So, you’ve seen an apartment on the market but it has uneven wooden floors? Or is the parquet in your existing home dated and worn and it’s time for a new look? Figuring out what to do with your floors can be overwhelming. But worry not; you have lots of options of how to fix what’s under your feet.
1) Determine what type of floor you currently have
Hardwood: If you have solid hardwood floors they can usually be refinished several times (sanded and stained) before they need to be replaced.
Engineered Floors: Many new buildings use engineered flooring, which has a thin veneer of hardwood on top of an inexpensive wood underneath. Depending on how thin the veneer is, you may not be able to refinish and will have to replace the flooring.
Uneven Floors: If you have an uneven area and want it fixed, be prepared to re-do the whole apartment including the sub-floor. Your uneven surface is probably due to the joists below or the concrete slab. If you try and patch the ‘problem’ area, you may create more; new versus old floor, difference in finish height etc.
You’ll be surprised at the similar cost between patching an area and re-doing the whole apartment. We had this scenario play out at a duplex project earlier this year. The labor was going to be high requiring patching floor in various rooms and then sanding and staining throughout. We also had a building requirement of a 5/8” soundproof board underlayment for any new flooring. This was going to affect finish heights and require putting thresholds in the apartment. Since it cost about the same to re-do the floor using pre-finished oak, the clients decided on new floors throughout.
2) Do your research
Wood flooring in New York makes for fun shopping. You’re treated to a wide selection of wood grains, tones, types of wood and sizes. Try East Side Floors in Harlem or Lumber Liquidator in Brooklyn. After you’ve decided what material you like, now it’s time to find the right labor. Wood flooring is a specialty trade and great care should be exercised when hiring. Ask for references, and if possible, go see samples of floors the contractor has refinished or installed. Do your research and hard work upfront, trust me it’s worth it. It’s not uncommon for serious damages to be incurred during the process. For a real world example of botched flooring job, check out this Talk thread on StreetEasy.
3) Select the stain and polyurethane
If you are refinishing, ask the contractor to apply a sample stain and polyurethane finish on your floors for your approval. We installed an unfinished herringbone floor at this Park Avenue apartment and used this practice before doing all 4000 square feet. The client thought she knew what stain she wanted until the samples were done on site. Don’t lose time and money by having to re-do the stain color!
Want to skip this process? Consider pre-finished wood as an option; a veneer finish layer glued to a cheaper plywood base. Your labor and material costs will be significantly reduced. Just bear in mind, should you plan on being there for the long haul, sanding this material is usually not an option as you will lose the grain detail.
4) Get out!
When you’re ready, move out and remove all the furniture to public storage (plan for at least one week). The contractor needs space to work efficiently. The wood floor needs to be loaded into the apartment and have time to breathe. Then, for the installation, the laborers need space to work efficiently, plus the room they will work in will be filled with sawdust – not a good place to keep your sofa! Another reason is when staining, the process will be uniformed.
5) It’s worth it
Refinishing or replacing wooden floors can dramatically change the way your home looks. Over the last two years, we have seen a dramatic increase in smaller budget ‘aesthetic renovations’– wood floors and paint only projects. Our latest aesthetic project was at the Mayfair Towers on the Upper West Side. These are straight forward jobs that enhance the look and value of one’s home in a timely manner.