Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

There's no simple answer to reclaiming wood floors

Defects common after being covered by carpet for years

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QUESTION -- We have a 39-year-old house and we have removed the carpeting in the hall, living and dining rooms. To our surprise, we found oak flooring that seems to be in excellent condition, for the most part.

We have a number of concerns. There are nail holes where carpet nailing strips were installed around the perimeter of the rooms. There are also areas near the outside walls where it is evident that water damage has occurred and there are black marks in the wood. In a number of areas where plants were sitting on the carpet, the finish is gone, the boards are warped and the oak has discoloured to a grey colour. We also have a few areas where gouges have occurred as deep as three-eighths of an inch.

After contacting a number of flooring re-finishers for quotes, we have been left very confused. Some of the re-finishers say that they can't fix the gouges and they will show after being refinished. There are different opinions about the areas where the oak has changed to grey and black. Some say it will be removed during sanding and others say the stains will show. We have also received varying information and opinions on what floor finish is the best to use.

With so many conflicting opinions from different contractors we need to know what we can expect if we get the oak flooring refinished. Can we eliminate the gouges, the grey and black marks, and the warped boards and nail holes? We would also like to know which type of finish would be better, water based or solvent based? We look forward to your answer.

--Steve Schultz, Winnipeg

ANSWER -- The damage and defects to the hardwood flooring found by Mr. Schultz upon removal of his carpet are not uncommon for floors that have been covered for many years.

Leaking or wet windows and doors and over-watered plants are often causes of stains and damage to wood floors. Water soaked carpets and underpads may take a long time to dry and the moisture will deteriorate the floor finish and often the wood itself. The quality of the refinished wood in these areas will largely depend on the extent of the damage.

The areas where black spots and plant pot rings are visible are likely to be the most difficult to remove with sanding. These spots are often caused by discolouration due to rusting nails and fasteners or prolonged exposure to moisture. They are the most difficult to completely remove with sanding, because they are deep into the wood. Some of the smaller spots caused by rusting staples, which hold the carpet underpad in place, may be removable or easily hidden by filler as they are only in the surface of the wood.

The most easily improved areas are the ones where the finish has deteriorated and the boards have a light grey colour, but are not swollen or damaged. All of the spots and damaged boards may not be perfectly restored after refinishing, but will be much improved over the original finish.

According to hardwood flooring contractor Dave Warrenchuk, of DMW Hardwood Floors Ltd., there are many options to repairing and refinishing, depending on the homeowner's expectation of the end result.

Many small black spots caused by rusting nails may be filled at the time of refinishing, and only show small dark rings after completion. Other areas of deterioration and gouges, such as those described by Mr. Schultz, may be strategically hidden under furniture to hide the imperfections.

Warrenchuk also notes that badly damaged boards can be individually removed and replaced after initial sanding, but cautions that it is a costly process and may weaken the integrity of the flooring in this area. The new boards may not match the final finish colour of the old floor, unless the replaced boards can be reclaimed from another area in the house where flooring has been removed. This may be another alternative if extensive renovations are being done in the home and other older hardwood can be removed.

Various solvent-based and water-based finishes are available, but you get what you pay for. Warrenchuk uses only commercial grade finishes, as they have a much higher content of solids that those available at the local home centre. He prefers to use the water-based finishes due to their quick drying and lack of toxicity and odour. The quality and durability of these finished has improved considerably over the last 10-15 years and they can even be tinted to look like the traditional oil-based finishes.

"The latex satin finish I use tends to hide imperfections better than solvent-based finishes," states Warrenchuk.

He does offer solvent-based finishes to customers that desire it, as long as they are willing to vacate the home for several days while it is drying. Mr. Schultz should consider all these factors when deciding on the particular finish type and remember that the higher the gloss, the more the flaws will show. For a good source of information on hardwood flooring and finishes, Warrenchuk suggests visiting the Wood Flooring Manufacturers Association website at

Ari Marantz is owner/inspector of Trained Eye Home Inspection and is the P. R. Rep. for the Canadian Association of Home Inspectors- Manitoba ( Questions can be e-mailed or sent to: Ask The Inspector, P. O. Box 69021, #110-2025 Corydon Ave., Winnipeg, MB. R3P 2G9. Ari can be reached at (204) 291-5358.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 27, 2002 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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