From Water Damage to Wonder

Ralph Brookens originally started in the work world as a computer operator, but soon realized it was not his long-term career choice. “You just punched cards in computers and you ran programs. I mean it was a simple job, but at the end of the day, there was nothing to show for what you did. Zero job satisfaction,” says Brookens. “That’s what is so nice about getting into the trades. You get to build something and stand back to see what you’ve done. It’s incredibly satisfying.”

Fast forward to today: Brookens Wood Floors Inc., based in Springfield, Illinois, has been in the hardwood flooring business for more than 40 years. Brookens and his team of eight specialize in hardwood floor installation, repair, and refinishing services, skills that were recently utilized to repair the dining room floor of a historic 1880s house.

The homeowner currently lives in California, and when he suddenly received a $3,000 water bill, came to realize that there was a broken water line in the house. The water went through the dining room and into the basement, and also did some damage in the adjacent room.

The floor consisted of a 3/4″ x 11/2″ plainsawn maple field with a birdseye maple outside border and an elaborate parquet border, much of which was missing or loose. The parquet border was 5/16″ material, 34 pieces before the pattern repeated, on 1/2″ pine boards. All of the border pieces were salvaged and reglued or recreated using a table saw sled. The entire field was replaced with new wood due to excessive compression set gapping and water staining. Salvaged maple from the field was later used in the border.

“Andy Ogden and Tim Lehnhausen were the leads on this project and did an amazing job of recreating the pattern of the border,” says Brookens. “The pieces are small, so you’re running a lot of sled cuts on the table saw to get those, and then just piecing it all together and gluing it down, [to] make sure it’s not going to pop back up. We had to check each piece to make sure it was firmly adhered.”

The floor was sanded with multiple machines and abrasives, then water-popped, stained, and sealed before two coats of water-based satin finish were applied. The goal in the process was to give the new flooring the same patina of the old, creating a seamless look.

“It’s fun to bring an old floor like this back to life; it was a mess,” says Brookens. “The homeowner was very grateful. While he lives in California, he has an old family tie back in Central Illinois, which is why he owns the house.”

“You know sometimes there are jobs like this that come up and people walk away from them, but my team always embraces those as a challenge. All of my guys are proud of what they do, and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” he added.

Entries in this category include all types of restorations, replacements, or repairs, in either a residential or commercial application. Applications can include jobsite- finished, factory-finished, or engineered wood flooring.

Installation Type: Nail-Down | Glue-Down
Flooring Type: Solid
Flooring Style: Strip | Parquet
Flooring Finish: Jobsite Finished
Finish Sheen: Satin
Finish Type: Surface Finish: Water-Based
Species: Maple, Birdseye/Curly Maple, Red Oak, American Black Walnut, American Cherry
Square Feet: 295

DEWALT, Unisaw
Nailer: Powernail
Cleats: Powernail
Sanding Equipment: Lägler, Galaxy, Festool
Adhesive: Bona
Finish: Bona Traffic HD Satin
Wood: Northwoods

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