Inspector’s Report: “The Beauty of the Floor is in the Eye of the Beholder”

Photo courtesy of NWFA.

The Homeowners’ Issue

The customer purchased an existing home in the mountains to get away from the big city and raise their family of two boys. They wanted to add on to the existing solid 2 ¼” red oak floors throughout the house and resand the existing floor to match. They hired a local flooring contractor for the work. The floor was stapled down to a plywood subfloor on their main floor. Right after the contractor had finished, they had concerns with sanding marks, the floor not being flat and various other issues throughout the floor. They asked the flooring contractor to come and walk the floor.

Both the contractor and homeowners reviewed the concerns. The flooring contractor advised that he could resolve the issues, but wanted to be paid in full before moving forward with the repairs and stated, “the beauty of the floor is in the eye of the beholder.” The customers were reluctant, but decided to move forward as they wanted these issues addressed. The flooring contractor never came back as he promised, even with multiple calls/emails from the homeowners. I was then contacted by the homeowners to perform an inspection.

I observed the following defects during my initial visual inspection.

  • Drum sander marks that created lines/deviations in the wood that is running parallel with the flooring. My measurements showed these lines were almost 4’ long and dips more than 1/16th from the adjacent wood (images 1-3).
  • There are dips in the floor that are consistent to the drum marks. They measure 5-8” long and less than 1” wide with a darker discoloration. The dips can measure 1/32”- 1/16” from the surrounding floor (images 4-5).
  • Along perimeter in the same room about 5-10” off the wall looks consistent with edger marks that have swirls at 7” (images 6-7).

The flooring contractor solely was responsible for ensuring that the hardwood flooring at the homeowners’ residence was sanded in a good and workmanlike manner, and in compliance with NWFA Guidelines. The information that I collected at the site led me to the following:

  • The sanding marks were consistent with the NWFA Problems, Causes, and Cures technical publication C200.
    • Sanding marks – defined: Sanding imperfections seen as drum marks, side cuts, sanding scratches, or swirl marks in standing position and ambient light.
    • Causes include: Sanding process, machine-related and abrasive-related.

After talking with the flooring contractor, he advised me that he had a new hire on the buffer and realized he did not use the hard plate or the correct abrasives for the buffer. We also talked about the marks in the floor (edger and drum), and he advised me that it had been more than two years since he had serviced his edger and drum sander.

To resolve this matter, the contractor needed to conduct maintenance on the sanding equipment, use the correct abrasive, and follow the NWFA guidelines for sand and finish, as detailed in the Sand and Finish Guidelines. Additionally, the floor will need to be re-sanded and finished.

Rob Zehnder is an NWFA Certified Wood Flooring Inspector, NWFA Certified Installation Professional, and NWFA Certified Sand & Finish Professional. He is the managing director of Lord of Wood LLC and ZEHN Inspections located in Phoenix, Arizona. He can be reached at

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