Kitchen floor job - new wood planks don't match old...

dreamojeanJuly 14, 2013

I'm mid-kitchen renovation and my contractor used new pine to complete the kitchen floor when we opened up an air shaft for a bigger kitchen space, and the new pine doesn't match the old pine in a 125 year old brownstone. his flooring guy has come and gone and the result looks ridiculous, he didn't try to use reclaimed pine of a similar era or stain the new pine before or after the floors were done. I've included a photo. The old floors look great, but under and in front of the fridge is a pastiche of new/old interlocking and other than a conversation piece, I see no reason not to fix this.

My contractor has said "there's no way around this" since they wanted to be sure to use new pine since the old planks are pine. The first thing a neighbor and a friend asked was, why didn't they stain the new planks? And I had no answer.

I didn't think to make sure the contract (which is for a kitchen/HVAC/exterior job) specified that the wood floor wouldn't look silly when done. Can I ask my contractor to fix this or do I have to find someone to fix it? I've steadily reduced this GC's scope of work as things like this come up and I don't want to use him ever again, I'm not impressed, we have too many misunderstandings that I've had to pay to fix, and I'd rather use someone who is more receptive and responsive. I've already lined up someone I've liked in the past to assemble and install the kitchen cabinets; he's a carpenter and noticed the problem too. So I'm just trying to get through this job and move on, but don't want to burn bridges with him as he's the recommended GC of our architect who is a friend of a friend. This is not going to be my "team" again. In other words, I am not confident his "fix" would look good and don't want to pay him more. I have a floor guy I could ask, figured I'd ask on this forum too.

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I don't think you are going to be able to make the new floor match exactly, but you can certainly get it to look closer to than that! Do you have any of the pine left - both old and new? Take it to a paint store and ask them to mix a stain to match as closely as possible. Or just call in a wood flooring contractor who is experienced with this sort of thing,

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 2:10PM
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Sherrie Moore

OMG!!! I can not believe a reputable contractor would even try to pass this off as ok!! Really?? The floors should have all been sanded down and stained and refinished to match. If not perfect they would at least blend. No way could I accept this.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 2:12PM
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OP here - the floors were in fact sanded down and refinished - the missing step was STAINING and based on just these 2 responses I'm getting my own (non-GC) flooring guy to take a look - I figure the sooner the better since if he charges me $400 to fix it I'd want the GC to kick in since I specifically asked him before his flooring guy showed up and he said it "is what it is", "it's pine and your existing floors are old, we can't match" blah blah...

I wonder if he did this because I pulled so much of the rest of the job from him and he was cutting corners here. A bit of a downward spiral. I decided I didn't want him touching my dining room floor since it was a gorgeous job 7 years ago and I didn't want him messing it up (the right decision, the 7 year old dining romo floor job looks better than the one week old kitchen floor job - both are nice but the older job is shinier and probably more durable) - luckily the floors match exactly other than the shine and the silly new non-matching wood

Oh and our flooring person is an actual flooring contractor and so is the one who did the kitchen floor this time. I suspect this was a cheaping-out but am not certain... (not malicious, just neglectful...)

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 2:30PM
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That is ridiculous. Wood floors can be repaired, patched or added on to with a seamless end result. We replaced a 3' x 4' section in our kitchen where the previous owners had an ice maker leak. The wood we matched was 11 year old oak. The whole floor, old and new, needs to be sanded down, then stained and then coated with poly. This is the only way to get a seamless look. You need to use a reputable guy/business that only works with wood floors.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 2:40PM
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Well that tops holly kay's granite seam by a landslide. Good grief. Picky, picky!! I hope you did not pay anyone for that. If you did, try to recoup it with your credit card or small claims. I don't think I'd trust them to even sand it back down for starting over (with someone else) -- and you should not be paying them to fix it! Get a professional in there instead. He should laugh when he sees it.

No one in their right mind would do that or say "it is what it is". When you hear that one, run, lol. I speak from experience there and have somehow been able to do, or fix what was done, quite well myself. Pride in skill and workmanship seems to have bitten the dust.

I have matched stain to an existing floor and was able to do it all by myself with a little experimentation and no experience. The finish has held up fine after a decade. Now, if I can do it ...

This post was edited by snookums2 on Sun, Jul 14, 13 at 22:40

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 2:55PM
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Another thing is that those end joints should not be all lined up at the same point every other board. They should be staggered and there is an industry standard for joint placement, for both distance between joints on adjoining boards and distance across multiple boards for joints that end at the same place. That is not just an aesthetic consideration either.

Don't let them do the lazy, odd looking "stair stepping" method either. Sign of a hack. The boards are not blended very well here either.

Is that the old floor's layout or did they buzz the boards across evenly?

Another thing is, did they acclimate the wood to the house before installing?

Why do we need to even know all this stuff! lol Yikes. It's both sad and ridiculous. Yet they manage to charge us excessive amounts of money for all this bs.

Here is a link that might be useful: installing hardwoods

This post was edited by snookums2 on Sun, Jul 14, 13 at 20:21

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 3:11PM
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Sophie Wheeler

If you wanted antique pine to be used, it would have more than doubled the material costs for it. Which he should have communicated with you. If it were feathered a bit better, and the lines didn't line up so much, and the old wood sanded more aggressively, you wouldn't have had as big of an issue with it being so obvious. Perhaps he didn't sand it down enough because you don't have enough depth left on the old wood before you get into the tongue? If that's the case, he should have communicated that with you.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 3:36PM
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Sherrie Moore

snookums you are so right about the every other end joint should not be exactly the same. I agree!! Didn't point that out earlier just because i could not believe they were trying to pass off the color mismatch as oh well it is what it is!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 7:37PM
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Yep, my wood guy also took up more of the old wood floor so he could "feather" the old and new to look as natural/original as possible.

Sadly, you can't trust most of the professional out there and we (the customers) end up having to research/learn how the job should be done.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 10:28PM
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This is an obvious hack job and needs to come out. It's horrible what people pass off these days as professional work.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 9:23AM
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Floor guys will usually say that you can't exactly match old flooring when you add new floor. But the difference is usually small. We added on red oak to a floor extension that had existing 70-year old oak. Everything was sanded down and refinished. It matches fine -- if you stare at it for a couple minutes you might notice a difference between old and new -- but it generally is completely seamless.

Your picture, on the other hand, is so off that I would seriously question your GC's professionalism.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 10:19AM
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This is not acceptable. I had floors added in our bedrooms, and quite frankly thought they'd just start at the door with the new install. However, the floor installer insisted on resanding the floor in the hallway and removing some of the existing boards to stagger the newly installed floor in. It added about 250.00 to the total job. The new floor exactly matches the existing floor (natural oak, so no staining.)

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 10:54AM
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I know how hard it is to deal with these issues. Since you have no confidence in this GC, I suggest you get someone else to redo the floor, as your instincts have already told you.

As for your concern for the feelings of your friend of a friend architect, perhaps by keeping quiet, you are not doing him any favors. His repuatation is linked to those he recommends. Perhaps when this is all finished, send him a friendly email detailing what you were happy about (surely you can find some aspects) and let him know of the major issues you were not pleased with, how it was handled or disregarded by person responsible, and perhaps mention that are looking out for him and suggest that person who messed up not be recommended by architect in future. If you write it in the right tone, you can make it seem like you are doing the friend of a friend a favor by not being associated with poor workmanship. Include pictures.

Good Luck.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 3:29PM
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We had red oak floors repaired and both were sanded and refinished at the same time and you can't tell the difference between the 60+ year old pieces and the new ones. We are getting new floors in 1/2 of our first floor. I'm letting my GC lay them, but my floor guy for the rest of the house is finishing them.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 4:49PM
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OMG!!! That is ridiculous!!! It looks like your floor has a giant zipper holding the two ends together. How is any GC or flooring guy NOT ashamed of that disaster??? Don't be bashful about this. Demand a fix! We just had to do a patch job on our kitchen floor and it took three tries to get it as close to perfect as possible. But even the first attempt was nowhere near as pathetic as this. Honestly - is this a joke?... because I just can't comprehend that someone would seriously expect you to live with this.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 5:10PM
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Thanks dilly_ny, I've already told our architect about the problems we're having with this GC. Our architect has been working with this GC for a decade and isn't going to stop working with him based on just me. But what I learned is that this architect has always done construction administration for clients with this GC. Hmm...

Well, I planned to ask our architect to do construction administration for the job but by the time we got to that point, his fees had already skyrocketed and we were out of funds to use him that way. I've heard from two other people - a work colleague and one of the GC's references - that our architect overbills (he usually works hourly/no cap which at the beginning sounded perfect so we could take our time with design/design development, and use him as needed for bidding the job; but then he would do things we didn't ask him to do like draw a column, unbidden, so we ran out of budget). And people have told me that his original designs weren't done to scale. Because he's a friend's friend I have been diplomatic and just told him we're running out of funds so have to use him as needed, not to run construction.

In other words, I wouldn't use the architect again either. He did a great deck design, just awesome, but I didn't have confidence in his ability to design the kitchen and I hired a separate designer for that, also piecemeal given budget ,and between their fees we're going to end up just slightly over my overall architect/design budget for the job, based on the various quotes we got from architect candidates (probably 16% of construction when all is said and done). But that's with significant stress to me to just keep them DOWN to 16% percent or so.

So I've told this architect that he should probably refer this GC only if he's sure that he'll be doing construction administration, since there are too many misunderstandings otherwise. This is just the most visually obvious problem. I had a time/materials guy spend 5 weeks on a smaller piece of the job before the GC came in a month later for the permitted part of the job, interior/exterior, and the time/materials guy is coming back soon, I'm so happy about this. It's more work for me to have to hire independent tradespeople directly but it's a lot safer in some ways, you end up having a lot more useful conversations about what you want that way, and getting more customized results.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 5:45PM
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Thanks for all your feedback - based on the many fairly consistent replies I'm going to get a trusted flooring person to give me a quote on what he would charge to fix this sloppy job and might withhold from the monies coming over at substantial or final completion for that fix. This is one of many situations where there have been "misunderstandings" often fixed on my dime. Not this time.

In this case I raised the concern to the contractor who said it would look better after being finished. I raised it to him again after it was done and was brushed off. He is fixing it or I am, on his dime this time. But first I'll find out what my own guy has to say. - this might be expensive at this point in the process (already sanded and urethaned, 2-3 coats).

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 6:16PM
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Holly- Kay

Oh for heaven's sake! Snookums is right, that DOES have my granite mismatch beat by a mile. That GC should hang his head in shame. There is absolutely no excuse for workmanship that shoddy!

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 10:00PM
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So here's the response from the contractor via the architect, the contractor is basically saying I agreed to no staining (despite that we never had a conversation and I had no idea it would look so silly, but he should have...), this is simply not true and he's saying I have to pay them to re-do the whole thing, and they had charged me $925 for the flooring work (this is NYC) and the floor is around 12 feet long by around 8 feet wide, tops, so I read that as $9 per square foot, best case scenario, despite that the flooring guy I always use directly when it's not a GC job charges $4 per square foot (that flooring guy is coming out in 2 days to give an estimate), I don't plan to pay my GC twice to fix this job but if I pay my own guy to fix it (my preference since I trust him more), not sure how we'll ultimately resolve responsibility for fixing, my bet would be the fix costs $500, more or less (I pay my architect by the hour so try not to involve him as much as possible, that's another can of worms, my architect referred me to this GC and usually agrees with him so it's kind of a waste of time to get him involved, I'm realizing):

"It definitely doesn't match - I called [GC] about it. He agrees that it wasn't stained (which is clear from the photo). His version boils down to:
- the patching was discussed before the work was done;
- he mentioned specifically that his price did not include staining it;
- and that not staining meant wouldn't match ('tho the way he described the conversation to me made it sound like he probably soft-pedaled the not-matching aspect.)

Assuming those facts are correct (which I think is likely); this sounds like a really unfortunate instance of missed communication & a perfect example of mis-matched, probably un- or semi-conscious mental images......I think [GC] probably saw something like this in his mind ('though probably not as stark); I'm sure you didn't. After the fact, I wish someone had thought to say:
"We don't know whether it's worth the extra money to stain the patch. Let's put the flooring down, then take a look at it before we finish it." That might have helped a lot, but it's too late now.

Unfortunately there's not a lot to do at this point; you can't stain once the polyurethane is on there. At this point you'd have to resort to re-sanding, staining, then re-re-finishing.

ps - 'staining' is another, similar can of worms. Making the patch uniformly darker is easy - getting it to simulate the 15 different shades that are in the old flooring requires time, attention, patience, and some real artistry. That's why words like 'stain' and 'match' are very tricky.

I wish I had better thoughts here. He definitely didn't stain this floor - but, according to him; that's what was discussed & agreed. I suspect that's probably right, but that you had no idea it might turn out looking like this when you were listening to him."

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 1:57PM
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I wish I had words of wisdom for you other than, "that sucks!". A better GC would have alerted you to the difference before the finish was applied.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 2:22PM
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That is just absurd. No excuse for such a bad outcome. I'm a New Yorker and have many contractor friends that would never let that happen. That is not a communication issue. Anyone with half a skilled brain would refuse to add a finish to your floor without a stain. If they lack the skills to properly make a match, they should admit that, and suggest you find someone that could do the proper artistry. That is not a miss-understanding. The only reason for that is as if you put in the contract that you specifically want the new flooring repair to "not match at all!".
"I want to experience the contrast in the old and the new and celebrate the zig-zag pattern blending the past and the future". lol.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 2:44PM
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What a load. Your architect needs to go. He is a disgrace to his profession.

Small claims or credit card company. I wonder if there is a professional board you can contact.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 2:44PM
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I'm surprised he didn't use that line, sleeven. lol

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 3:10PM
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I am going to offer a dissenting opinion. Maybe you should leave it. Why? Because it usually looks better to totally clash than to match badly. I think in the right kitchen it could be "interesting". And you can always re-sand later. It's wood.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 10:40PM
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Thanks again all. My own flooring guy just told me he'll fix the job for $500 minimum which was what I figured. Thanks katyde for the suggestion to leave it but I think now is really the time before we clutter the room up for many years to come.

I am leaning toward doing the fix myself, and asking my GC and the flooring guy what a pre-sand pre-finish stain would have cost alone. If that part would have been an extra $200 or $300, then I will suggest to my GC that I pay the part I would have been asked to pay had my GC bothered to have the dialogue with me ahead of time, and the GC credit me the balance. Then he has to pay for the part that reflects his poor communication and I have to pay what I would have paid in the first place, plus I'm doing the legwork to get things fixed. Does that seem fair?

So far my GC has insisted (to my architect, not me) that I agreed to this result. My architect finally emailed me today that I should ask him to pay for the fix, given the lack of a conversation ahead of time. I emailed my GC asking him to give me a price to fix the problem, and have heard nothing in response. I'm sure his floor guy can fix the job, but I just don't generally trust my GC to do the right thing and want to be the person handling the fix at this point. Unless that would mean I'm less likely to recoup from my GC, that is.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 3:53PM
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Cannot follow, lol. Whatever your cost to fix satisfactorily, you should get back*. Their work is trash, hopefully the same material can be used (stagger those joints).

It would seem you also need to distress the new pine a bit.

* I guess that would be minus the staining & distressing part that they didn't do; and the wood flooring material if it can still be used.

This post was edited by snookums2 on Thu, Jul 18, 13 at 0:35

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 10:55PM
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I've been following along and now that this is getting to some point of resolution, all I can say, what a hack and a load of bull-pucky.

No reputable sub or GC would have let a customer agree to such a horrible solution, no matter how tight of a budget. Such a claim fails the test of reasonableness. If such an arrangement was agreed upon, it would be specified as such in the contract -- because no one would be happy with the result.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 12:24AM
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Thanks to all for your feedback! I ended up hiring a flooring guy I've used before to fix the problem and have attached a photo. It cost $600 to fix this and a few island strips of wood vs $925 for the original wood and finishing job and the flooring guy said staining the first time would have added 200-300 or so.

I'm not using the contractor who didn't stain the floors anymore. Not even because of the floors but because of the sum total of that and a bunch of other things and having lost confidence in his work and judgment early on. It probably will cost me a few weeks of time tops and a few thousand dollars tops since his electrician was fairly useless and my own guy fixed that as well. I'm unhappy about the extra cost but staying with him was so stressful that I couldn't do it any longer

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 11:01AM
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So my only concern with stain matching new pine to an old floor is patina. Your old floor has that color because of age, UV radiation, floor cleaner, dogs, spaghetti sauce etc. Your new floor has that color because of stain. In time you may find they don't fade together. It is a far cry better than what you had, and you may find that in time your board sheens will start to match a bit better.

I had the same kind of work done the right way from an amazing floor guy. They SANDED the whole floor, laced in matching maple, and refinished. No stain.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 3:09PM
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    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 3:12PM
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dreamojean, that looks soooo much better! Thanks for posting the details of your resolution. You did the right thing in sending that contractor packing!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 7:57PM
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OMG that floor job was pathetic, amazing they could even defend it with a straight face. One observaton - it sounds like this was a verbal change order which may be where some of the issues came from. All requests should be in writing and scope detailed out. While this still does not rule out issues, it helps reduce them. Best of luck with the balance of your project!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2013 at 4:36PM
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All of our "change orders" were via email "credit" for work not to be done, while I (as an attorney no less) believe in documenting as much as possible, my takeaway from this fiasco is that in the end the more important thing is to get the most competent contractor who is also very honest and a good supervisor and responsive and trustworthy and a good partner and then document as well as possible. On the documentation scale my contractor was a 6 or so- not seat of the pants, not all buttoned up. So I have paperwork catching him in what I consider to be semi-fraud (taking a deposit for one thing and 2 weeks later trying to turn it into something else) which was the real reason I had to let him go (the floor stain problem was one of the problems but the bigger one was poor supervision, poor communication, poor work quality by the workers not caught by the owner etc.). Enough was enough.

I've since fixed the floor stain via floor specialist, gotten my own electrician to get power to outlets that didn't have it (kind of important for the dishwasher outlet to, uh, have power before dishwasher is installed, etc. etc.), gotten a plumber to move the sink pipe 3" to the left and to move the range pipe up or down to the right place and put the shutoff valve near the wall not near the range (it was reversed... reversed!), etc. So many examples of this. My new kitchen contractor is a trusted time/materials guy who's a carpenter who does all but plumbing/electric so I'm basically the GC now. I'm finishing the job (kitchen should be done in a half week, countertops and all) and will fight with the guy I left behind when I have more time after we're all moved in.

I ran into a neighbor - turns out the contractor's partner destroyed a grout job in her bathroom so she has to re-do the whole thing 3 years later, he scratched up her tiles. She is the only person I met who even used these guys, so that was further confirmation that I'm not crazy and these guys either can be hacks or can hire inadequate workers and not supervise them properly which is at least PARTLY what I think happened with me. No matter how careful you are a lot of it comes down to hiring properly. I usually hire well, this was a HUGE exception.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 7:58AM
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