Installing a herringbone floor under tight time constraints has its challenges, but there’s an added pressure when it’s the home of a building contractor.

“Not only did it have to be perfect, but he was also behind schedule moving in, so we were pressured to get it perfect and hurry up,” laughs Robert Smith of Huddleston, Va.-based Smith Flooring Co. The schedule for installing the 900-square-foot hickory herringbone had suffered a few setbacks, including the fact that when the home was 80% done, the house caught fire and had to be rebuilt.

When Smith finally got the call to begin, the first thing he did was make there would be no other trades on site when the flooring was installed.

“I really like to kick everybody else out,” he says. “I’m kind of grumpy about that.”

With the site successfully cleared by the home builder, Smith began by dry-fitting the first row of herringbone and mapping it out so the herringbone would be equal at the borders when he cut in the 2¼ inch walnut feature strip. He worked with his son to glue and nail the floor to the plywood subfloor, then cut the feature strip in with a track saw.

Smith sanded the floor with a 50-grit and 80-grit. He then sanded with a multi-disc sander using 100-grit to 120-grit. He decided not to water-pop the floor in order to ensure a lighter color when he applied a coat of Provincial stain to the hickory, which the client had chosen because “he wanted something with a lot of character.” After staining, he wrapped up the project with a coat of sealer and two coats of satin finish.

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For the home builder, seeing the new floors—the final piece in a construction project plagued by major setbacks—was a relief. For Smith, seeing how well it turned out in a contractor’s house made for a double relief.

“We tried to make sure we did our best,” he says. “Putting that final coat down and being able to appreciate it … that was the best part.”


Abrasives: Norton Abrasives | Adhesive, Stain, Finish, Multi-disc sander: Bona | Big machine: American Sanders | Nailer: Bostitch | Track saw: Festool

Ryan Kushner signed on as assistant editor at Wood Floor Business in February 2018 after a year and a half as a staff writer at The Smithfield Times in Southern Virginia. He grew up in Pennsylvania and graduated with a degree in English and Communication from Mercyhurst University. He is constantly in search of wood floor stories and terrible puns and wood love to hear suggestions floor either.