Hardwood Flooring
Hardwood Flooring

A world tour…All in the name of better a floor

Recently I had the opportunity to visit Fraunzimmern, Germany for a Lagler PST (Professional Sanding Training) July 22-27th. Lagler is a company located in Fraunzimmern that makes the world’s best floor sanding machines. The factory is state of the art and Lagler has decided to extend their tradition of quality beyond manufacturing and train selected professionals on technique as well.

Only ten people were selected for the trip from the United States. The tour included one day of a factory tour/machine maintenance.  State of the art machinery used in production enables Lagler to maintain a consistency of product far beyond all other manufacturers in the industry. Following the factory tour all professionals on the trip were trained on even the finest details regarding proper machine maintenance and operating specifications.

It is important to consider that reproducible quality and workmanship is most likely when machines are running optimally. The other component of producing quality floors resides within efficient and reproducible methods of sanding. Lagler has spent the last ten years in conjunction with various engineers validating their methods for producing floors that are flat and free of error. The students at the July training were all taught and judged on performance afterwards by competing teams.

Beyond the technical aspects of the trip I was really impressed by the dynamics of our group of contractors on the trip. We had contractors represented from nearly every region of the United States, all with varying beliefs in method but a common bond of passion for a perfect floor. I now feel that my network of knowledge and access to the best in the business just jumped an order of magnitude because of this opportunity. I’m certain that with the knowledge from the training and the coming line of products for floor sanding from Lagler that our abilities will advance.

Thanks to Karl Lagler and Jeff Fairbanks for this opportunity. In our next related post I will discuss the real story behind dust collection and validity of endorsements for various “dustless” systems in the industry.

Why I still love this career

Some days in the world of a “floor guy” are exhausting and frustrating. Some days you are working in houses so dirty that they could be condemned and other days you end up getting stain all over your new shirt. The freedom that has accompanied starting this business years ago always makes it worth it. The hours are flexible and the appreciation of a job well done when you hear it from a customer makes the occasional long day all worth it.

The whole company (Destry, Andrew, and I) have been working for a couple of months on a large project for a church in our neighborhood. The chancel portion of the church received all brand new floors and also we installed two large radius african mahogany nosings around the flooring.

One of the characteristics of working with wood is that you never know what will happen next. The two radius nosings were built from a series of rough stock boards. The boards were planed and then cut into strips and glued together to form a curved piece. Afterwards, we still have to router, plane, and sand the product a lot in order to create the final product. In the case of this project the final sanding revealed that there were voids in some of the strips . They appeared as dark spots and were out of character relative to the grain of the wood. Simply using filler just wouldn’t work. We even used the recommendation of someone else of using dust and glue without any success.

The real thing that keeps us going in this field is when a project demands resourcefulness and creativity to solve a problem. In the end I suggested that we open the gap in the nosing and we custom created grain matched wood slivers. We glued them in and sanded them and the problem disappeared.

That’s the point of this blog. Every day we have to think with two sides of our brain in order to run an efficient high quality hardwood floor company. Whether we are working in a historic house in Portland with fir flooring or a church, we always have to think of solutions that make problems go away and look elegant. I never found that in my last career. I’m glad to be a “floor guy”.

Taking one for the team

I was working on a remodel recently and wanted to make light of how stuff happens. This remodel was very tedious and managed more along the lines of extreme home makeover on ABC. At about 7:30pm the night before finishing I was walking around the kitchen doing some quality control observations and walked into a shelf. The shelf was 1/4″ plate steel with a rather sharp corner and it blended quite well with the color of the grout/mortar for the brick wall into which the shelf was integrated. The worst part was that I dropped a can of finish on the already finished floor and had to wipe the excess finish up with one hand and apply pressure to the injury with my other free hand. It was quite a memorable moment. Eight stitches later and all is well again.

Sometimes you have to take one for the team. Either way, I still love my career and consider it a reality check for how we all could slow down occasionally.

What’s the value of hiring a professional?

For about a week or so around my home I had a broken faucet in the sink. The sprayer head had simply broken off and it was a little tricky to use but worked. Despite how busy I am I decided to do the task myself and save some money. Well, I must say that the end result was that the sink was fixed, but I almost messed the faucet up by doing the work because I am not a plumber, I am a hardwood professional.

It seems like a fine point, but not really. You see, for a period of time I kept stalling and managing to deal with a less than ideal faucet until I could make the time to fix it. The day that I did manage to fix the sink was quite an adventure. I came home in a rush and tried to install the sink. I sort of glazed over the directions and managed to put the sink in and it took two tries to do improperly. I rushed out the door for a networking event and returned at 8:30pm and tried one final time to fix the sink and was successful this time. Thank you to my wife for being the brains the third time around. During the removal of the faucet the second time I almost stripped the brass threads that connect the faucet to the sink. Through some frustrating moments I managed to get the sink installed after a third attempt. I love the sink.

You may ask why a hardwood floor guy is talking about plumbing and a sink. If I had actually realized what I REALLY should do and call my plumber friend and pay his company to install the new faucet I would have saved time and frustration. In addition I almost destroyed a $120 faucet due to my less than par plumbing knowledge. Sometimes there is a reason to call a qualified professional because they have the tools and knowledge to do things right the first time. I learned on this one and won’t make the mistake again.