Preparing for the Unexpected

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Photos courtesy of Matt Garcia | Craftsman Hardwood Flooring.

As a hardwood flooring installer, you never know when you will be asked to make a change on the fly. For Matt Garcia of Craftsman Hardwood Flooring in San Angelo, Texas, preparedness meant quickly coming up with solutions that both pleased the clients and allowed for the project to remain on schedule.

“The project was for a designer I work with frequently. It was a remodel of a house that already had wood floors. They had a 5/16” pre-finished floor installed on a concrete slab, but they wanted to do something different,” explains Garcia. “Our job was to refinish a red oak existing staircase, remove the existing wood flooring from concrete, and install and finish 2,500 square feet of new unfinished white oak flooring.”

Knowing the designer so well, Garcia had expected her to request something “fun and different” somewhere within the home. Only this time, she didn’t.

Woodstock Image 2“I was surprised when she did not mention anything out of the ordinary. I went into the project thinking it would be a very straightforward install,” says Garcia. “Then I got a phone call.”

At what seemed like the very last minute, the designer asked Garcia if he could come up with something interesting for the home’s entryway.

“This is not what I was expecting, but it is something I’ve learned that I need to be able to anticipate. Situations arise, and you owe it to yourself and your clients to be prepared.”

Woodstock Image 3“I was able to brainstorm and came up with some ideas in my shop,” says Garcia. “It’s nice to think on your feet for a project, but that only works if you are prepared, and it’s a good lesson in planning for the future every day in small ways.”

He had been stockpiling unique materials left over from other projects.

“It’s a good idea to have a supply of wood so that if someone wants to get creative on a project, you have those materials on hand,” says Garcia. “I had enough walnut in my shop to allow me to make a very nice basketweave pattern with white oak in the home’s foyer. The designer loved the idea, we verified the price, and we were good to go.”

Woodstock Image 4In addition to the materials, Garcia could save time by using a pre-existing jig he had from a previous project.

“I already had a basketweave jig made up. It’s a good idea to save your jigs. Knowing what the designer was thinking, I could take that existing jig and slightly modify it,” says Garcia. “It reduces your setup time considerably, especially if it’s for a pattern that you know is popular in your area.”

“Since the pattern was the focal point, and the rest of the home was straight-lay wood flooring, we balanced the planks on the pattern, snapped chalk lines where the pattern was going to go, laid the pattern, and then installed the floor around the pattern,” he says.

The next challenge was removing the existing flooring and preparing the concrete subfloor so that he could begin the installation.

“Removing existing wood flooring on a concrete slab can be tough, but we were ready. Our approach was to use a heavy 70-pound jackhammer that sits on a custom-built trolley. We use a 6” bit that we sharpen and thin out,” says Garcia. “We lower the bit, and because our trolley has angle adjustments, we can scrape the floor with the bit at a low angle.”

Because the jackhammer bit is so sharp and thin, Garcia says it slices the glue bond, and the wood pops off the concrete. To remove the remaining adhesive residue, he used a large concrete grinder hooked to a vacuum system, a specific adhesive removal bit, followed up with a concrete grinding bit to finish the surface.

“It’s a great example of having the right tool at your disposal for the job. With the adhesive removed, it became a straightforward layout for us, followed by the finishing process,” says Garcia. “We did a blend of Birch, and medium brown stains from Bona finished with Bona Extra Matte HD, which looked good on both the white oak and the walnut with a muted tan look. When doing mixed species, you need to be careful that you are choosing something that will look good over all of it.”

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