For a wood flooring–refinishing contractor, one of the biggest drawbacks is coming in dead last in the sequence of building trades on a work site. We come behind everyone else when there is little time, patience, or money to go around. At the core of the problem are turf wars, since the areas we need to work on are the same areas others need to tread on to do their job. In an effort to create harmony on the jobsite and reduce friction, contractors and homeowners will delay work on the floors until the very end of a project. That concept may be good in theory, but in reality, it often deprives us, the wood flooring contractors, the time needed to do our work and creates even greater chaos for every­one when we are finally allowed on-site.

About 15 years ago, a contractor friend of mine and I asked some “what if” questions about the sequencing of various trades and how this impacted the continuity of the work, especially the last 10%—that infamous finish stage. We decided to move floor refinishing work in the schedule so that instead of its being the last task on-site, it would happen just after the drywall went up and was mudded. We experimented with this variation on kitchen remodels because those gave us the most accurate overview of how this might impact a project. Instead of working around cabinets, appliances, islands, toe-kick space, and many corners, nooks, and crannies, my helper and I walked into a rectangular room with four corners and sanded and refinished the entire room.

Aside from the work going more quickly, this also resulted in a stained and protected surface under everything. My typical finish process always called for two seal coats over the stain followed by two topcoat applications, or four applications total. We then put down floor protection, leaving spaces for the placement of cabinets and appliances, and let the other trades do their thing.

I held off on the final application until everything else was installed and all the finish work completed. At that point, I walked into the room, removed the floor protection (which we saved for the next job), prepped the floor, and made the final application. To say this was a success would be an understatement. The difference it made coordinating the other trades and installations left us gobsmacked, and we’ve never looked back.

I have carried this approach into the bulk of my business, which centers on historic restoration and preservation of old wood floors. Some of these projects have been massive in nature and work was often done in phases over years. Like on other remodeling jobs, the scheduling of trades was often an issue. Once again, conventional wisdom put all wood floor work at the end of the schedule, so implementing my new approach was not an easy sell until I was able to show the principals photos and the positive impact and flexibility that rearranging the wood floor work can have on scheduling the other artisans and craftspeople involved in the project. Finish work with new construction, remodeling, or restoration all produced the same challenges: lack of time and options when you needed them most. By repositioning wood-floor restoration much earlier in the process, the painstaking restoration of other surfaces and objects could proceed over a fully protected and restored wood floor. We proved that some things written in stone can be erased.

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