Thursday, January 25, 2018

Tampa Hardwood Flooring Buyer's Guide


Beyond sheltering you and your family, your home is a large financial investment. Additionally, it represents you- your tastes and your lifestyle. So, it is important that you choose a company that can deliver a beautiful floor of the highest caliber. Below is what we offer, and what you should expect from any contractor:
  1. Our portfolio shows you the types of materials and kinds of projects with which we have experience, as well as the quality of homes in which we are accustomed to be working. Ask to see the portfolio of any craftsman.

  2. Visit our showroom. It displays a wide variety of species and designs, at a range of price points. For over a quarter of a century, we have been researching the best and most beautiful materials to be found on earth and have access to them all. A quality company will have a showroom, and will have a variety of products at a range of price points.

  3. Chris, the company owner will listen to what you want. He will explain to you and show you how you can get the perfect floor for you and your family. He will answer your questions as well as originate information pertinent to your specific needs and wants. A reputable wood flooring salesman will have a huge amount of product knowledge on species, types of materials such as solid and engineered, and a basic understanding of chemistry. He will explain to you in layman’s terms how these various factors will play into making your choice of product.

  4. An incorrectly installed or refinished floor could look beautiful now, but develop problems in the future due to incorrect procedures being done, or through the use of improper materials. By knowing and following industry standards, we ensure your floor will be long-lasting and we protect your warrantee. Our materials, equipment and techniques are state-of-the-art.

    We are longstanding members of the National Wood Flooring Association, the trade organization that sets the standards for the wood flooring industry, providing training and technical data to its members. Membership in this organization is a must for any wood flooring professional.

  5. Notice how long it takes for the estimator to respond to your initial call. A company that provides good service will get back to you quickly, and be happy to answer all your questions, including giving you some general pricing. We try to respond to any inquiry within 24 hours. Sometimes, we need to make many inquiries regarding the pricing and availability of materials, which can add time to the writing of your bid. However, when such is the case, Chris makes sure that he gives updates on his progress.

  6. A quality company such as Through the Woods will provide you with a written bid which delineates every major material to be used such as the wood product name, type of finish, etc., as well as all the specifics of all the work to be done, such as sub-floor preparation, areas to be installed, type of finish and trim.

    Our payment terms are well defined, and we do not ask you to pay for work in advance of its being completed. You may be asked for a deposit for materials when they are ordered.

  7. Check our references. We can arrange for you to view a completed floor or a job-site of a project similar to your own. People have different standards so you want to know that the person recommending any tradesman holds the same standards as your own.

    Ask our references about the level of service they received. Below are some questions that you could ask:
    • How easy was it to communicate with them?

      We feel that it is crucial that it be easy to talk to both the craftsmen, and company management. Our employees are willing and able to answer most of your questions. Management is easy to reach and responds quickly. We feel that you & your job are important.

    • Were the craftsmen polite?

      Our men are pleasant to be around. They have good manners and know how to conduct themselves in your home. Your house is not just a jobsite. It is your home. We treat your home and its contents with respect.

    • Did they clean up the mess that they made?

      Construction activities can create a mess. However, the messes should be tidied at the end of each day and gone when the project is completed. Our customers love that we are so tidy!

  8. Make sure that the company you hire takes the steps listed below to protect your home and family. Some of these points are required by law, but many companies are not in compliance.
    • Through the Woods runs a Drug Free Workplace. This program requires that employees be drug tested at the time of hiring and allows for periodic, random testing. It puts employees on notice that drug use is prohibited and monitored.

      We run background checks on prospective employees. We want you to be comfortable with the people who work in your home.

    • We carry the proper insurance. Any company should carry liability insurance. This type of policy covers damage that might happen to your home as a result of their work. For example, should a plumber cause a leak which damages your home, his liability insurance would pay for the repairs to that damage, an expense many plumbers could not afford.

    • If a company has employees, they should also carry Workers’ Compensation insurance. This type of policy protects your homeowner’s insurance should an injury or work- related illness occur on your property. We carry this important insurance.

    • Inquire as to whether the people who will be working in your home will be employees of the company, or independent contractors. A large benefit of hiring a company like ours, that uses employees, is that their prospective hires can be drug tested & background checked as a condition of employment. They can also be supervised. By law, an independent contractor cannot- he is independent.

    The majority of these points apply to the choosing & hiring of all specialty trades, not just wood flooring. Keep this list for your next home improvement project!

To request a free estimate, call us at 813.232.3985 or fill in our free estimate form.

A Plea To Tampa Home Rehabbers/Flippers

I searched for months for the perfect house for Norma in Seminole Heights. Born in Ybor City, she grew up in Seminole Heights and tells delightful tales of her childhood here. After rearing her family in South Tampa, she was ready to return, and we need her. She’s an artist and a Master Gardener. A warm and lovely person, she would be an asset to the neighborhood.

Norma wanted a special house, with a large porch, a nice size yard in which to create an oasis, and original features. At the age of 70, she didn’t feel able to do a great deal of construction work on her house and therein lays the difficulty. The majority of rehabbed houses did not meet her standard of quality in workmanship. Many poor bungalows had their porches enclosed. Others have had their wood windows replaced with vinyl clad. Norma’s grim response to these - “Keep driving.”

We saw several that look like they were in the last stages of leprosy. Painted with not a lick of prep, they will be peeling with a year, and now have yet another layer that will need to be scraped.

Looking in the windows, we cringed at wood floors swimming in finish puddles over horrid sanding gouges. We nearly wept when we saw historic fabric destroyed to make a pass-through from the kitchen to the dining room. It is a great feature in a 50’s ranch-style house, but appears as a gaping wound in the dining room wall of a bungalow. A house like this would be expected to stay on the market much longer than would one with a more period inspired kitchen.

An area like ours, in a period of Renaissance, is a magnet for investors. Many contribute to the neighborhood and in fact, fuel resurgence by their courageous investments. They respect the homes, the history and the future property owners by doing their homework in order to find out what these old houses really mean. They keep the historic fabric intact, don’t add oddball features appropriate to architecture from other decades, and rehab houses with an eye for quality.

The Seminole Heights Design Guidelines, aided in creation by people on our own neighborhood provide a wealth of information that can and should be used in or out of the historic district. They prescribe the handling of character defining features and historic materials that are highly desirable to someone wanting to purchase and live in an old house, and protect their investment.

My plea to rehabbers is that they should all do high quality, historically sensitive projects. In today’s market, it could mean the difference between the property selling, or sitting on the market, dropping in price, for months. Most importantly, our neighborhood deserves it.

To request a free estimate, call us at 813.232.3985 or fill in our free estimate form.

The Many Advantages of Wood Flooring

Wood flooring is beautiful in every home and creates a feeling of warmth and friendliness unsurpassed by any other type of flooring.

Suitable to all types of architecture and decor, wood flooring enables you to create or enhance any design scheme. There is a large choice of wood species from which to choose, each having its own color, feel and charm. Add that to today’s choices in stains and finishes, and the possibilities are endless and exciting.

We’re experts at helping you pick the perfect wood, stain and finish for your home or project. Call us for a free home estimate or to set an appointment to visit our showroom.

Because of wood’s ability to reflect light, a wood floor will brighten and “enlarge” your room. Should a room be too wide, or too narrow, you can change the perceived shape of the space by the way in which the boards are laid. The eye naturally follows the directional flow of the wood, adding “length”.

In addition to evoking a feeling of warmth, wood is an efficient thermal insulator- better than most structural materials. Given the critical condition of our energy resources, and the high cost of fuel, heat loss in the home is a large concern. Here in toasty Tampa, wood floors add comfort. You can kick off your shoes at the end of the day and feel refreshed as your feet touch the cool wood floor. Where beauty and insulating value are desirable, wood is always your first choice.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently conducted a study of pesticides used in gardens and homes and found that once tracked inside, these poisons accumulate on floors and other surfaces. While the poisons outside soon wash away, those tracked into your home may last for years. These poisons are then absorbed by your bare feet, by your children playing and your baby crawling on the floor.

The EPA suggests that wood flooring greatly reduces the amount of pesticides accumulating in your home because a simple mopping easily removes the poisons from your floors.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has received many complaints of toxic fumes in homes, caused by new carpeting. Sadly, after the carpeting has been in your home for a period of time, dirt and mold may accumulate in its fibers.

A noted authority on indoor air quality states, “Carpet holds large quantities of dirt, only some of which is removed by vacuuming or carpet cleaning. This dirt contains various allergic, irritating and toxic components. A wood floor is healthful in Tampa, with its high humidity and sandy soil.”

Additionally, the active ingredient often found in carpet shampoos (which frequently leave residues) is a known human carcinogen. Other common carpet shampoo components have been found to cause such effects as liver and central nervous system damage from long-term exposure.

A solid wood floor is more than just a covering; it adds strength and stability to the floor system. A wood floor is a safe and healthful floor.

A large majority of real estate agents surveyed stated that a home with wood flooring will sell more quickly and for a higher amount of money than a comparable home with any other type of flooring. Look through a Tampa newspaper or home sale publication and you’ll see “hardwood floors” listed as a top feature! They are in demand!

A sound investment here in Tampa, hardwood flooring can last the lifetime of your home, unlike other flooring materials which require replacement after about seven to ten years.

There are floors today, dating back to Renaissance Europe that are still structurally sound and beautiful. In comparison, the stone steps leading up to them are deeply worn and irregular. Here in Tampa, hardwood floors in historic homes are a prized feature. Because it is a permanent part of your home, your wood floor’s value increases as your home appreciates in dollar value.

US Forest Service statistics show that almost twice as much hardwood timber is added every year through new growth as is harvested. The forest from which your floor comes is replenished, not depleted.

A strong market for exotic woods will create an economic value for our endangered rain forests, which will encourage their protection. Currently, the majority of rain forest destruction is the result of forest lands being burned in order to convert the land to agricultural use. Maintaining the forests for selective cutting and natural harvesting (rubber, nuts, medicinal plants, etc.) makes far more sense than the burning of thousands of acres of these trees. By increasing demand for rain forest products, we will increase economic reliance upon the forests and promote their conservation.

It is estimated that 2% of the waste materials making up our landfills is rolls of used carpeting. This huge waste will take about 20,000 years for nature to digest. The life span of a hardwood floor can be well over 100 years and if it should ever be taken up and discarded, it’s biodegradable!

Many people love the look of antique woods, recycling old warehouses, barns, and other structures, giving these materials second lives.

Wood is a natural, earth-friendly, product.

Your grandmother probably spent many hours on her hands and knees, waxing her wood floors. No more! With today’s scientifically formulated finishes, you will spend little time keeping your floors shiny and clean. There are cleaning products specially created for wood floors which will ensure that they sparkle and have a long and beautiful life. Manufacturers have developed durable finishes, able to withstand your family’s active lifestyle and keep your floors looking great.

To request a free estimate, call us at 813.232.3985 or fill in our free estimate form.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Appearance of Wood Floors

The appearance of the wood is determined by its grade and its cut. All grades and cuts are equally strong and serviceable, but each affords you a different look.

We have many wood samples which show the variations described below. Chris is happy to show you examples of the choices shown and assist you in choosing the best one for your situation. He can bring samples to your home, or can visit our showroom, by appointment.

Grading for most species:

Clear: Clear wood is free of defects, such as knots and worm holes, though it may have minor imperfections. This grade is often used in contemporary architecture because of its smooth, clean look. It will have the least amount of board to board color variation of any grade. Clear is always available in oak but is not necessarily available in other species.

Select: Select wood has few defects, but contains some natural characteristics such as small knots and color variation.

Common wood (No. 1 and No. 2) has more natural characteristics such as knots and color variations than either clear or select grades, and often is chosen because of these natural features and the character they bring to a room. No. 1 Common has a variegated appearance, light and dark colors, knots, and worm holes. No. 2 Common is rustic in appearance and emphasizes all wood characteristics of the species.

Grading for Maple, Beech and Birch:

  • First: First grade wood has the best appearance, natural color variations and limited character marks.
  • Second: Second grade wood is variegated in appearance with varying wood characteristics of species.
  • Third: Third grade wood is rustic in appearance allowing all wood characteristics of the species.

What is the difference between plain sawn, rift and quartered lumber? The difference is the way they are sawed from the log. This difference, caused by sawing technique, will affect the lumber's appearance and properties.

Plain sawn lumber is the most common form of lumber because it is the fastest way to cut wood and it creates the least waste. Each plain sawn board contains more variation than the other cuts because grain patterns resulting from the annual growth rings are more obvious, but generally, you will see a cathedral grain pattern.

Plain Sawn Oak- The dark lines are annual growth rings

Quartersawing produces less board feet per log than plain sawing and is therefore more expensive. Quartersawn wood twists and cups less and wears more evenly than other cuts.
The sawing methods shown below create unique grains pattern in the board. Quartersawn boards usually show a heavy fleck pattern, which has given this cut in oak the appellation, Tiger Oak. Rift sawn is very straight grained
Quartered and rift sawn lumber are more stable because the expansion and contraction across the face of the board when exposed to temperature and humidity fluctuations, is much less than in plain sawn lumber.
Historic homes in Tampa Bay and in many parts of the United States very often feature highly prized, Tiger Oak floors.

Rift Sawn Oak- Here, the annual growth rings form a different pattern from plain sawn due to the angle at which the log is cut.

Quartersawn- The flecks of this quarter sawn White Oak call to mind tiger stripes. Each species of wood has its own distinctive and unusual graining when cut into quartersawn flooring.

To request a free estimate, call us at 813.232.3985 or fill in our free estimate form.

Green Hardwood Floors - Our Part

Until the energy crunch of the 80’s, we devoured our planet’s resources as though there is a limitless supply. We are discovering that our supply is finite, and that as stewards we must change our ideas of how to capture and utilize energy. We must reuse our waste so that it aids our survival rather than burying us and polluting our air and water.

In the face of global warming, we are realizing that our impact on the health of our environment has real consequences for each one of us.

Tampa Historic PreservationSustainable building has been defined as building that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Having walked on wood floors that are over 100 years old, I would say that wood flooring is a sustainable material. The best thing about wood is that is beautiful and timeless. A homeowner is not likely to curse earlier residents for having installed it, and feel the need to tear it out to cart it away to the landfill.

Over 10 million acres, almost 1% of African forests are lost every year. People, desperate to feed their families hack out plots for small-scale farming. Hundreds of them go to the forest each day to work their pineapple and cocoa farms.

In the Amazon and throughout South America, forests are burned for cattle grazing or large scale soybean farming.

In Indonesia and elsewhere in southeast Asia, island forests are being cut or burned to make way for giant plantations of palm, whose oil is used in food processing, cosmetics and other products.

We support sustainable forestry which promotes management practices that ensure long-term timber production while maintaining the ecological health and balance of the forest. Sustainable forestry is about prompt reforestation, protecting water quality, and wildlife habitat, maintaining cultural and historical sites, providing for recreational use, and generally respecting the forest ecosystem.

Woods produced through such practices are commercially more available now than ever before. On the 486 million acres of forestland in the United States classified as commercial, substantially more wood is added in new growth each year than is harvested. For hardwood species, from which most wood flooring is milled, 86 percent more wood is added annually in net growth than is removed through harvest.


Through the Woods was the only wood flooring contractor invited to attend Renew Tampa: Making Preservation Greener! — organized by the Tampa Bay Chapter of the American Institute of Architects’ Architectural Heritage Committee. The weekend conference promoted a greener architectural heritage by assisting participants in shaping tomorrow’s ideal environment, through architectural preservation and design that is environmentally sensitive.

At the recent National Wood Flooring Association’s yearly convention we spoke with many manufacturers about their products in our constant research for earth-friendly materials. This experimentation with low-VOC finishes is continuous as new products constantly hit the market.

We are also committed to promoting brands of wood that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a non-profit organization devoted to encouraging the responsible management of the world’s forests. FSC sets high standards that ensure forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable way.

In our research for green products and services, we have found many folks who are committed to ensuring that our planet will support life for generations to come.

Visit our Green Glossary to learn the basics of preserving our precious resources.

To request a free estimate, call us at 813.232.3985 or fill in our free estimate form.

Caring For Your Old House

Be a wise investor. Follow market trends and spend your money with an eye to the future- historic rehabilitation, rather than remodeling, modernizing or budget fix-up's.

An older home is no different from any other antique. Would you replace the handles of a priceless Ming vase with new plastic ones in order to "modernize" or improve its use as a pitcher? Nope. It would be disrespectful to the culture and the artist who produced it and it wouldn't be economical. You would reduce its value as an antique!

Craftsmanship has declined and the costs of both labor and materials have skyrocketed since these houses were built. You could not build a comparable house today for what you would pay for a fine old home with its antique features and wonderful character.

Here are some things I did (and did not do) and will (and will not do) to increase my home's comfort, value and appeal, as well as lovingly preserve it for the next fortunate steward:
  1. I researched my style of house, as well the philosophy behind its particular design, so that I could make correct decisions regarding its rehabilitation. It saved me much money and grief to learn from the experiences of others. This website contains a great deal of valuable information that will help you with your old house project.

  2. I DID NOT destroy historic materials. Where something needed repair, I gently repaired it, I did not replace it.
    Plaster, for example, provides a much more lovely surface than drywall and it is not difficult to patch. Your wood floors can often be refinished. Do not replace them unless they are worn to below the tongue and groove. And if you must install new, use real wood. I had my lovely old wood windows fixed when I painted my interior walls and they work smoothly, giving me a lovely, old world look into my gardens. It was not costly, which replacements would have been.

  3. Seminole Heights Tampa bungalow. I did not remove or alter any character defining features. I DID NOT try to “modernize” or “improve” the house. I did not add odd bits of architecture, appropriate to other periods or styles of house. Consider how horrid a 60's bathroom looks in a bungalow today. Well, 40 years from now, the currently fashionable spa style bathroom will strike the eye with the same degree of discord. Install a new “bungalow” bathroom (or one that suits the period of your old house) and it will never go out of style!

  4. I handled the structural problems discovered in my pre-purchase home inspection, and I replaced the roof. Water intrusion destroys houses. I am ever watchful for signs of leaks.

  5. Got my own termite inspection and purchased a termite contract. I have my house inspected at least twice a year and keep an eagle eye out for signs of any and all types of nasty, wood destroying organisms.

  6. Landscaped with plants that would do well in our climate and complement the style of my house. I did not use many Florida natives, instead going for an exotic tropical look, but I do recommend natives. I feed my plants with organic fertilizers and water the majority of them with a drip system which conserves water.

  7. Plant a couple feet away from the house so moisture from the plants does not destroy the siding and it gives you room to do periodic inspections. Ensure that your grading goes down, away from your house so that when you water, you will not accumulate moisture.

  8. I painted the exterior of my house with period appropriate colors. I made sure that all surfaces, inside and out, were well prepared so that the paint would adhere well and look good. If you have shingles, that have never been painted, keep them that way. Do not paint them. Just re-stain them. If some are damaged, replace those.

  9. DO NOT stucco or put up siding which can become a haven for termites, rats and roaches and mold, and reduce the value of your property. If your house has these coverings, they actually can be removed. Often, the surface underneath is in surprisingly good condition!

  10. I rebuilt the glass doored cabinets in the living room and dining room that had been removed by a previous new owner. Prior to installing them, I photographed the areas where they would sit, documenting the fact that they were added, not original.

  11. I joined my neighborhood association and Tampa Preservation, Inc. I raise my voice for the built environment of our past. I encourage others to raise theirs-LOUD!

To request a free estimate, call us at 813.232.3985 or contact us here.

How A Responsible Hardwood Floor Company Protects You & Your Family

You have received several bids for your wood floor project and you see that some of the prices are higher than the others. When you compare the services specified, an important item that you need to consider is whether or not a company carries both workers' compensation and general liability insurance. Here in Tampa Bay, this insurance can cost as much as 50% of the workers hourly pay because of the possible risks inherent in the performance of the trade. Consequently, a worker who is paid $20 an hour can cost the wood flooring company another $10 every hour for workers’ comp insurance. This "extra" drives up the amount of the bid, but it has real value to you.

The state of Florida website states, “If you are in the construction industry, and have one (1) or more employees (including yourself), you are required to carry workers' compensation coverage (an exempted corporate officer or member of a limited liability company does not count as an employee)”.

But many construction businesses do not carry workers’ comp insurance. What most homeowners don't realize is that if a worker, or even a non-exempt business owner, is injured on their property, it is you -- the homeowner, now an employer -- who can be held liable for all medical costs as well as a portion of lost wages, unless the injured party is covered by workers' compensation insurance.

Contractors, such as builders, landscapers, or other tradespeople who work on or around your home, should be covered through their own (mandatory) workers' compensation insurance, and any injury claims would be covered under that policy. If, for some reason, the contractor does not have coverage or has discontinued the policy to save on the premiums, you would be next in line to pay for a worker's injuries and/or disabilities that occurred on your property (although you may be able to file a lawsuit against the contractor).

Often, a company that does not carry workers’ compensation insurance also does not carry liability insurance. General liability insurance is designed to cover you for any damage to that might occur when a contractor is working in your home, other than workman injury accidents which are handled by workers’ compensation insurance. For example, if a plumber were to install some piping incorrectly, causing a leak that damaged your wood floors, the plumber's insurance would cover the repair or replacement of the flooring, a cost which most plumbers could not afford.

If you are hiring a contractor for a job on your property, ask for written proof of the following to cover worker injuries, property damage, and uninstalled materials:
  • Workers' compensation insurance including proof of insurance for any subcontractors working on your project
  • General liability coverage
Check with the carrier listed on the proof-of-insurance certificate that the coverage is still in force. Verifying the contractor's insurance coverage before the work begins can allow time for the contractor to correct any problem with lapsed insurance, or for you to find another contractor.

Companies which do not have these basic insurance coverages, may also be skimping on other smart business practices which protect you, the customer. Important examples of this are drug testing and background checks on job applicants. We run these checks on every prospective hire and have discovered that a good portion of the people applying have previous felony convictions. We feel that if someone has a background that would make us uncomfortable to have them in our house, we do not choose to hire them to go in yours.

All these security efforts cost money, and increase the price that you will pay for the work. Only you can decide if these protections are valuable to you and your family.

To request a free estimate, call us at 813.232.3985 or request a free quote here.

Tampa Hardwood Flooring Buyer's Guide

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