Q&As: Defect Allowance, Nailing Strandwoven & Staining Maple

On Hook for Defects?

I have a customer complaining about defects in her floor I just installed. I told her I'm allowed up to 5 percent defects, but she isn't buying it. Who's right?

Rusty Swindoll, technical services manager at the National Wood Flooring Association, answers:

Your customer is right. The 5 percent allowance that we talk about in the wood flooring industry is an allowance at the time of manufacture. Even though the manufacturers have quality control personnel who check for defects, sometimes defects do end up in the boxes or bundles. The industry standard is that the manufacturers are allowed 5 percent that is outside the grade of the flooring.

It is the responsibility of the wood flooring contractor who is installing the wood floors to make sure when he comes across a defect, he culls or cuts it out and does not install it in the floor. The installer is the last person to see every piece of wood flooring before it is installed, so he is actually the final "inspector" of each floor he installs.

Nailing Strandwoven Bamboo

I'm having a lot of trouble nailing strandwoven bamboo-can you tell me what I need to do differently?

David Keegan, COO of Bamboo Hardwoods Inc., answers:

This is probably the most commonly asked question we receive about bamboo flooring. Due to the hardness, many installers find it challenging to nail through strandwoven bamboo flooring. Common problems are that they either set the pressure too high and blow the tongue off the floor, or they use a lower gauge (larger) fastener at standard pressure. The latter either causes the floor to dimple or ends up with the fastener not penetrating properly through the plank into the subfloor. This specific issue normally occurs when installing solid strandwoven bamboo flooring.

Some installers claim pre-drilling is necessary, but of course that slows down a job. So, our recommendation is to use 18-gauge fasteners versus typical the 16-gauge variety. By using this smaller width, the likelihood for any potential splitting or cracking during the installation is greatly minimized. Also, remember that the fasteners should be set to the proper depth and coverage schedule: a minimum of 112 inch and two fasteners per plank. Finally, keep in mind that engineered strand products may be easier to nail than a solid strandwoven product.

Success for Staining Maple

I have a client who wants her maple floors stained. She's had two other contractors tell her it can't be done. Can it be done, and how?

Joshua Crossman, owner at Yelm, Wash.-based PTL Hardwoods, answers:

Yes, it can be done, and it can look beautiful, too. Maple has gotten a bad rap for being stained because it can really blotch out on you. If done correctly, the stain really adds beauty and definition to the grain patterns of maple. You have to bring your A-game, though. There are a few different ways to go about it, but here is the procedure I have had success with. It is simple and it works, so there is no need to get too complicated with it.

When sanding, vacuum carefully between sanding grits and don't skip more than two grits-basically, do it by the book. Finish your sanding with 100-grit. Then, as Wayne Lee talks about in his blog, do a "soft hard-plate" to finish the floor, meaning a combination of buffing pads and abrasives. I use a thin white pad with a 120-grit screen. You want to make sure you don't have any scratches that will stand out in the stain.

After you vacuum throughly you'll need to water-pop the floor. I like to use the hottest water I can and a tile sponge. Get the floor nice and wet-don't skimp, because you want to make sure it is even. Immediately after you wet a section, go back over with a microber cloth. This will pick up any excess water and help to even things out (remember, you want it even). Let the floor dry overnight, keeping it at room temperature. When you apply the stain, put it on heavy and let it set on the floor for about five minutes before you wipe off, again, keeping it even. I like the rag-on and rag-off method. Let the stain dry a minimum of 24 to 72 hours following the manufacturer's guidelines, and you are ready for finish coats.

Before you do this in a home, I recommend making a mock floor that you can run through the procedure to see how the results will turn out. You'll need to try different stains from different manufactures to find the ones that will work the best. I find the more pigmented stains have a tendency to work better than lighter colors. Be sure to charge more, as the whole process is more labor-intensive and isn't something every company can offer. With success, you'll be able to stand out from the crowd and offer your clients something unique.

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