Wisconsin Wood Floors with Signature Details

Posted by Aaron Schaalma

Bring ten different contractors into a room and you will probably get ten different approaches to any project in your home. You also will likely get ten different prices to do the work based on my experience in the trades. Ultimately, this leads to confusion and a general malaise in choosing a contractor for some people. So, let’s dig right in and let me serve simply as an objective tour guide for what differentiates a person of a craft. This isn't a hard sell by any means, as I have reasoned that honesty and trust are the fuel for any great business.

Wood flooring lately has earned a reputation as a “simple to do” building material because it fits together like legos with a specialized nail gun. Therefore it is often assumed that having a few tools and a nailer make it possible to price projects using older methods of square footage pricing. At least that is what the industry tends to use in the “shoot from the hip” pricing that tends to exist in the flooring world. Troublesome with this method is that it teaches us the behavior of not adequately investigating what goes on behind the scenes of a wood flooring project. I call this “point and click” thinking and it often has much bigger repercussions later if you make an uneducated choice.

I have decided to create a blog post series that helps you understand reality from myth. The tone of my posts and information is largely driven by years of firsthand observations combined with regular technical discussions with wood floor colleagues in other states.To begin I came up with three consistent observations or rules if you want to call them that.

As such, my first rule of the wood flooring industry: 

Quality is a product of what AND who you know mixed with the quality of a person’s character.

When I began in the industry I started with a boss who learned from his boss. Rinse and repeat. Over the years, what happens to wood flooring contractors is that no person ever stops to question if the original boss was right from day one. I started realizing that every single project is truly unique and approaching wood flooring as one size fits all system is huge mistake. Traditional rules of flooring installation worked well when every home was installing strip oak flooring twenty years ago. Modern wood flooring with its myriad of configurations has chewed up and spit out conventional rules a while back. In fact, I would be as bold to say that some products are developing into the market at a rate that even exceeds the understanding of some manufacturers, let alone contractors. Therefore, it becomes pivotal to engage in continuous education as an investment into a life long wood floor contracting career. Protecting yourself with education as well as experience is the new normal.

 Which leads me to rule number two:

Craftsmanship is a product of passion, an engine driven by a perpetual interest in learning and higher standards. 

When an industry determines to outpace its competition using volume pricing rather than innovation, the end users (consumers) become the testing ground for quality. When I decided to commit to operating my own wood flooring business, I knew it had to exist for a different purpose than competing for work on price and resting on my laurels. In following these rules I decided to reach out and begin a process of re-educating myself from wood flooring fundamentals to the final product. Attending trainings has consistently proven that the rules of the wood flooring industry are always changing. Leaving a project that looks great for many years requires experience in knowing changing variables that maybe the boss’s boss forgot to mention somewhere along the way years ago.

Rule three:

Measuring greatness from tenure serves the ego of contractors more then helping the customer.

Back to the ten contractors we talked about in the beginning…It seems that the benchmark that allows a contractor to rest on their laurels is the number of years in business. So if you ask all ten contractors about their experience, the unit of measure is time rather than educational accomplishments as well. Why does this happen? It seems to be a combination of “if it ain’t broke, don't fix it” thinking along with being afraid of committing money and time to learning. Why spend $3000 on a class when you can spend it on a motorcycle or a boat? Aye, there’s the rub.

If you read this far, then the chances are pretty good that you like doing your research. Terrific! Because that means that you are researching how to invest your money in a flooring project rather than spend it impulsively. Remember that $3000 class versus motorcycle? Which one do you consider an investment for a business owner in wood flooring? Let me be frank and say that the person buying the motorcycle does not likely share your investor mindset. In fact, maybe he sees your project as a chance to buy some new motorcycle parts on Friday and a way to keep his employees busy. I am not here to speculate, but I hope you will see that good contractors invest in themselves as a way to provide a better return for like minded customers.

Having a hunch or a gut-feeling is something that many people say is a great barometer for decision making. This does not work quite well in hiring a wood floor contractor because sometime a great salesman may have little experience with the craft. What I tell my customers is, do your research AND test your gut instinct.

At the beginning I discussed trust and honesty and let me explain something about myself. The name Signature Custom Flooring has a few telling clues that I want you to know about:

  • Signature-This part means the most to me and any customer who hires this company. A wood flooring project is a reciprocal agreement in my eyes…You trust me and likewise I am putting my personal signature on your investment. Whether I was a 401K advisor or a wood floor guy, I realize that is the your investment is in my personal brand and character and my company reflects that.
  • Custom- Simply stated, we create wood floor projects exactly to your needs based on a list of requirements. With our help and insight to avoid any issues along the way.
  • Flooring-Specifically wood flooring is our specialty. How it behaves, how to install it, and how to make it look great with a cadre of clean sanders that keep us breathing fresh air all day.

I don't simply want you to hire us because of our workmanship. I want you to why I enjoy waking up to the rigors of this trade everyday regardless of what the competition is doing. I am here to serve my customer’s investments for the long haul.