overview

floors revealed


==== Picking a Contractor ====
== Identifying the Wrong Contractor ==
  1. Licensing Problems
  2. No Liability Insurance, Bond or Workers Compensation
  3. Suspicious References
  4. Nomadic Lifestyle
  5. Limited Material Selection
  6. Offers the Moon
  7. Jack of One Trade, Master of None
  8. Oral Agreements, Front Door Warranties, and Cash
==== Recognizing a Professional Flooring Contractor ====
  1. Legal and Monetary Protection of the Consumer
  2. Professional Conduct
==== Choosing a Flooring Source ====
== Big Box Dealers ==
  1. Product Selection
  2. Product Availability
  3. Inferior Sales Staff
  4. Unaccountable
== Liquidators ==
  1. Product Quality and Availability
  2. Manipulative Sales Staff
  3. Unqualified Installation
== Wholesale Supply Warehouses ==
== Dealer-Contractors ==
  1. Product Quality and Availability
  2. Sales Staff
  3. Installation Services
  4. Accountability
==== Choosing a Floor ====
== Brand Name Vs Generic ==
  1. Generic Defined
  2. Warranty
  3. Finish
==== Flooring Grades ====
==== Types of Flooring ====
== Solid Flooring ==
== Engineered Flooring ==
== Types in Rooms (Solid and Engineered)




For years, Pacific Custom Flooring has helped consumers gain flooring industry knowledge to make informed decisions about improving their home. Over time, we have codified all our years of experience and relevant information here.

We've collected information from certified sources, such as the California Department of Consumer Affairs, and the National Wood Flooring Association, delivering the most recent and accurate information available on flooring trends and contractor tips.

The average homeowner substantially changes their flooring once every ten years, but because the flooring industry changes very quickly, the homeowners are left to pour over a huge amount of often-conflicting information, which leaves them overwhelmed and confused decision makers. We hope that you will use this information to protect yourself, your home and your pocketbook.

If you need more information, would like to discuss your project, or would like to set up a free in-home consultation, please contact us at any time.

Thank you for visiting, and welcome to "Floors Revealed".

==== Picking a Contractor ====
Every year, Californians spend more than $39 billion on residential construction, remodeling and new flooring. Many homeowners find these improvements to be prudent and practical property investments, increasing both the value of their residence and imbuing it with their individual tastes. However, home improvement is also a top source of consumer complaints nationwide and without careful planning with the right contractor to do the work correctly, the project can quickly become an expensive, disruptive, and distressing affair. Unfortunately, consumers spend less time choosing the right contractor for well-sized projects then they do choosing the right car. Back to TOP.

== Identifying the Wrong Contractor ==
Before choosing a good contractor, it is important to know whom to avoid. Here are some characteristics of bad or unqualified contractors.

1. Licensing Problems
When a contractor enters you home, he will gather information from you and the job site to calculate the value of the project and provide you with an estimated quote. It is important that you also use this time to get crucial information from the contractor about his qualifications. Usually, a simple conversation can reveal a lot about a contractor's character, but a sure way to know about his qualifications is to ask to see his contractor's pocket license and some additional form of identification.

The name on the pocket license should be the same as the name of the contractor or business name the contractor is working under. If the contractor refuses to let you see it, provides you with false information, or the license is not under the name of the holder or his company, the contractor should not be hired.

=== How It Affects You ===
Contractor licenses are your first line of defense against having your dream improvement project turn into a nightmare. Contractor licenses reveal information that an unlicensed contractor may have succeeded in concealing from you during your qualification process. The contractor's license can be verified on the CSLB website, listing their business address, the kind of work that the contractor can perform, if any legal action has been taken against the contractor's license, and if the contractor is properly bonded and insured.
Unlicensed contractors may not have the expertise and qualifications to do the job right the first time, so you could end up having to hire a licensed, reputable contractor to correct the work-and having to pay for the job twice. If a contractor is unwilling to show certified information to back up his qualifications, he is asking you to take a risk with your money based on his unverified word. Check out our CA contractor license # 859014.

2. No Liability Insurance, Bond or Workers Compensation
Ask the contractor and verify on CSLB website if the company is insured against claims covering workers' compensation, property damage, and personal liability in case of accidents. Ask to see a copy of the certificate of insurance, or ask for the name of the contractor's insurance carrier and agency to verify that the contractor has the insurance. Home improvement contractors must tell you whether or not they carry general liability insurance and that it will protect against third-party bodily injury and property damage. If they do not carry insurance, you should not hire this contractor.

=== How It Affects You ===
Hiring an uninsured contractor carries substantial financial risk to you and your family. For example, if your contractor damages your property and doesn't carry general liability insurance, you or your insurance policy could end up paying for damages. In California, if a contractor has employees, the law requires workers' compensation insurance coverage. This is important for you as a homeowner. If a worker is injured working on your property and the contractor doesn't have insurance, you could be asked to pay for injuries and rehabilitation through your homeowner's insurance policy. Don't let your insurance become your contractor's workers' compensation insurance coverage.

3. Suspicious References
One of the most effective ways to qualify a contractor is to speak to previous clients the contractor has serviced, and to look at pictures of previous jobs. When speaking to the contractor's customers, ask such questions as:
  1. Did the contractor keep to the schedule and the contract terms?
  2. Were you pleased with the work and the way it was done?
  3. Did the contractor listen to you when you had job-related issues, and seem concerned about resolving them?
  4. Did the contractor willingly make any necessary corrections?
If possible, discuss with the homeowner the contractor's work habits, and the sensitivity of the contractor to the living needs of the homeowner. Of course, if the contractor is unwilling to provide references, doesn't allow you to call his past clients, or if those references do confirm negative traits, this contractor will most likely not be able to offer the quality and piece of mind you are looking for.

=== How It Affects You ===
Skilled contractors will be proud to take credit for their work, and will not hesitate to show you their previous projects, or allow you to speak to their previous clients. Unskilled contractors will try to hide their past failures and broken promises by stone walling, giving relatives and friends as references or simply never committing to the job.
Remember, the person you hire to work in your home will be in and around your home until the job is completed, and his work habits, customer relations, responsibility and professionalism will be the major factors in the completion of a successful project or in its complete failure.

4. Nomadic Lifestyle
One of the most important qualities in a contractor is his reliability and ability to take responsibility for his actions. It is important to confirm that you are working with a contractor who has a fixed place of business. Ask the contractor for the address of his or her business location and business telephone number, and verify them. If the contractor gives you a toll-free phone number and a post office box as his or her address, false information, or a mobile office, you should not hire this contractor.

=== How It Affects You ===
A contractor who operates a business out of the back of a pickup truck with a cellular telephone carries substantial financial risk toward you because he or she may be difficult to find to complete a job or fix something that has gone wrong after the last bill is paid. Contractors who lead such mobile businesses often take very little responsibility for their work and provide a vastly inferior service. Back to TOP.

5. Limited Material Selection
Some contractors will often try to close the deal the day of their visit by making their clients choose from a limited selection of wood flooring and laminate products. These products are often generic lower priced and lower quality materials, and the contractor will offer only vague explanations about the differences between them. Ask to see warranty information, guarantees about availability of the product and the quality of the finish. If the contractor is unable to answer the questions to your satisfaction, or insists that you only choose the products he offers, you will be better off hiring a different contractor.

=== How It Affects You ===
Most nomadic flooring contractors make their money from selling their labor. It is in their best interest to sell you the cheapest low quality product to keep their bids low. The product samples they offer reflect this trend - the products offered are usually without warranty, have an inferior protective coating, grade, milling, and in most cases, if you need to make repairs or continue into another room at a later point, the material line will no longer exist or be lost with the contractor. The material will wear out quicker, the color will dull more readily, the finish will scratch easily, and the overall product will have more defects and waste factor than other higher quality products. Although this limited and inexpensive selection might look attractive in the short run, when considering the side effects of an inferior product and the availability of similarly priced higher quality brand-name products, the customer will almost always be better off with selecting quality.

6. Offers the Moon
If you are like most homeowners, you may not be familiar with the current price of building materials and labor costs. To gauge the marketplace, it is smart to solicit at least three bids for the work you need. Make sure all bids are based on the same set of specifications, materials, and scope of work. Discuss the bids in detail with each contractor, and make sure you understand the reasons for any variations in price. Sometimes a higher price may be worth it, if the materials to be used are of higher quality or the work is more extensive.
Don't automatically accept abnormally low bids and beware of those contractors who group labor and material into lump sums. Be sure to verify, in writing, that the lowest bid includes all the work and same material quoted by his competitors. You may be headed for a dispute with your contractor if you accept an abnormally low bid.

=== How It Affects You ===
Abnormally low bids are an indication that the contractor is trying to get the job at all costs, even if it means that you get an inferior service and product. These tactics are usually the domain of unlicensed contractors. In this realm, below-market bids are possible because bad contractors sacrifice insurance, workers compensation, quality flooring products and the entire scope of services offered by competitors to lure in the unassuming homeowner into accepting their bid.
Although an unlicensed contractor may give you a low lump sum bid, the likelihood of receiving substandard installation, awful customer service, and the risks of possible financial and legal consequences will certainly outweigh any benefits a lower price might seem to offer.

Remember, if the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

7. Jack of One Trade, Master of None
A good defense against bad contractors is to familiarize oneself with flooring installation guidelines, wood species, grades, and the technology associated with their proper installation. Using this information, a homeowner can protect themselves against incompetent contractors. When contractors give you a bid, especially on complex jobs, ask them about the proper installation procedures, if there are any alternatives and what experience they've had with other installation methods. If the contractor has problems answering your questions, or specifies that he is only trained in one installation technique, it is probably not a good idea to hire such a contractor.

=== How It Affects You ===
Many flooring installers specialize in only in one type of flooring installation, usually sanding and finishing. Although, it might be a good idea to hire someone who specializes specifically in one area if that is what the project entails, it is a bad idea to hire someone who believes that they can apply their experience on a totally different installation procedure. For example, hiring a contractor who has little experience installing pre-finished flooring products but a lot of experience in sanding and finishing (or vice versa) is a bad idea. Contractors who specialize in sanding in finishing are more likely to have a sloppy technique when it comes to installing high quality pre-finished flooring. When a contractor sands and finishes raw materials, any improper installation can be sanded away before the protective finish is applied, while pre-finished materials must be installed carefully with little chance for error.
Hence, hiring someone with the wrong specialization, even if they are licensed, carries a very good chance that the job will be ruined by the contractor's inexperience in the particular installation method of your project.

8. Oral Agreements, Front Door Warranties, and Cash
One of the best ways to stop problems before the job begins is to negotiate a clear contract. The most financially imprudent thing a homeowner can do is to agree to details orally and pay the contractor only in cash. When the contractor insists on these sorts of business practices, it is a clear sign that only trouble awaits the homeowner who hires this contractor.

=== How It Affects You ===
A written contract binds you and the contractor to the project. Since a written contract protects you and the contractor both, all agreements should be put in writing. It should include everything you have agreed upon and the extent of work to be done. All oral promises are bound to be misinterpreted or even disregarded if you do not have all the promises in writing that spell out exactly what the contractor will and will not do. Never pay cash for a project, because in combination with an oral agreement, it will be impossible to hold a bad contractor liable.
Be sure to get any warranty offered by the contractor for labor and materials in writing. It should specify which parts of the work are covered and the duration of the warranty. Not only do oral agreements make a project liable to turn into a disaster, but also any guarantees the contractor offers will most likely be gone when he leaves the front door with your cash. Don't ruin your project, your contractor relationship and your health by agreeing to unprofessional business practices. Back to TOP.

==== Recognizing a Professional Flooring Contractor ====
Now that you have familiarized yourself with the characteristics of a bad contractor, it is important to be able to recognize a good flooring contractor.

1. Legal and Monetary Protection of the Consumer
In terms of legal standing and consumer protection, the professional contractor should be licensed, insured and bonded. There should be no claims on the contractor's license and the contractor should be in good standing with the California Contractor's State License Board. The professional contractor should provide a well-written service contract and explain its terms, and inform the customer of their rights as consumers. The professional contractor should plan ahead to make sure that all foreseeable legal barriers to a professional installation are resolved.

2. Professional Conduct
  1. A professional contractor deals courteously with the customer and helps them understand the different installation guidelines and differences in material. His quote is reasonable and itemized in a way that the customer can understand exactly what he is paying for;
  2. A professional contractor freely offers his industry knowledge and informs customers about incorrect information as he has the customer's best interests in mind;
  3. A professional contractor goes the extra mile to find a solution to a problem within his scope of work;
  4. A professional contractor is rarely late to appointments and informs his clients of any delays beforehand;
  5. A professional contractor backs up his claim to superior quality with references and factual information because he has nothing to hide;
  6. A professional contractor offers a written warranty on all labor;
  7. A professional contractor differentiates one bid from another depending on the size of the job, the quality of material, and the type of installation; he does not use a "one cost for all jobs" approach to estimating costs;
  8. A professional contractor has broad experience in all sorts of wood flooring installation and is not afraid to refuse work he is not qualified to do;
  9. A professional contractor has a fixed place of business and is easily available by telephone and e-mail;
  10. A professional contractor gives the customer a wide selection of products with a sales staff that caters to customer service.
  11. Back to TOP.

==== Choosing a Flooring Source ====
There are numerous sources for flooring material all over California offering every kind of wood species Earth has to offer. While this abundance of choice opens up great possibilities for the consumer, it also unlocks the chance for abuse and misinformation. Not all flooring stores are equal, and depending on their business structure, not all flooring stores will reveal relevant information to the consumer or offer quality installation services. Hence, choosing the correct organization as a source for flooring materials can be as crucial as selecting a professional contractor.

== Big Box Dealers ==
"Big Box" dealers are giant retail stores that focus on various consumer goods. In the construction industry, Home Depot is an example of a large big box chain that traditionally stands out as identifiable brand name home improvement store. It is the natural stop for most consumers to visit at least one of these chains to gauge the marketplace. Educated consumers will quickly spot that the relatively few advantages of buying from either Home Depot or other chain stores are overwhelmed by the many disadvantages these stores bring about when shopping for flooring products.

1. Product Selection
Large stores such as Home Depot are primarily focused on selling a limited selection of cheap, low quality material. Because these stores are primarily focused on increasing their sales, they limit the selection of materials to a bare minimum, so the consumer will buy whatever is available in large quantities.

2. Product Availability
Large retailers have a large turnover of flooring products. Because the main concern of these stores is not to maintain quality but instead to keep costs, there is a constant search for less expensive materials. Because of this, products quickly come and go, and once a material you purchased is phased out of the store, it will be gone for good. Any repair work or expansion into other rooms will no longer be possible.

3. Inferior Sales Staff
As the main concern of large retailers is to keep costs down, they frequently replace trained employees with temporary workers. Since 2002, Home Depot has used this strategy very successfully to cut costs by replacing 40% of its service staff with part time employees. Of course, this also cut severely into the level of service. For example, The University of Michigan's annual American Customer Satisfaction Index, released on Feb. 21, 2006, shows Home Depot slipped to dead last among major U.S. retailers. The reason is simple: the bigger the turn around of the service staff, the less ability or motivation these staff members have to offer qualified advice to consumers interested in purchasing the right flooring for their home.

4. Unaccountable
Home Depot is the largest home improvement store in America, and has always prided itself as a self-help store. Since 2002, the company has shifted away from domestic customers to service small to medium contractors and large construction companies. Small homeowners have been slowly downgraded in the priority of the Home Depot business because they now account for less than 15% of the company's profit. This set of priorities leads to the strong disadvantage in working with large retailers.
  1. A large corporate system leads to a confusing chain of command and burgeoning bureaucracy that often results in order mistakes, installation services miscommunication, delivery issues and delays. Not knowing who answers for what department leads to an unaccountable part-time mistake-prone staff with little to lose.
  2. A huge client base means less attention is paid to your individual project.
  3. "Big Box" stores subcontract to unqualified and qualified contractors depending on your luck. The only control the big store has over these contractors is through payment. Once you approve their work, they will never come back if you find something wrong.
  4. Back to TOP.


== Liquidators ==
Anyone looking for floors will spot the "too good to be true" advertising of flooring liquidator companies, whose attractively advertised prices for flooring materials lead many to both visit and purchase materials from such stores. An educated consumer will immediately know that purchasing anything from these companies is incredibly risky, because the final quality of the material bought is determined by luck. The cheap prices are outweighed by the myriad of problems the consumer will encounter after the purchase.

1. Product Quality and Availability
Flooring liquidators provide low prices by purchasing defective, unwanted and left over material from second hand sources. They will not guarantee any quality or offer any verifiable warranty on the products they sell. Product samples are usually not representative of the product as a whole, and huge amounts of waste factor needs to be added to account for defective material. These stores usually do not offer any return policies. Finally, the material is always in short supply, so a customer will never be able to match their existing floor or repair as these stores habitually turn over different kinds of flooring products.

2. Manipulative Sales Staff
In flooring outlets where quality is non-existent, the stores will often hire a motivated sales staff to reassure the customer of their planned purchase. Since the sales staff either has a quota to fill every month or gets a percentage of gross sales, they will often be motivated to cheat the customer by providing false information to make a sale. The inherent flaws in such a sales system encourage such behavior, since after the purchase the store and the salesperson will have no further contact with you. Their main purpose is to "move the material" and not to serve the customer.

3. Unqualified Installation
Any warehouse or liquidator store will keep a list of subcontractors that they can "officially" recommend to the customer. The list of contractors is often full of contractors who have never been qualified by the stores and whose quality is questionable at best. The "qualification process" for such contractors can be anywhere from how much material the contractors purchase from the liquidator to how big of a kickback the store receives from the recommended contractors for jobs performed. Back to TOP.

== Wholesale Supply Warehouses ==
Wholesale warehouses specialize in selling generic non brand-name flooring products. This is the first stop for contractors to buy inexpensive material to offer to their potential clients. There are certain disadvantages with buying from these stores as they combine many of the negative characteristics of flooring liquidators.

== Dealer-Contractors ==
Educated consumers who compare their visits with other flooring sources will recognize that the best source of medium to high quality brand-name products and professional installation services come from dealer-contractors.

1. Product Quality and Availability
Dealer-contractors will often carry a wide variety of brand-name products that offer finish and structural warranties on their material for up to 25 years. The dealers will have access to this material immediately.Pacific Custom Flooring has 3 showroom locations in the Bay Area to serve you, and we're here to stay. Schedule your free consultation with one of our Flooring Consultants today to see our extensive selection of fine-quality flooring products.

2. Sales Staff
The sales staff is usually well-trained and accountable to the consumer both legally and financially by negotiating the sale and signing the contract. It is always in their best interest to make sure that the customer purchases quality products and receives quality installation services.

3. Installation Services
Dealer-contractors often have their own in-house installation crews to provide an integrated material and installation sale. A good dealer-contractor will guarantee the labor of their workers and supervise the crews until the job is finished.

4. Accountability
The most important aspect of the relatively small to medium size of such companies is that they specialize specifically in offering a complete service to the consumer. Unlike big box retailers, there are no managers that do not specifically deal with the wood flooring industry and its aspects, with the lean corporate structure allowing for quick solutions to customer concerns. Back to TOP.

==== Choosing a Floor ====
Selecting good quality material for a flooring project depends on basic industry knowledge. Below are some important terms and diagrams of how to get the flooring product you want.

== Brand Name Vs Generic ==
Sometimes you will be offered to choose between generic and brand-name products that come in both finished and unfinished milling. There are certain differences between brand-name products and generic products that in many cases would make brand-name products a superior choice for your home.
  1. Generic Defined
    Generic products are those products that are shipped directly from a contracted factory to a warehouse supply store. These products can be either good quality, bad quality or anywhere in between, depending on the choice of the businesses who will stock them. Generic products have very little service attached to them, leaving the consumer on their own after the purchase.
  2. Warranty
    Generic products have no verifiable warranty; even if the manufacturer does offers a stated warranty, the producer is frequently overseas, making the company claims office or the management hard to reach, to say the least.
  3. Finish
    The finish of generic products is usually as inferior as the product. Companies who value their reputation and have stiff competition with other flooring companies are keen on developing superior finish products to use on their brand name products. Generic products offer a finish that might feel plastic or have a yellowish discoloration. It will not protect the wood from UV rays, rapid color change or scratches that most brand-name finishes can resist.
  4. Back to TOP.

==== Flooring Grades ====
The National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association (NOFMA) grading system is appearance-based. Understanding NOFMA grades begins with the terms heartwood and sapwood, plain sawn and quarter sawn.

Heartwood, the oldest, densest, innermost section of the log, is often darker and richer in color than sapwood, which lies closest to the bark. The color difference may be so pronounced that heartwood and sapwood from the same species are marketed under separate names. Red pecan, for instance, is heartwood; the sapwood of the same tree is sold as white pecan.

Boards can be cut from a hardwood log in two principal directions: tangent to the annual rings (plain sawn or flat sawn), or radially, across the rings (quarter sawn). Arched or flame-shaped markings, evident in bold-grained hardwoods such as oak, characterize plain sawn wood, while quarter sawn or "quartered" boards show a pattern of roughly parallel lines. Both have advantages in price, appearance and function, depending on application and species.


NOFMA Unfinished Oak
NOFMA divides unfinished strip oak flooring into four grades:
  1. Clear
  2. Select
  3. No. 1 Common
  4. No. 2 Common
Clear and select grades are further identified by sawing direction:
  1. Clear Plain
  2. Clear Quartered
  3. Select Plain
  4. Select Quartered

Clear and Select


No.1 and No.2 Common Back to TOP.

==== Types of Flooring ====
== Solid Flooring ==
All wood flooring, regardless of width or length, that is one piece of wood from top to bottom is considered solid flooring. Solid flooring gives you a great opportunity for customization. Your choice of species, stains and finishes all contribute to the personalization of a solid floor. This is an excellent choice in most areas of a home on the ground level or above.

== Engineered Flooring ==
This wood flooring product consists of layers of wood pressed together, with the grains running in different directions. Engineered flooring is perfect for those areas of the house where solid wood flooring may not be suitable, such as basements, kitchens, powder rooms, and utility rooms. Because the grains run in different directions, it is more dimensionally stable than solid wood.

== Types in Rooms (Solid and Engineered)
Advances in wood flooring during the past few years mean that you now can have wood flooring anywhere in your home or business. Where you want to put it, however, will determine the type of wood flooring you can use.


Strip flooring is linear flooring that is usually 2 1/4", 1 1/2", or 3 1/4" wide. It creates a linear effect in a room often promoting the illusion of a larger space. Plank flooring is also linear but it is wider in width. Common widths of plank flooring are 3", 4", 5", and 6". Back to TOP.

You now possess the knowledge necessary to make an informed decision about the installation of new floors in your home. We would love to help you both with the material selection and the with the installation of the flooring. Contact us today to set up a free in-home estimate or a free consultation in one of our showrooms!