Any flooring company that measures the growth of our industry by new home starts only is missing a very large part of their profit potential. For more than a year now, the United States media has been reporting that the U.S. housing market is on the decline, and new home sales and starts have supported this claim. U.S. wood flooring sales reflect this as well. The past two years have shown the first decline in U.S. wood flooring sales in more than 20 years, but the information is not all gloom and doom. There is an even larger potential wood flooring market out there that can have a big impact on your flooring business – the hundreds of thousands of square feet of wood flooring that is already installed.
All of those existing wood floors represent a potential windfall for your company through refinishing and maintenance programs. In fact, a recent survey of readers of Hardwood Floors magazine, the magazine of the National Wood Flooring Association, shows that in 2008 contractors spent the vast majority of their time – 74% – doing remodeling work. Only 26% of their time was spent doing work as a result of new home construction. How they spent that time working on remodeling jobs was eye-opening as well. Nearly half – 48% – spent their time sanding, finishing and refinishing existing wood floors. Think about that…nearly half of their business is a direct result of work performed on wood floors that were already installed. Is that a market your business is pursuing?
One of the significant selling points for wood floors is that they can be renewed time and time again, which makes them a great long-term value. No other flooring option available can offer the same advantage. When other flooring options start looking tired and worn, they need to be removed and replaced. This creates a real burden in our landfills, as well as on your customers’ checkbooks. But with real wood floors, restoring your customers’ floors to their original luster is easy and affordable.
Throughout the years, wood floors will experience subtle color changes. This is a natural process called patina that will add to the beauty and character of the floor. Over time, however, the finish on wood floors can become dull. With a process called pad and recoat, these existing floors can be renewed to their original beauty and luster without sanding.
Using the pad and recoat process, a wood flooring professional first will clean the wood floors thoroughly using a professional cleaning product specifically designed for that type of wood floor. Then, the floor will be buffed lightly to abrade the surface of the floor. With the new dustless systems available to wood flooring professionals, there is minimal dust or other debris created during this process. Next, the floor will be cleaned to remove all dust and residue. Finally, a new finish will be applied to the floor, giving the existing floors new life, added protection, and renewed luster. In most cases, your customers will be able to use their floors again within just 48 hours.
Once the floors are refinished, your customers can maintain their renewed luster by practicing a simple maintenance program. With the improved finishes that have been introduced to the market during the past 20 years, wood flooring maintenance has become a breeze. Routine maintenance includes regular sweeping to remove dust and debris from the floor. Dust mops also can be used, as can a vacuum with the beater bar turned off, which will remove dirt and grit from between the floor boards if needed. Educate your customers to avoid using a wet mop on their hardwood floors as it can dull the finish, or even damage the wood over long periods of time.
Let your customers know that they should place scatter rugs at all entrances to trap any dirt or debris being carried indoors from outside that could scratch the floors. They should avoid using scatter rugs with rubber backs because these can discolor the floor. In fact, this is a great opportunity for you to sell rug mats to protect their floors from discoloration. And while you are at it, you also have an opportunity for an additional sale by suggesting that they use floor protector pads on the bottoms of the legs of any furniture that comes into direct contact with their floors.
Provide your customers with simple maintenance tips that can prolong the life of their new floor. For example, when spills occur, let them know they should clean them immediately with a dry or slightly damp cloth. Explain that allowing spills to remain on their wood floors could damage the finish, as well as the wood. You also should explain that they should avoid walking on their floors with sports cleats or high heeled shoes that are in disrepair. These types of shoes can scratch the finish on the floors, or even dent them.
This is also an excellent time to suggest a routine maintenance program for their floors that you can provide for an additional fee. Agreements can be set up for every six months or even yearly to provide a “professional” cleaning of the floor.
Needless to say, the large number of existing wood floors already installed offers an excellent opportunity to expand the services your company provides, both to your past customers, and to potential new customers. Take advantage of this untapped market to increase your business and your profits.
The National Wood Flooring Association provides wood flooring professionals with a wide variety of information on the maintenance, repair and refinishing of wood floors. For more information, visit the NWFA’s web site at www.nwfa.org.