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Frequently Asked Questions

Renovating your hardwood floor is a big home improvement project and not one you should take lightly. We want to make sure you are as informed as possible, so here are some of the most common questions we are asked about our services and our answers…

Sanding and Refinishing Questions:

How long will the refinishing process take?

Most jobs will take between 3 and 5 days, but it can vary a lot. It really does depend on how many square feet you have and how much work is needed. An average home in the South Carolina areas of Hilton Head Island, Beaufort and Bluffton has 7-8 rooms with hardwood flooring - a living room, dining room, hallway and entrance and 3 or 4 bedrooms. If you don’t need much in the way of repairs, it will take on average 3 days.

For larger homes, complicated layouts, homes with many small hallways and lots of closets as well as stairs that need refurbishing, carpet to be removed or repairs, it will take longer. If you want to stain your floors, that will also add an extra day.

Will the fumes smell a lot?

It’s important to be aware that some finishes give off a strong smell that lingers for weeks at a time. That’s not very pleasant conditions to live in and there could be health considerations. Our PDF guide, ‘Which Finish System Should You Choose’, explains all the finish systems you can choose between. Page 4 has a handy chart explaining the levels of fumes and smells that come with the finishes. Take a look so you know exactly what to expect from each finish and know which ones you don’t want to use.

We specialize in 3 types of finish systems: water based, oil based and hardwax oils.

Oil based finishes have the strongest smell. Solvents from the finish dry evaporate as the floor dries and sets, causing smelly fumes. On a 1-5 scale, where 5 is the least smelly and 1 is the worst, our oil based finish would probably come out as a 3. With good airflow and open windows, the smell and fumes will dissipate much quicker. Which is fine in the summer, but in the winter, it can be difficult. The smell will last a few days to a week as the floor cures. This is the most affordable system, so as always it is a balancing act between what you are willing to put up with and how much you want to invest.

If smells and fumes are an issue for you, if you have young kids for instance, then we recommend using one of the other two systems.

Both water based and hardwax oil finishes give off very little smell. On that 1-5 scale from above, they’d both get a 5. As the water based finish dries and cures, it is water that evaporates, not toxic solvents. They do have a smell, but it’s faint vs an oil based finish and will quickly dissipate.

Rubio Monocoat – one of our hardwood waxes – has absolutely 0 VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). It gives off a slight smell like cooking oil and sticks around for only a short time. It’s the best finish to use if you’re worried about toxic fumes.

What color should I stain my floor?

We have put together a detailed PDF guide that answers this in detail. You can download it here:

floor stain Hilton Head
pdfDownload PDF Article

What types of finishes do you use?

This is a very important question you should ask your flooring contractor before starting your flooring project. We have put together a detailed PDF guide that answers this in detail. You can download it here:

floor finish Hilton Head
pdfDownload PDF Article

Can you sand and refinish engineered hardwood?

There are several factors at play here. Put simply – it depends on two main things...

FIRST: How was your floor installed? A floating floor cannot be sanded and refinished. If it is securely glued or nailed to a flat sub-floor, then we may be able to. But it depends on…

SECOND: How thick is the wear layer? Far too many engineered floors have a very thin top layer of wood. Some are only a thin slice of veneer. Not only is the wood layer possibly extremely thin, most likely it has a very hard aluminium oxide finish on it. In order to sand through the finish, we need to use quite aggressive sandpaper. Once it cuts through the finish, it can very quickly cut through the thin layer of wood into the base layers of ply. Once that happens, your floor is ruined. So if your top layer is less than 2 to 3mm, then the answer is probably no. There’s just too much of a risk.

If you don’t know how thick your top layer is, no problem. We will come and take a look for you.

For engineered floors, a great option is a deep clean and recoat. This doesn’t sand the floor and still refreshes their look.

Do you fill the gaps between floor boards?

Wood expands and contracts. Humidity and heat changes can all change the size of your wood, which is why your flooring can have gaps between the boards between seasons.

In the winter, when you turn on the heating, your floor will shrink slightly. This is when those gaps appear. But in summer, the humidity rises and the wood expands. Which explains why the doors in your home may open fine one day and feel tight or get stuck the next.

If we filled in the gaps, that filler would simply break up over time due to all the movement. That doesn’t look good and can damage the finish of your floor, too.

So, put simply, no we do not fill the gaps.

Hardwood Floor Installation Questions:

What is the difference between solid and engineered flooring?

Solid wood flooring is, like its name suggests, solid real wood all the way through. Engineered flooring on the other hand, is only real wood on the top layer. The lower part, the base, is plywood.

When it comes to the life of a wood floor and the number of times it can be sanded, it’s easy to assume a solid wood floor will be the best option. A solid wood floor has about 5/16” (8mm) of wear layer before you reach the tongue and groove. They can be sanded up to 5 times over their lifetime. As you can see in the question below, engineered floors wear layer can vary greatly. But there are some engineered floors that have a very similar wear layer to solid wood flooring and can sustain a similar amount of sanding.

As far as usability, engineered flooring is more stable in lower and higher moisture level environments vs solid wood. As such, they can be installed in below grade basements where solid wood can’t. They can also be directly glued to concrete slabs.

Then you have environmental and resource factors. As solid wood flooring wood all the way through, they use far more wood than engineered floors. You can get 3 to 4 times as much flooring from the same log. When it comes to our reclaimed barnwood floors, this resource is finite, so engineered flooring is a great choice for this option.

Are all engineered floors made the same?

No. There are a couple of differences. One is the thickness of the top layer of wood. Thickness of the real wood layer vary from 0.6mm to 7mm. The very thin engineered wood layers (from 0.6 to 2mm) are only a rotary peeled or sliced veneer. They can’t be re-sanded, only recoated. Anything over 3mm will be sawn wood and is able to be sanded and refinished down the road. It also looks very similar to solid wood flooring if it’s a quality product.

The other big difference is that good quality engineered flooring has a base made of 7 – 9 multi-directional layers of high quality plywood like birch. Cheaper flooring brands only use 3 layers of cheap quality imported plywood. The more layers and the better quality the ply, the more stable and durable the floor will be.

Especially when it comes to engineered flooring, you get what you pay for. We will be happy to show you samples at various price points and quality when you visit our showroom in Ridgeland SC.

I have a concrete slab, what type of wood floor can I install?

Engineered flooring is your best choice. Once we prepare and seal the concrete, we can glue the flooring directly to the slab. It is possible to install a solid floor over concrete, but we will need to install a vapor barrier and plywood sub-floor first so we have something to nail the flooring into. This will raise the height of you floor and add a lot more expense to the project.

I have a gypsum sub-floor. What type of wood flooring is possible to install?

Again, engineered flooring is your best choice. We use a special solidifying primer that strengthens the substrate first. Then a compatible adhesive is used to glue the floor down. It’s important to be sure whoever installs your wood flooring over gypsum uses the right primer and adhesives as regular urethane based adhesives won’t work and you’ll have a huge issue on your hands down the track.

What type of wood floor can I install over a plywood sub-floor?

Either solid or engineered flooring material can be used over a plywood sub-floor that is above grade. It can be installed using proper gluing methods or nailed/stapled in place.

What is the difference between site finished and pre-finished flooring?

If you head over to our installation page you can see a detailed answer there.

How long does the flooring need to acclimate before you install it?

This will depend on a few factors including the type of flooring and the humidity and moisture levels of the room and sub-floor where it is being installed. If there is a large difference in moisture levels, you will have issues with either gapping or cupping of the flooring material down the road. Neither of us want that. We will test the levels of both the sub-floor and new flooring with a moisture meter and that will give us a good indication of how long we need. Usually it will be somewhere between 4 days to 2 weeks.

Questions About Hardwood Floor Repair:

What can I do about deep scratches?

Whenever we sand down a floor to refinish it, we try to remove the absolute minimum as we sand. That way you keep the option to sand and refinish again at a later date. Because you will want to preserve the wear layer of your floors as much as possible, it may be better to replace boards with deep scratches and gouges.

It is possible to sand down any of these areas to remove the deep scratches, but it’s worth bearing in mind that your floor can only be sanded down 3-5 times throughout its lifetime. Any excess sanding can reduce that considerably. We recommend to instead build up the wood in these sections by replacing the boards with new, undamaged ones.

Can pet and water damage be repaired?

Two of the most common damages to hardwood flooring are pet stains and water damage. Thankfully, repairing them is usually no problem. Often, we will need to replace the damaged boards as these stains have been there for quite some time and they don’t sand out very often.

When we visit your home, we will evaluate the damage and include any repairs in our quote. If carpet is covering the stain, we will have to remove it first to see the exact damage. We will then immediately inform you of the options and come to joint decision on how to proceed.

Questions Before the Project Starts:

Can I stay home during the process?

It’s your home, of course it’s possible. There are a few limitations, though. When the finish is applied, it has to be left alone to dry for 4 – 8 hours depending on the system used. So, if your whole home is being refinished, you could have some accessibility issues.

On top of that, we recommend keeping off the finish for 24-hours. If you are living in the house during this process it can be very difficult, especially if main access hallways are being refinished. It may be best to stay elsewhere for a couple of nights to ensure the best results for your floor and the most comfort for you.

What kind of insurance do you have?

We have a full $5 million liability policy and full Workers Compensation coverage. When you hire a hardwood flooring company serving the Hilton Head Island area for any home improvements or flooring project, it’s essential they are covered in case of any accidents, however rare. If you want to know more, just ask and we’d be more than happy to share our policy details.

Do you have references from past work?

We always aim to deliver the best results possible to all our clients, so you can find some of their reviews of our business on Google My Business, Angie’s List, Houzz and our Facebook page. They are all 100% genuine customers from previous jobs we have completed.

And if the customer agrees, we’d be more than happy to share our latest customer’s phone number with you.

If you’d like to see some examples of our past work, take a look at our featured hardwood floor refinishing projects.

Do you move furniture?

Yes, we can help you with your furniture. We only move large pieces though, not small accessories or knick-knacks. You will need to have those pre-packed and moved before our arrival. Our moving costs are $50/hour per man.

We can move your items into your garage or another empty space in your home. If you don’t have any room available, we can arrange for a portable storage pod to be hired.

We don’t move pianos though. We can, however, give you the name and number of a reputable piano moving company serving Hilton Head Island and surrounding areas our clients have previously worked with.

Do you install baseboards and quarter-round?

Yes. We’re more than happy to take care of this for you. If you want or need new quarter round, we have two choices: solid wood or primed for painting. The solid wood option can be stained and coated to have the same finish as your floor. With the primed option, you will need to paint it yourself, or get someone in to do it. Base boards only come in the primed option.

Please note: We do not remove and reinstall baseboards and shoes. The chance of the boards being damaged as they are removed is too high and they won’t be able to be reinstalled to a high standard.

What areas do you work in?

Specialty Flooring has been serving customers in Beaufort, Bluffton, Hilton Head, Savannah and the surrounding Lowcountry area of South Carolina since 2008.

Who will work on my hardwood floors?

You do not want just any random flooring contractors working on your flooring project, especially if they have access to your house while you’re away.

We do not work with subcontractors. We have our own in-house, professionally trained employees. We ensure they are completely up-to-date with best practices through regular classes. And we make sure that no employee will smoke, swear or play loud music in your home. This is strict company policy and we enforce it. Anyone caught doing so, or snooping through your things (unfortunately it is known to happen among tradesmen and other people you hire to work in your home), will be fired on the spot.

Thanks to these strict rules, our teams are not only highly skilled but work to the highest levels of professionalism. We’re sure you’ll love having them in your home and if you have any questions, you can get in touch any time throughout your flooring project.

Do you work weekends?

We know how important it is for you to get your home back as soon as possible, so yes, we do work Saturdays. Often this will be to lay down one last coat of finish so that your home is ready for you on Monday.

We strictly do not work Sunday’s, however. Our team need quality time to spend with their families and get some rest just as much as you. We’re sure you can understand that.

What time do you begin work in the mornings?

On the first day of restoration, we like to get to your location between 8 – 9am so we can get started right away. If your chosen finish system needs more than 1 coat, we will arrange the best times for those coats with you. Most clients give us a key so that we can coat at the best possible times and get your floor finished as soon as possible.

Do you remove and get rid of carpet?

We’re happy to remove any carpet, underlay and tack strips from your floor and dispose of them. Just ask for that option to be added to your quote.

Do you need to remove the base shoe and baseboards?

In most cases, no. We get as close to them as we can with our sanders and then use hand scrapers to remove the rest of the finish that’s very close to the baseboards. If they are damaged, then yes, we can remove them and replace them.

How can I pay?

We prefer to accept payment by cash or check. We can arrange credit card payment, but that comes with a 3% surcharge to cover the bank fees.

Is there anything I can do to save money?

Sure. Removing the carpet and disposing of it, along with the tack strips, staples and any baseboards or base shoe you wanted removed will save us doing the job. And if you’re super handy around the house, you can even take care of repairs yourself. We’re more than happy to help with advice on doing this properly.

Questions for the End of Project:

When can I put my furniture and rugs back?

If we could have everything our way, we’d tell you to wait a full week before putting anything back onto your new floors. We’d even tell you to wait a week before walking on them. But we know that’s not always possible. Most finishes we use are cured to between 70% and 80% within two days. We strongly recommend waiting for at least those two days before moving back in. If you can wait longer, then please do so. If you can’t, then please be extra careful. We will give you cure times for your finish, but these are not exact. It depends on the temperature, humidity and other factors.

Also, please use felt pads for your furniture when you move it back in. And replace these annually as they will attract dust and debris that can scratch your floor if not changed regularly.

Lastly, with area rugs, we suggest waiting two weeks before putting them back, longer if possible.

How long will my refinished floors last?

There are a number of things that can impact your hardwood floor’s life. Do you wear dirty shoes inside? Do you have a dog who lives in the house, and are their nails regularly trimmed? Do they have the run of the house? Can you stay on top of sweeping and cleaning? Do you have good mats at every entrance? Do you use felt pads under chairs and tables? Will you use runners and area rugs?

All of these things impact your floor’s life. If you take good care of your floors, you can get more than 20-years of life out of them. But treated poorly the same floor could last for 2 years and then need recoating.

It’s impossible for us to know how your floors will be kept. We urge you to do as much as you can do keep them in good condition. We’ve put together a handy set of cleaning instructions, which we give you at the end of the project. Keep on top of that and your floor can last for many years.

Will sunlight fade my hardwood floors?

There are several factors that can protect your floors against sunlight or cause them to fade quicker.

One is the type of flooring. Walnut floors will change color faster than oak for example. Another is the finish used. Oil modified finishes will change color in the sun and they will do so quite quickly. On the other end of the scale, high end water based finishes include UV inhibitors that will protect your floors against the sun. One thing to bear in mind…if you have area rugs in certain areas, the difference in color after some time of being exposed to sunlight will be noticeable, especially if you use an oil based finish.

If your floors will be exposed to a lot of direct sunlight, we strongly recommend a higher grade of finish. Another option is to install window shades and awnings or to apply window tinting film to filter out some of the UV rays.

Evaluating Quotes Questions:

What questions do I need to ask hardwood floor companies as I gather my 3 quotes?

Another very important question. We have put together a detailed PDF guide that will help you with this. You can download it here:

5 Questions Hilton Head
pdfDownload PDF Article

If you have any other questions or concerns about your project that we have not covered, please get in touch and we’d be happy to answer them. We’re looking forward to working with you.

Reclaimed Wood Flooring Bluffton, SC
Specialty Flooring installed a hickory hardwood floor on the main floor in my Low Country home. The floor is absolutely beautiful! I would highly recommend this company. E Bostick – Hilton Head Island | 5 Star Review on Houzz
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