Grand Challenges

Grand Challenges Main Image
Photos courtesy of Eric Herman | State of the Art Wood Floor Gallery

When flooding destroyed flooring on the sixth story of a residential building in downtown Manhattan, Eric Herman of State of the Art Wood Floor Gallery in New York, New York, was tasked with replacing it. His challenge? The new boards were perhaps the longest and heaviest he’d ever seen. While the size and scope of the installation were extreme, with timely advice and creative thinking, Herman was able to complete a project he’ll never forget.

“The client wanted almost 4,000 square feet of extremely wide and long French oak installed. Each pre-finished board was 14” wide and ranged from 16’ to 20’ in length,” says Herman. “Flooring this long is extremely expensive and rare. Most rooms in normal residences are not even 18’ long. It’s almost a full tree, giving the appearance of no seams from wall to wall.”

Another unique aspect of the flooring was its thickness. The previous floor was ¾” thick, and the new floor the project architect specified was 11/4”. This change required Herman and his team to reduce the height of the subfloor.

“In New York City apartments, there are height restrictions – the main one being the front entrance doors to the residence. You cannot undercut or adjust those doors,” says Herman. “To allow for thicker boards, we put in a change order to remove the existing subfloor and replace it with a thinner one.”

With the subfloor altered, the team’s next challenge was getting materials into the building. They worked with a crane rigging company to shut down the Manhattan street and hoist the wood into the 6th-floor apartment. They also were required to remove windows on the 6th floor where the apartment was located to load the wood inside. Just before the wood was loaded onto the crane, Herman received a tip that he would never forget.

Grand Challenges Secondary Image“Lenny Hall of Endurance Floor Company told me that when we were loading the crane, I had to make sure tongue and grooves were in the correct direction for installation,”
explains Herman. “The reason is you cannot turn around a 20’ plank inside the apartment. Lenny was correct, and it was a great tip. It would have been a very costly and time-consuming mistake.”

The team’s next challenge was maneuvering the massive boards throughout the residence before letting them acclimate for two weeks.

“Not only could you not turn around, but we could not corner the halls to get into different bedrooms inside the residence. We had to cut holes through the sheetrock walls and pass the boards through one at a time,” says Herman. “There was no other way to get the boards to their correct locations.”

With the boards now situated, the team began the layout process, a critical step when working with large boards.

“You don’t want to see small slivers in hallways and other tight places. We spent a lot of time dry fitting to see where lines fell,” says Herman. “It doubles the amount of work, but allows us to review with the client and potentially swap things out. On high-end jobs like this, it’s an ideal approach.”

After dry fitting, Herman made some minor adjustments to the center of the floor to avoid small cuts in important places. His team ripped approximately one inch off the boards in some areas using a table saw to make them narrower. They then re-beveled by hand. In this way, they were able to adjust their lines.

“We prepared the boards, and then we were ready for installation. Two men were required to move each board as they were cumbersome,” says Herman. “We would apply the glue, carry the boards into position, and then nail them in. Any time we work with really wide floors, they are glued and nailed. The more surface area you have, the more it will move.”

The final task was to apply a coat of oil to the finished floor.

“Once the floor was installed, we did an additional maintenance coat of oil by hand and buffing in with pads and cloth. With wide boards, we enjoy working by hand, one board at a time. It’s more of a work of art than just broadly applying a coat of finish,” says Herman. “It was a very satisfying way to wrap up a job that presented many unusual and memorable challenges.”

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