A Dynamic Duo: Sheaves Floors’ Mother-Son Sanding Team

Photos courtesy of Sheaves Floors

At Sheaves Floors, we have what some might think is a unique sand and finish crew. It’s me and my mom, Darlene Sheaves. Sheaves Floors is a family-owned and operated business started in 1993 by my parents, Jeff and Darlene Sheaves. When the business began, we only did sports floors, including anything from racquetball to basketball courts at large universities. As time passed, we started to transition into the residential side of hardwood floors.

We opened a retail store in the early 2000s. We had quite a few crews, but as the years passed, the workforce was dwindling, and it was tough to find anyone to work or for anyone to want to get into the trade. When I took over the family business in 2018, we still had employees, but after another couple of years, I decided to complete the work solo.

At that point, I wanted to try to do everything with Mom and myself, as Dad was working as a territory manager for Bona. I handle all customer calls/emails, going out and doing the estimates, booking the jobs, and the actual work part. She works alongside me daily and handles all the bookkeeping and purchasing for the business.

I am not aware of a lot of other mother-and-son teams. When potential clients ask who will do the work, I tell them, “It’s actually my mom and myself. We do it all from start to finish.” The client looks at me like I’m joking until they realize I’m telling the truth. Then, after every job, the client praises my mom in ways I’ve never seen for the work she puts in alongside me.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise, though, as Mom has been in the industry for 30 years. When she met my dad in 1981, he was already doing floors. She continued working in bookkeeping/accounting and joined the family business in 1993. She did all the accounting for Sheaves Floors while helping on jobsites as needed and continues with the same today. Mom always has enjoyed the installation side of the business but now prefers the ease of sanding, especially with the planetary sanders. This tool has been a game changer for her, as less fatigue and vertical sanding have enabled her to keep going.

One of our most-challenging jobs was an original top-nailed parquet floor from 1870 that we had to patch with reclaimed white oak to match the existing hardwood in the home. Then we had to sand, finish it, and have it all match like it never happened. It’s extremely rare even to see a top-nailed floor where we live in Virginia. We have a lot of older homes around here, but they usually will have 1 1/8” thick heart pine nailed directly to the flooring joists. It took a little while to track down a company that had some reclaimed rift and quartered white oak with the original face on it and who could mill it down to 5/16” of an inch for us.

The ultimate challenge was after I fixed all the missing and damaged areas, I got COVID, so Mom was stuck doing most of the work to get the job to the finish line. The nightmare endured once I was finally able to return to the job. That’s because when working in these older homes, you never know what has been applied to the hardwood floors. We tried using a water-based sealer twice, and neither application would dry properly. It would streak up and not cure properly. To this day, we don’t know exactly what was in the existing wood that was not being repaired, but when we finally went to a penetrating oil product, we had absolutely no problems, and the job turned out great.

In our trade, you eventually will run into things you never expected, and sometimes, you can only resand the floor and start over. Since we have been in business since 1993, we only have had to resand four total floors. This particular job was one of those. The last one was a 100-year-old home that was sanded completely and ready for waterpop before stain. After I waterpopped the floor, black lines were everywhere the following day. I came to find out a boiler had exploded in the home about 60 years prior, and all the soot went deep into the cracks between the wood. When I waterpopped the floor, it brought the soot back to the surface.

Not every job will go smoothly; you must learn how to fix and address an issue and move on. Things happen out of our control, but the true craftsman/woman will take the time to resolve the problem and move on to the next job.

We strive to perfect what we are delivering to each customer. It could be as simple as trying a different abrasive for one step of the process to get that near-perfect scratch pattern. There are always new products coming out, and we branch out to try new things because you have to be versatile in what you do. No one manufacturer makes everything you need for every job. You have to become fluent with different abrasives, sealers, finishes, etc., to deliver whatever result the customer wants in their home. The more you can do ultimately will result in more opportunities for your business.

Honestly, the mother-and-son team was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Mom is looking forward to retirement and traveling with Dad in their RV in a few years. With a lifetime in the flooring industry, she says we have been very fortunate with our health and the success of a family-owned business spanning more than 30 years.

Aaron Sheaves is the owner of Sheaves Floors LLC in Weyers Cave, Virginia. He is an NWFA Certified Wood Flooring Inspector, Certified Installation Professional, and Certified Sand and Finish Professional, who also was named to Hardwood Floors magazine’s 40 Under 40 list in 2019. He can be reached at sheavesfloors@gmail.com.

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