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Fixing a Bad Insurance Refinish Job

Avi Hadad
4 8 16 Flat Wood Floor Floor View

4 8 16 Flat Wood Floor Floor View

It all started with a washer leaking water onto the floor in the hallway. The insurance brought in their contractors to repair the cupped floor and refinish the rest of the areas so that they all matched in color (yes, I know—hold on, it gets better). It was a dark brown stain and a satin urethane finish, including stair treads. The rooms were not huge and the lighting was not overwhelming, so not such a hard job to do, yet it required a certain amount of skill. If it had been huge room with floor-to-ceilings windows, I’d understand seeing some imperfections in the floor. This one, well—not so much sympathy here. I showed up to find a solid red oak floor with a fairly even stain color. I couldn’t find any swirl marks from the buffer or drum marks from the big machine. What I did find were edges, corners and stairs that were butchered by what looked like a grinder (I could see the scratch pattern and recognized that was not an edger used on the floor). The floor was also dished out badly from over-buffing.

The difference in height between the highs and lows in the floor gouges was close to 1/8”. The gouges were so deep I wasn’t sure I could refinish the floor instead of having to replace it. The contractors damaged all the baseboards and moldings in the home. (We ended up having to replace all those as part of the refinish.)

Long story short: I had a wonderful meeting with the homeowners, sent out my bid the next day and didn’t give it a second thought. One week later I got a call from the insurance adjuster asking me why my bid was so high and if I could send him a revised quote excluding some items they (the insurance) didn’t cover. I very calmly told him that this was inappropriate and that I didn’t work for him. I asked that he should contact his clients (the homeowners) and they in turn would communicate with me. Plus, I never really got any green light from the owners that I was hired, so really, my time is precious, baba. Yes, I said “baba,” and the next thing I knew he said, “Oh, never mind,” and hung up on me. Okay, let’s pause for a second. If you know me you know I live by very clear rules. One of them is respect. No matter the circumstances, always maintain class. Really? You hung up on me? Okay. After a few seconds of disbelief I went back to my family time of cooking dinner and doing homework with the boys. I emailed my potential client about the call just so she knew about it. Evidently, they have had quite the experience with that guy already, so she found it amusing.

A few weeks went by before I was hired to fix the floor. We showed up on time, removed all the baseboards, reducers and stair moldings. We also asked that the railings be removed, and that did happen the morning of the job. We roughed up the floor with 60 grit to get it flat. Sanding a little too much off the floor would have meant replacement, so we were careful with that. By the end of the first day, the floor was flat and clean. We had to cut the floor across the grain at about 30 degrees with the big machine and the edger. Using a Trio (multi-disc), we achieved a flat floor with no dishout. There was a lot of 6-inch Festool orbit on the stairs and edges to even things out.

We spent the next day or so fine-tuning the scratch pattern and water-popping the floor. We then mixed some dark stains to mute the red in the red oak, let that stain dry for three days and finished it with water-base.

Thanks to my Lägler corner attachment on my Flip edger, we saved a lot of time and back pain scraping those corners flat. The floor was completed on time and “exceeded customer expectations,” I was later told by the owner.

P.S.: In addition to this happy ending, we ended up getting three free solid white oak bundles from the owners. Those bundles had been delivered by the original insurance contractor for the repairs, but they ended up not doing any repairs (instead they sanded the crap out of the cupped areas). Wait … What?!!!! Did I say white oak bundles? But Avi, you said this floor was red oak. Yes, you got it. And this is why I cost more.

Be cool.

4 8 16 Getting Treads Flat

4 8 16 Stairs Complete

4 8 16 Flat Wood Floor Perimeter

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