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Fine Hardwood Floors
Serving San Francisco and the North Bay
(415) 785-4562

Frequently Asked Questions
 

When should I refinish my floor? How do I maintain the finish on my floor? When should I re-coat my floor? How do I remove plant and pet stains from my hardwood floor?
Why is my hardwood floor dark or black near the windows or doors? Why are the nail holes in my hardwood floor black? Why are my floor boards warped or cupped? Should I grout between my hardwood floor and tiled area?
Why does my floor squeak? Should I use 5/16" or 3/4" hardwood? Should I use pre-finished or raw wood for my hardwood floor? Laminate vs solid wood?
Floating Laminate vs floating solid wood? How do I properly attach the water line to my refrigerator? How do I move appliances without scratching my floor? How can I prevent my furniture from scratching the floor?
What should I know about throw rugs? Can I repair or sand the parquet floor over the concrete? Isn't white oak lighter than red oak? Should I use a dark or light stain on my hardwood floor?
Will direct sunlight affect my hardwood floor?  What types of wood should I use? Are oil based products better than water based products? Can't I install my own hardwood? The guys on T.V. make it look so easy!
How about renting a sander and sanding my own floor? Should I use mats by my front door or in my kitchen? Can I install hardwood over concrete? My sub floor is a little damp. Can I lay wood on top?

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You should refinish your hardwood floors when the wood is scratched or dull, or if there are dark spots on the main walkway areas. Most floors after their last sand jobs usually last ten to twenty years. But they must be maintained, especially at the doorways, in the kitchen, hall, or entry. If your hardwood floors are showing signs of heavy wear in these areas, they probably need attention. 



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It's best to start off with a light broom, or a lightweight vacuum with a soft brush. After cleaning, don't break out Grandma's Murphy's soap or wax. Murphy's soap leaves your floor very dull, although they did come out with a new floor cleaner, so make sure you get that one and not the original soap. Waxing is not recommended at all, as the wax leaves a heavy build-up, and it must be repeated quite often. Also, wax causes a reaction when you try to recoat it with polyurethane. Flooring stores sell non-wax cleaners. Or you can try the vinegar and cold water approach.


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Most floors should be recoated about two or three years after the last sanding. If you find that you have a room that doesn't get much use, you may go up to five years or more. Areas with heavy traffic, or homes with children or pets, usually require a bi-annual coat. In most cases, the job takes only one or two days. And generally you won't have to move your large furniture, hutch or entertainment center.


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99% of the time, you can't. When a plant sits on the floor, water will spill over or seep out, even if you use a tray. It's always moist under the tray, and since there is no air flow, the floor will mildew, causing a black stain that will not sand out. This can be prevented by elevating the plant with small blocks, creating an air flow which will prevent moisture build up. Pet urine stains will not sand out, either. The urine contains powerful acids which, after only 24 hours, will penetrate the finish on your hardwood floor and permanently discolor the wood. In which case the boards should be replaced.


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Most likely, the floor has been damaged by water. The windows possibly leaked, or perhaps were left open during stormy weather. Same for the doorways and slider windows. Once again this usually won't sand out. We recommend replacing the damaged wood.


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Most likely, ambient moisture and excessive mopping, may have caused the nails to become rusted, which creates dark rings. Another possibility is the floor may have been stained a dark color at some point, then even after re-sanding, the nail head areas can still remain dark.


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A convex, or warped board occurs when water has flowed on top of the floor. A concave, or cupped board occurs when water or moisture is under the floor. This can be a serious problem in either case, and we recommend getting a professional evaluation to determine what should be done.


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Never grout between wood and tile. The grout gets sucked up into the wood, causing a black, gray stain that usually won't sand out. Instead, we recommend a flexible silicone. This comes in many different varieties, so make sure you choose the right color to match the wood or the adjacent tile grout.


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It seems that all floors squeak a little, some more than others. Most squeaks come from the joist. It's usually a good idea to screw down the old or new sub floor before installing your hardwood. If squeaks are still heard, sometimes a shim or a wedge needs to be driven between the joist and sub floor. In the case of a 60 to 100 year old floor, these floors usually do not have a sub floor, and most joists were set up with a two foot span, which was standard code back then. Now, the code calls for sixteen inches between center. This makes for a lot less movement. Either way, these are things to take into consideration before installing your floor.


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If you are matching existing rooms, or making repairs, we recommend 5/16" hardwood. Otherwise, 3/4" hardwood is a much better value. In the 1950's through the 70's, 5/16" flooring was milled very inexpensively. Today the cost of this material is virtually the same as 3/4" flooring. 3/4" hardwood is usually "tongue in groove" and is nailed from the side of the board. 5/16" flooring is nailed through the top and the life expectancy is much shorter.





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Pre-finished wood has benefits and drawbacks. A solid pre-finished wood, at 3/4" thickness, can be installed and completed in half the time as a raw wood, sanded finish floor. The disadvantage is that the floor will not be completely smooth, as there will be high and low spots in between the end joints of the wood. Also, most material has a small "V" groove, or what is known as a micro-bevel. There is no fine dust or smell, and in some cases, this may be ideal, depending on the situation. In a sanded, finished floor, you can have it smooth, with or without the small groove. There will be dust and smells, and you'll need to allow more time for this type of job.





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There is no resale value to laminate wood. Most floors are 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch thickness of real hardwood. Under the hardwood is usually pine or plywood, which varies from thicknesses of 1/2 to 3/4 inch material. In some rare cases you can sand the wood once with a light grit sandpaper, 80x or above. Compared to solid wood, the laminate doesn't stand up. Even a 5/16" hardwood floor has 3-4 sandings, and a 3/4" floor has 4-6 sandings, which means longer life for your floor or a new change of color.





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Pergo and Floating Laminate seems to work if you're opening a show room, and only have a week or so to prepare. Usually these types of flooring are placed over concrete. They jump up and down, they crack and make noise, and there's not much resale value, either. Though some laminates can be sanded once, and Pergo does have a 15 year guarantee, there's no way to resand Pergo, and such guarantees are void if the sub floor isn't absolutely perfect. (Meaning no sub floor can be 1/10 of an inch out of level every 100 sq. ft., or 10x10 area. Which is basically impossible.) However, there is a system where you can install plywood directly over the concrete either by glueing or nailing the plywood. Or there's a floating system that requires a 2" minimum height. You need to allow 1/4" of foam, two 1/2 " pieces of plywood, and the 3/4" hardwood. This can be a costly process, though in our opinion, it's worth it.





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You need to use the slinky-like coiled copper line, or a braided, high pressure rubber hose. Straight copper lines can kink and cause leaks.





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If you are going to move appliances into the kitchen, you need to get a 4x4 to 4x8 piece of plywood or masonite. Set the board in front of the area where the appliance will go. Drop the appliance on the board, hopefully you will have a dolly with rubber wheels. After hooking up cords, hoses, etc., push the appliance directly back. If you find that the front wheels or legs are still on top of the board, lift slightly in front and slide the board out. If you're moving large furniture, or a piano, it's best to have a few pieces of plywood or masonite. That way you can create a pathway, in order to slide, lift and set. By following these methods you can save your floor from severe damage.





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It's best to look at each piece of furniture individually. Some tables, couches and chairs have metal or sharp wooden legs. Plastic cup protectors seem to work best on large items that move occasionally. Chairs and couches need more stable protectors. By nailing or glueing plastic tabs or felt to the underside of the legs, you can get protection for a few years, though heavily used chairs may need changing every 6 months or so. For large items that don't move, wood on wood is O.K.





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It is generally recommended that you should not put your throw rugs down until 30 days after the last coat of finish is applied, although usually a week seems to be just fine. If your home is in foggy or wet conditions, or if you have a small heating system, try waiting at least 2 weeks before laying them out. To keep from slipping, place webbing under the throw rug. Please note that sunlight will affect the color of your floor around the throw rugs. (See below)





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Yes, you can re-glue the wood to the concrete, and sand the floor. Usually, small pieces will come up during sanding. Hopefully the floor hasn't gotten wet. Water can work it's way under the wood, and flow along the concrete. This weakens the wood, causing it to vibrate loose, as long as this hasn't occured, your floor should be all right for sanding.





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Actually, no. White oak has many colors, light white, brown, green and red. Usually white oak floors will be found in homes from the 1920's through the 1940's. They have a very mixed look, and boards tend to stand out much more than in red oak floors. Red oak is much more evenly colored. Red oak flooring is common in homes built from the 50's to early 70's.





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If you have lots of windows that get good light, dark floors can work. But if you find yourself using hardwood in a lower level of the house, or a room without much light, natural floors or a mild stain is perfect. A lighter shade of flooring will bounce light throughout the house, and a darker floor will absorb more light.





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It definitely will, especially if you put throw rugs next to a window that receives a lot of sunshine. The floor will change color around the rug, usually within the first few months. If you use blinds or curtains to block the sunlight, it will take up to a year to turn the color on the floor, but it does happen, and whether you use an oil-based or water-based finish product on your floor, all types of wood will change color in time.





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There are hundreds of types of wood to choose from. The number one choice in California seems to be Red Oak, Select. This type of wood is used mostly in new homes with either clear color or designer stains. White oak and maple are also very popular. Imported and exotic woods are more expensive than domestic. Choose wisely, as the wood will be in your home or store for a long time, 100+ years on average, with solid 3/4" material.




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Back in the mid-80's, water borne urethane was developed. The beginning stages of this type of finish had problems. It took a good 10 years to develop a strong, long-lasting finish. Now, the water-based finish is as thick as the new refined oil-based products. You can also tint the water base, plus it dries twice as fast as oil. On new wood, water-based products are fine. On older or refinished wood, we recommend an oil stain or poly coat first, followed by 2 or 3 coats of water-based urethane, commercial grade.




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Yes, you can. But let's hope it's a square room with no obstacles, such as a fireplace, kitchen island, many doorways, slider windows with thresholds, etc. These kinds of things can cause your line to run off, and floors can become crooked and out of square. A quality installation is a must. Having woodworking skills, or hiring a professional is definitely recommended.




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Unless you have at least five years' experience in sanding, do not attempt this! Remember there is a limit on how many times you can sand your floor. In many cases, it looks good until you apply the finish, and if you didn't sand it correctly, your mistakes will show up.




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No. You need to have a professional take a moisture reading prior to starting your hardwood installation. A moisture level of 7% to 11% is acceptable. Anything above this level needs to be brought down, either with heat, fans, a dehumidifier, or time. Otherwise, your wood may become cupped or warped.




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Outdoor mats are your first priority. Wiping off mud, stones and water will really help protect the finish and increase longevity of your floor. Inside mats are helpful, although most doors will not clear them. Mats placed in the kitchen, particularly under the sink and dishwasher, are helpful for soaking up water and protecting your floor from falling objects.




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Yes, you can install hardwood over concrete, either by glueing it directly, or nailing down plywood first. Also, there's a floating system that requires a 2" minimum height. Using 1/4" of foam, two 1/2" pieces of plywood, and a standard 3/4" hardwood. This process has benefits for downstairs acoustics, and adds a softer feel.




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