate the grain). The grain looks a lot like oak. It is naturally a blond floor with brown grain and can have a large color variation because of the brown mineral streaks. There also can be knots in the wood, or they can be selected out and sold at a premium grade.

This is Hickory Natural

Here is an example of a hand scraped, stained hickory floor we did in October 2017
Hallmark Chaparral Tackroom

“Hardness” of wood is referring to density, and we measure that in hardwood flooring on the JANKA Hardness scale. This is PSI (pounds per square inch) pressure. We use Red Oak (1290 PSI) as a baseline standard of “hard enough”. Hard enough to be functional and to not easily dent in normal household use. If you drop a pan, you are going to get a dent whether it is Brazilian Cherry (2820 PSI) or Yellow Birch (1260 PSI). But functional differences come under the red oak baseline in popular wood such as American Walnut (1010 PSI) Teak (1155 PSI) and American Cherry (950 PSI). These “softer” floors can leave dents from high heel shoes or debris stuck to the bottom of your shoe. A Christmas party could destroy your floor! These are beautiful grains and natural colors, so some people opt to forego their shoes in the house and take special care of their floors so they can enjoy the unique looks they provide.

Color and grain are equally as important as function and wear in your home. It is just about knowing your expectations for your floor and getting what fits your home and lifestyle.

We find most people who are looking at the “Hardness” of the wood and making that a key decision element can be somewhat confused. We can with our (number of years and three generations of hardwood flooring experience) we will help you understand so you can feel confident you have made the right choice for both your home and your family.

Floating Vs Glue

Floating, Nail or Glue…Which one should I do??
There are three ways to install a hardwood floor, float it, nail it, or glue it. Here are some guidelines to choose what is best for your situation. Do you have a raised foundation? If the answer is no- you cant nail. Floating is glueing (or some flooring are click lock and do not require glue) tongue and groove and free-floating over a pad, held down by gravity. This has expansion limitations because the floor expands exponentially across the room. Installer needs to pay special attention to leave expansion space around the entire floor and between rooms (tmolds in doorways). This includes end molds to exterior doors, undercutting fireplaces or leaving tmolds to tile. Because a glue down floor is stuck directly into the glue and has little wiggle room to effect the boards next to it, people are less particular about expansion with glue down floors (for example foregoing the tmold transition to tile). Just make sure to leave ample expansion at the walls under the baseboards because the floor is still going to grow in response to humidity!

What is the difference?
The floors are going to perform the same: they will dent/scratch/wear
the same on top. But they
1) Sound different
2) feel different
3) cost different.

A floating floor sounds more like a nail down installation over a crawlspace. Some people don’t care, some people HATE that sound. Pad adds acoustic absorbance (that is why it is required in condos for your neighbors) and is also easier on the knees and back. And, finally, the glue and moisture barrier are expensive! And a little added labor. You are looking at $1.50 more per square foot,
which ends up being a significant price jump in the project. So- if you don’t care- float. If you like it to sound “solid” or hate tmolds- glue. And if you have the option: nail.

Just choosing hardwood is a more environmentally friendly flooring option! Carpets are usually more short term and end up in the landfills every few years. That is why there is now CA Carpet Stewardship Fee on every new carpet purchased, you are paying for the space your old carpet is now taking in the land fill. And the Federal Government and The State of California has done a lot of the work for you. They have passed legislation that regulates CARB compliance (off-gassing and formaldehyde) and The Lacey Act requires that we document where the wood is coming from so that we aren’t taking it from rainforests and so that people have a vested interest in reforestation.

What extra steps can you take to ensure you are getting an eco-friendly product? FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) is an extra certification some companies get to insure that the wood comes from managed forests. They plant more logs than they pull, making sure to clear the land. There are large Manufacturers that have been doing a great job with the environment (and their employees, plants, and glues) for a long time. Canadian companies Lauzon and Mirage are well known for this (as well as the high-quality product they produce) as well as Kahrs in Europe. US companies are Homerwood and Owens. These higher quality, guaranteed floors usually come at a little higher price tag, but offer a better wearing, fitting floor as well. Most brands you will find in our showrooms these days are smaller, reginal brands that have been developed to fit the local aesthetic at competitive prices. You still have state legislation in place to make sure these products that are developed overseas (mostly China) follow the health safety guidelines.

As far as carpet: wool is the most eco-friendly option. Mohawk and other brands have fibers that are partially made of recycled products, but that is only a small percentage. They still off-gas that “new carpet smell”. Wool is biodegradable and can be purchased completely untreated- of course different brands offer different clarity.

Cork is a great “green” option because you don’t have to kill a tree to take its bark! It actually saves the tree. It all comes out of Portugal, so there is already great formaldehyde regulation in place. Bamboo only has a 6 year gestation period so it is considered a “greener” option as well. There is a LOT of bamboo coming out of China and it is not all equally regulated! We only carry a couple large vertically integrated American companies so that we can make sure we get the highest quality of bamboo, as it is known to not be stable if not manufactured correctly. Both cork and bamboo are fantastic flooring options; I believe it is more a stylistic choice.

We have all your flooring options.

Color Variation

Naturally colored floors have variations from board to board. This is beautiful and makes it look like real wood. We are referring to woods that are colored this way straight out of the ground with no stain. Each species of wood has different grain; that is where you get to choose your grain and color preference. Each wood will have a different density and wear appeal as well. Some woods are naturally more color variant than others. All naturally colored floors change color after they are freshly cut through oxidation (See: Changing Color blog), but here we are referring to the color blocking or swirling in the actual variation within the floor.

Amendoim has more swirls and can range from blond yellow to dark brown with lots of mineral streaks. Brazilian Cherry is widely known as the most color variant floor. It displays more color blocking, each board a different color from the next. Red oak is often no very color variant unless you choose a more character grade. Color variation is affected by the GRADING process. More similar colors (usually the richer colored heart wood) are selected out and sold at a premium. Less expensive grades often have more color variations and mineral streaks and knots; they call that character grade. If you think all this color variation is not for you, try one of the many STAINS available that are more consistently colored!

Builders usually have limited options and hefty price tags. Builders usually feature a few floors (they are usually common floors that I also carry at a lower price) that streamline the choices for homeowners trying to customize their new build in a new community. While there is a convenience to just pointing to several options in one afternoon, you will often pay double or more for that convenience. Just getting another bid from a company like mine on that same product you chose can save you thousands. They usually make you close on the home with carpet or vinyl (base grade coverings) and it still saves you money to throw that new stuff away and buy from us. The benefit they have is wrapping the upgrade costs into the loan when new homeowners are short on cash. Also convenient, but EXTREMELY expensive to pay 30 years of interest on those upgrades- tripling the price of the renovation work again.
Please call us if you are moving into a new home and we can help you navigate your options and coordinate your work with your other contractors!

 

Best deal or best price?

Why is there such a broad range of prices on hardwood flooring? And how do I decide if I’m really getting a good deal, when they can range all the way from $2.00 to $20.00 per square foot?

Hardwood flooring manufacturers have different goals in mind when they set out to produce a product. Some manufacturers set out to produce the best darn product that they can, no matter what, and then do their best to keep the costs to a minimum, given what they feel they need to do to produce that product. Other manufacturers set the price point they want to hit, and produce whatever they can with those dollars. Neither manufacturer is ‘trying’ to get the price up, but there is a broad range of choices that are made all along the way.

One of the choices that manufacturers make is what quality of wood they will buy. The closer to the top of the tree, the cheaper the wood will be (and the more knots there will be.) Then the wood is sorted into grades, with the cleanest grade being the more expensive version. How they cut the log up will also determine the look and the price point—rotary peeled wood is ‘rolled’ through the saw, and creates a veneer with a different appearance than a sawn cut face.

Another choice than must be made is in the quality of the plywood layers that support the top wear layer. And the thickness of the top wear layer can be anything from ½ mm, to 5mm.

Aesthetically there are many choices from a narrow strip look of 2” wide boards to a wide board that may be as wide as 9-12”. The surface may be smooth, or it may be hand-scraped, chiseled, distressed or wire-brushed.

Finally, there are several types of finishes that can be applied to the hardwood, the most common two types being Oiled UV cured finish, or Aluminum Oxide Urethane finish. Additionally, not all the finishes have the same quality, and it may be very difficult for the homeowner to determine this on his own. Ultimately, they will scratch and wear differently.

A good retailer should be able to determine exactly what your personal needs and budget are, and they should be able to direct you to the best choice for you, given your taste, budget, and lifestyle. This will involve answering a number of questions, so they can properly guide you through the hundreds of choices available to you. They should be able to show you the differences in each product, and help you understand your choices, so you can make a smart buying decision, whether it’s at the lower end or the higher end of the price spectrum.

Internet shopping can be a good place to start to educate yourself, but the final buying decision will involve many personal variables that are best selected after discussion with an experienced professional that can help you choose a product that is best suited for your individual needs.

Harder Versus Softer Wood

Does wood hardness really matter?

“Hardness” of wood is referring to density, and we measure that in hardwood flooring on the JANKA Hardness scale. This is PSI (pounds per square inch) pressure. We use Red Oak (1290 PSI) as a baseline standard of “hard enough”. Hard enough to be functional and to not easily dent in normal household use. If you drop a pan, you are going to get a dent whether it is Brazilian Cherry (2820 PSI) or Yellow Birch (1260 PSI). But functional differences come under the red oak baseline in popular wood such as American Walnut (1010 PSI) Teak (1155 PSI) and American Cherry (950 PSI). These “softer” floors can leave dents from high heel shoes or debris stuck to the bottom of your shoe. A Christmas party could destroy your floor! These are beautiful grains and natural colors, so some people opt to forego their shoes in the house and take special care of their floors so they can enjoy the unique looks they provide.

Color and grain are equally as important as function and wear in your home. It is just about knowing your expectations for your floor and getting what fits your home and lifestyle.