As any successful hardwood flooring installer knows, having the proper materials and tools for an installation makes an immense difference in how a project progresses. For Oliver Barajas of Garibay Hardwood Floors in Hayward, California, ensuring a successful installation meant procuring hard-to-find wood and then properly fashioning it to meet his client’s request.
“A general contractor presented us with plans to install herringbone in the dining room and living room and plank throughout the rest of the home,” explains Barajas. “Our initial challenge was he wanted the floor to be a very wide, select grade European oak. As many might understand, this can be very difficult to find right now.”
Fortunately, Barajas could access 3,000 square feet of it via Garibay Hardwood Floors’ sister company, Bridgebay Flooring Inc.
“Now, more than ever, it’s important to work with a provider who stays on top of industry trends and can gauge demand so that when you need something for a project, it’s there and ready for you,” explains Barajas. “You don’t ever want to be in a position where you can’t come through for a client due to a supply issue.”
Barajas says it can sometimes be wise to take a gamble and stock up on wood flooring when the opportunity arises.
“It’s never a bad idea to have an extra supply of wood flooring that you know you are going to need for future projects,” says Barajas. “It is expensive, but it seems always to pay to have those raw materials ready to go for when you need them.”
“The request was for the herringbone to be as long as possible with a border around it. Because the planks were eight inches wide, to make the floor look good, they ideally would need to be 48 inches long,” explains Barajas. “This made it one of the biggest herringbone floors I have ever seen or worked with.”
Precision was vital during this phase, as the large herringbone pattern that Barajas and his team were attempting left little room for error. Once Barajas procured the wood, he needed to cut all the boards to four-feet, down from the original eight-foot lengths.
Barajas took the time to create a quality jig, and made sure the saw used for the project was up to the task.
“When preparing to cut these boards, it was critical that we create a quality jig so that we could pull off precise and repeatable cuts. If you ignore setting up a quality jig, you’ll find yourself with sloppy cuts, and a herringbone pattern that opens up and creates a world of problems,” says Barajas. “We ended up cutting around 400 boards for this project and checking our work every 15 boards.”
“Before making cuts, we ensured that we were using a fresh, sharp blade with a fine finish on our Bosch 8 ½ inch miter saw. We also took care to ensure that the router we used to create grooves on each of the boards had an appropriate bit,” says Barajas. “We had to go to a specialty shop to get a properly sized router bit to create a groove on the other side of each board.”
With the boards cut and routed, Barajas and his team at Garibay Hardwood Floors began to prepare the rooms for installation. Because the solid subfloors of the home were slightly uneven, they overlaid them with quarter-inch plywood throughout the house before tackling the flooring layout.
“Getting everything in a straight line is key, but that is easier said than done, and it helps to have the walls be perfectly straight. In one of the two areas, we were fortunate to have good symmetry to the room,” he explains. “Unfortunately, the second room was more challenging, because it was not perfectly straight. Thankfully, we’ve attended NWFA training, which gave us the info we needed to do a floor like this properly.”
The key was determining the room’s centerline first, then squaring the room in order to ensure a balanced pattern on both sides.
“After making sure both sides were balanced, we then laid the first row right down the middle using nails and Bona R851 adhesive,” says Barajas. “We would lay down a row, and confirm that we were square and had the same length on each side, as symmetry was critical on a pattern like this.”
After installing the herringbone pattern, Barajas and his team added an 8” one-board border in the rooms to finalize the installation.
“We found that adding the border was easier using a Festool track saw. With it, we very easily can run long, yet perfectly straight, lines,” he explains. “It’s another case where having the right materials and tools for the job can make a tremendous difference.”