When Willie Short of Willie James Quality Flooring in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was hired to fix the work of a prior contractor, he was given a difficult assignment. The homeowner spent a lot of money on their flooring job, but the result they were left with was a disaster.
“A referred customer in a historic area of Baton Rouge was having some issues with the work a previous contractor had done in her home with 3½” reclaimed heartpine,” explains Short. “During an extensive remodel, a wall near the kitchen was removed, revealing a void underneath the wall’s base. To make things more challenging, the two floors didn’t align. Another contractor attempted a repair, but the results were wildly unacceptable.”
When Short attempted to tell a friend about this job, he found it difficult to explain all he would have to do to repair it, and just how bad the initial repair work was.
“You need to see pictures to understand what we would have to do to make this floor happen for the client. It was done 100 percent wrong,” says Short. “They decided to fill in the void using small pieces of 3½” planks cut to fit. The pieces were at an angle because the two floors were not lined up; it was very, very ugly.”
Despite having a limited budget, Short was adamant about realizing the homeowner’s goal of making the floor appear as though no repair had ever been done. He was committed to coming up with a solution that would not only fix the bad job, but also meet the homeowner’s desires.
“It took a lot of thinking and skill to make it happen efficiently and within budget. Situations like this are exactly why we have the National Wood Flooring Association classes. You need to know how to do things better and think outside the box to tackle jobs like these,” says Short. “Homeowners also need to do their homework and take great care in vetting whom they hire to work in their homes. Improper vetting of contractors and tradespeople often leads to shoddy outcomes which inevitably result in the homeowner spending more time and money to correct the problem.”
As Short brainstormed how to approach the job, the client’s limited budget was at the top of his list of concerns, followed closely by the fact that the two floors also were 1.5” out of square in a 16’ room.
“We wanted to fix this and try to line everything up together, as removing everything and starting fresh was just impossible due to budget constraints,” says Short. “We also wanted to level up the floor, which for some reason, was at two elevations, due to a ¾” height difference due to different subfloor heights.”
Short says the height difference was quite strange, and he wanted to fix it.
“We ordered new reclaimed heart pine to correct the issues and transform two different levels of flooring into one continuous level to remove trip hazards. We made it one level, which took two days,” says Short.
Short’s more significant challenge was splicing into old wood with new wood, and lacing them using his trained eye to ensure, at least visually, it appeared to be a straight alignment.
“I was going to have to lace two floors together that are not in a straight line by modifying new boards to create the illusion that the floor was straight. Coming off the old existing floor, the unfortunate fact was that nothing was square,” explains Short. “We had to adjust things as we went along to get what I call ‘eye true.’ It’s not square, but it will at least look right when we are done.”
Short popped lines where he could, cut boards back, routed them out, and put a tongue and groove system on them so that they would lock into place straight enough to where eyes would not be drawn to it.
“The results were fantastic. My next step was to use a drum sander over our work. We finished with Bona stains and sealer,” says Short. “When I put the final coat on it and released the keys back to her, I felt like we had hit a home run.”