Metal Makeover

For Travis Fritzel of Perennial Hardwood in Fort Collins, Colorado, a tragic situation led to having a clean slate for installing the nicest floor in his home that he could think of.

“We had a large housefire in October that pretty much burned down the back half of our house,” says Fritzel. “It was a total loss, so we had to throw away all of our personal property, rip our house down to the studs, and start the fight with insurance for a few months.”

Fritzel and his wife decided a herringbone pattern with brass inlays would be their dream floor and provide a fun, challenging project. They settled on a select grade 4” by 24” white oak from Muscanell Millworks out of Cortez, Colorado, because it is dried to a lower moisture content to withstand the state’s arid climate. The brass for the inlays came from an online metal supplier. From there, Fritzel reached out to the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), Young Brothers Hardwood Floors, and finish manufacturer representatives for advice.

Photos courtesy of Travis Fritzel | Perennial Hardwood

“It was a little bit of trial and error. We did one of the bedrooms just to figure out how to do the brass. Once we got all of the herringbone in, we determined it was best to sand the floor as flat as we could, so we two-cut it, filled everything, hit it with a PowerDrive using 100 grit paper, and then we inlayed the brass as close to flush as we could throughout the floor just using a Festool router and track saw,” he explains. “Then we hit it with our Festool sanders using 120 paper and finally 120 mesh on the entire floor to make sure it was all perfect before doing an oil finish.”

Fritzel determined that using a natural oil was his best option. Rubio Monocoat natural was used, followed by their pure oil for a muted, matte look. With kids and large dogs in the house, Fritzel liked going with an oil for the ease of repairs.

Installing the herringbone alone was the easy part, as Fritzel has plenty of experience with the pattern. BergerBond Primer P, a liquid moisture sealer, was applied to the subfloor. Every tongue and groove had Titebond glue, and the floor was nailed with 18-gauge fasteners.

“Most herringbone we do, there is a full trowel glue and nail combo to be safe. With herringbone, your tolerances have to be pretty much perfect on the subfloor for it to look really good,” he advises. “I always like grinding down the subfloor as flat as we can, to stay within NWFA flatness tolerances.”

As expected, the brass proved to be the biggest challenge. One reason is that Fritzel found that if the brass was sanded for too long, it became hot quickly and would expand.

“When I experimented on boards, if I put it slightly above the floor and sanded it down flat, the brass got so hot sanding that it melted the epoxy and it would expand and the brass would pop out.”
— Travis Fritzel | Perennial Hardwood

“When I experimented on boards, if I put it slightly above the floor and sanded it down flat, the brass got so hot sanding that it melted the epoxyand it would expand and the brass would pop out,” he says. “Setting it down below the wood is tough because if you barely touch it, you have to sand all the wood down the exact height and you want to leave as much life as you can on that wood. I ended up putting it as flush as I could and edging the final sand of everything about six times on the perimeter just so I wasn’t in one spot too long.”

After it was all done, Fritzel felt the process was relatively easy for the reward of having such beautiful custom floors in his remodeled home. He notes that the NWFA and the wood flooring and finish manufacturers have resources available for figuring out how to handle metal inlays. Having the experience of completing a successful brass inlay, it is something he will now have as an option to offer clients and says it could be a good way to increase revenue on certain jobs.

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