Bob and Trish Roland of Roland Hardwood restored the floors in the house I looked at on Henshaw before purchasing mine.  The person that hired them was very pleased with their work and since I saw a before and after, I contacted them about restoring my floors when the original company I had lined up could not get to me until January.  When I first contacted them I thought I was closing on Dec 6, so with the change to Nov 19 it was crucial the week they set aside for me (Nov 5-9) go off without any hitches.

The pine floors in my house (entire master area, kitchen, hall, office and guest bedrooms) are actually sub-floors.  The kitchen and hall was covered in worn out linoleum that I pulled up during demo.  Several people and some online research I did told me I could make the pine my actual flooring, so that has been the plan for over a year.  Bob and Trish thought so also during their estimate walk through.  Boy that tune changed by the end of the job.  If any of the pessimism that came out during their actual work had surfaced during the estimate walk-through I would not have selected them.

I requested they start upstairs as I still had to finish clearing out the first floor and I was still trying to get the painting finished.  They were fine with that.

The smell of pine and CEDAR filled the air and when I saw the floors after the first pass with their sanders I was so excited.  Finding cedar in the back of my longest storage closet was a huge surprise.  That is going to be the perfect closet to store my seasonal clothes.  I will get some cedar oil to treat and preserve it now that it has been revealed.

On day one, reality was right on par with my expectations.  Trish poured a little water on the floor to let me see what a natural finish would look like.  I liked it.  What I didn’t like was the filler they were using to fill cracks and voids.  It looked similar to wood putty I’ve used and 20181105_215610from my experience this stuff does not take stain.  Going natural seemed out of the question as it stood out like a sore thumb (see light patch under stain block on far right).

Bob assured me his product would take stain and Trish said by looking at an isolated area it would jump out.  I needed to see the finished floor in its entirety.  I wanted to stay positive, so I bought the explanations and decided to go with the natural floors (bottom square).  By doing so they would put 3 coats of clear sealer on them, which I thought would be advantageous given my bathroom.  They considered stain the first coat, so I would only get two coats of sealer by selecting a stain.  While I couldn’t see the filled areas up close, the floors after the first coat of sealer looked amazing and I was glad I decided to go natural.  I went with a satin finish, so my final, dry, floors are not this shiny.

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20181108_000103On the first day, Bob noticed and informed me that the top stair nose was broken (see far left above).  He said it looked like a fresh break and he did not remember it being that way during his estimate walk through.  In the beginning I thought he was just joking around, but he consistently harped on me for not saving the broken piece as he could have simply mended the break.  I never had the piece and questioned if it was a fresh break as the steps were in rough shape when I bought the house and made worse during demo when we bounced two-wheel totes down them filled with plaster and lathe.  Fresh or not I assumed he would replace that tread when all the other steps were replaced, so needless to say I was disappointed to see the first coat of sealer on the broken tread.

Requesting that the tread be replaced brought a great deal of tension to the job site and I started having immediate flashbacks to my negative drywall experience.  It was day three and regrets were weighing in heavily.  I was pleading in tears with him to not take short cuts.  I told him I’d rather move my furnishings into temporary storage and delay the delivery of the cabinets and appliances vs. trying to correct floors after moving in.  My pleas pretty much fell on deaf ears as they had no intentions on extending my job past the five days they allotted. Bob actually said I was stressing him out (welcome to my world) by making such a request.

While the pine floors were actually sub-floors, in the dining and living room I have oak sitting on top of sub-floor.  I threw Bob for a loop with my sub-floor patch in the dining room.  I told them the sub-floor was bad and explained that was why the last air duct runs had not been made when they did their estimate walk-through.  I also told them I would have it fixed before they started, so the ducts would be in place.  He, nor I for that matter, anticipated such a large area to be mended.  I removed what was rotten as  I believe in making the necessary and right corrections.  A painful difference between my standards and theirs.

Bob said he had to purchase an additional $200 in flooring which I paid for, but he would not charge me any additional labor.  I would have been willing to pay to ensure getting the job done correctly.  He kept insisting it wasn’t about the money, but the time (time is money in my world, but ok).  His patch was impeccable, but it took more time than he thought.  The other area that took more time was the insertion of the 1×5 pine tongue and groove that filled the void created when we removed the wall between the dining room and kitchen.  This area was not a surprise, it was discussed during the estimate.  The five days they allocated included a buffer day, so the patches ate well into the buffer.  He showed his frustration and at that point I knew I had entered the “drywall déjà vu zone”.

During their walk through they shared pictures of steps they had repaired with new oak treads and risers.  I loved the look and decided to follow their suggestion to the tune of $1250.  Since these areas would be new wood they needed to be stained as they would never match the original wood floors.  It was suggested I tie the floors on the 1st floor to the stairs.  I selected Early American for the treads (middle stain above) and floors (pine and oak), which is what Sherwin Williams told me was the color of  my lighter wood trim.  I wanted the risers to match the color of my darker trim and the center strip, so a custom color created for me by the Tri-County Sherwin Williams store was used.  I’ve done a lot of stained projects and the color on my steps could have been much richer if Bob had allowed the stain to set longer or even apply a second coat, but since time was his issue that did not happen.

Changing  the stairs from pine to oak also meant changing the landing at the top of the stairs to oak.  Seeing how beautiful this landing turned out with the new oak stair nose really made me want the broken nose replaced with oak.  In my mind that was the start of the stairs, so it did not need to stay pine and it would be acceptable to stain it even though it abutted the natural pine floor.  As of the morning of the fourth day this was something that still was not guaranteed to happen.  Bob painted every possible negative scenario of what could go wrong if he removed that piece and stressed it was something that could be done after I had moved in.  Customer satisfaction seemed to mean nothing.

I don’t have a picture to show, but based on the filler used upstairs I had grave concerns about the kitchen floor after seeing it sanded.  Tension was already high, so I went home on day four feeling dejected vs. bringing my concerns to their attention at that time.  I just hoped my suspensions wouldn’t manifest.  Trish sent me a picture at the end of day four.  It was the only long day they spent of the project.  They arrived between 9 and 10a every day and only worked until about 5p everyday except day four when they worked until about 9p (I could track their time via my alarm app).  The floor looked good, but from that angle I could not see the area in question in the kitchen.

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I returned early day five, last day, and went through the rear door to look at the kitchen floor.  My fear actualized and I immediately sent them a text stating there was a problem in the kitchen.  I had replaced boards in the worst areas, but clearly more boards needed to be replaced.  I thought these areas could be filled (not with what they were using) but it was clear the floor was too worn and the sanding they did made it worse.  The area in question is right in front of my sink; a high traffic area.  The wood was so worn that it absorbed their poly sealer leaving the area rough to the touch.

I feared the constant traffic this area would receive would deteriorate further and quickly.  In addition the areas they filled looked absolutely terrible as the stain did not take to the filler to the same depth as the wood, negating what Bob shared on day one.

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As the “flooring experts” I truly felt they should have provided me with better input.  It was clear more boards needed to be replaced, but they had no intentions of doing so.  Bob shared that the area needed more stain due to the decay, but clearly this wasn’t a concern he felt needed addressing.  He actually blamed me, stating  he thought I had changed all I wanted changed.  I made it clear I changed what I thought was needed, but he was the expert that should have advised differently the moment they saw the outcome of their sanding.  He said I should just throw a rug over the area.  When I insisted this wasn’t the correct solution he said if I wanted it repaired it would need to be scheduled at another time and at an additional expense.  I was fine with the additional expense, but wanted the work done prior to my moving into the house and I was willing to cancel all deliveries and find temporary storage and housing to make that happen.  They were not willing to adjust their schedule stating the project was 95% complete.

A walk through the remainder of the house revealed three additional areas of concern that unlike the kitchen I felt they should have addressed before I saw it.

During the buffing between the two coats of sealer a hole was created in an original section of the oak in the dining room.  Bob called it a blowout that happens frequently when trying to restore old floors.  The other two pictures were boards in the office I assumed (wrong to do with them) would have been patched vs. filled.  Before they started I told them they had access to pine floor I had salvaged from upstairs.  They had patched another area of pine on the 1st floor, so I was perplexed as to why they thought their filler would be acceptable in these especially when they knew I had concerns about the filler from day one.  Their filler was cracking and shrinking in less than 24 hours, so clearly the void was too large for filler.

More debates ensued.  Trish stormed out stating I was complaining about everything. Bob got even more frustrated and stressed.  I fought back more tears.  I left with no expectations that any of this would be corrected.  They were hell bent on finishing at the scheduled time and at the sacrifice of properly restoring the floors, in my opinion.  Despite my concerns they had expectation of final payment at the completion of the final coating and not my final inspection.  Since I would not be able to walk through the house after they applied the final coat for at least 24 hours I asked to be called approximately 30 minutes prior to the start so I could see the completed stairs and installation of the reducers and thresholds.  I knew at that point a threat to hold back payment was useless and actually jeopardize getting the remaining work done correctly.  Drywall flashbacks had fully manifested.

To my absolute shock and joy all three areas I questioned AND the top stair nose had been repaired by the time I returned.  They charged an additional $150, but it was money well spent.  Bob’s patches were far superior to any I had or could do.  The stairs and the patches showed they were capable of doing quality work, which is why their decision to not fix the kitchen was so difficult to accept.  If they had just been willing to work late an additional night or two or give me one additional day this posting could have had a far different outcome.

The 8 out of 10 referenced in my title is something Bob kept saying to me during the debate over the kitchen floor.  8 out of 10 of their customers would be happy with the floor given where it started.  Well this 2 out of 10 customer was not, so the Monday following the completion of their work instead of hanging kitchen cabinets I had 8 of the worse boards replaced by Tom Milfeld, the person that was going to help me install the cabinets.  I have applied the stain and one coat of sealer to the patch, but after only two weeks of living in the space the entire kitchen needs another coat, maybe more.

Their unwillingness to correct a 6’x6′ section in the kitchen has forever soured my decision to select them to do the work and brings into question all the work they did.  I really don’t know if they truly applied two coats of clear sealer on the first floor or three in the master.  I do know I had to cover my cold air returns on the first floor as they did not do it after telling me they would. They started the sanding without covering them jeopardizing my new HVAC system.  The transition strip between the dining and kitchen could have been darker, if they allowed the stain to sit longer on the new pine.  To add further insult unless I sand it down and re-stain it I will have a forever reminder of them as they each left their shoe prints in the stain.  There is no excuse for that.

In retrospect I should have left the pine natural on the first floor and only stained the oak.  The cabinets are now installed and the pine floors on the first floor are already showing wear.  I believe all the floors should have gotten three coats of sealer, at least, possibly more given their age and abuse over the years.  During our stormy debates Bob pointed out that the floors had been severely neglected and if it were his house he would have put down new flooring.  This was a complete turnaround from his estimate walk through when he shared they had restored worse.

No, I didn’t need new floors.  I just needed a flooring refinisher that could accept constructive criticism and be more concerned with doing the job right than sticking to a schedule.

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