When Patrick Derry of Awesome Hardwood received an unexpected phone all from a local competitor asking for help with a repair project, he surmised what he would soon be facing was likely not a common challenge. What he didn’t realize at the time was that the mental challenge of the work would eventually test him more than the repair itself.
“This was a project located inside a residence at the Ritz Carlton in Sarasota, Florida, that demanded both very calculated decisions and tremendously calculated execution. It also was a project that demonstrated the need to trust both my peers as well as my instincts,” explains Derry.
Inside the home was roughly 2,400 square feet of wood on top of a concrete substrate with cork sound protection, and floated double-layer plywood. The wood floor was a multiple width ¾” rift & quartered white oak. It included oversized, long-length herringbone and chevron patterns with curved border inlays. There was also a portion of the floor where Derry had to reproduce and replace custom inlays that also had matching curved border edges with the same multiple width herringbone in the middle. The project involved the replacement of a water-damaged section of flooring. The floor had been damaged by a ruptured tankless water heater.
“The damaged portion of the floor was a 200-square foot area from the utility area down a long stretch of hallway, spilling into the living room. In these areas, the floor was severely damaged and buckled. The damage was so severe it caused the floating sub-floor to lift four inches off the floor.”
Derry’s first step was to begin moisture testing to gauge the extent of the damage and reach out to the homeowner to learn more about the floor.
“In speaking to the homeowner, there was a sense of urgency as he was anxious to move in. Knowing that I could not rush the job, I was very relieved to learn the previous owner had kept detailed receipts on the purchase of the floor and the installation that had been done approximately 15 years earlier. This helped as I was able to call up the mill that produced the wood originally. They remembered the job, as it was a unique, custom order.”
The next step for Derry was identifying and sourcing replacement exotic wood for the damaged wood inlays.
“I was very concerned about my ability to source some of the exotic wood for some of the inlay details; however, there was a local exotic lumber mill, Advantage Lumber, that came through for me. I came in with scraps I had removed from the damaged floor, and we spent hours going through hundreds of foreign species until we nailed down the species I needed.” Having quickly sourced and purchased the proper materials, Derry ensured that all the necessary demo work was done, and the damaged areas were dried out before acclimating the wood inside of the residence.
Unfortunately, removing the old wood was not as simple as it first appeared. “There was marble casing from floor to ceiling with the fireplace that we could not take apart, as the marble itself was irreplaceable. We had to surgically remove the damaged wood from underneath the marble. It was a delicate, very white-glove process that I could not rush,” explains Derry. Once the water-damaged wood had been completely removed, the reinstallation of the floor was a straightforward glue-nail assist using cleat nails and Wakol sausage adhesive.
“To blend everything in, the new materials were thicker than the original flooring. This was partially because the floor had been sanded before, but also due to the properties of the rift and quartered wood, which shrink and swell in thickness more-so than in width. The homeowner was concerned about this height difference, but this was something we were able to easily correct with the sander,” explains Derry.
While the homeowner’s concerns about the appearance of the floor were alleviated, Derry had some concerns of his own about the original installation and making sure his work matched the rest of the existing floor, for better or worse.
“Installing the exotic wood inlays, I had to match the way they had originally installed their curved edges. It was a unique design, but the original installation was mediocre. I had to remind myself that I was not there to judge; rather, I was there because of my expertise to exactly reproduce what was there before the floor had been damaged,” says Derry. Once the installation was complete, his final task was refinishing the entire floor to blend in the repaired area. For guidance, and to reassure the concerned and anxious homeowner that his floor was in the best of hands, he turned to a representative from the company who produced the finish.
“I had the territory rep for Loba-Wakol come out and help me apply the 2K Supra finish. A lesson I’ve taken from this project is that it can be beneficial to have a product representative come out and assist in assuring a high-end client that the product we are using is the right one for the job,” explains Derry.
Looking back on the project, Derry says he learned a lot of other valuable lessons.
“Frankly, the real challenge was making sure I had sourced the right materials and making sure all of the moisture had evaporated and that everything was settled. It was critical to not rush through this process,” says Derry.
“The most important thing we can do as hardwood flooring experts is to be confident in our abilities. Once you doubt yourself, you leave it up to others to dictate your emotions. You have to be firm, not rush, and do things the way they need to be done. The project will turn out better.”