Bringing bold patterns to life using site-finished hardwood floors certainly is nothing new, but working with engineered, prefinished flooring can present some unique challenges during installation of a patterned floor. Nevertheless, Matthew Garcia of Craftsman Hardwood Flooring in San Angelo, Texas, was able to match his client’s vision and create a large, beautiful pattern using prefinished engineered wood, learning important lessons along the way.
“I was installing prefinished wood floors throughout a home, and while we initially had not discussed making a pattern for the homeowner, that changed when he found inspiration inside his home,” explains Garcia. “The client appreciated the look of his interior sliding barn doors and requested that we bring that pattern he had drawn based off the doors into his new floor.”
This presented a challenge to Garcia because the request demanded working with a restricted palette, as the homeowner wanted to use the wood he had purchased already.
“We had to figure out a pattern of prefinished wood flooring that was simple yet ornate, knowing that we would not have many options,” says Garcia. “Usually, with a pattern, I want a product I can cut, manipulate, sand, and finish myself, as it gives more control over how it will turn out.”
“It’s one of the biggest patterns I have done because it consists of only four panels covering 120 square feet,” says Garcia. “Using 7 ½” wide European oak, character grade, ½” engineered prefinished flooring, I was able to create a pattern with large, wood panels and diagonal and cross-shaped pieces.”
Garcia ended up building four rectangular-shaped panels out of wood running at 45-degree angles to one another. He assembled each panel using PVA glue along the factory tongues and grooves on the boards.
“Squaring off the large panels was a bit of a challenge. When I first began cutting them out with a track-saw, I realized that even being half of a degree off would be a disaster,” explains Garcia.
When Garcia dry fitted the panels together, he realized that one of the panels was not quite square. Thankfully, he was able to catch the problem before it was too late. His next step was to connect his newly formed panels to the rest of the flooring.
“Because the cross was broken up between each one of the four panels, my approach was to tie the panels together by creating tongue and grooves using spline,” says Garcia. “Finally, I used a track saw to create the outer border, and then tongue and grooved those pieces to lock everything together.”
Due to the prefinished nature of the materials, Garcia says he had to pay special attention to his track saw.
“Anticipating problems upfront is a key, as you don’t want to make all those panels and then realize that you cannot cut them clean because you don’t have a sharp blade or a fresh splinter guard,” explains Garcia. “I prefer to use a brand-new blade because you don’t want the wood to splinter. I also prefer to use a new splinter guard because it has the cleanest edge possible to prevent splinters from coming up.”
Garcia says that testing is critical. “If I know that I am doing something very critical that I cannot mess up, I do a dry run,” says Garcia. “Cutting it cross-grain is where you’ll really see splinters, so I take a test to analyze the cut carefully to look for splintering, or if the blade is walking a bit.”
Because the wood flooring Garcia was using had a factory bevel, he needed to replicate it by using 120 grit sandpaper on a hand sanding block, and then touched it up a bit darker with a penetrating sealant so that it would mimic the same bevel as the factory.
“After preparing the home’s concrete slab, I chalked out where everything would need to lay based on my drawing,” says Garcia. “I then started building the panels and the cross-sections in the middle, laying the floor down over concrete using a two-in-one urethane adhesive moisture barrier system.”
Once the floor was finished, Garcia said the homeowner was thrilled with the results.
“It ended up looking like it was factory made. He didn’t realize that we paid that much attention to detail making the panels look as clean as possible,” says Garcia. “I had done prefinished patterns before, but this one was special, and it really couldn’t have worked out better.”