25 February, 2008

Chatter Marks on the Floor, But At Least the Cat Pee is Gone

There have been a few complaints from friends and family that while I showed pictures of the floors midway through the sanding and refinishing process, I neglected to upload pictures of the finished floors. To remind y'all of what we were dealing with, here we go:

Cat piss stains.

Badly scratched and scarred floors.

Floors with strange orange spray painted bits and gunk left over from the carpets.

Floors with mysterious burn marks.

Old insect damage (more extensive than we thought) patched with whatever was handy.

Floors with water damage.

We chose Stanley Flooring, a Chicago-based company, because they gave us a competitive quote, had high recommendations on Angie's List, and agreed to replace "for free" the insect damaged boards. It took them two weeks to sand, repair, refinish both units and the main stairwell. We could not stay there during that time period, and slept out at my mom's other house. We checked throughout the week to keep track of the progress.

Tools of the trade.

Ted in the living room of the top floor.

The room that previously was coated in gunk and had the orange spray paint.

Insect-damaged portion. It looked like sometime in the far distant past there might have been termites brought in on the wood, or some wood-loving insect. Stanley removed and replaced a patch of boards about five boards wide and 12 feet long in this room as well as a section in the room on the other side of the wall. There is no evidence of termites now.

Overall, the floors turned out pretty well. We noticed that most areas had a very faint ripple pattern that wasn't visible prior to the varnish application. When we questioned the Stanley representative, he indicated it was unpreventable, and that it often happens when dust is trapped under the sandpaper. You can see some evidence of the ripples in the photo below.

Ripple marks on floor.

I later looked this up and these ripples are called chatter marks; while they are extremely common, they are also sometimes preventable with a lot of effort and care. They are the number one complaint people have when their floors are sanded. Here's what PureWoodFloors.com had to say about the causes:

This is one of the most common problems flooring contractors encounter and the cause of many complaints from customers. The chatter marks only become visible after the finish has been applied. There are several possible causes:

  • Parts of the floor flex up and down as a heavy sanding machine passes over.
  • The abrasive is not tightly fitted on the belt or drum sander.
  • A badly balanced drum.
  • A shuddering movement in the sanding machine.
  • The abrasive is not clamped in properly around the drum and protrudes slightly.
  • An overlapping seam on the belt rubs against the floor. Regarding the last of these causes, the problem is easy to avoid by using a belt with a flat butt joint.
Short of stripping and redoing the floors (with no guarantee it wouldn't happen again) it looks like we're stuck with these marks. Bummer. However, one site told me that if you use an oil based finish rather than water based, which we did, the natural mellowing will obscure these marks. To be honest, I don't even notice them anymore, but still, I think it wasn't completely fair to be told they were unpreventable.

Our only other concern was the stairwell; I'll have to amend this entry with a photo later, as I just realized I forgot to take an after picture. In the tight corners of some of the turnings, where the angle of the tread meeting the wall is less than 50 degrees, the contractors did not remove the old varnish, sand, or revarnish it. When we complained about that, we were told that their equipment wasn't designed for those tight corners. That's complete bunk, because there are hand tools you can use to get that done. So the stain in the turnings is much darker than the rest of the stair. This only affects about three stairs total, but it's very irritating.

However, we decided not to pursue this, as Stanley Flooring's original quote included replacing the insect damaged wood for free, and this ended up covering much, much, much more square footage than they planned on--from maybe 10 square feet to 35-40 square feet, taken altogether. Considering two of the companies we interviewed quoted us a price of between $300-$1000 for replacing the damaged portion (before we even knew how big it would be), it seems a fair enough trade. Ted and I may, in the next few weeks, try sanding out those corners, staining them to match, and revarnishing the whole thing. It won't be clean, but it will at least look even-toned.

Here are some after shots. Like I said, we're pleased overall:

Dining room looking toward living room, top floor.

Living room looking into dining room.

This is the room that had a lot of scorch marks and about 15 square feet of damaged or partially damaged boards.

Now that the floor refinishing is complete, I'm glad we had someone else do it, and glad that we were able to pay for most of it with the 20% rebate we got from our buyer agent's commission. We were able to get the entire Box House done at once, before moving furniture in.

We interviewed four contractors, and the quotes we received ranged from $2000 to $6500. We chose someone in the middle. (Considering this couple we know paid $1200 to have just their living room sanded and refinished--after interviewing numerous contractors as well--we feel we got a great deal.) My suggestion for anyone considering this is to get as many quotes as possible.

So, that's it. The absolute best feel-good project you can undertake to strip the grime away and make the place feel cleaner and brighter.


The Martineaus said...

I love newly refinished floors and yours look great. Trust me, once you move in all of your rugs, furniture, etc., you won't notice any chatter marks!

Amalie said...

Sounds like you got a great deal and they look fantastic!

We were quoted almost $4k to do about 1200 square feet and patch 2 floor furnace holes. And there's not really a lot of competition in town, so that's why we did it ourselves. It cost us a total of around $800-$1000.

And we had the chatter-- not super badly, but it's there. I, too, don't even notice it anymore. I tend to think that the old, loose floor boards vibrate so much that you'd have to renail every board in houses of this age to avoid it.

Best part is, like us, no shuffling furniture from room to room-- it's all done at once and before the big move!!

Congrats-- they look fantastic.

Jennifer said...

It looks great! Too bad about the chatter, but I can't see it in the picture. I bet no one will even notice!

Joanne said...

Thanks for the comments. I feel better about the chatter marks overall; the more I read about it, the more difficult I realize it is for the contractors--or anybody tackling the job--to prevent them from happening. (It's also hard to photograph them; they're much more prominent than the pic shows.)

We're starting to bring the furniture in, and in another two weeks we'll put out some of the area rugs. (It was suggested we wait at least a month for that.) Right now I'm just happy to see my stuff again--some of it has been in storage for six months now! I only notice the marks when the light catches 'em just right.

Larry said...


I hopr our floors turn out half as good. That's incredable.

Where the cat pee stains gone also? It looks like it.

Joanne said...

Yeah...just about all the stains came out; you wouldn't believe they were the same floors.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely wonderful transformation. Thanks for linking in over at OPC. Your Before and After pics are some of the best I've ever seen of floors... These really shine, and whatever faults you can find with them in person (which I bet are few to the untrained eye) the picture doesn't give anything away. They are beautiful.