Over-communication can be the secret ingredient for success when undertaking an extensive restoration project. Following this maxim helped Chris Frate of Pasquale Floors LLC in Cleveland, Ohio, during his more than one month-long renovation of a century-old mansion.
“It was a complete restoration of a large, seven-bedroom home that had almost a million dollars invested into it after it was gutted,” says Frate. “We mostly work in 100-year-old homes, and our approach on this job was similar to others, meaning a lot of communication, especially on the front end.” Facing a project involving almost 6,000 square feet of hardwood flooring, Frate scheduled multiple meetings with the client before, during, and after the restoration.
“There’s no such thing as over-communication. We aim to build trust and let clients know they are important to us. For example, if an issue arises, we’re careful never to assume they will be fine with our fix. Instead, we make the time to talk about it,” explains Frate. “This approach is how you build a relationship, demonstrating you are working for them and not against them.” A significant part of Frate’s communication with homeowners involves setting expectations – an especially critical approach to restoration projects.
“It is always better to address things. In older homes, we see many floors with gaps and squeaks. We set the expectation early that those are not going to go away. There’s not a great way to remove squeaks unless there is some way to get underneath the floor,” says Frate. “We also find stains from pets and circular marks where plants were located, and it can be the case that these will not simply sand out. We then have a conversation with the client about doing repairs, and/or staining the floor a darker color to help hide the stains. It’s about setting expectations, letting them know things that will not be perfect, and ensuring they are comfortable with that.”
“Once open lines of communication are established, it is critical to evaluate the existing floors to determine what can be saved, understanding that as the decades pass, the odds decrease, requiring replacement versus sand and refinish,” says Frate.
“Figuring out if there is enough to sand is huge. These floors already may have been sanded four or five times and are getting to the point where they have been sanded too much. We also are cautious when we come in to ensure there’s enough wood. Also, if the floor is cupped or crowned, understand you will have to remove even more wood.”
While much of the home’s original floors would remain, one area of the house that Pasquale could not salvage was the high-traffic area at the bottom of the three-story home’s main walnut staircase.
“The old white oak there was very thin. Nail heads were showing, and boards were cracking, so the best approach was to rip that area out and replace it with reclaimed wood,” says Frate. “Before doing so, we talked with the client about cost and how it would impact timing. We then created a proper change of work order and ensured the client signed off.”
Frate and his team installed a new subfloor, an all-new rift and quartered, 2¼” white oak floor in the 500-square-foot kitchen, replacing the old tile. They also did many board repairs, a lot of custom flush mount vents, and cold air returns.
The entire first and second floor were older, 2¼” white oak with a lot of rift-sawn boards. The huge third floor featured many bedrooms and had 3¼” heart pine that needed many repairs.
With repairs complete, Frate turned his attention to applying a new finish throughout the home, using the color of the main walnut staircase as a guide.
“We based the colors on the main walnut staircase, as the client liked a traditional, historic dark brown. We gave them a color palate that reflected that,” says Frate. “We did samples in good lighting with the client to get the colors locked down.”
After applying the finish, Frate says the approach he favors is to make sure the home receives plenty of fresh air after the finish flashes off.
“Next, we crack some windows to let the solvents escape, along with introducing some fans to get the air moving. This helps us, and it is important to reduce downtime and keep things moving. It is something I’d recommend doing post-application if possible,” says Frate. “Clients are spending a lot of money, and we want to ensure we’re doing our best. That can be a little thing like running a fan, or something huge, like communicating with them to know we’re in this together, working with them to create something timeless and special.”