Who are the Best Hardwood Flooring Contractors?
The best flooring contractors provide detailed quotes and guarantee their work. Professionals also check moisture levels and acclimatize your hardwood. And a good installer properly prepares the floor layout, prepares the subfloor, and uses sufficient nails during installation.
Last Updated: May 16, 2023, by: Jamie Sandford
In this HomeFlooringPros guide we spell out five ways you can tell that you’ve hired yourself a great hardwood floor contractor.
Laying a hardwood floor isn’t rocket science but if you don’t do it right, then bad things can and do happen. Unless you are very confident in your DIY skills, you probably don’t want to be installing solid hardwood flooring yourself.
Even if you know an excellent handyman with excellent rates you should still think twice. A professional hardwood flooring installer should know the potential pitfalls of bad floor installation and how to avoid them.
1. THEY PROVIDE A DETAILED AND THOROUGH PRICE QUOTE IN WRITING
Did you know that the written quote you get from your hardwood installer is actually a legal and binding document? It is… In fact, almost all professional hardwood flooring companies will require that you sign the document before they ever begin work. It should include exactly what is included in the hardwood installation cost, as well as info about the hardwood flooring, and all preparation. After all, not only does it provide the details of exactly what they’ll be doing for you, it also outlines how much you will be paying for installation services. For more information on what should be included in a flooring installation price quote click here.
To Get Started
2. THEY CHECK MOISTURE AND ACCLIMATIZE YOUR HARDWOOD
A solid hardwood floor swells and contracts along with the moisture content of its immediate surroundings; expanding during the humid summer months and shrinking during the dry winters. It is essential therefore that your contractor ensures that your wooden flooring is properly acclimatized to its new environment (your home) before being nailed down.
Your hardwood installer should be taking moisture content meter readings of the flooring and the sub- flooring, taking care that they are not more than 4% apart (and no more than 2% for boards wider than 3 inches). It can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks for your new wood to acclimatize to its new location. Your contractor should also be measuring room temperature and relative humidity to make sure they are not outside normal living conditions.
This will also mean not starting the acclimation process until after other building work (most especially wet trades) is finished and all windows and doors are installed.
3. THEY PROPERLY PREPARE THE SUBFLOOR
Before the first hardwood plank is laid the subfloor needs to be thoroughly prepared and this simply means that it needs to be clean, flat and dry. Make sure your hardwood flooring installer has removed any job site debris from the subfloor that could interfere with installation. Check that your contractor is happy with the flatness of the existing subfloor, if it’s not level your hardwood floor won’t be either and that can lead to bouncy or squeaky floor boards. And your subfloor should be dry, as mentioned above your contractor needs to make sure your subfloor is not concealing much more moisture than the hardwood flooring.
If you do live in a region where the moisture levels are extreme then you should definitely consider engineered wood flooring instead. Finally check with your hardwood floor contractor that the materials used for the subfloor are appropriate, for example plywood rather than particleboard.
4. THEY PREPARE THE LAYOUT
If your hardwood installation team turn up to start laying your hardwood floors and they’re already nailing planks down within ten minutes of arrival then you might have cause for concern. A good installation contractor will plot out the layout of each room carefully to avoid problems further down the road.
Not all rooms will be perfectly square, not all planks will look exactly the same and there are tricky areas that need to be thought through like the top of stairs, in between doorways or around a fire place. Taking these factors into account, making calculations early and planning the layout before starting the job will avoid headaches later on.
5. THEY USE ENOUGH NAILS
If a hardwood floor isn’t fastened down properly then inevitably you will have problems down the road. Believe it or not some installers have been known not to use enough nails, either because they didn’t know better or because they were trying to cut corners. Not enough fasteners leads to moving, noisy floor boards and gaps.
Here are some basic standards to follow:
• Every board must have at least two nails.
• There should be a nail 1 to 3 inches from each board end.
• Optimum distance between each nail for standard flooring is 8 to 10 inches, although 12 inches is acceptable.
• For planks 4 inches in width or wider, nailing every 6 to 8 inches is the standard.
• And, of course, always follow the directions of the flooring manufacturer.
WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD YOU ASK A FLOORING CONTRACTOR?
The above five suggestions are a great start, but is there anyything else to ask a flooring contractor before you hire? Let’s take a look at some other questions you might ask:
- Do they unconditionally guarantee their workmanship AND are they willing to put it down in writing and sign it?
- Do they have a reliable and effective system for containing all the dust that will be generated AND offer a solid guarantee for this?
- Will the business owner himself be working on and overseeing your project?
- Do they specialize in and dedicate all their resources to ONLY hardwood refinishing?
- Have you been provided with ample references ranging from the last few weeks to many years back AND are you able to phone some recent ones?
- Do you know for sure they DON’T use cheap lacquer sealers or other inferior and dangerous products AND have they given you the name of the finish they will be using?
- Are you sure they DON’T use cheap, unreliable sub-contractors to do their work?
- Do they have adequate liability insurance and are they registered with the WA State Department of L&I AND will they let you see their policy numbers?
- Was their quote detailed and informative AND have they explained your floors limitations in detail so you’re not unpleasantly surprised by any issues later on?
- Do you feel they’re trustworthy enough to be left alone in your home all day without supervision AND would you leave your keys and the alarm code with them if you had to?
- Are they a NWFA Certified Installer, Sand and Finisher?
To Get Started
As you can see most of the important work is in the preparation and this is just as true for laminate flooring and vinyl plank flooring as it is for solid hardwood. You might also be interested in our guide to the average cost of hardwood flooring.
FURTHER ADVICE FOR FINDING TRUSTWORTHY HARDWOOD FLOORING INSTALLERS
- NWFA – The National Wood Flooring Association – Find professional certified wood floor installers.
- Superior Hardwoods – Questions you should be asking any prospective flooring company.
- Direct Flooring Metro – More tips to find the right flooring contractor
Do you have any recommendations for hiring great flooring installers or perhaps some words of warning? Please leave a comment below, we love to hear from you.
About the Author: Jamie Sandford
Jamie Sandford is the Owner and Chief Editor of Home Flooring Pros (find out more). After 12 years’ experience in screen and stage set construction, followed by a further 15 years working in the home renovation/remodeling business, he now writes and curates online home improvement advice.
“Buying and installing home flooring should be a fairly straightforward process, but often it isn’t. After more than 15 years experience in home flooring and remodeling, I started Home Flooring Pros in 2013 to help homeowners navigate the often-over complicated process of choosing, buying and installing a home floor. The aim is to save you time and money by helping you to make better floor buying decisions.”