As a hardwood floor contractor, you sometimes have to deal with clients who call you up to report a problem with the floors you installed … and want to blame you for it.
These situations cost you precious time and sanity. It’s difficult to explain to an angry client that flooring gaps are normal during the winter, or that they ruined their own floors by walking around in high heels.
You can try to prevent these headaches by providing clients with a fact sheet after you’ve completed an installation or refinishing job. The sheet should outline general maintenance tips and tell your customers what to expect from their floors.
In addition to managing expectations, a good care sheet helps clients understand what they should and shouldn’t do to their floors. Education is the best prevention.
Whether you have a floor care guide already or you’re planning to make one, make sure it covers at least the following bullet points:
Outline proper cleaning techniques and maintenance
Your care guide should provide cleaning tips to prevent your clients from damaging their newly installed floors with neglect or the wrong products.
Suggest that your clients vacuum frequently to avoid buildup of debris that can scratch the floor’s finish. Highlight the benefits of putting mats and runners near any doors leading outside, especially during the winter months.
State in your care guide that clients should consider buying felt pads for the bottom of their furniture. Suggest that they remove high heels at entrances to prevent the creation of unsightly dents in their floors.
After outlining what your clients should do, tell them what not to do.
Use lots of space to warn against using popular cleaning products without following the manufacturer’s instructions. Being liberal with Pine-Sol will damage the floor’s finish over time, and your clients should understand this.
Recommend that they use cleaning products that are specially formulated for hardwood floors, like Squeaky Clean, instead of the popular brands. Advise against using a soaking wet mop to clean their floors.
To really drive home the importance of keeping hardwood floors clean, you could even provide new clients with a cleaning kit. You might also consider investing in a Vac in the Box, a complete hardwood floor maintenance system. The price for contractors is $639, and the suggested retail price is $750, so you could make a bit more money from a job if your client takes you up on the offer.
Tell your clients that the glossy goodness won’t last forever
Explain that dulling can be expected as the finish ages.
If you’ve used a finish with a high sheen level on a client’s floor, this is especially important to state in your care sheet.
Explain that this doesn’t necessarily mean the integrity of their floors is compromised. It’s just that the finish might need a buff or recoat, especially if it’s been a few years since the top coat was applied.
Explain that flooring gaps are to be expected during the winter
Hardwood floors move. You clients should understand this.
Take special care to explain in your fact sheet that floors will likely contract in the winter due to the drop in relative humidity levels, possibly leading to gaps and squeaky floorboards.
Inform your clients that the optimal relative humidity level for preventing flooring gaps is between 35 and 50 percent. But warn them that this is very difficult to maintain during the winter months, especially in the New England and mid-Atlantic regions, where a majority of the heating systems are forced hot air heat.
Detail the process of expansion and contraction in hardwood floors. State that once the moisture content and relative humidity rise again in the spring, any gaps in the floor should disappear as the planks expand back to their normal size.
This will help you avoid getting calls from people who are looking to blame weather-related issues on a shoddy installation job.
Help your client understand their finish system
Is the finish you applied to your client’s floors oil-based? Water-based? Wax? What does this mean for the floor’s maintenance?
Your cleaning instructions should take this information into account. Helping your clients understand the finish system will make them less likely to tarnish it with the wrong products.
Although 95 percent of the jobs you do probably end with either an oil-based or water-based finish, make sure to write up a special care sheet for clients who want other types of finish for their floors.