A Drive That Inspires: Meet the Winners of the 2023 Ultimate Wood Floor Guy & Gal Contest

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The WFB Ultimate Wood Floor Guy & Gal contest was created as a way to highlight the men and women in the industry who go above and beyond to bring the floor home. Day-in and day-out they haul bundles, sling hammers and finesse stains and finish; they deal with hectic job sites, demanding customers and long hours. Since the contest began, the recipients have not only excelled technically in their craft, but they’ve used their knowledge and passion to uplift the entire industry, bringing with them a positivity and drive that inspires others. This year’s recipients are no different, and we’re honored to have the opportunity to share their inspirational stories and advice.

As with previous years, this year’s recipients will receive a once-in-a-lifetime free trip to Germany, where contest sponsor Lägler will treat them to a tour of their facilities and a full slate of hands-on education during their popular Fly & Sand trip.

Do you know a wood floor pro who fits the description of “Ultimate”? Are you that pro? Enter the 2024 Ultimate Wood Floor Guy & Gal contest at bit.ly/uwfgg24enter.

To read more about this year’s winners, scroll down.

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Ultimate Wood Floor Guy: Ketric Rivers

COMPANY: H&H Hardwood Floors LLC | Austin, Texas


The buck stops with Ketric Rivers. That’s how he approaches every job and client he takes on. “He’s thoughtful and kind and always striving to be better in the flooring industry and as a human being,” says his boss and Ultimate Wood Floor Guy nominator Derrick Hubbard of H&H Hardwood Floors. “For someone to have that mindset after all the adversity he has faced, it’s pure magic walking into one of his job sites.”

The adversity has been considerable the past few years, as Rivers lost his wife to cancer in 2020 and became a single parent. “His passion for his job kept him going in a time most would have crumbled,” Hubbard says. “He shows up to work every single day with a necklace that has a pendant on it with a picture of her.”

As a Black man in the construction industry in Texas, Rivers has also had to face prejudice on the job site. But, as Hubbard notes, Rivers consistently refuses to give anyone an opportunity to hold him down. “I have seen him win over the most brazen of them all,” Hubbard says. “He kills them with kindness every single time. They literally have no other choice than to accept him because his sand-and-finish work is second-to-none.”

Rivers was on the path of becoming an electrician, but the creativity that went into wood flooring eventually hooked him, as did the smile of the ecstatic customers whose floors he saved. 

“From the bottom of my heart, this man is everything a business owner like myself could dream for,” Hubbard says. “Someone who puts the customer first and the company second. Never putting himself ahead of anyone. There’s not another floor guy in the world I’d rather work with.” 

WFB spoke with this year’s Ultimate Wood Floor Guy, Ketric Rivers, about his career and thoughts on the industry. The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

What was your background before you got into hardwood flooring?

I’ve always been in the Texas area, and I grew just wanting to play football. You grow up, you’re a kid, you go through phases and whatnot. I had been going to little jobs here and little jobs there, and they just weren’t working. I finally went to trade school and I went to do electricity at first. I did that for a minute and just fell out of love with it. I picked up the wood flooring trade from a buddy of mine who had been doing it for a minute. He was like, “Man, you oughta join me and try it out and see if you like it.” I came and he was refinishing some cabins; I did a few cabins and I just fell in love with it. It was a beautiful outcome, and I was really proud of myself for contributing to it. I was like, “Dang, that stuff was so bowed and we still made it look like that?” You just gotta sand it, and it comes together. That’s pretty much how I got into the wood floor business. I was maybe 28 or 29 then.

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How long have you been working for H&H Hardwood Floors?

I’ve been working with them for 10, almost 11 years. The buddy of mine did work for Derrick [Hubbard, H&H owner]. Derrick walked into one of the jobs and said, “You oughta come and see if you want to join the team.” I actually first went to visit Derrick’s house for Thanksgiving; we kind of had the interview there. I told him, “As long as I’m here, I only want to improve your company, and the day I don’t, you let me know.” And I’ve been there ever since.

What was your training experience like?

I had on-the-job training at first and then we did a couple classes with Bona and stuff like that. But mainly I was in the field learning the meat and potatoes of it. I mainly sand and finish now. I can do anything, but my forte is the sand and finish, which I love. I love the before and after; you walk in there and it’s a total disaster, and then you turn it into Cinderella. 

Do you do mainly residential or commercial work now?

I’ve done plenty of commercial work. I’ve actually done the Omni Hotel Resort in Barton Creek; I did all the wood floors there and all the stairs, I think it was 8,000 square feet. That was my first big project that I did with some guys who didn’t know what they were doing. We really kicked that floor’s butt. But we also did the South Congress Hotel and the Austin Library. We did a lot of commercial jobs, but I mainly do residential until we come across the right commercial jobs.

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How has wood flooring been different than electrical work?

At first, it was financially working. And then I honestly liked the creativity and craftsmanship that went inside the work. I’m also a people person, so satisfying the customer is more ideal for me and seeing their smile. I’ve had floors where they’d hired other companies, and not to speak down to them, but they just didn’t meet the person’s expectations; then we come in and we change the whole mood of how she’s feeling. That’s what I’m after right there—I’m after great satisfaction, 100%.

I’ve been through a lot of stuff in my life these past few years. My wife passed away in 2020, so I’ve been a single parent, taking care of things. This is my passion now. It’s been my passion, but I’m definitely putting 150% into it now.

What is your favorite tool to use and why?

Oh, definitely the drum! Definitely. When you’re done with that, you’ve pretty much got 65% of the house done. I use a Lägler Hummel.

What’s your least favorite part of the work?

Probably delivering wood and stuff like that. That comes with the work, though.

What pet peeves do you have about wood flooring?

When I come to houses and we have to refinish them, I hate when other contractors didn’t put enough time into tacking it and doing it the right way to keep dust and dirt out of the finish. You need to do that to get a clean, nice smooth floor. 

Any philosophies you have when it comes to dealing with clients? 

You have to let the clients vent first so you can read them. Once you’ve read them and seen what kind of person you’re dealing with, then you can figure out how to address them. We live in Texas, so they come from all angles. When I come to a door, people are slightly shocked, because there aren’t many Black men doing wood flooring, and I have to kind of sell myself a little bit. I understand that, I get it. I’m always genuine, I’m not trying to act to be somebody different—I just kill them with kindness. I’m a good guy, so I just try to do that and let that work for me and it does, like 100% of the time.

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Do you have a favorite client you’ve worked with?

There was a guy who had an amazing, amazing piece of land with houses on it. We called it “The Compound”—it was that big. He had exotic animals on it that were running through the yard. He was an amazing homeowner—he never gave us problems. He would walk around and see us working really hard and he would put $100 bills in the pockets in our shirts. He would do that all the time. It was just him showing us his appreciation. And we appreciated him, too—we didn’t mind working hard for him, because he was a good guy.

When it comes to succeeding as a wood flooring pro, what kind of qualities do you need?

A lot of patience. You have to take it one floor at a time and you have to give 150%, period. I always do that. I never look over one job to get to another one. I always take care of the first one first. Because if you mess something up, then you have to go back and fix it. I say take your time, be patient, and care about what you’re doing so you don’t have to go through that.

How did you develop your positive mindset? 

I was single-parent-raised. It comes with the territory. You have to start wondering if you want to be this kind of person or you want to be that kind of person. And I started seeing that the person I wanted to be was more feasible—being courteous and nice to people. I grew up in certain areas and certain ways and I’ve found that being nice to people, just having a positive outlook on life, is a better way of doing things. You could probably go further in life with that. So that’s what I did, and it was kind of installed in me anyway, just my person. Some people aren’t going to like it—you’re not going to win over everybody. It’s impossible. Sometimes difficult people have never seen someone give them that kind of respect or acknowledgement. Maybe it’ll leave a mark on them and later on they’ll change. But if not, we tried.

You wear a pendant of your wife every day to the job site—can you talk about what that means to you?

I’ve got a golden pendant with some wings on it, and her picture is in the middle of it. I keep her around my neck. This represents my better half, in memory of her. I want to let people know that what I’m doing now is because of her, because she kept me on track. 

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What do you like to do outside of hardwood flooring?

When we’re not working, we’re fishing. Derrick just recently got a little beach house in Corpus. We fish a lot. He was like, “Man, when you get some free time, come down there and we can go fishing.” I’ve been taking advantage of that. And if we’re not fishing, we’re probably spotting a new place to go fishing. That’s what we like to do. My best catch probably was a 23-inch sheepshead. I’ve caught redfish out the wazoo, not great big ones, but my biggest fish was that sheepshead. They don’t usually get that big.

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What advice would you give to someone interested in joining the trade?

Make sure when you start learning the business that you learn it correctly and learn it from somebody who teaches it the right way. You can be taught the wrong way, and then it’s hard to cycle out of that wrong way to do it, because the right way is always harder. 


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Ultimate Wood Floor Gal: Susy Dias

COMPANY: Fino Oficio | Terrugem, Portugal


Susy Dias is at home in the small details. She’s happy making intricate cuts for hours, or carefully piecing together a cutting-edge parquet. An accountant-turned-wood floor pro, Dias is soft-spoken and has never sought the limelight, but it found her anyway thanks to her internationally recognized and award-winning wood floors.

Dias is one half of Fino Oficio, which she’s run with her husband and partner João for the past eight years, racking up two Wood Floor Business Design Awards and becoming a staple of Workcamp Parquet, a group of international wood flooring masters who gather yearly to tackle a historical renovation in Europe. According to João, who nominated her as the Ultimate Wood Floor Gal this year, Susy has been the secret to the company’s fast success.

“You want a wood floor, any wood floor installed to sheer perfection? She will do it,” he says. “You want a wood floor sanded and finished to perfection? She will do it. You want a custom parquet floor filled with intricate inlays? She will do it. You need someone to teach you everything she knows and then some? She will be there for you.”

Sharing the knowledge of the trade is something Susy is passionate about.

“Our entire team, the whole five of them, call her ‘Teacher,’” João says. “They all respect her, not because she’s the boss, but because they know in their hearts that she’s just one of the most complete wood floor pros they will ever encounter, and they just take all the opportunities they can to learn with her.”

It wasn’t easy breaking into the industry, however. As a woman in a male-dominated trade, Susy faced a lot of questioning and doubt about her abilities on job sites from contractors or clients who would only speak to João. Susy put her head down and focused on what she did best: the challenging, intricate work. Today, the situation has reversed. “It’s gotten to the point now that it’s the other way around,” says João. “The client will say, ‘Is Susy coming? Where is Susy?’ And they really are upset when she’s not there.” 

WFB spoke with this year’s Ultimate Wood Floor Gal, Susy Dias, about her work and philosophies when it comes to wood flooring. The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

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What got you into the industry?

My own floor. We had to do it for our own home. It was a good experience. I mean, it must have been, now I’m doing it full time! It was a plank floor. I liked that it was something that you are doing yourself that is getting beautiful. My husband João and I had never cut wood before in our lives. It took a long time to complete, because both of us were working other jobs at the time and working on our floor at night. When we were done with the floor, João turned to me and said, “I’m going to fire myself from my job and do this full time—and I want you to do it with me.” I was an accountant before this. Today, we do a little bit of everything, but mostly residential jobs.

What is your favorite kind of wood floor to do?

The parquet. I like the patterns and the geometry. I love those “annoying” miters, the kind of work most people don’t like to do or don’t have the patience for. I can work on those for hours. I just like it. I have a major in mathematics, and for me the attention to detail is normal. It comes easy for me.

What is your least favorite part of the work?

I like to do just about everything. I maybe could skip edging, but I do it! No problem.

What aspect of the work are you most drawn to? 

Installation, for sure. Usually João takes care of the sanding part and the finishing part and I am in charge of all the major installations at Fino. When I’m not running the install, our team leader who I trained is able to. So we’re able to divide the work nicely.

What is your favorite tool to use and why?

If it says “Festool” on it, I like it. Particularly the TS55. We use track saws for all our installations.

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What pet peeves do you have about wood flooring?

People rushing me. I like to take my time to do things correctly, so I definitely don’t like people rushing me.  

What philosophies do you have when it comes to working with challenging clients? 

This part is easy. Give it to João! It’s not normal, but rare. 

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Do you have a favorite job you’ve worked on over the years?

We did a floor last year that was really nice to do. There were a lot of different patterns and woods. All the framing around the floor was done with purpleheart and wenge, and it was very intricate. It had a lot of different things in the same house. It’s one of the floors that sticks out.

What qualities do you think a hardwood flooring pro needs to have success?

Perseverance. And sacrifice—that, too. Sometimes it’s hard. Don’t give up, and try it. 

It’s not easy for a woman to make a name for herself only relying on her ability to be a good professional. Although we think we already are a much progressive society, and we are, to be honest, people still question me a lot. Over the years I think people are getting more used to a woman on the job site. People look sideways when a woman is coming, asking, “What is wrong, what is wrong, what is wrong?” When we started out, we had to make it clear with clients at the start that I am running the installation, and not to expect João to come there to apply the wood floor. But it’s not easy. There have been three or four jobs where I entered the job site and the guy in charge of the job site told me to get out. It is improving. 

Can you describe your working dynamic with your partner?

We complete each other. We discuss a lot. We spend 24 hours, seven days a week together. It’s impossible not to fight, but we don’t go to bed annoyed with each other. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s so important: We always speak about things. It’s a healthy thing when you speak about everything. On a job site, it’s not the same dynamic. When we have some disagreements, we usually fight a lot harder about the work on the job site than our personal lives! When you don’t agree with something, you must explain it.

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Your crew calls you “Teacher.” Can you explain your philosophy when it comes to training new team members?

It’s a good experience. My way is doing things together. For me, it’s easier to explain when I’m doing it. I’m a strong believer in teamwork. I don’t hide the “trade secrets.” Some people are afraid of teaching their coworkers or apprentices everything they know, because there’s a worry that they’ll go on their own. But if you don’t explain the things and don’t teach it correctly, they’ll do it incorrectly—and you want it done well! We can’t live our lives worried that our guys’ll go away. What I do is teach everything I know and show how I do it. I am not a theoretical teacher. I explain and I teach by doing it. When the guys fail, I want them to fail. Fail with me, next to me, when I’m here to help you and explain to you and you have me as a cushion to fall on. We’re always gentle. When you have a gentle person teaching you and you fail, it’s easier for them to fail. Because you know they’re going to fail, but this way they can ask for help. It’s easier to ask for help when you have a person who understands and really wants to help you, and who has the patience to teach you the same thing 10 times. If it’s not going well, I’ll do it, and we’ll try it again.

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Where does this patience for teaching come from?

When it’s the other way around, it’s the way I like for people to treat me. Patience and care and a willingness to teach me. We are strong believers of what goes around comes around. I don’t know everything, and I need to learn a lot of things. I like to learn, and I like to find people who are able and willing to teach me, too. 

Anything you enjoy doing outside of hardwood flooring?

Sleep! But I don’t have much time—we work a lot! Otherwise, I like to go for walks and shop with my kids. I’m doing a wood craft project with my kids right now. They have to learn how to start with something! 

What advice do you have for people thinking of entering the trade? 

Go for it! Try it. And if you fail, try it again. It’s the perseverance. It’s not an easy job, but anybody can do it. You just need to want to learn, just need to be interested. Don’t be afraid to try, don’t be afraid to do it. And don’t be afraid to be a woman in a “man’s job.” Believe in yourself. 

Watch João Dias' video nomination of Susy here:

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