I recently received a call from a contractor who seemed distraught over an issue and wanted some guidance as to how to resolve his problem. The issue was that he was sanding an engineered floor and he had sanded through the wear layer in a couple of places. His client was upset and was demanding that he replace the floor.
The first thing the contractor wanted to know was if there was a way to fix the floor. I told him that a repair for this type of issue is tricky. It’s not like you can just replace the board that was sanded through because by the time you sand it down to match the rest of the floor, you’ll have gone through the wear surface again. It’s possible to remove a section of wood and lace it back in, but there is no guarantee that the same issue won’t reappear by the time you have sanded the floor flat again. In this case, there was not enough attic stock to perform repairs and it was unclear if the same product was even available anymore.
The contractor felt that it seems unfair that he should be on the hook for this issue, since this floor was sanded before and he had no idea how much material was removed with the previous sanding. I explained to him that it may seem unfair, but it was the action of refinishing the floor that caused this issue. It is ultimately his responsibility to contact his client and come to a solution that they can both agree with. The client may be upset, and may not accept any other resolution other than full replacement. I explained that it’s important to try to find a compromise that both sides can live with so that it doesn’t end up in litigation. If the floor needs to be replaced, maybe start a conversation about upgrading the material. The client may agree to pay for the upgrade and it may not be a total loss for the contractor.
The best way to avoid this type of issue is to thoroughly inspect the floor prior to sanding. For detailed suggestions on how to do this, refer to the Refinish Your Floor article on page 94.
Once you’ve performed a thorough inspection, you have to decide if the job is worth the risk. If the job seems too risky, then it may be wise to start a conversation about replacing the floor rather than sanding and refinishing. If you think that you can re-sand the floor without going through, it is still worth a conversation that there is a chance that it can happen. It’s always a good idea to discuss a contingency plan with the homeowner prior to sanding in case any part of it gets sanded through. If the homeowner is prepared that sand through may happen and there is a contingency-plan in place, the homeowner will be in a better frame of mind if there is an issue. The homeowner may be disappointed, but they won’t be as upset. It’s much easier to come up with a resolution that both the contractor and the homeowner can agree on, if the homeowner is prepared properly.
Kjell Nymark is the certification and training manager for the National Wood Flooring Association in St. Louis, Missouri. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.