Do you offer free quotations?

Do you charge a deposit?

Should we decorate before?

Will there be much dust?

Can you move furniture?

Do you remove carpets?

How do you fill gaps?

What finishes can I get?

Will there be any nasty smells?

Do you do commercial floors?

I need advice, can you help?

Help me choose a flooring company!

 

 

Do you offer free quotations?

 

Yes. I can provide realistic estimates over the phone or via email if you provide me with a little information, please see the contact us page for more help.

 

If the estimate sounds good then I will arrange to pop down and see you and check the work in detail, it helps if the floor is totally uncovered at this stage or it is hard for me to assess things accurately which might lead to extra work not being taken into account.

 

Do you charge a deposit? Many companies are asking for a 50% deposit

 

It depends. When I am very busy to book a job slot or for larger jobs I may require a deposit to pay for materials but often, for smaller jobs most of the time no deposit is required.

 

Should we decorate before or after we get the floor sanded?

 

In most cases it is better to get the decorating done first. Although I generate lots of dust, because of the way I work and my use of class leading dust extraction vacuums I create almost no mess and far less than the average decorator. It is possible slight scuffing may occur to some skirting which may require a touch up after sanding but apart from that the area should remain spotless.

 

Of course, if you are getting your four hundred year old listed floor removed, archived, re-joisted, relaid and finished via hand then there is going to be a little more mess, in that case you can leave the last painting coat until after the floors have been restored.

 

So will there be much dust?

 

Yes. Probably. Bags of it, but almost all of it stays in bags. I use the best dust extractors and sanding machines available and am very clean, it is incredibly rare that I leave a place dustier than when I found it, I aim to leave all my jobs cleaner than when I arrived and this is usually the case, I do spend a large amount of my time vacuuming. My boxes, tools and equipment are highly organised, clean and compact taking up little space and safe for children and pets when I have packed up for the day.

 

I even carry my own waste bin and protection to put underneath my tool boxes.

 

I have a large sofa, can you sand around it?

 

Yes, of course we can, if you have a large double lounge we can move items from one side to the other, please ask, I will always try my utmost best to assist wherever I can. On normal sanding jobs the work will take a little longer and cost a little more, anyone telling you otherwise will just have to cut corners somewhere else to make up the difference.

 

It is obvious sanding in two sections is less efficient and there is an extra drying day before the sofa or other item can be moved across. For restoration jobs requiring a lot of repairs this may not be a problem as we can sometimes work effectively in sections. For a simple sand and refinish job it is best to remove all the items from the area before the work starts, the job costs less and will be finished quicker. Although it may appear daunting at first, moving furniture once you start is usually less of a problem than the thought of it and remember, if the sofa went in to the room, it must be able to come out again!

 

Do you remove carpets and other coverings?

 

In a word, no.

 

It is a much better use of your money to either remove the carpet yourself or get someone else to do it and pay for it to be disposed by a licenced operator or collected by the local authority.

 

In general I work to clean, clear floors but I always aim to help where I can, so please ask.

 

How do you fill gaps?

 

I mostly use fine sawdust and resin which is the best method, I use wood slivers very occasionally when the gaps are very wide but even here the gaps are rarely even along their length and so sawdust and resin still plays a part, larger holes and gaps can be filled with a proprietary polyester resin which I colour and make myself.

 

What finishes can I get?

 

You can have anything you like, within reason. Do you want one that is washable and long lasting if you have kids or pets? Or maybe you want a traditional shellac and hand waxed period finish? No problem, I can help. There are good points and bad points to every finish and colouring system and I will provide you with honest advice on what is best for you, not just on what is easiest for me to apply.

 

My normal process involves one coat of shellac, natural or coloured, followed by two coats of a commercial water based floor lacquer, this gives the chatoyancy, clarity and depth of a traditional solvent finish coupled with the maintenance free durability and non yellowing nature of the modern water based finishes. The finishes come in extra matt, matt, satin and gloss so a beautiful natural traditional looking finish can be achieved with a modern lacquer.

 

Oil finishes are very popular these days and I can apply these if required, the thing to bear in mind is that they are far less durable and require far more maintenance than the water based lacquers more so than their marketing may imply.

 

Will there be any nasty smells?

 

I try and minimise the use of solvents wherever possible which is why I almost exclusively use water based finishes on my floors and was one of the first people in the UK to do so. Very often solvent free water based products do however contain small amounts of solvents, typically around 5%. They are all NMP free and completely safe for children and adults including pregnant women but do have a slight ammonia odour. Ventilation is not normally required.

 

The shellac barrier seals I use contain methylated spirits, and the gap filler contains acetone, their water based counterparts unfortunately do not have the requisite properties to produce a satisfactory job, if you want a beautiful long lasting floor there will normally be a small amount of solvent involved but I keep this to a minimum. Opening a window either side of the work area normally pulls enough draught to dissipate this quickly.

 

If in doubt, always ask. For particularly sensitive people I have large volume air moving fans and ducting and can schedule filling and shellacking at a time where children are not present.

 

Do you restore commercial floors and joinery too?

 

Yes, I do. I have hundreds more pictures of hotels, stately homes, restaurants, church and community halls in my portfolio. I also restore architectural joinery, stairs, doors, skirtings, handrails, panels, fire surrounds, modern furniture and antiques.

 

I have more questions, can you help?

 

I will try my best. Please bear in mind that if you phone me I might be working and often I do not hear my phone or cannot answer if I am in the middle of filling or coating or talking to a customer, if you send me an email then you might have to wait a day or two depending on how late I am working but I will get back to you.

 

For a (very) detailed overview of how I work please see my Guide pages for extra help and advice.

 

Help me choose a flooring company!

 

Basically you should be looking for a reasonable human, preferably with or one who employs people with several years worth of experience, knowledge and skills.

 

It is difficult for the lay person to accurately assess a person or company's suitability for a flooring job or indeed any technical, building or craft based work. Wood finishing is technical and novel enough to ensure that most people including famous architects, designers and project managers right up to the international level often have little clue how to judge. Gone are the days when French polishing was taught at school along with sewing and home economics, which is a shame. Instead you will need to do a little investigation and set your bullsh**ometer to maximum.

 

If you are at the research stage then the following could be helpful to you. I provide this information not out of spite but out of a desire to try and help people avoid bad experiences which often are exhausting, expensive and ultimately very upsetting. Many customers find this site after problems have ensued when researching how things should of been done in the first place and wish they had found me sooner. Whilst some employ me to give them the job they were promised in the first place many have run out of time or money, flooring work by it's very nature is costly in time, money and disruption. This is not meant to be negative marketing, I simply have no need, but honest, free advice, hopefully it may help some of you avoid unnecessary problems.

 

If you have a fixed budget you may want to consider getting a smaller area done correctly first or consider doing the job yourself with the aid of my guides. A dilligent occasional DIYer is likely to do a job which would exceed the median level quality currently available in the industry simply because they care. That last point is important, the median quality, like the median price has gone down rapidly since the early 1990s so that it can skew ones perception of value for money. Wooden flooring and it's restoration is not meant to be cheap, it is meant to be enduring, a correctly finished floor should last several decades and at least ten years before a recoat, a correctly laid floor should last a lifetime, anything less may prove to be very poor value for money.

 

You pay peanuts don't be surprised when the monkeys turn up.

 

I would not employ anyone who does not have a good command of English simply because of the need to communicate effectively in what can be both a very technical and highly subjective field and I get many requests every month from eager candidates myself. I am lucky enough to count many Eastern Europeans as some of my closest friends who all speak perfect English. Seeing as my own daughter was fluent in both English and Hungarian by age four anyone who cannot be bothered to learn the language of the country in which they live and work in to my mind does not show dedication! True professionals from whatever country living in whatever country will always have a very good grasp of the language as they know effective communication is the foundation of any good business.

 

Humans can be divided into two broad groups, the basically honest and the downright dishonest. If you can live with your conscience and do not care about others then the path to success is a lot easier for the latter which is possibly why so many choose that road. Dishonest people can be very convincing, more effort goes into the deception and marketing than the actual craft which is very often carried out by low skilled operatives on relatively low pay normally employed by a ‘smile and shake hands’ guy.

 

Obviously instinct plays a part, listen to it, your first impression is often correct. Remember, you are more of an expert at reading people than you are on floors so play to your abilities. If the offer seems too good to be true, it often is. Research as much as possible before you contact people, there is an awful lot of misinformation out there but thankfully you have found this resource, please read my FAQs above and my how to guides to get a better understanding of what your options really are and how jobs should proceed.

 

Most quality craftsmen work for themselves and undertake some if not all of their work, ask who will be working in your home, how long have they been employed and do they have all their own tools (never employ anyone who has to hire their tools) there are some larger flooring and wood finishing companies that employ quality craftsmen but they are likely to charge the highest rates and often still not offer quite as good service as individuals.

 

Remember, even if you are polite, there is no need to be reserved and put up with it, if you employed a company on the back of the charming estimator / owner and two scruffy looking barely communicative operatives turn up in a dirty van / estate car, lug their rag tag assortment of tools up to the room and start their 'dust free' sanding in a cloud of dust you are still free to change your mind. I meet many wonderful families every year who are too nice to put their foot down until after the job is done when the chance of redress in reality is often all but gone.

 

Websites. Take a good look. Do they look superficially slick? Scan straight to the gallery page, do the images match the rhetoric? The proof is in the pudding or at least the high resolution pudding images. Reeling off a list of famous buildings they obviously have never worked in is all fine until the galley shows you a tiny out of focus picture of a small hallway and some decking. Obvious and frequent spelling mistakes? Grammatical errors?

 

Deception can be lucrative, some of the proceeds can be invested into SEO marketing, the first two pages on Google are a minefield of companies with poor service, look a little further down the list and take your time to carefully read a few websites before you make your decision. Don't be afraid to ask speculative questions to test people out.

 

Price tables. What is the difference between a wide board Georgian pine floor, a 1930's thin overlay oak parquet and a modern engineered American black walnut floor? Which takes more time to sand? Who knows? every job is different. Fixed prices mean one thing, the considerable possibility of cut corners or excessive extra charges in situ once you are committed. Guide prices are essential to ensure the customer can try and budget but be very cautious of people who tell you the price is fixed. Cutting corners is far easier than working for free, I should know, when I played the numbers game I effectively ended up working pro bono for several weeks a year because unfortunately (for me) cutting corners is not an option my pride would allow.

 

Guarantees. Walk.

 

The only guarantee involved is that there is no guarantee. I have refinished floors for customers whose previous tradesmen offered five year guarantees but would not even go back to look at the damage they caused. Worthless. Dead give away for dodgy outfits.

 

Trade associations. Caution. Much caution.

 

Immediately after I graduated from the London School of Furniture I applied for my Guild of Master Craftsman logo. It looked great on my first business card. If you have a few hundred pounds, know five humans and are willing to pay for public liability insurance you can get one too, you don't even need to do a course. It means nothing other than your contractor may be insured. When Margaret Thatcher agreed to be Patron of the Guild of Master Craftsman in the mid 1970's I suspect the Guild was earnest and well meant in it's aim of promoting skills, by the time I joined in the early 90's it was nothing more than a marketing sticker. Even today it egregiously lives off the assumed association with the City and Guilds of London Institute and Britain's Guilds of old, both of which it has absolutely no connection to other than the word Guild in it's name. The City and Guilds of London Institute's (the vocational organisation) coat of arms dates back to 1878. The Guild of Master Craftsmen's totally unrelated coat of arms only dates back to 1992. In 1878 most craftsmen undertook a seven year apprenticeship, by 1992 most craftsmen did not.

 

Look for City and Guilds qualifications, not bought Stickers with the word "Guild' on them.

 

Contract Flooring Association CFA, ditto. British Antique Restorers Association BAFRA, The Institute of Conservation ICON, pointless. In 2016 I undertook a large flood restoration job in Cumbria, restoring the work of a BAFRA and ICON accredited member, instantly I saw that the accredited tradesman who was the most highly qualified in that part of the country had defrauded my customer out of a four figure sum fitting junk grade new wood instead of the claimed Victorian reclaimed timber which he charged for, he also fitted and finished the floor like an amateur. With my help the customer got the person to self incriminate but he will not be getting any refund, BAFRA was informed but the Director of BAFRA did not contact me as promised, it is a front for three furniture colleges and it's vetting is useless. It is highly likely that there are a significant percentage of honest, decent companies that choose to be members of these associations and yes, some effort is made to check candidates, it is just that the vetting is inconsistent and so virtually useless as a reliable arbiter of quality. All these bodies charge an annual fee of several hundred pounds per member with tiered 'extra options' mostly marketing based, you can see the obvious incongruity. Being a member of an association at best means the contractor may have insurance but it can sometimes can be a sign of a dodgy trader hoodwinking his prospective customers into thinking they employ highly trained people, when they do not. Most experienced, honest tradesmen do not waste several hundred pounds a year on meaningless stickers, I did so when I was 24 and inexperienced, now I know better, now I know such associations are actually damaging to the term 'craftsmen'.

 

For larger companies ISO9001 and Investors in People, as anyone who has worked in bigger business (as I have) knows that it means boxes have been ticked and fees have been paid. The hoops are larger and more numerous but totally contrived. The list of accredited companies yet again contains both excellent companies and the very poor.

 

In this day of smiling black and white family photos of 'The Ramsbottoms, loving farmers of sausages since 1630' in front of their thatched sausage farm in Wensleydale on the obtuse of every pack of cheap gumpf you can be sure that many of 'our highly trained craftsmen' are not what you may think. Never trust marketing. Associations mean nothing.

 

Certified floor sanders. Really?

 

Peter at KHR Floor Sanding Supplies who is a fantastically knowledgeable and all round decent person runs what I can imagine are very good day courses (Premium Sanding Technology) for a few hundred pounds to teach several operatives for a few hours the basics including a buffet lunch. Bona also offer a one day course and a four day course which covers more ground to become a Bona Certified Contractor. These are what they are, prepared note packs, whiteboard talks, buffet lunches and several minutes practicing on a small section of engineered flat maple, beech or oak flooring. The four day Bona course includes several hours practice as opposed to several minutes although Peter would argue his system is the best! Obviously it is better than nothing but several minutes or even a few hours of practice and the ability to eat a buffet lunch is maybe not what one immediately thinks of as 'certified'. If a company says it's operatives are certified then ask to check their certificates, many companies have a high staff turnover and it's posible the certification claim was made about people who already left. It is also possible none of their staff has ever been on a course. I have two City and Guilds certificates and in over twenty six years no one has asked to see them to date, most people don't ask, they assume.

 

My Grandfather left school before he could write the alphabet, he started work when he was eleven, was running a shop in Balls Pond Road when he was thirteen, did a seven year apprenticeship and stopped when well into his eighties, he didn't have any stickers either.

 

50% Deposits. Caution.

 

It is reasonable to charge a small deposit to avoid excessive cancellations and to purchase materials on larger jobs but beware of large deposits, especially on smaller jobs, often this ensures that even if you sack the company a third of the way through the job they still have half the money. Small claims court is a pain many neither have the time or stomach for. As unpalatable as this sounds it seems to be a logical and reasonable modus operandi for some. Be aware.

 

Does their website offer the lowest price? Walk.

 

There are cheap cars and expensive cars, unreliable cars and reliable cars, in general you get what you pay for. Yes, you can pay over the odds for a lemon but in general business dealings this is the simple economic fundamental everyone intuitively knows that some occasionally wilfully forget, especially when budgets are squeezed at the end of projects. Wilful ignorance has it's uses but not when it burns the last of your money on sub standard work which ruins the feel good factor of the whole project. An artificially low price does not normally allow for a competent level of work and often needs to be done again, at extra cost and inconvenience, this is especially true if your job requires staining or sympathetic period restoration. If you drive a German car and employ too cheap a tradesman you will be partly to blame if it all goes fruit shaped. You cannot buy a Volkswagen for Trabant (wonderful as they are) money.

 

Does their website seem to offer lots of dubious testimonials? Caution.

 

Large companies, police forces, health trusts, they are all at it, unfortunately the internet, social media and the desire for positive reviews has been hijacked by the dishonest, trust at your peril the veracity of the reviews. If all the reviews are good but there is one bad one. Run. Proper craftsmen would have 100% positive reviews (if they sought them) for if a customer was not happy they would endeavour to resolve the situation. Again I am sure many of the reviews will be genuine it's just that it is impossible to reliably tell which ones are and which ones are not and so again it's use is somewhat limited. In my opinion the best and only recommendation comes from friends, family and colleagues whom you trust and can interrogate in some detail.

 

Does their website repeatedly go on about how ‘professional’ they are? How customer service is their number one priority? Be very afraid.

 

This is the mark of the charlatan. You will know a professional mostly by their work (which admittedly is not entirely helpful if you have never met them before). In my experience customer service is not a concept that crosses honest, hard working craftsman’s minds. Making a fair and reasonable living is. What you want is someone with pride who will selfishly charge decent money for a top quality job and who work for themselves to a standard that exceeds most customers expectations. The ‘excellent customer service’ they genuinely provide is simply a by product of normal standards of decency, courtesy and thoughtfulness.

 

What tools do they have?

 

Higher quality tools and more of them normally indicates the chance of a better quality service but is not a foolproof test.

 

What experience and knowledge do they have? Caution.

 

It is so easy to lie and pretend and some people are very convincing liars! So take care when people tell you what they have done. Probably a better determinant would be how many questions do they ask, just like a good interview candidate a high quality tradesman will ask many pertinent questions, some you may not have thought of yourself regarding technical issues and logistics.

 

Ask some questions yourself.

 

If the person purports to be experienced in restoring period properties test them! See if they know their Doric from their Corinthian, or more pertinently their Georgian from Victorian or Edwardian. A true professional should be able to date properties and timber from their size, appearance and construction and advise appropriate treatments.

 

Finally, again, trust your instincts, I personally correspond with hundreds of people a year and yes, there are also plenty of rogue customers too, spotting them gets easier the older and more experienced you get. Good luck. And if you should be reading this after the fact then I am sorry, please get in touch and see if I can help remedy the situation, I have helped many people this way with remedial works, including giving evidence for small claims court on several occasions. I am not on a crusade, neither do I wear my pants on the outside, quite simply I very much dislike dishonest people and am happy to help all others in my own uniquely small way wherever and whenever I can, much, I suspect, like most reasonable humans.



Gustave Caillebotte 1875 ‘Les raboteurs de parquet’ (Musée d’Orsay)

London South Address

 

Newell Woodworks

12 Goodwyns Place

Dorking RH4 2AW

 

Tel: 07967 157605

Email: tajnewell@gmail.com

London North Address

 

Newell Woodworks

57 Greenway Close

Friern Barnet N11 3NS

 

Tel: 07967 157605

Email: tajnewell@gmail.com