A Measured Approach

Photos courtesy of Jared Fitzgerald | Southern Oaks Flooring

As an NWFA Regional Instructor and owner of Southern Oaks Flooring in Nashville, Tennessee, Jared Fitzgerald understands how a simple tweak to parquet patterns can result in a unique look, provided you are careful with preparation and installation.

“I was contacted by a customer who had found a pre-manufactured parquet online and wanted to know if it was something that we would be able to install in an 85-square foot entryway in her home,” says Fitzgerald. “I let her know that if she had a certain pattern in mind, not only could we install it, but we could make it for her.”

Next, Fitzgerald met the customer at her home to show her a few design possibilities.

“She liked a pattern I had made that had the grain switched up, going in a few different directions, with the grain swapping every other piece. It was a simple 5” by 5” trapezoid design, but by turning it in different directions, it highlights the variety you can find in a single species of wood,” says Fitzgerald. “I was excited to start, as floors like this are always something I look forward to doing. They make the trade exciting and enjoyable, rather than always doing straight lay floors.”

While Fitzgerald was excited to begin work on the floor and confident in his abilities to produce, he was careful to pace himself.

“It’s important to hold yourself to high standards and ensure you approach a floor like this properly,” says Fitzgerald. “To an untrained eye, you might be able to get away with errors, but for anyone who understands our trade, sloppiness stands out like a sore thumb.”

Fitzgerald’s first step was to craft a sled. He then spent a day and a half routing the flooring out of 5” white oak. This part of the process is time-consuming due to the precision needed for each cut.

“The most important thing with a project like this is to check your wood as you go. Use calipers, and every so often, stop what you are doing and measure to make sure everything is staying on pattern and in line,” says Fitzgerald. “You must ensure your cuts are repeatable, accurate, and true to your design pattern. Even if you are 1/16 of an inch off, that becomes very problematic after just a few feet. It can throw you off. It happens a lot more often than you think.”

By checking widths, Fitzgerald also was able to catch an error that would have affected the
entire pattern.

“I started with 5” planks, and by checking the widths, we discovered that some of them were more like 4 7/8” from the factory,” says Fitzgerald. “When cutting them, the sled stayed true, but the material wasn’t all identical. Only by testing did we discover that some boards were shorter than the other boards we had purchased. So we had to make an adjustment.”

With the flooring cut to the adjusted dimensions, Fitzgerald began the layout process.

“You must spend time on the front end with your layout. Lay it out with trammel points, pop your chalk lines, and then recheck them to ensure they are true and square. Have it centered, your borders laid out, and have everything planned out in advance,” says Fitzgerald. “The worst thing you can do is to pop a center line and then try to figure your edges when you get there. It would be best if you also took the time to dry-lay it. Find a large area where you can at least lay out large sections of the floor before installation to ensure that it all fits together correctly.”

By proceeding carefully, the installation was straightforward and issue-free. Fitzgerald first dropped in the new flooring pattern, and then placed a walnut and white oak border to make it meet the existing floor. He then moved on to the sand and finish process.

“We sanded with a multi-disc sander and then stained to match the home’s other flooring, which featured an oil-based finish. To accomplish this, we used an amberizer tint in the waterbase sealer, with a semi-gloss finish to match the sheen and color,” says Fitzgerald. “The client loved the result, and so did we. It is a reminder that you cannot be afraid to do something new or different. Take your time and always remember that there are so many resources out there to help.”

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