A Most Uncomfortable Environment

We all have encountered projects that seem so challenging you could say they were “cursed,” but for Grayson Deal of Arbor Zen Hardwood Floors in Black Mountain, North Carolina, there were times when he felt that actually might be the case.

While Deal’s perseverance paid off in the end, what should have been a simple restoration job ended up providing lessons on staying focused and avoiding external pressures.

“This should have been a routine project. Little did I know the challenges that I would face along the way,” says Deal. “Looking back, I refer to it as the ‘haunted hardwood flooring job.’ The job felt cursed.”

Deal’s story began when he received a call from someone who had just purchased a 3,500 square foot home. The homeowner explained that he planned to renovate the 100-year old property by himself. While the house was beautiful, Deal’s first impression was that the home had a very ominous feel.

“Almost as soon as we arrived, we began hearing odd noises, and we experienced things like doors slamming unexpectedly. It was unnerving. That said, we knew what our job was, and we were determined to do it,” explains Deal.

Deal’s job was to remove old, existing carpet and replace what was underneath to match the existing floors, a mix of 2 1/4″ red and white oak. New flooring was delivered, and Deal sealed off the concrete slab the floor was situated on with Bona R540.

“We then glued the new solid strip flooring down using Bona adhesive,” explains Deal. “The next step was sanding, and in my anxiousness to be done with this home, I made what turned out to be a mistake.”

It was August, and even though there was a new HVAC system in the home, the homeowner did not want to turn it on.

“He thought sanding would damage the HVAC,” explains Deal. “Because my mind was elsewhere, I neglected to inform him that our equipment was dust-contained. I wanted to get the job over with, so I decided to simply press on without air conditioning.”

Working in the house soon became unbearable due to both oppressive heat and an unshakable feeling of unease.

“It was the most uncomfortable environment. We were sweating more than I think we ever had in our entire lives,” says Deal. “Strange things also began happening more frequently. We had peculiar power outages regularly. Doors were slamming. There were loud footsteps, and there was an unshakable sensation of being watched.”

After Deal sanded the floor, he was asked to give the floor texture using a wire brush machine before finishing with Bona Craft Oil 2K Charcoal. The idea was to make the floors look aged even though they were freshly sanded.

“The combination of the old floor, wire brushing, and this dark finish caused problems. I should have thought about what could go wrong. Instead, I again just pushed ahead,” explains Deal.

“I buffed in the oil, and the color looked beautiful, but the uncontrolled environment caused big problems as our sweat hit the open grain. We were all wearing rags tied around our heads and knees, but blotchy spots were appearing despite our efforts. We persevered, but when we came back the next day, what we saw was unacceptable,” says Deal.

“I buffed in the oil, and the color looked beautiful, but the uncontrolled environment caused big problems as our sweat hit the open grain. We were all wearing rags tied around our heads and knees, but blotchy spots were appearing despite our efforts. We persevered, but when we came back the next day, what we saw was unacceptable,” says Deal.

“The second attempt did not go well, either. This time, what looked like small footprints appeared in areas we had just completed. We had to redo the floors yet again,” says Deal. “The finish line felt like it kept getting further away. I knew to get this floor completed, I would have to slow down, take a breath, and get better control of the jobsite.”

Looking back, Deal believes his most significant mistake was trying to rush the job, and not educating the homeowner about the importance of having a conditioned space to work in. He also regrets not taking proper moisture readings throughout the entire process.

“Related to the blotchy outcome of our first, rushed attempts, we determined that the floor was drier in some areas and not in others, leading to the inconsistent, blotchy look to the floor,” explains Deal.

“To avoid this in our final redo, we took our time and water popped the floor consistently and evenly, then allowed it to completely dry, testing the moisture content, to get the floor prepared where we wanted it for the finish. We also got the HVAC running in the house. This made an incredible difference. The house felt a lot more comfortable to be in, at least from a climate perspective.”

Deal finally was able to get the floor sanded and finished correctly. This went well, and the homeowner was thrilled with the final result.

“I did find myself at the home one last time for a final touch up. I was admiring the work when I heard a door slam loudly upstairs, I snatched up my tools, quickly left, and that was the last time I ventured into the home,” says Deal. “I can’t be sure what was really going on in that house, but it did teach me some important lessons on remaining calm, staying focused, and slowing down. You cannot rush excellence, no matter how badly you may want to.”

One thought

  1. No matter how many years we have been doing this, there is always a new lesson learned as we never know what’s actually around the next corner. Thanks for sharing your story

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