Frequently Asked Questions

I’ve done wood floors for almost 40 years. I’ve run Aquilina Hardwood Floor for 30 years. I’ve made a few mistakes along the way and learned from them. Nothing is foolproof. I practice old school fundamentals. I’m a pretty blessed guy.

I’ve lived and practiced my trade in San Francisco and South Lake Tahoe. I’m not promoting any products. I’m breaking down fact and fundamentals the best way I know how. I’ve written 1000’s of contracts and completed 1000’s of jobs.

Pre-finished floor options are great for the visual person. Colors, textures, sheen of finish are all there to be seen. The downfall, pre-finished floors follow certain fads. What’s popular today, probably won’t be a year from now. Things happen, I get calls all the time because a section of floor has been damaged and finding an exact match can be difficult or impossible.

When purchasing a pre-finished floor, there are a few things that will affect the price:

  • If it’s engineered or solid.
  • How it’s finished (when you see a warranty on finish, they’re generally guaranteeing the finish won’t come off on its own). All finishes scratch, some just do it more than others.
  • Length of the material. People love textures, scraped, wire brushed, knots etc. Pre-finished floors almost always come with a micro bevel on the sides and ends. On lighter floors, be prepared for seeing every piece of dirt. In general, a pre-finished floor will cost less.

Aquilina Hardwood Floor is happy to install any wood floor you purchase.

Unfinished sand in place wood floors is a dying art. A wood floor is an investment. Doing wood floors in San Francisco and the peninsula for the first 18 years of my career, I worked on many 100 year old wood floors. You can pretty easily find any wood floor that was done with an unfinished product. This is proving you know what you’re looking for. We patch floors all the time. Unfinished wood floors is generally solid. Personally, I’m not a fan of unfinished engineered. A properly finished wood floor should look like a piece of furniture and should be able to be refinished at least 3-4 times. All floors get surface scratches. Unlike a pre-finished floor, you can apply maintenance coats to extend the life. I’ve got jobs that look great 20 years later. When it comes to color, sheen of finish, there’s more options with unfinished wood floors. It take a lot more work to do these. That certainly comes with a higher cost.

The correct answer is all come with great and horrible products. Breaking down the name polyurethane. Poly meaning applicable, urethane meaning plastic or resin. Both water and oil based finish should be specific for wood floors. They’re both somewhat self leveling. Keep in mind, no finish is bomb proof. I’ve been asked hundreds of times. Give me the hardest finish you’ve got. Bad idea, wood expands and contracts. A lot of pre-finished floors come with aluminum oxide finishes. After a few years they get ugly stress cracks throughout. Also, in real life things fall on the floor. Finish has to give.

I love the look of low luster oil. The downfall is it needs to be re-oiled often, because it dries out.

I love the full body of oil modified polyurethane. I hate the fact that it gives off gasses for weeks. Make no mistake. This product is absolutely harmful if you’re living in the home.

My go to finish is water based. It wears well. The finish I use has 180 VOC (volatile organic compounds) per liter. That’s 1/3 less than acceptable California standard.

Both oil and oil based finish will amber. Water based finish will always be more clear on wood flooring.

Just because a wood is hard, does not make it stable. You really want both. The bottom line: it’s tough to get both. The best combination for hardness and stability all around the world is Oak. 

Fir, Walnut, American Cherry are very stable and simply beautiful, but super soft. Hickory, Maple, and Elm are harder than Oak, but far less stable.

Every climate has 4 seasons. Normal relative humidity is 25%-50%. Places like the mountains above 6000’ will see humidity in the teens .While the folks in the east can experience humidity in the 90s. The moisture content of wood will always fluctuate. If you have a less hard wood. It will always scratch and dent more. If you have a less stable wood, It will always grow and shrink more.

Key note: the wider the plank, the more it will move. I’ve read a lot of articles about acclimation. While its good practice, it’s really a math equation. Every house has a happy spot. In Tahoe, most wood will land at 5%-7%. In San Francisco, it’ll be 10%-12%. By NOFMA (National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association) standards, wood floors sold must be between 6%-9%. The equation is different for every situation. If you live in a wet climate like San Francisco and have a wood floor at 7%. It will grow to 10% in a month or so. A 7% wood in Tahoe will take 6 months to come down 1%. Nobody can make a blanket statement. It take 2 weeks to acclimate. That’s just BS.

For my customers who have their heart set on wide plank solid wood, I take moisture readings from other wood in the house. Then I purchase it from my favorite mill and have it kiln dried to my desired moisture content.

Use a mixture of 1/3 water, 1/3 rubbing alcohol, and 1/3 white vinegar. You can also add lemon or orange peels. Adding a little ammonia to the water is fine.

Put this in a spray bottle, spray and go over with a micro fiber mop.

Palman, Bona, and Myers organic cleaner are fine options as well.

Stay away from anything that says it will restore your shine. They have waxes, oil or something that will leave a residue. I’ve talked to lots of frustrated people after the fact. If your shine is gone, it’s time for a maintenance recoat or refinish.

Everything works until it doesn’t. Both concrete and gypcrete are loaded guns when it comes to wood floors.

Let’s start with concrete existing home on grade. My favorite method is a plastic or hose wrap on the concrete. 2 layers of 1/2’ plywood. Then nail down a wood floor on top. I’ve had great success with this method. The bummer, you raise your floor quite a bit. With dry concrete slabs not close to lakes, flood areas, on or below sea level. A urethane glue works well using a trowel with about a 3/16 x 3/16 v notch. A good concrete seal helps. Bottom line, if you know the earth underneath the slab gets wet. Don’t do it.

Most of the time gypcrete is used. Its got in floor hydronic heat. I’ve seen repeated problems with this for various reasons. Usually hot spots in the floor. Whether it be because tubes are too high, doorways where a bunch of tubes come together and of course, coming out of the closet where heat manifolds exist. Almost every engineered product dealer says you can float a floor over hydronic heat. When they fail, all of them will run for the hills. When someone asks me to do this, I generally avoid it. If they insist, I’ll only warranty my work, not the product. Please remember, I do floors to pay my bills and pay for my kids’ tuition. I can’t afford failures.

Over plywood or OSB, staple or cleat nailing is always my preferred method.

Gluing directly with a solid wood doesn’t allow it to expand and contract. You can’t fight nature. If wood wants to move, it will. If it’s glued down, it will curl up on the edges by pulling from the center. Engineered floors are disposable wood floors. Using a glue down method today will promote a huge problem down the road.

Floating a refinished engineer floor is a great DIY method. Most professionals won’t do it.

Simple answer: Yes

A smooth finished floor will come out looking pretty sweet. If the floor has a texture, kiss it good bye. A sanding machine will make it smooth.

Pre-finished engineered wood floors are tricky because there’s only a thin layer of wood. We will do them, but do not recommend this as a DIY project. In the last 15 years or so, aluminum oxide finishes have been the finish of choice. Anyone who’s done these with conventional sanding equipment thinks twice about doing these because it’s NOT a DIY project. You need an expert who has the proper equipment. We’ve pioneered some methods that work. If you’re  interested, call me and I’ll share them with you.