I am sure this happened to you before:
You got a call for a small refinish—nothing too exciting, right? I got a call for a kitchen, dining room and entry refinish. It didn’t sound like a unique or large job at all. I figured it was probably an old house with about 500 square feet (46.451 square meters) of oak floors. I couldn’t have been further away from the truth.
As I was listening to my phone directing me where to drive (I used to have maps made of paper and find my own way years ago), I made it into one of the more established and luxurious neighborhoods in my area. The gate to the driveway opened and I started driving up the hill toward the house and realized I had been wrong. This was not a 500 square feet refinish. This was a big, nicely built home (don’t say high-end, it means nothing). I noticed a black SUV parked at the top of the driveway. The homeowner had just arrived from work to meet with me. He got out of his car, and he was a tall man wearing a suit so clean I was afraid some dust might shake off my sleeve on him as I was shaking his hand. He was serious, confident and respectful. I already liked him. He looked me in the eyes while talking to me. He asked his questions and didn’t interrupt while I was answering. He was honest and to the point. We walked inside the home to find about 2,000 square feet of wood floors in need of a refinish. The floors were yellowish and cupped. He showed me around the main level, and after a short chat I was walking around measuring and taking notes while he was checking out my work pictures.
Holding my portfolio book open, he asked if I installed the medallion in one of the pictures. I said yes and gave it no second thought. People hardly ever ask me questions about inlays or medallions and end up wanting one in their floors. Then he asked if I thought a medallion would look good in his floor. He got my attention now. Something in the way he asked it told me he was dead serious. I stopped measuring and walked toward him. Now we were both standing at the entry. I started talking about what size, shape and style medallion would work in the house. More importantly, I talked about which colors, species of wood and details would complement the home. We both agreed on something simple but stunning—something that was not too busy yet would make a statement.
Later that day I sent him some pictures and links to wood medallion pictures. I immediately got the OK for the job with another surprise: He wanted me to choose the medallion for the floor. He seemed a little overwhelmed with all the options. I was more than happy to do so. We scheduled a phone meeting so that we both could be in front of a computer and I narrowed the options down to two medallions. After about 5 minutes, we narrowed it down to one. Out of the many options presented to him, we agreed on an Oshkosh Designs medallion. (I work hard to communicate the right information without promoting one manufacturer or product over the other, so get over yourself if you think I am promoting Oshkosh and, no, they are not paying me to mention their name.) I suggested a simple medallion with the following changes:
· Change the species of wood
· Customize the thickness
· Customize the size
· Inlay the customer’s last name in the center
· Request for knockouts.
So as you can see, I changed pretty much everything but the geometric shape of the pieces making the medallion. Well, I figured if I were not the one making the medallion, I was still the one making the medallion.
It’s been a long time since I ordered a medallion (I usually make my own), so I was a little anxious about the timing. You see, for me making a medallion is a matter of hours to days and it’s done. When you order a custom one, it takes weeks. I paid extra for expediting the shipping. I wanted the medallion to acclimate in place before we finished it. The Baltic birch plywood itself wouldn’t bow or cup on you, but the wood pieces making the medallion could shrink or expand. I also wanted that extra time for the glue to cure out before the finish went down.
The refinish was a straightforward job. We sanded down to bare wood and applid three coats of water base. Adding the medallion was the fun part. The owners and I met to discuss the exact location of the medallion before installation. This medallion was 5 feet in diameter (1.524 meters). That meant the medallion template could not be made of one piece. It was made of four pieces. That gave just enough wiggle room for error. I routed out the cavity for the medallion and then had to shave off a hair here and there until I got a tight fit. Oh, side note for reference: When you buy a medallion the template has a “This side up,” which should be, you guessed it, right side up. Otherwise you’re about to have a very loose-fitting medallion. The template is cut at an angle, so pay attention.
Since I substituted wood species, I decided to seal the medallion with dewaxed shellac first. A thin coat of this great sealer guarantees the oil in the exotic woods is locked in. This layout was by far the hardest layout to coat with water-based finish. We had all three of us roll the finish from one side of the house to the other. If your only experience is using a T-bar, you’d have a problem coating this one. One more reason to keep learning, go to school and convention. Now THAT was promoting the NWFA.
Being able to sell our refinish process, upgrade a job to a medallion, finish on time and without problems is not taken for granted. I always look at my training, my friends and colleagues and everything I do to stay involved in this amazing trade. Remember that if you read or see something that looks really easy to do, it’s probably not. This job was no different, but with the right knowledge and experience, we were able to deliver on time and make a happy customer.