I hired a highly recommended hardwood installation company to install red
oak in 3 rooms in the downstairs of my house. My instructions to them were
to match the existing floors. They quoted the job, I verified that the
pricing was reasonable, and turned them loose to do the job.
They are in day two of installation (they have it nailed down, sanded, and
have applied one or two finish coats). More sanding and finish coats are
planned. The problem is that the new wood doesn't match the existing wood.
The color is fine, but the new wood has far more variation in grain than
what it was supposed to match..
What to do? I cannot think of a resolution that involves anything less than
a total tear out and replacement with the matching grade of wood, and I
figure the chances of the contractor agreeing to that are nil.
Note, I've paid the guy a deposit that amounts to about 40% of the quoted
Live with it. There is no practical solution. Trees grow in the woods and
they have grain characteristics according to the conditions of the
particular area. Water, drought, heat, other growth nearby all affect the
final result. Chances are the trees from the original floor were 100 years
older and maybe had a tighter grain than anything available today.
Only way to assure grain matching is to select each board individually
before the flooring guy ever cuts it. You may have to view a thousand trees
to come close. IMO, your expectations are too high. One of my hobbies is
woodworking. I can show you boards that are six feet long and the grain
variation is so different at each end you wonder if it is even the same
Culling wood to find only those that come close to the original could easily
drive the cost up two or three times. I often look through a dozen boards
to find two close enough for a small project. to do a floor would be a
I probably should have been more clear. The difference isn't a tree to tree
difference, it appears that the new material isn't the same "grade" as the
existing. My existing floors are at least one grade "better" than what the
guy has installed. Given that I'm not in the wood floor business, I'd guess
the existing floor is either "Clear" or "Select" grade, and what he's
installed is at least one step down the scale.
That would mean that the old floor has no knots, and the new area
has knots. It has nothing to do with the grain. The grain of all
new wood is different than grain from wood milled even 20 years
ago. Reclamation methods have made use of even the smallest part of
the trees, and the harvesting of younger and younger trees plus fast
growth techniques have changed the entire character of the lumber
you buy today.
If you wanted matched grain, as a previous poster said, you will
likely have to pay 3-5 times as much for the materials. Add labor
if the stock must be sampled for grain matching.
You should simply appreciate the fact that Mother Nature comes in varying
colours and shades. Not much you can do about this, but enjoy your new
floors. Contractor is probably doing the best he/she can, but there's only
so much they can do.
The contractor blew it when he selected the matching grade for the
installation. As the grading scale goes down, more board to board variation
is allowed, and more variation (contrast) in grain is allowed. The existing
floors are extremely consistant, with tight, almost parallel grain lines
being the norm. The new material has very noticable grain, and much more
board to board variation.
I figure I'm screwed, all because a contractor missed it when he specified
the wood. Maybe he thought the $0.50/sf (or whatever) he saved by selecting
a cheaper wood might get him the job, but it leaves me with floors that
don't match, and I'm not happy at all...
Presumably you have a contract in which he agreed to match your existing
All you have to do is establish that your existing floor is "grade A" and
the new floor is "grade B".
Can you do that? If not, then I (and any Judge) will think the new floor is
perfectly good and in compliance.
I just built a a small mahogany table. I hate to tell you how long I spent
trying to find wood that would go together well. Even then, I had to use
three stains on different parts to get them the same color.
Good luck on getting a uniform floor.
With all due respect (tm) :), I think you blew it when you accepted the
proposal w/o verifying the material specified matched your
You probably missed any reasonable opportunity to rectify the problem by
not stopping work as soon as the first sign of trouble showed up while
they were laying it...to wait until now when the whole floor is
installed and partially finished leaves no recourse other than to scrap
the material whereas before it could (most likely) have been returned
for no worse than a restocking fee and (if you were willing to pay the
difference) an acceptable flooring substituted...
I suspect you're right that I'm more or less screwed, and there probably
won't be a resolution that will please me. I thought I was avoiding this
kind of problem by going with a contractor who was highly recommended by a
friend of mine who is the owner of a flooring store. I try and hire good
contractors so I get the job done right. Until now, the strategy has worked
From my perspective, the point of no return was day 1 when the wood was
laid, but the problem wasn't obvious until stain was applied on day 2. The
problem wasn't apparent with the unfinished wood, but the staining process
on day 2 (I was off at work, arguably a good place to be when the house is
full of fumes) made the grain difference stand out like a sore thumb.
Well, now you're back to a grain and color mismatch, not a "quality"
If the grain is more pronounced in the present floor, there's a good
probability that could be fixed (or at least greatly alleviated) by
judicious use of sanding sealer(s), type and color of stains, etc. If
just a clear polyurethane, perhaps over an oil-based stain was used,
which would be pretty typical, the grain will be "popped"--that's what
most people will choose. To mask some of the grain would require
filling the pores first and choosing a semi-transparent stain as one
alternative. An expert finisher could most likely do wonders, but it
would, of course, require sanding down to bare would again as a starting
point. Whether the floor mechanics have the expertise to do this type
of custom finishing is probably iffy unless the firm they work for does
a lot of high-end, custom work.
The unfortunate lesson to be learned is to not trust to chance on final
appearance w/o seeing a finish sample if one is the least bit concerned
about an actual "match" to any existing work. Your recourse is probably
limited as I gather there was no a priori agreement w/ the contractor on
what the definition of an acceptable "match" would be...
Actually, one thought strikes me...is it confirmed that the two floors
are the same specie? Is it possible the original is, say, white oak
while the new is red? In a case such as that you <might> have some
recourse if the agreement includes matching such that not using the same
specie would be seen as out of scope...
Good luck, is there a large shared area of flooring visible or simply on
room through a doorway to another? Maybe there's a way to make a
feature of it from a decorating standpoint and make the proverbial silk
Quartered vs flat cut?
If you look at an end of the old (if you can) are the hard/soft areas
vertical (quartered) or more or less horizontal (flat cut)?
You told him "match". That in your contract? You said to him, "Hey,
man, this new stuff doesn't match."?
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I would agree that your position depends a lot on what the contract
says. You do have one right? What does it say? Also, if I were
having this work done, I would have secured a few pieces of the new
material, finished them, and then compared them to the original to be
sure they matched close enough. A lot of this is subjective and what
one may find acceptable, someone else will not.
Quarter-sawn lumber does have a tighter grain pattern, but if you just
put match in the contract, I think it may be reasonable that they just
matched the size and color. See
for the difference between quarter-sawn and the much more common
flat-sawn lumber. I don't think they make a lot of quarter-sawn lumber
Kyle Boatright wrote:
SPAMBLOCK NOTICE! To reply to me, delete the h from apkh.net, if it is
Last year I had quartersawn white oak installed on my 2nd floor. It cost
about $700 more than standard. The flooring guy said he has rarely had
anyone request it and actually seemed excited that I had. And my GC actually
never heard of the term quartersawn, he thought I was nuts for paying extra
until he saw it finished and how great it looks. Go figure.
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