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QUESTIONS... and detailed answers

Most people have a lot of questions about their upcoming hardwood flooring project. We understand you may too. We’d like you to be informed as possible about what is involved with your upcoming floor restoration, so here are some of the most common questions we get asked and our answers…

The Biggest Questions

Some subjects need a little more explanation. So we compiled the 3 most important and commonly asked questions into detailed downloadable PDF articles for you…

General Questions

Most of the time it will take us 3 to 4 days to refinish an average floor. But there are so many variables we really cannot give you a firm answer before seeing your floor in person. With an average project, the first day we remove the existing finish and sand down to the bare wood. The second day we finish sanding and apply the first coat. Then the last coats are applied on either the third or fourth day, depending on the finish system you choose. But that is without repairs, stairs or staining. Each of these will add more time to the project.

Obviously, the larger your home or more complicated the layouts, the longer it will take. Small hallways and lots of closets and stairs can add a lot of time to the project no matter the square footage size. If you want to change up the color of your floor with a stain, it will take an extra day too.

Once we have taken a look at your floor and chatted about the options you want, we will be able to provide a very accurate timeframe for how long your project will take.

Possibly. There are a few things to consider though.

First off, our sanding machines are loud. You will need to wear earplugs. It’s not the most pleasant environment to stay in while we’re working.

Second is the issue of drying finish. When we apply each coat, it needs to be left alone for minimum of 2-8 hours (depending on the finish system you choose) to be dry enough to carefully walk on in socks. We strongly recommend staying off the last coat a minimum of 24 hours to allow it to dry properly with no possibilities of contamination or damage. That means if you have hallways, or even the whole home, coated with wet finish, you’re going to have a very hard time accessing your home without compromising the drying finish.

We can discuss this in more detail and work out a plan when we get together during the in-home estimate.

Yes, we are fully licensed. It’s very important that you check whoever you hire to work in your home is properly licensed. You can easily check the status of a business on the New Jersey Consumer Affairs website here:

Here is our New Jersey Home Improvement Contractor License number: 13VH03306500

We also have a $1 million liability policy and full Workers Compensation coverage for all our staff. It is essential that a hardwood flooring company is covered against any accidents that take place while on your property, however rare they are. You don’t want to find yourself liable because the company you hire isn’t properly covered. It’s way too much risk to take on, especially with the possibility of highly flammable products being used.

Here are a couple of links to fires that were caused by “less-than-careful” floor refinishing companies:

Please make sure whoever you hire is properly insured.

Anything is possible, and we will definitely work with you and your particular circumstances. However, it may not be the most cost-effective, time-effective or stress-less way for you to complete your project. We understand why you may ask this question… you may want to stay in your home and still use it while we do our work to save on hotel costs, or the hassle of moving in with friends or family for a couple of days. Or you may feel it is way less hassle to move everything into a couple of rooms while we sand half your home, and then move them across to the completed rooms to finish the rest of your home off. That makes sense. But we want to share some of the drawbacks of doing it this way...

Reason 1: It can be way more expensive doing it in separate sections. We have a minimum charge of 300sqft per sanding and refinishing project (which comes out to an average of $1,500). Our repair minimum is $400. Unfortunately, with sanding and refinishing projects, most small jobs are almost as much work as larger ones. The time to unpack and set up all the equipment, machinery and dustless gear is exactly the same for every project, regardless of size. Pack up time is the same too. The same number of sanding passes are needed regardless of square footage. And we need to return the exact same amount of times to prepare and apply each coat of finish to the floor. Whether you have 200sqft or 2000sqft, a lot of the time needed to complete your project is very similar. Thus our minimum charge. If you have five rooms and want to split them up, that will be around a $7,500 investment. The same project, completed all at once, may be only half that investment. So, if you decide you need to do your project in multiple stages, please be aware that you will be paying a premium for it as we need to price each section as a separate project with each being at least our minimum charge.

Reason 2: The second reason we don’t recommend splitting up your project into multiple parts is because you will have to put up with the smell and fumes all over again, each time. This is especially the case if you choose to use an oil-based finish system. Clearing your home of smelly, unhealthy fumes is bad enough to deal with once, multiple times is not fun.

Reason 3: If you can’t move your furniture yourself and need to hire a POD for onsite storage or movers each time, this will quickly add to your budget.

Based on these 3 things, most people don’t find it a particularly viable option to split up their project. Our preference is to do the entire project all in one go. It’s the cheapest, easiest and most stress-free way for both of us. But of course, like always, we are more than happy to discuss all your options when we meet for your quote in person.

Unfortunately not. We don’t have the proper licensing and insurance for us to do the work of professional movers. If we damage something, or one of the crew is hurt while picking up a heavy piece of furniture, we will both be in a pickle.

We will, however, happily pass on the name and number of a quality moving company who can carefully move and pack away your furniture before we start and place it back once we’re finished.

Yes, we’d be happy to remove your carpet and underlay for you. We will cut it up, roll and tape them into small bundles with the sharp wood tack strip pieces from around the edges of the room placed inside. That way they will be easy (and safe) for you to put out on garbage day. If the day we remove your carpet is collection day, we’ll be happy to put it out on the curb for you. If you would rather have us dispose of it, please let us know when we meet to discuss your project so we can add that option to your quote.

The main areas we work in are Camden County, Burlington County and Gloucester County... including the towns around our showroom in Collingswood, such as Oaklyn, Cherry Hill, Haddon Township, Haddon Heights, Haddonfield, Tavistock, Marlton, Voorhees, Mt. Laurel, Audubon, Merchantville, Cinnaminson, Moorestown, Medford, Medford Lakes, Hainesport, Shamong, Palmyra, Somerdale, Magnolia, Evesham, Westampton, Lumberton, Riverton, Delran, Washington Township, Wenonah, Woodbury and Woodbury Heights.

Finish/Coating Questions

It’s important to know what you’re getting into before you choose a finish system. Especially if you have very sensitive family members or pets. While all finishes will have an odor to them, some are much stronger than others. Some finishes can give off a very strong smell that sticks around for weeks on end. That’s neither the most pleasant thing in the world or the healthiest for your family.

In our article: Which Finish System Should You Choose? there is a handy chart that explains the levels of fumes that go with the different types of finishes. Some of the worst offenders are Conversion Varnish, Swedish Finish and Lacquer Sealer. These will drive you out of your home. You can’t even apply them unless you have a special mask. They’ll kill all the bugs in your home they’re that strong. These finishes are definitely not recommended if you want to stay in your home during the refinishing process. You won’t run into the first two of these often in New Jersey though thankfully.

Probably the most common high fume product that you’ll come across that is in use among the cheaper floor sanders is Lacquer Sealer. This product absolutely stinks and has very dangerous flammable fumes. We highly suggest asking whoever you are considering to restore your floors whether they use this product. In the answer above this one, there is some more information about this product we suggest you read.

We use 3 specific types of finish here at Dustless Hardwood Floors: water-based polyurethane, oil-based polyurethane and hardwax/modern penetrating oils.

Out of those, the oil-based finish has the strongest smell. Water-based finishes are better and the hardwax/penetrating oil we use has the lowest level of fumes. This is also the order of affordability. The more budget friendly the finish, the higher the VOCs and fumes will be because the development, ingredients and manufacture of the low VOC finishes cost more.

If you decide to go with the more budget friendly oil-based system we suggest moving out for a few days. It’s also good to keep windows open during the drying stage for constant airflow. Doing this will allow the fumes to dissipate and the smell will remain for far less time. While this is easy during the summer, it’s definitely more complicated in the winter. But with adequate airflow, the smell will only last a few days, up to a week.

If you have young kids or sensitive pets, can’t leave your windows open and you can’t move out for a few days, then one of the other two systems, water-based or a hardwax oil, will be a much better choice.

Water based finishes and hardwax/penetrating oils still both give off a smell, but nothing like the strong solvents from the oil-based finishes. The water-based finish evaporates H2O as the floor cures, instead of solvents. The hardwax/penetrating oil has a light cooking oil type of smell to it. Both will dissipate within a day or two with good ventilation.

There’s a lot to be said about this subject. First you have the different types of finishes available:

1) Surface Finishes (water-based, oil-based polyurethanes, Swedish finish etc.). These sit on top of the floor as a plastic film. The water, oil or solvent is the carrier that evaporates and the finish is left as a durable wear laying film. These are the most common types of finishes for floors and some of them are extremely durable.

2) Then there are ‘Old School’ Penetrating Finishes: (tung oil, linseed oil, Danish oil etc.). These finishes penetrate the wood instead of sitting on top of it. They can look beautiful when done properly and damage can be quite easily repaired. But the downsides are they are nowhere as durable as surface finishes and spills can mark them easily. They also need to be constantly maintained.

3) The third group is Wax. This used to be a very popular way of protecting hardwood floors in New Jersey many years ago. If you have original pine floors, this may have been the original finish. Scratches are easily fixed in waxed floors. The issue with wax is the time needed to maintain them, as well as the damage caused when things are spilt on them. Maintenance can be a big hassle. This is why surface finishes became so popular in the 50’s and 60’s.

4) The last group of finishes is Hardwax/Modern Penetrating Oils. This is a new type of finish that has been around in Europe for a while but has only made headway in the States during the last couple of years. They are a mix of plant oils and waxes. They are attempting to mix the beauty and repair ease of penetrating finishes and wax with the durability and ease of maintenance of surface finishes.

So now that you have a quick run down of the types of finishes, you need to know what your most important criteria for choosing a finish are...

  • Is ease of maintenance important?

  • Do looks play the biggest part of your decision?

  • Is dry time and cure speed important?

  • Do you want a finish that is easier to repair?

  • How important are fumes and smell in your decision?

  • What is your budget?

  • How carefully will you treat your floor?

  • What level of sheen do you want?

  • How durable a wear layer do you need?

Your answers to the above questions will determine what type of finish you end up choosing.

If you want a finish that is easy to maintain, has low fumes, is very durable, has a fast cure time and available in many sheens, then a water-based surface finish system is a good choice. You have various levels of durability and price points available.

One of the downsides to surface finishes though is they aren’t the easiest to spot repair. You will also need to apply stain or a sealer on oak floors otherwise they will look very washed out.

If spot repair is a huge factor for you, then a penetrating or hardwax oil finish is a better choice. But then you may lose some of the durability and ease of maintenance.

If the environment and smell and fumes is the biggest issue for you, then you will definitely want to ask us about hardwax/penetrating oils. These have the lowest VOC (volatile organic content) levels out of all the finishes.

It’s not always an easy choice choosing the perfect finish for your home. Sometimes you will need to compromise. When we come out to have a look at your floors, we will go in-depth with you about the types of finishes available. We’ll show you samples and go through the pros and cons of each to help you choose the best finish for your particular circumstances.

[An important note about Lacquer Sealer] Make sure you don’t get stuck with a finish system that uses Lacquer Sealer as the base coat. It has very high solvent and VOC content. The fume and smell factor is a 9 out of 10. Houses have burnt down because of this product as you can read here...

It’s that flammable and dangerous. It’s also one of the worst finishes to use under a surface finish system when it comes to durability. Cheaper companies will use it because they can get “two” coats on in a day, saving themselves lots of time. Long-term though, you will regret having this on your floors as they will wear out much faster than with a proper professional sealer. Please heed our warning here as this is unfortunately still a popular product in New Jersey. You really don’t want this on your floors.

For a more detailed answer, download the article: What Finish System Should You Choose? in the PDF link above.

Repair and Sanding Questions

Possibly. I say that because every time you sand down hardwood floor to refinish it, you reduce the life of the wood. There are only so many times you can sand your floors. If you have an older home, your floors may have been sanded a number of times already and now have a very thin layer of wear left. It is possible, of course, to sand down any of these areas and remove deep scratches. But… in some cases, it’s better to not sand them all the way down and render your floor useless for another restoration down the road.

That’s why we often recommend replacing any individual boards that have deep scratches and gouges. Instead of sanding them down, we build the damaged areas up. That way the life of the floor as a whole is preserved.

We’ll take a good look at these areas for you and advise on the best way to proceed so it will be better not only for this restoration, but for your floors long-term.

Our answer will depend on how you answer another question we would ask you: What type of flooring do you have?

If you answer Pine, then our answer would be “Not much unfortunately”. Here’s why…

Most older houses in New Jersey with tongue and groove pine floors have experienced a lot of movement over the years. Wood is a natural fiber, so it expands and contracts as the heat and humidity changes from season to season. Over many years and seasons, your antique floors have done this a lot, loosening up your floor. That’s why there are now gaps between your floor boards. These gaps have accumulated a lot of dust, wax and grit over the years. If we simply fill the gaps between your pine floor boards, the filler would not adhere properly and then it will break up as the months go by due to this seasonal movement. That filler will then pop out and look horrible. Much worse than it would have looked without filler in the first place. It will also damage your finish as it gets walked over the floor. We do have some options for larger gaps if these are a huge concern to you. However, they take a lot of time and effort and therefore aren’t cheap to do. We can discuss these options in person when we come over to have a look at your floors if you like.

If you answer 5/16 oak flooring to the above question, then our answer is “possibly we can fill them”…

We can trowel fill oak floors if the gaps aren’t too wide. It’s important to note however, that just like pine floors, you will still notice gaps during the change of seasons. When you turn on your heating in the winter, your floor will shrink, making gaps appear. And when the humidity rises in the summer, your oak floor boards will expand again and those gaps will disappear. This is a natural part of how wood flooring reacts to the everchanging environment. Trowel filling will hide these gaps for the most part, but please note it won’t be a perfect fix. There will always be some gaps remaining no matter what.

Two of the most common causes of dark spots in a floor are 1) pet stains and 2) water damage from a leaky or over watered pot plant. Yes, it is possible to repair these, but the solution depends on how deep the stain is. If it’s just a surface stain, we may be able to sand it out. Most likely the damage is deeper and we will need to replace the damaged boards.

When we visit your home, we will inspect the damage so that we can give you a proper quote. If the stains are covered by carpet and we can’t see the extent of them, we will need to wait until it’s fully removed to see the full damage. We will then let you know the options open to you and the final price to repair them.

Most of the time we don’t need to. Our sanding machines sand up very close to the edges. If there is any remaining finish, will use hand scrapers up against the baseboard to remove it. Sometimes you may want to remove and replace damaged baseboards, we will be happy to do that for you. Just ask when we come to give a quote.

If you have an older house with beautiful Chestnut moldings, you most likely want to preserve them. We will be extra careful with these for you as they are becoming very hard to replace. If you have sections of Chestnut needing repair, ask us if we have any reclaimed Chestnut available. If we do have some in stock, we may be able to restore those sections for you.

Yes, we can sand and refinish these areas if you have the appliances removed for us. Because we aren’t licensed to do plumbing, electrical or gas fitting work, you will need to have these professionally disconnected for us before we arrive.

After Completion Questions

In an ideal world, our advice is to leave it dry and cure for at least a week, or even more if possible. But we know it’s not always possible in the real world where you need to move back into your home asap and get on with life. So here are some suggestion depending on which finish system you choose…

Oil-Based Polyurethane: Cure time is about 30 days, but it will be dry enough to put furniture back carefully after 72 hours. You will need to be extra careful during the first week as the finish will still be delicate as it cures. Walk in socks or bare feet if possible. Rugs shouldn’t be placed until a minimum of 15 days. 30 days would be ideal. You will be able to walk on it after 24 hours.

High-End Residential Grade Water-Based: Cure time for this system is about 7 days, 3 times faster than the oil-based finish. It will be dry enough to put furniture back carefully after 24 hours, again, 3 times faster. Rugs can be put back after 7 days. You will be able to walk on it in socks after 2 to 3 hours.

Commercial Grade Water-Based: Like the water-based system above, the cure time is a fast 7 days. After only 24 hours you can start to replace your furniture. Rugs can be laid down after 7 days. You will be able to walk on it in socks after 2 to 3 hours.

Hardwax and Modern Penetrating Oil: Like water-based finishes, the cure time for our hardwax oil system is 7 days. Furniture can be carefully placed back after 24 hours. Your rugs and other coverings like mats etc. can be put out after 7 days. Can be walked on in 8 hours. Again, please walk in socks during the curing period.

So, depending on which finish system you choose, you have a choice of cure and dry times. If you are renovating and don’t need to move in for a while, or you have somewhere else to stay, the oil-based polyurethane system could be perfect. If you are currently living in your home and you don’t want to be inconvenienced for too long, then one of the systems that dry and cure quicker would be a better choice.

When we finish up, we will leave you detailed cleaning and care instructions, as well as a bottle of cleaning solution. We really encourage you to read and implement these suggestions.

How you treat your floors will have a huge impact on how long they look good for. If you always wear outside shoes inside, have large pets that run around with unclipped nails, don’t use entrance mats or felt pads and you don’t sweep and clean them regularly, your floors will show signs of wear much faster.

A home that takes care of the things mentioned above may see their floors last twice as long as a home that doesn’t. It really does come down to the effort and care you put into looking after and protecting them.

That covers the most common questions we are asked. If you have any other questions you would like answered, please ask.

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