Customer Expectations! Many times, restoration work includes keeping an existing hardwood floor and changing the color, or adding on to the existing wood floor. In both cases, it is critical to make sure the floor that they have is capable of becoming the floor that they want. If they want a wire-brushed floor, but have maple, this may not be possible to achieve. The expectations are the hardest to manage. If you do this step right, you will become the customer’s new best friend.
Water damage, pet damage, species, and wood grade all lend themselves to the ability to be repaired/refinished. If a floor cannot become what the customer expects, it is your job to tell them. This may mean a full demo is required to achieve the look they desire. You are not being the bad guy, just the messenger delivering the truth!
You’ll need to see how bad it is and begin to conduct moisture testing. Use pinless, dielectric meters to scan the flooring surface and map the damage. Check existing, unaffected wood for reference. When there has been a busted pipe or other moisture issue, I’ve seen cases where a restoration company hasn’t dried the floor enough or the subfloor at all. The floor may be dry at the top, but if there is still moisture, it can get into the floors and cause cupping issues. If that happens, the area that has been damaged – or possibly the entire wood floor – may have to be torn out and it can be hard to match the grade and species so that it looks the same after sanding.
I once walked into a house that had a frozen ice maker pipe in the ceiling that got water all over the kitchen floor. It seemed dry, but the insurance company wanted to make sure it was completely dry. As it sat for a month or two, the floors buckled and had to be torn out. A floor may feel like it’s dry, so it’s important to do moisture testing because if the floor is still drying and you sand it too early, it can crown.
Wood floor work after a water damage situation is a very challenging task. First and foremost, it’s important to identify who you are working for; whether it be the homeowner or the restoration company. Each of these entities will have their own agenda. Yes, we expect the restoration company to look for the most economical way to repair the wood floors. The homeowner is looking for wood floors that are in as good or better condition before the water damage regardless of cost.
It’s important to identify where the current moisture levels are now and where they need to be in order to correctly re-install or repair the wood floors. Communicating with the restoration company as to your moisture measurement requirements for a quality installation is very important.
This is to tell them, as well as the homeowner, all pertinent moisture-related measurements currently. Then you need to inform all parties where it needs to be. Make sure you add into your bid the additional time required for you to do daily or weekly moisture checks if that is necessary.
These measurements will determine the timeline for work to begin. It will also determine if some additional equipment may be needed to be brought in to dry the floors quicker in order to meet a specific time goal. All of your measurements should be documented and accessible to the homeowner and restoration contractor. Once acceptable moisture levels are achieved and other wet work trades are complete, you can begin the installation process as normal.