In our last blog post we talked about the dangers of hiring cheap wood floor contractors and how this may actually be your most expensive option when refinishing your floors. Another project we finalized has suggested to us that homeowners may need help in choosing their wood floor refinishing contractors.
So, how do you know that your contractor is indeed a professional? How can you make sure that you get the chance to brag about a before-and-after picture like the one above, without having to go through headaches and unexpected extra costs?
Here are a few hints.
Word of Mouth Still Works
Completed projects are the best recommendation for the quality of the wood floor restoration company you are considering. That is why word of mouth is still your best chance to find a reliable contractor. Ask your friends, neighbors or coworkers about the company they hired and whether they are happy with the job their contractors did.
If you feel more comfortable with a hardwood flooring restoration company that has been around for a while, your instincts are right. First, no business survives doing subpar work. Second, individual experience matters too. There is an alarming amount of things that can go wrong when refinishing wood floors. Bubbles in the finish, cracking floors, uneven coverage, peeling top coat – experienced contractors have seen it and fixed it all. But when your contractors come with an extensive experience in hardwood flooring refinishing, you have less chances that they go through these teaching moments when working on your floor. Of course, a respectable contractor will spend the time to fix such errors, but a job well done from the beginning is something to appreciate.
While you can easily find out for how long a hardwood floor company has been in business, it is a little bit more difficult to rate your contractors’ knowledge when you are not a wood floor professional yourself. So how do you do that? Visit their showroom or go to their website. Do they take the time to educate their customers about the ins and outs of wood floor restoration? Do they offer examples of their work and details about hardwood floor refinishing services? Or are they just asking you to trust them without giving you reasons to do it? Even better, if you can visit a site with hardwood floors finished by the company you are considering, you will get a first-hand impression of the quality of their work.
Subcontracting? No, Thank You
When a company functions more like a brokerage firm for subcontractors than as a group of quality wood floor craftsmen who do the job themselves, this may be a problem. Ask your prospective company if they subcontract the job. Your first choice should be one that uses its own certified employees rather than delegating the project to unqualified subcontractors. For instance, while a National Wood Floor Association certification does not necessarily guarantee that the job will go without hiccups, it does show that the knowledge of your wood floor refinishing contractors has been vetted by a third party, which is always a good sign.
Too Good to Be True? It Probably Is
The wood floor industry works like all the other ones: prices are relatively uniform across companies and any dramatic departure from such prices should be an alarm signal. If your contractors give you a dramatically lower estimate, ask them what the reason is, and, if you do not get a satisfying answer, steer clear. In our experience of fixing “refinished” floors, low-ball contractors are either doing subpar work or hit you with hidden costs after they start the project.
So make sure you know beforehand what is included in the job. Will your contractors help you move the furniture? Will they remove the carpet from your old wood floors without costs that were not already taken into account? Discuss these details at the time when you receive an estimate, so that the cost of refinishing hardwood floors does not remain a mystery that reveals itself slowly and painfully.