Uncovering an unexpected hardwood treasure long hidden under carpeting is always a thrill, but even more so when the home and its location make such a discovery almost unthinkable.
For Tom Goering, owner of the Wood Floor Store/The Floor Doctor in Sarasota, Florida, what he discovered on what was to be a routine job was one of the biggest surprises of his career.
“I’ve been here for 35 years in Sarasota, working on nothing but wood. Frankly, we don’t come across a lot of old wood floors in this part of the country,” explains Goering. “Some people don’t think there are wood floors in Florida, but I assure you, they are here and have been here as long as people have been building houses.”
Goering was contacted by the property owner about removing carpet and installing new flooring in a somewhat dilapidated older home.
“I arrived at a long-empty house that looked like it had been uncared for and abandoned. The owner was hoping to spruce it up and make it livable again, and obviously, new floors were a part of the plan,” he recalls. “My first action was to pull back the old carpet, and when I did, I could not believe what I was seeing. There was a very nice walnut border there staring back at me.”
While the long-hidden walnut, red and white oak hardwood floor was in rough shape due to water damage, Goering knew immediately that he wanted to try to salvage it.
“It was an incredible surprise to find a floor like that underneath the carpet. I was not used to seeing that in Florida, especially in older houses. I don’t know who would have installed that floor or when they did it, but it was very nice,” says Goering. “My personal theory is that the floor must have been installed by someone who worked in our industry. Perhaps they happened to have some extra wood and decided to use it on the floor? I’m still at a loss as to what I uncovered, as it simply does not fit with the neighborhood it was in or what was in other surrounding homes.”
Moving cautiously, Goering began his attempt to rescue this somewhat mysterious floor. The floor had seen water intrusions several times, and several boards required replacement.
“I think most people, when they first saw what I saw, would want to pull the old flooring out and start from scratch. I couldn’t do it, and I wanted to save it,” he explains. “Depending on the expectations of your client and what their budget is, you can sometimes save more than you think you can.”
The first step was to remove the carpet and the tack strips that held it in place.
“I had to be very careful removing the tack strip, as the floor seemed fragile. When floors are that old and have seen water so many times over the years, you want to be careful so that you don’t damage and then have to replace any more boards than you have to,” he notes.
Throughout the restoration, Goering was careful not to put any unnecessary stress on the floor.
“With a floor like this, everything we do has to be gentle, including things like sanding. We wanted to sand it as gently as possible but still get it clean,” says Goering. “It’s a balance to get that right so that you’re not overdoing it and potentially harming the floor.”
He ended up replacing several boards, which was challenging due to the age and the color.
“We did the best we could to blend, and we spent a lot of time making sure what we put down matched and looked right. Some boards were white, some were red, and others were just disintegrated,” says Goering. “We replaced what we needed, sanded it several times, and then applied a urethane finish to give it a natural look. The floor is basically one big water stain, but somehow it works.”
Not only did the final result work for Goering, but the owner was also thrilled with the result.
“The person who had tasked us with the job did not have a lot of money to spend, and he got one heck of a floor for what he paid. What we did fit the house well. A new floor would not have had the same effect on the home,” says Goering. “Being able to save a floor like this is a great reminder of the resiliency of the product we work with. It was satisfying to save the floor versus seeing it tossed into a dumpster.”