Every floor gets sanded a little differently. Different species, finishes, stains, etc. will cause us to alter our process slightly. However, the core of our process is applied to almost every floor we sand. The core process consists of sanding the main body of the floor with a drum sander, two cuts, one with 40 grit then 60 grit. The edges are sanded once with 100 grit using a rotary sander called an edger. They are then sanded twice with a random orbit sander, once with 60 grit, then with 150 grit. The corners are hand scraped. The body of the floor is sanded three times with a machine called the Trio which is basically a random orbit buffer with three heads. The first cut is with 60 grit paper, then 100 grit paper, then 100 grit screens.
Once we have sanded the floor, it is too slick to receive stain properly. We use denatured alcohol to “pop” the grain. During the sanding process, the grain gets folded over and gives the floor a slight sheen. By popping the grain, it causes the grain to stand back up and allows stain penetration. We then apply the stain by pouring the stain directly on the floor and buffing it in. We then buff off any excess stain. We allow the stain to dry overnight. The next day we apply one coat of water based sealer and one coat of water based finish. We allow that to dry overnight. The following day, we abrade the finish using the Trio, install the quarter round, and apply the final coat of water based finish.
A re-coat is a fairly simple process. The hardwood is sprayed with a chemical prep. This softens the finish and removes certain types of contaminants. We then clean the prep off the floor and slightly abrade the existing finish. The hardwoods are then cleaned thoroughly and a new coat of polyurethane is applied. If wax is suspected or if we are unclear on the cleaning agents that have been used we will use the Pallman Bond System. The steps for re-coating are very similar to what has already been explained with the exception of applying a Bond coat. Although it is essentially clear it acts very similar to a paint primer. It will bond with various types of finish products and give us a good foundation for the new polyurethane.
Glue down floor installations vary with the type of flooring that is being used. However, most require the floor to be level 1/8 of an inch within 8 feet. The reasons for this are related to bonding issues. A very smart tech rep once explained it this way, "No touchy, touchy, no sticky, sticky." In other words, if the floor is flat the wood will maintain contact with the glue being used and you should have no bonding issues. We typically use a modified silane adhesive for its holding power and ease of cleanup. We also use sealants if we are concerned with bonding issues or moisture issues. We will use other types of glues if the situation necessitates it. The basic process is to remove any existing flooring, prep the subfloor with a leveling compound, seal the floor, install the hardwood, install the quarter round.
Floating floors include laminate, luxury vinyl plank (LVP), and engineered wood floors. Laminate floors are pressed wood with a laminated skin that looks like real wood. Conceptually this is not a bad idea. However, most installers do not spend any time leveling the subfloor and homeowners end up with floors that feel loose or spongey and they tend to fail. The tolerance for most laminates is the same as most glue down products, 1/8 of an inch within 8 feet. We use an eight-foot level in conjunction with a laser to determine high and low spots. We then fill the low spots with leveling compound. The base and door jambs are cut. The sub-floor is cleaned, and if necessary, a moisture barrier/pad is placed on the sub-floor and the flooring is installed over it. It is common for the flooring to have a locking system whereby boards are connected via locks that are milled into the boards. I highly recommend either laminate or LVP for commercial applications and basement/playroom areas where floors are expected to take a lot of abuse. Cheaper laminates won’t hold up as well which is why I recommend laminates with a commercial rating. I frown upon using laminates over plywood since the laminate has no structural value. Any weakness in the plywood is transferred to the laminate. It can be done; I just find the feel of solid or engineered glue down over plywood to be preferable to that of a floating floor.
Nail down flooring is usually 3/4 of an inch thick and comes in varying widths and lengths. Like the name suggests, it is nailed down. We use L cleat nailers to allow the wood some natural movement without releasing from the subfloor. Nail down floors can only be used on plywood or OSB. The recommended thickness of plywood is 3/4 of an inch. We begin the install by leveling any sudden elevations in the subfloor. Once that is complete, we cut the jambs and the base. A moisture mitigator such as 15# roofing felt is placed over the plywood. We install the lineup run (the first one or two boards from one wall to the opposite wall). The floor is then racked out (a process of laying the boards on the floor in the pattern they will be nailed). Once the rack out is complete the floor is then nailed every 6-8 inches along the individual runs with the L-cleat nailers.
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