Unless you are feeling lucky, you better have a plan for hiring a wood floor contractor. Leave luck for Vegas, because the devil is in the details. Many things can go wrong from clogged HVAC systems to buckling floors or just a bad finish. When you're investing a considerable amount of time and money transforming the atmosphere of your home, you want to make sure it's done right the first time.
We aren't holding anything back. Here's what you need to know:
Before you hire someone, do your homework.
Finding Good Candidates
Start by asking your friends by text and Facebook if they can recommend a good wood floor contractor. Some of the best contractors work by word of mouth.
Next, pay a visit to the National Wood Flooring Association's website. The NWFA is a non-profit trade association representing all segments of the wood flooring community. They provide training and resources for experts to enhance their skills. If you were lucky enough to get a referral for someone who is also an NWFA member, then you've hit pay dirt. Add them to your top three.
Now that you have a list, do a search online for each candidate. You're looking for reviews and testimonials. Check with the Better Business Bureau for an A+ rating. Visit their website to see if there are any examples of their work.
Get a Minimum of Three Estimates
It's time to let your list of contractors begin competing for your business. Be sure and ask questions about their qualifications and experience. In addition, have them explain their process including post completion. You'll be amazed at how much information you'll pick up through the vetting process. Ask for a written estimate including a full breakdown of materials and warranty. This will help you compare estimates and spot any differences between them.
Check their References
Ask for three former customers to contact who have had wood floor projects like yours. Key factors that you'll want to check include:
- Quality of Work
- Staying on Schedule
- Accuracy of the Bid
- Final Clean Up
- Ongoing Service
Check Their Credentials
The last step before awarding the job is to fact check their:
Years of Experience
- How long has the company been in business?
- How long have the contractors been installing wood flooring?
- Are you taking their word for it or is there any verifiable proof?
- NWFA membership?
- Secretary of State business documentation?
Right to Operate
- Ask for proof of their business license - in most cities you need one to work
- Ask for a copy of the declaration page from their liability policy
- If they plan to use employees for the job, ask for proof of their Workman's Comp insurance
- If they will use subcontractors, you will want a copy of the declaration page from their liability insurance as well
Adherence to NWFA Guidelines
- You can download a copy of the NWFA Guidelines here
- Do not hire anyone that is not familiar with these methods
After you hire someone, stay on top of the project.
Pay in structured intervals
It is important that the wood floor contractor includes the payment terms with your estimate. In the industry, it is highly unusual for you to pay up front in full for a job. Don't do it. A common payment structure is 30% deposit, 30% on material delivery and 40% on satisfactory completion of the work. As long as you save a portion of the payment until the end, you have leverage to make sure the job gets done right.
Know about acclimation
It's important that you and your contractor allow time for the wood floor pieces to properly acclimate to your home's environment. The installers should take care to log and watch the moisture content of the materials and the relative humidity of the environment before and during installation.
Maintain an attic stock
Contractors usually order 10% more materials than needed because they have to cut pieces to fit. This leaves excess material left over after the project. Be sure and keep any extra materials left over for when you need to have future repairs done.
Don't allow dust to invade your home
Boards will need cut to size which will leave a considerable amount of sawdust behind. Talk with the contractor about the plan for dealing with the mess. You want to reduce the likelihood that it will invade your HVAC and travel throughout your house. Be sure and have the contractor seal off the room that cutting will occur in. Use plastic over doorways and seal off vents and returns.
Get your home back to normal
A reputable wood floor contractor will take care of cleanup of the work areas after they finish the project. Be sure and check with them about when it's safe to move your furniture and belongings back into the area. This will help make sure that the project doesn't end with any last-minute surprises.
Learn how to care for your floor
Cracking and buckling, scuffs and scratches are the hallmarks of a once beautiful hardwood floor that has succumbed to poor maintenance. Read our article, 9 Must See Tips for Maintaining a Beautiful Hardwood Floor, to learn how to avoid these fates. We recommend the Pallmann line of hardwood floor care products. Many contractors will be able to give you a starter set of cleaning products or at the very least, refer you to a distributor. One more question to ask is whether they have any programs available for the long-term care of your wood floors.
Complete the Circle
Are you pleased with the wood floor contractor that you chose?
If so, write them a testimonial. If the job is excellent, allow them to photograph your gorgeous floor after the room is back together. This not only helps them, but the thousands of other homeowners that are next in line to start a wood floor project.
Remember, do your research before hiring a wood floor contractor, then stay involved all the way to completion. You'll be satisfied with the results of the repair, refinish or installation of your hardwood floor.