Hardwood flooring expert: Clients want red oak
Adam Skotnicki, owner of Adam’s Quality Flooring in Downers Grove, Ill., founded his company 10 years ago, after emigrating to America from Poland. Although he was trained as an engineer, he learned flooring quickly, as his father had been a floor installer.
“I know that every job needs to be done perfectly,” he says. “If I see something that’s a little wrong, I want to correct that point.”
We asked Skotnicki to give his insight on the installation and maintenance of hardwood floors.
How does a contractor approach installing hardwood floor, and what should I know as a client?
Skotnicki: I ask what the customer would like from the job, what kind of wood they have in mind and what kind of finish they would like. From the installer's perspective, it's important to understand a job perfectly. When I see a room and do an estimate, I see the job from start to finish in my head. I want everything perfect.
Red oak is the most common hardwood my customers use. It's probably 75 percent of all my jobs. Sometimes, they'll go with white oak or Brazilian cherry. These are all very high-quality woods.
Wood comes in two main types: Solid hardwood and engineered. The solid hardwood is just that — a solid piece of wood. Engineered wood is several layers of wood pressed together.
I recommend solid hardwood, because it makes the floor nice and strong. Replacing pieces of engineered hardwood is harder.
However, engineered floor is less expensive. On a concrete floor, it's much cheaper. You just put down foam and place the wood over it. When you install solid hardwood on concrete, you need to place plywood first.
I check the subfloor on every job I do, to see if it's stable and secure. If something is squeaking, I'll screw it down. I'll replace any damaged area.
The finish varnish is a very important part of the job. I do three coats on every job. If someone has a child in the house, I recommend a water-based finish, because the other varnishes smell very bad and dry slowly. Water-based finishes will dry faster; it only takes 15 minutes. A poly or synthetic varnish needs to dry overnight between each coat. It's best to use a poly or synthetic varnish if you're going to be on vacation or out of the house while the work is being done. Those varnishes tend to last longer.
Once a day has passed after completing the finish, you can walk on the finish and use it temporarily. But you must wait longer for it to be fully dry. After a week, most finishes are much stronger and drier. If you put too much stress on it too early, you can scratch the floor. To extend the life of your hardwood floor, you should clean it regularly with a cleaner that's made just for hardwood floors. There are many hardwood cleaners on the market, though I suggest Bona.
Sometimes, customers will provide the hardwood, but not very often. I recommend that I provide it because I buy it from someplace that keeps the wood in a climate-controlled environment and checks the wood for humidity and quality.