Review: Restore A Floor & Install Services

Here’s a review I wrote about our floor contractor (Restore A Floor & Install Services of Palmyra, NY) on Angie’s List:

I hired them for the following: Refinished about 1240 square feet of hardwood floors, including stairs and a landing (sanded, wood filler applied to gaps, 1 coat oil polyurethane, 2 coats Nano Shield Advanced Floor Finish). Repaired a section of flooring that was poorly repaired in the past. Installed new molding downstairs (approximately 124 linear feet). The estimate for this work was $3990.

Once they were on site the floor repair was more complicated than anticipated (completely missing subflooring) and required extra labor and materials. I also had them do other handyman tasks: reinforce the stairs to reduce squeaking, rejoin a post and handrail that had begun to separate, level out a section of wood on the stairs that had begun to pop up, and install a floor jack in the basement to reinforce a load-bearing beam. The extra materials and labor added $830 to the cost for a total bill of $4820.

All the repair work took about 3 or 4 days. The sanding and refinishing took another 4 days. The finished work is amazing. Before refinishing, the floors had sander marks and other evidence of poorly done DIY efforts. Tim Moon and his assistant Dave managed to smooth all those imperfections out. The repaired patch looks indistinguishable from the rest of the floor. Tim applied a slight tint to the first coat of polyurethane that gives a perfect amount of stain to the oak floors.

The other repair work was really well done. The stairs are more silent than I thought 100 year old steps could be. In every case the repair was done the right way, often with complicated dismantling that other contractors don’t want to tackle. Once the fix was done all pieces were reassembled with precision.

Both men were congenial, telling stories from their decades of experience doing all manner of building contract work. Tim kept me regularly apprised of his schedule and progress via text message. My wife and I had little time to prepare the house before we moved in, so I spent several long lunches working on the house, where I had the pleasure of seeing them at work. They were always courteous and careful to make sure none of their equipment was in my way as I painted or did other things.

Their dust control is impressive too. They left the house in immaculate condition.

I couldn’t be happier with the work or the workers and would happily hire them again.

Check out Tim Moon in action and some before and after shots for more information.

Finishing the Floors

24 hours after Tim Moon applied the first coat of oil polyurethane (mostly for its color), he was back the next day to buff the floors and apply two more coats of RustOleum Nano Shield Advanced Floor Finish. I came by to check it out and deliver the final payment.

Applying the finish 1

Applying the finish 2

Applying the finish 3

It looks glossy when wet, but the final result will be a satin sheen, which is probably best for an old floor with imperfections and in a household with 4 cats. Tim also recommended keeping shoes off indoors to protect the finish, which is how we’ve always run our homes anyway.

I like watching a pro at work. For a while I considered doing all of this work myself, but considering we’ve already spent 3 weeks prepping walls and painting, getting the floors done on time would’ve been impossible. Plus there’s evidence of poorly done DIY floor refinishing throughout the house (mostly sander marks but also inconsistent color and lap marks from laying down the polyurethane). There’s also no way I would have done the repairs as well. Tim and Dave of Restore a Floor did great work, were incredibly friendly and very communicative (via text message no less, which is what I prefer during the workday).

The floors need about 3 days to cure, so it’s just as well we’re out of town for the weekend. I’ll have photos of the final result on Monday.

First floor coat!

I’ve been taking a lot of long lunches the past couple weeks to cram in as much time to work on the house as possible, but I knew the floor guys would be working downstairs today and stayed out of their way. In the evening I received an update:

IMG_5085

That’s the latest I’ve seen them work, but I suppose if you’re on a roll you want to get everything done at once (especially when it’s just the first of 3 coats). He was very thoughtful and left the lights on inside so when I did visit I could see the floors, but I ended up entering the house through the kitchen (whose floor is Marmoleum and thus safe to walk on) to get a closer look at the dining room:

First floor coat 1

First floor coat

The wood filler didn’t make it all the way down everywhere since a century’s worth of crud was in the way, but overall the big gaps are filled and the finish is now consistent (no more worn spots). It might be useful to see a “before” shot even though this doesn’t convey the extent of the wear:

Dining room floor before

The improvement in the living room is even more dramatic, but the only photo I could get was through a window. I’ll save that for a proper photo session another day.

The natural oak with oil polyurethane would come out a light honey color, but I discussed staining with a darker color and Tim agreed that it would look better. I hadn’t considered it before since I’ve read staining is a huge pain in the ass, but Tim said it wouldn’t be that difficult for him (I think he mentioned tinting the polyurethane). Definitely preferable.

12 Days to Go

Every day this week I’ve been going to the house after work and staying there past midnight. This weekend my wife was out of town so I had to work on the house myself, painting while I watched people walking outside and enjoying the amazing, rare weather (and events like Streets Alive and Ithaca Food Truck Roundup).

I encountered some mission creep on Saturday when I noticed the kitchen faucet was leaking. I’ve never fixed a faucet in my life, but the internets told me it was likely that an O-ring on the cartridge was failing. After dismantling the faucet, however, I couldn’t pull the damn cartridge out. Again the interwebs saved me and I learned that cartridge pullers were a thing and could help extract them when they won’t budge.

May 9 Update 1

You screw the puller into the cartridge and rotate that big nut, pushing it against the faucet’s main pipe and magnifying the torque you’re applying to help extract the stuck cartridge.

May 9 Update 2

While I was out getting the puller I decided to just get a whole new cartridge rather than replace the O-rings. Installed the new one and the faucet works good as new.

Then the rest of the weekend was spent fixing the terrible walls in the living room:

May 9 Update 003

And repainting ceilings like this one in the foyer:

May 9 Update 004

The ceilings involved more mission creep. I tried fixing a portion of the living room ceiling that previous owners had overpainted with red. The new ceiling paint didn’t quite match and I didn’t think I could stand to live with it, so I ended up repainting the whole damn ceiling. The dining room ceiling had marks on it too, so that also got repainted.

On Monday the floor guys told me they had filled the entire floor and were ready to start sanding the next day.

May 9 Update 006

May 9 Update 005

When I visited Tuesday night they had finished rough sanding the entire second floor…

May 9 Update 007

with some portions sanded to a higher grit (the darker area).

May 9 Update 009

This is why I hired professionals. Whoever did it before not only left sanding marks all over, but they took off far more material than necessary. The big belt sanders used for refinishing floors are dangerous. These guys managed to remove just what was needed.

May 9 Update 008

Tonight (and by tonight I mean May 8 even though I’m writing this at 2 am on May 9) the floor guys stayed until 7 pm to finish sanding the entire upstairs. We were forbidden from doing work up there. I suspect they’ll finish the downstairs tomorrow, which is why I can’t thank our friends Keith and Stephanie enough for coming over and helping us paint the downstairs trim.

The plan seems to be to start applying polyurethane on Friday. Since we’re out of town this weekend and feeling guilty about it, the timing is perfect: we can’t work while the polyurethane is curing anyway.

17 Days to Go

The new breaker panel is in.

May 4 Update 1

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but there used to be two panels here: one for each side of the house when it was a duplex. As I wrote earlier, the house has 150 amp electrical service. One panel got 100 amps and the other got 150. When the house was merged back into a single family home they kept the 100 amp feed from one meter and had a breaker from the 100 amp panel feed the 50 amp panel.

Now we’ve got one panel with bus bar rating of 200 amps (the solar installation requires something like 25% extra capacity) fed with the whole 150 amps.

The electricians were going to junk this old panel that wasn’t hooked up anymore, but I told them I wanted to keep it. 30 amps! I might give it a home near the new panel and solar equipment if there’s room.

May 4 Update 2

One of the posts in the stairwell was separating from the railing. The guys from Restore A Floor worked on pushing them back together and will eventually drive a lag bolt through to make sure it doesn’t separate further.

May 4 Update 4

For now they’ve applied that super-strong glue used underneath the stairs. I don’t have a before picture, but the current gap is a huge improvement.

May 4 Update 3

The new floor patch is in and it looks amazing (compare with the old patch). Once it’s refinished it’ll be impossible to distinguish from the original wood.

May 4 Update 7

They also started applying wood filler to the gaps between boards.

May 4 Update 8

We finished applying a second coat of Sherwin-Williams Pewter Tankard to the dining room on Thursday. Goodbye peach…

May 4 Update 9

Hello gray. We love it. The light fixture is on its way out too.

May 4 Update 6.1

We still have the living room and bathrooms to do, and then we’ll tape off and paint all the trim at once. I’d like to get the downstairs trim done as soon as possible, as Restore A Floor removed the old quarter round molding and will be installing new molding after all the floors are done.

20 Days to Go

A few updates:

We have a move-in date: May 21. The past 18 days of ownership went by in a flash. All we’ve managed to finish so far is to paint 4 bedrooms and prepare the downstairs for painting. We did get most of the dining room painted this evening, but we had to stop when the sun went down because the house has no electricity. More on that later.

The guys from Restore A Floor continued their repairs yesterday. They fixed up the subfloor underneath that poorly done patch.

May 1 Update 2

They took apart the wood paneling covering the underside of the stairs so they could shore them up. The stairs creak quite a bit and the highest two steps don’t seem firmly secured. The underside of the other set of stairs is easily accessible from the basement. They’ve started the reinforcement process by adding some kind of strong glue underneath, with plans to add more wood later.

May 1 Update 1

They also recommended adding a floor jack in the basement underneath a load bearing beam that appears to be sagging. To get it in some of the wood covering the basement floor needed to be cut and I figured they’d do a cleaner job of doing that than I would.

May 1 Update 3

This morning the electrician calls me to say they’re inspecting the outside of the house to prepare to start work. He asks if I’m nearby to let them inside. At this point I’m 15 minutes away at the veterinary hospital plus I’m expecting the floor guys to be working today. Luckily (?), when I contact the owner to ask if I should delay the electricians, I learn he has car trouble and can’t make it anyway.

I arrive at the house in time to see the electricians cut service to the house:

May 1 Update1

Then in the afternoon I take a stroll back to the house right as they begin hooking it back up again:

May 1 Update2

The new service entrance cable is in, but the panel in the basement isn’t quite ready.

May 1 Update4

At some point the house was converted to a duplex and so two meters were needed to bill each resident separately. Then someone combined everything again and one meter has sat empty since.

Empty meter

That’s now been cleaned up:

May 1 Update3

As I mentioned we had to work without electricity this evening, but power should be back on at 10 am tomorrow, just in time for Tim Moon to resume work.

My home inspector had assumed the house had 100 amp service, but when the guys from Renovus were examining the house they discovered it actually had 150 amp service, presumably supplying 100 and 50 amps to the larger and smaller parts of the house respectively when it was a duplex. We weren’t sure 100 amp service would be sufficient for the central air conditioning I’d like to put in some day, but 150 should be plenty.

Floor Repairs Begin

Today Tim Moon, owner of Restore A Floor in Palmyra (originally headquartered in Ithaca), started some repair work. He came with a helper and we also discussed other small repairs such as loose, creaky stairs and a handrail that’s separating from the post.

The part of the living room shown below was once closed off to form a laundry area, and it’s likely that this section of the floor was opened up to provide plumbing. A previous owner then repaired the floor with this unfortunate patch. It’s not toothed in and sticks out like a sore thumb.

Floor Repairs 3

When I visited the house after work I found Tim had torn up the old fix and removed a bunch of the surrounding wood too. You can see the previous work was not supported by much (or any) subflooring. He’s returning next week with materials to do a proper repair.

Floor Repairs 4

He also took up all of the old shoe molding downstairs and will replace it with new molding.

Floor Repairs 1

Note the ridge that shows the floor has been sanded before.

Floor Repairs 2

The ridge by the wall is fine because it flares into the molding and isn’t really noticeable unless you look for it. More egregious is this ridge that runs across the short length of the living room:

Floor Repairs Ridge 1

Floor Repairs Ridge 2

All that white dust is from sanding the walls to prep for painting, by the way. The floors actually look pretty good, but there’s a mixture of refinished and original finish and we’d like a more consistent look across the house. Plus as you can see, there’s a lot of poorly done DIY work and we’re eager to see the results of a properly sanded, filled and refinished floor.

Tim’s tools are in the house and repair work has begun. He continues work all of next week.

Floor Repairs 5