More than ever before, homeowners are tackling projects themselves rather than calling a professional. The reasons range from a need to save money to a desire to achieve the satisfaction that comes from doing the work and seeing the results.
Floor care is a good example of an area that homeowners are trying their hands at. Whether it's old, wooden floors to new vinyl tiles, your customers are willing to get the job done themselves, but they need help, and that's where you come in.
"The rental store must be the local expert," says John Goddard with Essex-Silver-Line. "This means the counter people have to be comfortable explaining the processes and determining the right equipment to use. Every rental store should be a one-stop shop for floor care."
What's good for the wood?
The process of refinishing wood floors takes patience, as there are many steps and they must be done with care. By properly explaining the process to customers and directing them toward the right piece of equipment, however, the results can be stunning.
"Asking the right questions will help the rental employee suggest the right equipment and procedures to their customers," Goddard says. "What is the customer trying to achieve? How big is the room or rooms? Are the floors waxed?"
According to Brian Strickland, director of rental sales at Clarke, division of Alto U.S. Inc., the very first question that rental personnel should ask is what type of wood floor the customer has. Tongue-and-groove solid-wood flooring - common in homes built before the 1980s - is typically 3/4" thick and can be sanded several times in its life. Factory-finished, engineered wood flooring, however, has a thin layer of solid wood at the surface which can't be sanded more than once. Laminate wood flooring - which is artificial - cannot be sanded at all. If the customer isn't sure which type of floor they have, tell them to remove one of their heating vents and look at the cross section of the wood. It should be obvious what is solid wood and what is not. Also, engineered wood floors often have a "micro bevel" which is visible where two pieces of wood come together. This is not often found on solid-wood pieces.
|Wood floors in really bad shape?|
Goddard notes, "There are times that a complete floor sanding is not necessary or desired. If the customer just wants to bring back the shine to their polyurethane floor, a simple screen and recoat may be all that's required. If the floor did not have any wax applied, and there are no bare spots through to the wood, this is the easy way out. Rent the customer a polisher, either rotary or orbital, and sell them a white pad and sand screens. The customer lightly abrades the old finish, vacuums and tacks the floor and applies a new coat of poly. His or her floors are brought back to a clean finish."
On the other hand, if the polyurethane has been worn down to the wood, wax has been applied to the poly or the customer wants to change the color of the wood (by applying stain), then the only choice is a complete sand and finish or refinishing of the floor.
Once the type of floor has been determined, the next step, according to Strickland, is to choose the right machine for the job. Drum sanders, he says, are highly effective at making the rough cut - which removes the old finish and levels the floor - but are large and don't fit into very tight spaces. Drum sanders must be used with the grain of the wood and, if used carelessly, can also leave stop marks or dips in the wood surface if the operator stops the machine in one spot while it's running.
Orbital or rotary sanders, Strickland says, are easier to use than drum sanders but they are not designed for heavy sanding. They can fit into tight spaces, so are good options for areas where a drum sander can't fit. Orbital sanders can be used against the grain of the wood. Keep in mind these machines must be kept moving. Stopping in one spot can leave imperfections that can be tough to correct.