DIFFERENT GRADES OF HARDWOOD FLOORING

I’m beginning to realize that a lot of people out there don’t know that there are different grades of hardwood flooring!  Each grade has its own particular characteristics and appearance.  Especially pertaining to Oak hardwood flooring, the 3 most commonly used grades are:  Select, #1 Common, and #2 Common, which is also known as “Rustic” grade, or “Builder’s” grade.  The grading scale is a measure of what is known as “Character” markings or natural characteristics, e.g., variation in color from board to board, mineral streaks, presence of knots or worm holes; but they also reference average board length, milling imperfections, and other irregularities.  None of these 3 different grades are better or more durable than the others – the grading is primarily a way to qualify appearance.  Some people prefer the uniformity of Select grade, while others prefer a more rustic look with more character in the floor. Less character markings costs more, because there will be less of a tree that is usable.  Select grade is the most expensive of the three, with #1 being a bit cheaper, and #2 Rustic grade costing considerably less than Select. SELECT grade has very few imperfections or character markings.  Select grade will be almost uniform in color, with very few knots or holes, and longer, similar length boards.  Small, tight knots are permitted only every 3 feet.

#1 Common has more variation in light and dark colors from board to board, knots, holes, and more variation in the length of boards.

#2 Common or Rustic grade is very rustic in appearance, with great variation in color from board to board, visible mineral streaks, prominent, larger-sized knots and worm holes, and lots of shorter boards.

In our opinion, #3 Common, also known as “Tavern” grade or “Utility” grade is not worth purchasing to use for wood flooring, because even though it will be significantly less per square foot, so much of it will be unusable that this negates the lower price.  #3 or Utility grade frequently has dark machine burns, shattered ends, large broken knots, broken pieces, a high percentage of boards 1' or less, etc.  For those who like a floor full of character, we recommend going with a #2 or Rustic grade.

Here are some different grades of Red Oak hardwood floors that we have installed, sanded and finished, all natural without a stain:

And here are some White Oak hardwood floors that we've installed and finished:

Keep in mind that the above pictures are all of natural floors with no stain.  When you intend to apply a stain to the floor, especially a darker stain, the color differences between boards are less noticeable. With a dark stain, the differences between #1 Common and #2 Common will be nearly indiscernible, and you can save a lot of money by going with a more rustic grade of wood!

Here are some different grades of Oak hardwood floors that we have installed, sanded and stained with darker colors:

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Can you tell the difference (especially between #1 and #2 Common)?  With a natural floor, the differences in grades of Oak are more noticeable. With a dark stain, much less noticeable.  A hardwood flooring expert can help you achieve your design goals in the most economical way possible -- call us!!

What is a screen and re-coat (aka a buff and coat) and will it work for me?

I just got called today by a customer looking for a buff and coat, also known as a screen and coat. Some people refer to this process as a “light sanding.”  There is no such thing as a “light sanding.”  A flooring professional can either sand the floor, which means sanding off the top layer of actual hardwood and getting to a fresh new layer of wood; or, they can buff the floor with a buffer machine that has been equipped with a screen, which is only a light abrading of the top layer of polyurethane and does not touch the actual wood at all.

The phrase “screen and re-coat­” really describes the process of sprucing up an existing coat of polyurethane by top-coating it.  As I mentioned, this is also sometimes referred to as "buff and coat" because the screen is often driven across the floor by a buffer. In order to get a new coat to adhere to the old one you must lightly abrade or ‘screen’ it. A screen is just a mesh encrusted with abrasive particles. Because it is a mesh, there are fewer abrasive particles per square inch, making it generally less aggressive than sandpaper (a 120-grit sanding screen, for example, will be less aggressive than 120-grit sandpaper).

Screens are also used under thick soft pads that further soften the cutting action of the screen. This is desirable because floor screening should only leave enough texture in the floor to allow a new coat of polyurethane to bond; screening should remove only a tiny fraction of the existing finish.

Many people are hopeful that they can get away with a buff and coat instead of a sanding.  How do you know which process is right for you?  Things to consider:

  • Scratches - Surface scratches in the top layer of polyurethane only can be removed by a screen and coat, while scratches that are into the wood will not be removed. If the scratch or scratches look clear, you can probably take care of them with a buff and coat.  If the scratches are light or white in color or are lighter than the surrounding wood (dark or black scratches are old ones – they are in the wood and have filled with dust/dirt!), they will need a sanding to be removed.
ready for buff
ready for buff
  • Bare wood – If the hardwood floor looks greyish colored (mainly in high traffic areas), the floor will need to be sanded. The polyurethane has been worn completely away, and the wood has become discolored.

Cleaning products – Hardwood floors that have been cleaned with the dreaded Murphy’s Oil Soap, Orange Glo, Mop and Glo, or other wax cleaners cannot be re-coated. These cleaners leave behind waxy, soapy residues that are impossible to get off the floor without sanding it, and even then that makes for a lengthy and difficult floor sanding job! (See my previous blog post “7 Tips for Proper Hardwood Floor Maintenance!)

residue from murphys
residue from murphys
residue from murphys 

residue from murphys 

The buff and coat procedure should really be part of a regular hardwood maintenance program.  A buff and coat every 3 years or so (or more frequently for floors with hard use and heavy traffic) can greatly extend the life of your hardwood floor, as it will refresh the top layer of polyurethane.  Polyurethane is a sacrificial layer on top of the wood, and it functions to protect the wood underneath it.  That layer of polyurethane gets thinner and more scratched each year—as it should—because its job is to keep damage away from the wood below. If you let that protective coat deteriorate for too long, it will eventually expose bare wood to assaults from shoes, pet nails, liquid spills, and dirt/grit, causing damage that can only be repaired by sanding the whole floor.

So, every few years, well before the protective coat has grown too thin, it is best to refresh it with another coat. The critical word is “BEFORE.”  A floor has to be recoated before you see damage. This is a difficult concept for a lot of people because they think they are wasting money top-coating what appears to be a floor in very good condition. However, think of polyurethane like sunscreen. Sunscreen must be applied in a good, thick, even layer before skin is exposed to the sun, and it must be re-applied periodically because it wears off.  Once a sunburn appears, it is too late to apply protection.

And in regards to hardwood flooring especially, protection is always less costly than the damage that results from not having it!  A buff and re-coat is considerably less costly and less time consuming than doing a complete sand and refinish!  If you are in the Long Island area, we would be happy to advise you on whether or not your floor could benefit from a screen and re-coat, or if it requires a complete sanding procedure.

RED OAK VS WHITE OAK HARDWOOD FLOORING: WHICH IS BETTER?

Oak is the most popular choice of hardwood flooring here in Long Island and in the United States in general.  Oak is a very practical choice for hardwood flooring as it is a very durable wood that can last well over 100 years, as well as being readily available – it is grown and milled in the USA and especially here in the Northeast region of the country.  It is very affordable when compared to other species of wood that are used for hardwood flooring and quite versatile as it can be stained almost any color of the rainbow.  So what is the difference between Red Oak and White Oak and which is better? Most obviously, COLOR:  Contrary to what the name suggests, White Oak is a darker wood than Red Oak.  The color of White Oak is a mix of browns and tans ranging from dark brown to beige, while Red Oak is a lighter wood that ranges from almost white to a soft amber color.  Red Oak has pinkish tones and red hues throughout.  Either can be stained any color, and the visible differences between Red or White Oak diminish as you go darker with the stain color.  Lighter stains and white washes on Red Oak will have a reddish or pinkish undertone to the color.  Because White Oak is a darker wood, the same color stain applied to both Red and White Oak flooring will be darker on the White Oak floor than it is on the Red Oak floor.

side by side red oak and white oak
side by side red oak and white oak
white oak #1 sanded
white oak #1 sanded
Red oak with dark walnut stain
Red oak with dark walnut stain
white oak with dark walnut stain
white oak with dark walnut stain

HARDNESS:  White Oak is a slightly harder wood than Red Oak.  On the Janka hardness scale, White Oak flooring scores a 1360 and Red Oak flooring a 1290.   White Oak is also very dense, which makes it more suitable for outdoor furniture and boat building.  Some claim that the density of White Oak makes it a more stable species (less seasonal movement) than Red Oak, but both types of hardwood flooring will have some seasonal movement.  Both Red and White Oak flooring are excellent choices for long-term durability for most homes.

GRAIN PATTERN:  Red Oak grain patterns tend to be more unique or ”wild” than the finer, less pronounced grain pattern common to White Oak.  The grain in White Oak runs straighter and tighter than Red Oak, with fewer swirls, circles or deviations. Red oak also has wider grain lines that can run in zigzag patterns, or subtle, wavy lines that are absent from White Oak. Another reason that Red Oak flooring displays a more prominent grain pattern than White Oak is because it is a lighter wood than White Oak.  And on the other hand, the smoother look of White Oak can also be attributed to the fact that the dark grain is less noticeable against the darker wood.

#2 Red Oak with 1 coat sealer and 2 coats semi-gloss oil poly
#2 Red Oak with 1 coat sealer and 2 coats semi-gloss oil poly

MATCHING EXISTING ACCESSORIES:  Red Oak is far more frequently used in stair treads, Newel posts, handrails and banisters.  If you have Oak stair treads already in your home that you need to match, chances are good that they are Red Oak.  If you are installing new treads or railings in your home, White Oak will be slightly more costly since it is less commonly used, but not severely so.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT:  Both Red and White Oak are considered to be a "greener" use of a National natural resource because they are farmed and grown in the United States.  The carbon footprint of both types of wood is lower than that of exotic wood species like Brazilian Cherry or Tigerwood, for example, and because of forestry protection programs, Oak trees are constantly being replanted here in the U.S.

PRICE:  There is not a major difference between the price of Red and White Oak.  Because unfinished hardwood flooring is a commodity item, the price fluctuates from week to week.  At times, Red Oak is more expensive, and sometimes White Oak costs more.  The price will also vary based on width of the boards and grade of the wood.

white oak with golden oak stain
white oak with golden oak stain
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We hope that this has been helpful if you are planning a new hardwood flooring installation and are considering Red or White Oak.  As previously stated, either is a fine choice for long-term durability and beauty.  It’s really just a matter of taste as to which you prefer and what your overall goals are for a specific finish or look!  A hardwood flooring expert can advise you as to which would be best for any particular color or finish.  If you are matching an existing floor in your home, please be aware that there is more to matching hardwood than determining whether or not you have Red or White Oak!  It is a bit more complex than that, as there are several different grades of hardwood flooring (Select & Better, #1 Common, #2 Rustic Grade, Character Grade, etc.) as well as different milling techniques -- Plain Sawn, Quarter Sawn, Rift Sawn (I will cover this topic in the next blog post) – to be aware of as well!  If you are unsure of what type of hardwood floor you have or what would be the best for your home, call a hardwood flooring professional and get it right the first time around!

PREFINISHED VS UNFINISHED HARDWOOD FLOORING

Many of our customers ask us whether prefinished or unfinished hardwood flooring is better, and my response is usually that both have their advantages!  From an aesthetic perspective, it is our strong opinion that there is no comparison to the beauty and warmth of unfinished hardwood flooring that is sanded and finished on site by an expert flooring craftsman.  However, there is no denying that prefinished flooring is a much faster process – you can walk on it right after it is installed…it’s done! With that being said, we tend to think of new hardwood flooring as an investment in your home, and it is something that is going to be there for quite some time.  The hardwood floor that you choose is something that you will see, live with, and appreciate every day, and for those reasons, we feel that the extra days required for on-site sanding and finishing is of minimal inconvenience when compared with the many years that you will enjoy your new hardwood floors! What are the main differences between the two?

Prefinished hardwood flooring has been finished – sanded, stained, and coated with polyurethane -- in a factory.  All you need to do is install it (cut and nail it to the subfloor) and it is done.  Unfinished flooring is raw hardwood that must first be installed and then sanded and refinished on site.

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Prefinished flooring is factory-finished, and thus each board has been finished individually with sprayed-on coats of polyurethane.  The boards are then oven baked with aluminum oxide to create an extremely hard acrylic finish.  Because each board is finished individually, this creates a beveled edge along each side of the board.  When prefinished hardwood flooring is installed, there will be a micro-bevel or groove in between each board.  This creates a floor that is not totally flat, and each board will have a visible line in between it.  Unfinished flooring is raw wood with no beveled edges.  When unfinished hardwood flooring is sanded and finished on site, there are no lines in between the boards, and you will get a perfectly flat, smooth floor.

crop prefinish
crop prefinish
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Advantages to Prefinished flooring:

Time:  Prefinished flooring is a faster process. Once prefinished flooring is installed, you can walk on it and put furniture on it immediately.  With an unfinished hardwood floor, the sanding process may take several days and then you will have to wait another several days to put furniture back on the floor.

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sanding photo

Less Mess:  Prefinished flooring is less messy than an unfinished floor that will need to go through a sanding process.  Sanding does create dust during the actual sanding process, though our dustless system definitely cuts down on the mess. And when we are finished with our cleaning process after the floor is sanded, you would never know that there was any dust at all!

No Smell:  With prefinished flooring, there is no chemical smells because there are no chemicals being applied.  The flooring has already treated in the factory where it was made.  It is true that the smell from refinishing and applying an OIL BASED polyurethane is intense, difficult to deal with, and not healthy to inhale; however, with the new green products that we recommend and use, our clients do not have to deal with the harsh smell and/or chemicals of an oil based poly unless they want to. For applications of oil based polyurethane, we insist that our clients be out of the house.  For most residential homes, we exclusively use Bona water based polyurethanes which have very low VOCs, are environmentally friendly, and have almost no smell at all.  We also recommend and frequently use Rubio and WOCA Hardwax oils, which have NO VOCs and no smell.

Cost:  Prefinished flooring usually costs less overall than unfinished flooring.  Though prefinished flooring may cost more for the actual material, with the reduced labor costs of only an installation, prefinished flooring usually ends up being less expensive than unfinished hardwood flooring that is installed and then sanded and finished on site.

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Advantages of Unfinished flooring:

Appearance:  Unfinished flooring looks like real wood.  Even though solid prefinished flooring is real hardwood, because of all the many factory sprayed-on coats of polyurethane and/or stain, it is our opinion that prefinished flooring looks plastic-y and factory-made, with a less noticeable grain pattern, and thus less warm.  Unfinished hardwood that has been finished on site by an expert hardwood flooring professional looks like a work of art.  There is nothing that compares to the natural warmth and beauty of a hardwood floor that has been sanded and treated by a real craftsman.  Again, this is our opinion, and everyone has their own preferences.  We don't care for the beveled edge and resulting lines in the floor that you get with prefinished flooring, but some people really like them!

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Finish Options:  The creative possibilities with unfinished floors are nearly unlimited.  From the countless different species of wood available, to innumerable stain colors, to the many different finish options, the sky is the limit with unfinished floors.  We also do all of the new finish options including hardwax oils like Rubio Monocoat and WOCA (which can be spot repaired if they are scratched), as well as other creative effects, which you cannot find in prefinished flooring.  We can create a blue or even a green floor, for example, or do a French Bleed, wire brushed, or hand scraped floor to your liking!  Prefinished floors have a much narrower scope of wood species, colors, and finish options to choose from.  “Handscraped” or “wire brushed” prefinished flooring that we have seen looks far different from the real craftsmanship exhibited in the wood when this process is actually done by hand instead of in a factory.

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bhampton

Matching existing flooring in the home:  If you have existing hardwood flooring in the home that you want to match, adding unfinished wood flooring is the way to go.  You will be able to exactly match the species of wood, and an expert hardwood floor refinisher can play with stains and colors on the unfinished wood to exactly match the existing floor.

Uniform stain color:  Prefinished flooring that is stained a dark color will only be stained on the face of the board.  Because of the beveled edge, when a darkly stained prefinished floor is installed, sometimes you can see the underside or lighter portion of the wood along the edges when you look at the floor from far away.  When unfinished hardwood is installed and finished on site, the wood is smooth and uniform, and stain is applied to all visible areas.

Cleaning:  The beveled edges of a prefinished floor also create a trap for additional dirt, dust, and grime which can be more difficult to clean than a floor that has been finished on site and is totally flat.

Repairs:  If a hardwood floor that has been finished on site gets scratched, it can be spot repaired by taping off boards and sanding those individual boards down to raw wood and then refinishing them.  The new hardwax oil finishes Rubio Monocoat and WOCA that we are using more and more frequently in residential homes are even easier to repair as all they require is applying/rubbing in a bit of extra product to visible scratches/raw wood.  The surrounding wood will not take the product, which makes it very easy for homeowners to do spot repairs themselves as scratches appear.  If prefinished flooring becomes scratched, a whole section of the floor may need to be replaced, or the entire floor may need to be sanded in order to correct the problem.

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Refinishing:  Over time, both prefinished and unfinished flooring will get some surface scratches from normal wear and tear.  Unfinished flooring that has been treated with a water based or an oil based polyurethane can be buffed and re-coated every few years to revitalize the top coat of poly and remove surface scratches.  If a hardwood floor is well-maintained and this process is done every couple of years, homeowners will never need a complete sanding!  This buff and coat procedure is not an option for prefinished flooring.  Prefinished flooring can be sanded down to raw wood, but due to the high number of polyurethane coats applied in the factory, the wood must be sanded down deeper into the material than a hardwood floor that was sanded and treated on site.  This means that a prefinished floor cannot be sanded as many times as an unfinished floor as it will more quickly become too thin to re-sand.  And with prefinished flooring, the beveled edge will be decreased with sanding, but it will never go away completely!

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photo 2 fort salonga

We install (and refinish!) both prefinished and unfinished flooring, and in the end, it is up to the homeowner to decide which option works best for them!  I’ve laid out what I feel are the benefits of both, so hopefully this post will be helpful if you are faced with this decision!  And as always, feel free to call us for advice!

HARDWOOD FLOOR REFINISHING PROJECT: HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?

It is always best to plan ahead for a hardwood flooring project as you may have to be out of the house (and probably should be!) while the job is underway! Besides the overall size of the job, another important factor is the type of polyurethane that you pick.  Oil based polyurethane takes twice as long to dry as a water based poly, and only one coat can be applied per day.  If you are going with a stain on the hardwood flooring, this adds at least one additional day to the project as well.  Rubio Monocoat and WOCA hard-wax oil finishes don’t involve any polyurethane, but both products have their own timelines, which I will cover!

SANDING TIMES:

In general, we can sand about 1,500 – 2,000 sq ft in one day.  Newly installed, unfinished hardwood is easier to sand, while a re-sand of treated and/or older hardwood flooring is a slower sanding process.

Our team models some of the newest and best hardwood flooring equipment in the industry. We have been doing this for years, and we are extremely efficient workers!

OTHER FACTORS THAT SLOW HARDWOOD FLOOR REFINISHING TIMELINES:

  • If you have used Murphy’s Oil or other similar products on your hardwood floors, this makes for much slower sanding, as it gums up the sandpaper and is very difficult in general to sand out of the wood.
  • Polyurethanes applied a long time in the past can also be difficult to remove or sand completely out of the flooring and thus, these projects take more time.
  • Any repair work/patching or removing of carpet, staples, etc., adds additional time to a hardwood flooring project.
  • Flooring that has suffered moisture damage and is cupped or rippled will need additional sanding time as the wood floor will have to be sanded at a 45 degree angle to flatten it before proceeding with normal sanding that follows the grain of the wood.
  • Humidity also plays a huge role in a refinishing timeline. Humid conditions slow drying times of everything:  stain, polyurethane (both oil and water), and Rubio/WOCA products!  Humidity can be mitigated, however, with a climate-controlled interior!

OIL BASED POLYURETHANE:

For a natural (no stain) sanding job with 2 coats of an oil based polyurethane finish, the minimum amount of time needed to complete a job of any size is 2 days, and for 3 coats of oil based poly a minimum of 3 days.  We recommend at least 2 coats of oil based polyurethane + a lacquer sealer coat as a minimum for hardwood flooring.  Extra coats = extra protection, but only one coat of oil based polyurethane may be applied per day, as it needs 24 hours to dry before applying another coat.  For example, a job of 100 sq ft – 2,000 sq ft finished natural with 1 coat of lacquer sealer and 2 coats of polyurethane would take 2 days to complete (without any of the above mentioned time-delaying factors).  The first day would be sanding the floor to bare wood, applying one coat of sealer and then applying the first coat of oil based poly.  The sealer dries quickly and the first coat of poly is applied right after it is dry.  The final, or second coat would be applied on the second day, after the first coat poly has had sufficient time to dry.  If the customer has elected to get 3 coats of oil poly, one additional day would be added to this timeline.

For natural (no stain) jobs over 2,000 sq ft and under 5,000 sq ft, it would take us 2-3 days to get the floor sanded, sealed and one coat of oil based poly applied.  Add one additional day for each additional coat of oil based polyurethane.

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RECOMMENDATIONS AND DRYING TIMES FOR OIL BASED POLY:  For a refinishing job with oil based poly, we recommend that customers and their pets be out of the house completely, as the fumes are noxious and are not safe to inhale while the product is drying.  24 hours after application, an oil based poly can be walked on with socks only, though the smell will still be very strong and not safe to inhale for extended periods of time.  We recommend removing shoes to walk on a hardwood floor newly treated with an oil based poly for at least 3 days after the final coat is applied.  Oil based poly takes a bit longer to fully cure and harden, and thus our recommendation is to wait a minimum of 5 days before putting any furniture on the floor.  A week is most ideal!  Do not allow pets (especially dogs) onto a floor newly treated with an oil based poly for at least one week after completion.

WATER BASED POLYURETHANE:

For a natural (no stain) sanding job with 3 coats of a water based polyurethane, we can complete a job of 100 - 1,500 sq ft in one day.  We recommend a minimum of 3 coats of water based polyurethane as it coats in thinner, but harder layers, than an oil based poly.  Water based polyurethane dries very quickly and up to 4 coats can be applied in one day.

Jobs 1,500 – 5,000 sq ft, 2-4 days for completion.

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RECOMMENDATIONS AND DRYING TIMES FOR WATER BASED POLY:  For a refinishing job with water based poly, it is possible to remain in the home while the project is underway if bedrooms are not being done.  Water based poly can be walked on with socks only 3-5 hours after coats are applied.  We recommend removing shoes to walk on a floor treated with a water based poly for at least 3 days after the final coat is applied.  Water based poly dries and cures faster than oil based poly, but we recommend waiting a minimum of 3 days before putting any furniture on the floor.  5 days is more ideal!  As with oil based poly, do not allow pets (especially dogs) onto a floor newly treated with a water based poly for at least one week after completion.

There is one water based product on the market that fully dries and cures in 24 hours…e.g., safe for furniture, normal traffic, etc.  If a client is in a rush to have a project completed, we recommend and use Bona Traffic HD (High Durability), which is the top of the line water based polyurethane: it is extremely durable, a beautiful and contemporary finish, and is ready for normal traffic in a quick 24 hours.  It is pricey, but worth it for many reasons!

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STAINS:

Floor stains require additional sanding as well as an additional day for drying.  We take the time to “water pop” or open the grain with a small amount of water applied to the floor via a damp rag, which also takes additional time, but the results are worth it!  For a stain, add 1 day to project for jobs under 800 sq ft, 2 days for jobs 800 sq ft – 1,500 sq ft, 3 days for jobs 1,500 sq ft – 2,500 sqft, 4 days for jobs 2,500 – 4,000 sq ft, and so forth...

24 hours after a stain has been completed, 3 coats of water based poly could be applied in one day, and 1 coat per day for oil based polyurethane.

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WOCA AND RUBIO PRODUCTS:

WOCA and Rubio Monocoat are both all-natural, hard-wax oils that do not require polyurethane – they are hardening oils that provide both color and protection that is part of the wood floor, as opposed to layers applied on top of hardwood.  Both can be spot-repaired.  Woca and Rubio products have their own guidelines.

WOCA products must be applied to a floor sanded to 100 -120 grit, which requires an extra pass of the sander (or an additional “cut”), which adds a day of sanding to projects 1,500 sq ft or larger.  We recommend 2 coats of WOCA, a base coat, and a top coat which creates a matte, silky appearance.  For WOCA applications, projects up to 1,500 sq ft will take 2-3 days, and add one extra day for every additional 1,000 sq ft.

Rubio requires an 80-grit sand, which is normal for all sanding procedures.  Rubio necessitates only one coat, and wood treated with Rubio will not take more than one coat of the product.  Rubio is, in our opinion, a “harder” product and does take longer to buff in than WOCA finishes.  As a result, the timeline for Rubio products is about the same as WOCA, though it requires one less pass of the sander:  projects up to 1,500 sq ft will take 2-3 days, and add one extra day for every additional 1,000 sq ft.

After treatment with Rubio Monocoat and WOCA products, floors can be walked on with socks only after 12 hours of drying time.  WOCA is fully hardened and usable after 36-48 hours, though care should be observed during the first week after project completion. Be careful not to expose the hardwood floor to water during the hardening time.

Rubio floors require 7 days to fully cure, become water resistant, and harden completely. Rubio floors are useable 36 hours after the oil application, though care should be observed. After 48 hours, on areas with very heavy traffic (such as movers bringing furniture in) the surface should be protected with cardboard, but only during the traffic period. When heavy traffic is over with, remove the cardboard. Once the cure period has passed, the oil will be resistant to most liquids.

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rubio samples
rubio samples
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Rubio Monocoat and WOCA both make their own cleaners and maintenance products, and we always advise following the manufacturer's recommendations!

Now, with a better idea of how long a hardwood floor refinishing project will take, we suggest you plan a vacation accordingly and let us go to work!  :)  It really is much easier to be out of the house and out of the way, and then come home to a beautiful new hardwood floor...  With that being said, we've worked with many clients who elected to stay in the home while the flooring project was underway, and we've made it work.  Some houses make it more or less feasible to do this, and we are happy to advise as to what will produce the best results!

OIL BASED VS. WATER BASED POLYURETHANE

Another one of the most frequently asked questions we get from our customers is, “What is the difference between water based and oil based poly?”  Both oil and water based polyurethanes are like a coat of armor for the hardwood floor below, protecting the wood from damage.  Each type of polyurethane is a sacrificial layer that will show scratches and wear marks over time, and both oil and water based polyurethane have their strengths! DURABILITY:  If each product is applied properly using quality products, the difference in durability is indiscernible.  A lot of clients think that water based poly is not as durable as an oil based poly, but a newer brand, quality water based poly will last just as long if it is well taken care of!  For water based polys, we recommend and use only Bona products, as we feel they are the highest quality water based polys on the market.

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COLOR:  Oil based poly has an amber hue, whereas water based poly is clear.  An oil based polyurethane will continue to amber and darken over time, while water based poly will remain clear for the lifetime of the hardwood floor.  This color difference is less noticeable over a stained hardwood floor, but an oil based poly will still exhibit an amber hue that will continue to darken over time.

(To LEFT: Oil based poly on 2 1/4" Red Oak. Above: Water based poly on 2 1/4" Red Oak)

DRYING TIMES:  Oil based poly takes much longer to dry and cure, and only one coat of oil based poly can be applied to a hardwood floor in 24 hours.  Water based poly dries much faster, and several coats (up to 4) can be applied in one day.  Water based poly can be walked on with socks in about 4-6 hours after last coat has been applied, while oil based poly must dry for at least 24 hours before walking on it with socks.

SMELL:  Oil based poly has a very pungent smell and emits a strong chemical odor and noxious fumes while drying that should not be inhaled.  Applying oil based poly requires the use of a respirator and your clothes will stink for hours afterwards!  We normally advise our clients to be out of the house and also to remove their pets while oil based poly is being applied and drying.  Water based poly, on the other hand, has almost no smell.  Water based polyurethane is safe to apply without a respirator, and will not stink up the house like an oil based poly.  It is safe for people and pets to occupy a house while undergoing coatings of water based poly.

THICKNESS AND HARDNESS:  Oil based poly is a thicker poly, but it is also softer.  Water based poly, an acrylic product, is a thinner, but harder coating.  Oil poly can be more susceptible to dents, while water based poly can be more susceptible to surface scratching.  Because water based is a thinner product, we recommend 3 coats of water based poly as a minimum, whereas with oil 2 coats are sufficient as a minimum. For people with large pets, we recommend either 3 coats of an oil based poly or 3 coats of Bona Traffic High Durability water based poly.

COST:  Water based poly is a more expensive product.  A 5 gallon bucket of oil base polyurethane costs us around $150.00 to purchase, whereas the same amount of water based poly costs us about $350.00.  Expect to pay .50 - $1.00/sf more for a water based polyurethane finish.  If your flooring contractor is not charging you more for a water based polyurethane, they are using a cheap brand that will not last!  As previously stated, we use only Bona brand water based polyurethanes, as they are the most durable on the market.

FEEL:  I have heard some people say that water based poly is a rougher finish and doesn’t feel as smooth as an oil based polyurethane.  We apply both polyurethanes all the time, and if you hire an expert contractor, either finish should feel as smooth as satin under the feet!

INSTANCES THAT REQUIRE WATER BASED POLY:  If you are going for a gray stained, white stained or a white-washed hardwood floor, you must use a water based poly, because an oil based poly will make those floors look yellow.  Over time, they will continue to look more and more yellow-ish.  ICK!! Also certain very light species of wood, such as Maple, look best with a water based poly for the same reasons.  Beautiful light-colored Maple turns yellow with application of an oil based poly.  We also recommend a water based poly for hardwoods that have a very yellow-ish tone to them naturally, such as Ash, Pine, or Fir, because application of an oil based poly only brings out the yellow tones even more!  This is a matter of taste, however, all of our clients with the aforementioned hardwood species have been very happy with the application of a clear water based poly.  I have seen Ash, Pine and Fir floors with oil based poly applied and they just scream YELLLLOOOWWWW (even more so over time)!!!

ASH WITH OIL BASED POLY

ASH WITH OIL BASED POLY

ASH WITH WATER BASED POLY

ASH WITH WATER BASED POLY

Everyone has different tastes and different living conditions, and any competent professional hardwood flooring contractor should be able to offer advice as to which polyurethane is best for any particular situation.

7 TIPS FOR PROPER HARDWOOD FLOOR MAINTENANCE

Proper maintenance of hardwood flooring will help prolong the life of your floor between sandings.  Our customers always ask us questions in regards to proper maintenance of their hardwood floors, so we hope that this blog post is helpful! Let’s start with rule #1 of proper hardwood floor maintenance:  Wood and water don’t mix well!  Hardwood flooring can be severely damaged by excess moisture.  Spills should be cleaned promptly and thoroughly.  And on the cleaning side, using devices such as steam cleaners or floor steamer mops can really damage your new hardwood floor.  There are a lot of commercials out there showing people happily sanitizing, disinfecting, deodorizing, and cleaning a wood floor with a steam cleaner, but steam is water and water damages wood!  (Just look how happy this woman is steam cleaning away!!  This actually damages the floors with excessive heat and moisture!)

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More accurately:

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floor damaged by steam cleaner 2

Steam cleaners can cause the finish to delaminate and the wood to swell.  They can also lead to peeling finish, cloudy finish, and whitening finish.  Using these devices is almost like leaving your wood floor out in the rain.  So stay away from those steam cleaners!  (Pictures to left and below are of floors damaged by repeated use of a steam cleaner.)

floor damaged by steam cleaner
floor damaged by steam cleaner

2) Do vacuum and sweep frequently!  Dirt, grit, gravel, salt, etc. are abrasive, just like the grit on a piece of sandpaper.  Your weight on top of those particles will grind into the finish just as effectively as any floor sander, so clean any dirt and grit off the floor as often as possible. Be sure and use a vacuum without a beater bar, as this can damage the finish on the hardwood floor.  We recommend a canister vacuum with a very soft bristle wand head.

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3) Use rugs or mats, especially at exterior doors, to help trap sand and grit that arrives with incoming traffic, while area rugs in high traffic areas can prolong the life of your hardwood floor between coatings or sandings.  Be sure to use a natural underlayment (as opposed to synthetic rubber backings) if using one.  Natural latex and natural rubber underlayments are best as they will not react with the polyurethane.

4) Do NOT wet mop the floor, ever!  Even those long-stick squeeze mops just don't wring out the mop head thoroughly enough, and even small amounts of water can cause your floor to swell and cup over time.

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5) Put felt floor protectors on the bottom of all furniture, as well as on anything else that may rub on the hardwood floor (baby exersaucers, etc.).

6) Keep pet nails trimmed.  Be aware that dogs running through the house will most likely scratch any finish.

Murphy-Oil-Soap

7) One of the most frequently asked questions we get from our customers is, “What products should I use to clean our hardwood floors?”  It’s a great question to ask because there seems to be a lot of confusion out there!  Do NOT clean your floors with Murphy’s Oil Soap, Mop and Glo, Orange Glo, Swiffer Wet Mop, furniture polish such as Pledge, vinegar, ammonia, or any pine cleaners!  All of these cleaners, over time, will dull and damage the finish. And if they leave a residue, you will find that this residue is nearly impossible to get OFF of your floor!  We are doing a re-sand right now in Fort Salonga, and much to our chagrin as we were setting up, spotted a bottle of Murphy’s Oil in the garage.  It took us 50 sheets (!) of 36-grit belt sandpaper for our Galaxy2000 sander to get down to the bare wood, which added an entire day to the project as well as added hotel/furniture storage costs for the homeowner.  This product in particular will eat right through your polyurethane finish, leaving your wood exposed to damage from spills, scratches, and stains.  It also will prevent you from doing any sort of maintenance re-coat of polyurethane on your floor, which means that you will have to commit to a full sanding when parts of the floor start to look dull or scratched. Furthermore, most warranties from finish manufacturers and prefinished wood flooring manufacturers are voided with the use of an oil soap cleaner!What do we recommend for cleaning products?  Bona Professional Hardwood Floor Cleaning Kits are great and are made for polyurethane-coated hardwood floors.  The chemicals will not damage the finish and do not leave a residue.  You can find Bona Professional Hardwood Floor cleaner online or at a local flooring store.  Note that Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, Lowe’s, etc. do not carry the Professional line, which we feel is superior to the regular Bona hardwood floor cleaner.  Find the Pro kits on Amazon (18" Hardwood Floor Care System and 15" Hardwood Floor Care System), which have everything you need to get started.  If your floors are finished with Woca oil or Rubio Monocoat, both of those manufacturers make their own cleaners, which should be used as directed.

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Bona-Oil-Kit-175

Follow these 7 tips and you will prolong the life of your hardwood floors, keeping them beautiful for years to come!