This happens all the time, but especially on Saturday mornings.
A new homeowner shows up at our St. Paul storefront at 9am, no appointment, no job pictures, no plan.
But they are determined to rent sanders right now because have just pulled up their carpet and found hardwood floors and the movers are bringing the furniture on Monday.
This makes our hearts sink a little, because we have to be the ones to rain on their lemonade stand.
Even if they are just sanding one bedroom, there is no way they can get trained, sand the floor, coat the floor, AND be ready for move-in in 48 hours without some serious pre-planning. And even then, it makes us nervous.
It’s not like on TV.
We don’t know if it’s HGTV’s fault or Instagram, or Amazon Prime culture, but the amount of time that people estimate for getting floor work done has decreased markedly over the past three years.
Soooo many customers come to us, thinking that floor sanding is an afternoon’s work, regardless of the job size, wood type, or floor condition.
We don’t like to turn down business, but we know that job results under these conditions will be disappointing, partly because they rushed but mostly because they thought it would be easy.
The number one predictor of a DIYer’s success sanding a floor with Pete’s? A notebook.
Customers who show up a week ahead of their project with a notebook filled with measurements, questions, problems, hopes, and dreams will 100% of the time complete a floor and love it. Yes, even with the most abused floors.
Even when we gently inform them that their job is going to take longer than expected or that they can’t quite make their fir floors look like maple, they are able to adjust their timeline and their expectations.
Here’s a heartbreaker of a story.
A couple arrives out of the blue at open one Wednesday morning, requesting a “quick orientation” and sander rental. They are helping their daughter move in to her first house: over 1000 square feet of c.1925 oak that hasn’t been touched since the 1960s.
The finish is thick, the rooms are small, there are several cast iron radiators, and the daughter is insisting on staining the wood dark. If you read our website at all you know that this is a huge job for a first-time sander.
But the kicker is that that move-in is scheduled for Saturday, just three days away. We give them the full Pete’s lesson, which gently demonstrates why their timeline is impossible, even for a professional.
We list the challenges of staining floors, even when not under deadline. But they are not to be swayed from their course, so we send them out the door with all the necessary supplies and our reluctant blessings.
Because sometimes determination can carry the day.
But not this day.
On the day her movers were scheduled to arrive, they sent us the photo above and a text: “Now what. Sand?”
They had managed to finish sanding and apply the stain, but they had overlap issues and tried to spot-fix them.
This is exactly what you can’t do with stain.
This would need full re-sanding to correct, at least for part of the floor. We never heard from them again.
But here’s a more positive story.
Some people find our website before they start their project. They never take a lesson; they just read everything on our website and plan. And I mean really plan. Sometimes they buy products from us, sometimes not. And sometimes we just get an email like this:
“So, first off all, I am that handy guy. My dad owned a cabinet shop, I’ve worked construction and remodeling. I can build and or install just about anything. Installed plenty of laminate and most tile you can think of.
Bought a house in North Carolina with great hardwood floors about 17 years ago that is now 40 years old. Took out walls, opened rooms and patched with the vision of eventually getting everything sanded and sealed to one uniform perfect hardwood floor system.
Four kids, dogs and cats, and finally looking at a long weekend to sand and refinish the oak hardwood floors. Except I have no idea what I’m getting into. There’s a local rental place, so yeah, I need a drum sander, but for how long and how many drum disks, what grit? Do I need the edger?
I break out the palm sander for a test spot, 80 grit… nothing, 40 grit… ehh, maybe if I had a month to edge. Now I’m really wondering if the drum sander is going to be aggressive enough.
It took a few Googles to find your site, but geez, what a life saver.
This project is currently on hold, while I digest your website!
I was hoping to have it done before the new cabinets arrived (too much time and no shop space to build and paint).
I just wanted to sincerely thank you all for such an informative and awesome, open exchange of knowledge and skill set.”
Rocky Mount, NC
Wow. We have never felt so seen.
And he sent us two photos of his palm sander after ten minutes with 40 grit, failing to sand off his finish.
So, hopefully the takeaway from this tale of two sanders is painfully clear: slow is fast. Better to step back, postpone the job until you have a complete grasp of its scope than to dive in immediately and have to sand it twice.
Do you need advice for your specific hardwood floor problem?
Get a one-on-one phone consultation with a hardwood flooring expert. For a small fee of $25, we can provide the wisdom and knowledge that you need to complete your hardwood flooring project. When you don’t know what you need to do next, that’s when it’s time to call Pete’s Hardwood Floors Help Hotline.