Owner Expectations for Completed Floors

The following is an extract from Information Sheet #1 October 2009 published by the Australian Timber Flooring Association. This information sheet outlines reasonable owner expectations for an onsite sanded and finished timber floor. For the full sheet and other information, please visit www.atfa.com.au


This information sheet outlines reasonable owner expectations for an onsite sanded and finished timber floor. This includes solid T&G flooring, parquetry and other flooring types that have been sanded and finished onsite or recoated. Concerning this, there are performance aspects of the floor which generally relate to fixing integrity, board shape and movement, and then there are appearance aspects which focus more on the sanding and finishing.

Although an imperfection free floor is the desire of any tradesperson, it is the process of installation and finishing where the environment and other conditions cannot be fully controlled that moves the completed job to one that is ‘normal’ and of an industry accepted standard. This however is not to say that the completed floor won’t be of a high standard and well suited to its purpose as a floor which is to be walked on, but it does acknowledge that the finished product will not be the same as fine furniture and that due to seasonal influences and heating and cooling, that some movement reflecting the nature of timber will occur.

Timber Colour, Grade and Species

Within a single species the colours and colour variation can be quite pronounced and can differ markedly from one floor to another. It is also possible that a limited number of boards of different species but similar in colour and character will be present in some floors and this should not be cause for concern. Through grading errors or when a floor is sanded, it is also likely that some features will appear or be a little larger than the grade description. There is however generally a clear difference between a floor that is of the incorrect grade and a floor where grade limits have been exceeded in some boards. Such floors where the grade description is exceeded in some boards should also not be a reason for concern. Refer to ATFA Information Sheet No. 5 Floor Colour and Grade.


The sanding process involves hand controlled equipment and due to this there will be some evidence of the sanding process in the floor. It can be expected that the floor will be fine sanded and that edging will not result in scalloping. Similarly it can be expected that corners will be scraped to an even surface and sanded to provide a fine surface. As such sanding marks in the timber should not be visible from a standing position.

Generally, the viewing angle for assessment should be 45° from the eye to the floor. At times there can be vibration that occurs which may be induced by the sanding machine or the sub-floor framing. Although this vibration can lead to chatter marks in the floor, it would be usual to expect a floor free of chatter marks. With the re-sanding of an older floor it must also be recognised that the sanding process will not remove existing deep cuts or damage and that stains may also not be removed if they have penetrated deep into the timber.

Nail Holes and Filling

Unless otherwise requested, all flooring nails are to be punched below the surface and the nail holes are to be filled. With solid T&G flooring it can also be expected that any gaps at board ends will also be filled. Filling at board edges is generally not recommended except for parquetry where flood filling is to be undertaken and in some instances with direct adhesive fixed floors. When one colour of filler is used, that colour should match the darker tone in the boards as with time the contrast generally becomes less.

Coating and Finishing

A floor is subject to much heavier wear than furniture and although a good quality finish can be expected, the same finish quality to furniture should not be expected. There are a number of imperfections that are likely to be present to some degree in a finished floor and the degree to which they occur, where they occur and the presence of other imperfections, will determine their acceptability. When assessing the appearance of a floor it is to be done from a standing position and the floor should be viewed at an angle of about 45°. Common imperfections present to some degree in floors are outlined below.

Dust and debris

A degree of contamination in the final coat is unavoidable and will vary from one site to another being dependent on a number of factors such as draughts, heating and ventilation systems, insects and the like. It can be expected that the contractor will take reasonable measures to minimise the risk of contamination and that at job completion there will not be heavily contaminated areas in the floor that are obvious when assessing the floor.

Swirl marks

Swirl marks are caused by rotary sanders and to some degree will be present in all floors. Down lights will highlight sanding imperfections due to light refraction through the coating and as such this is not controllable by the contractor. Fine swirl marks that are not obvious under natural light when assessing a floor should not be a concern.

Coat leveling

Rejection, orange peel and quilting all relate to unevenness in the coating resulting in either a mottled effect or in the case of quilting discontinuity across joints. If instances are isolated, minimal in nature and not in areas frequently viewed then remedial work is unlikely to be necessary.


Separation of one coating from another or from the coating to the board should not generally occur in a floor and in such instances remedial work is necessary. Minor delamination due to movement at board joints or ends can occur and provided it does not progress, remedial work is unlikely to be necessary.

Gloss variation

Differing conditions in the dwelling at the time of curing can result in gloss variation. Although consistency can be expected at the time of a particular application, some variation may be apparent between areas when finished at a different time. Gloss variation within a room particularly with satin finishes usually requires remedial work.

White lining

When gaps appear at board edges the stretching of the bridged coating can cause a white line to appear at board joints. Unless severe this conditions requires no remedial work.

Lap and roller marks – Some finish systems are more prone than others and should lap or roller marks occur, they need to be minimal in number and not able to be observed from all directions, to be acceptable.

Edge bonding

Some finish systems can act as an adhesive and bond board edges together. With shrinkage in the floor, wide irregular spaced gapping and splits in boards can occur. Only minor edge-bonding resulting in small gaps at board edges is acceptable. Frequent splits and wide gaps are not acceptable.



Lighter toned boot and foot prints can occur in floors 6 to 18 months after the floor has been finished. In most instances the source of the mark cannot be identified and in most instances not likely to be associated with the sander and finisher. Re-sanding and finishing may correct the problem and a compromise between parties is often necessary to resolve the problem.

Colour Changes to Timber and Coating

Over the course of time colour changes occur in timber floors from the effects of ultra violet light. Therefore it is usually more pronounced in sun exposed areas of the floor. This is partly associated with the changes in the timber and partly with the coating that is applied. Some coatings darken with time more than others and some timbers are more prone to colour changes than others. This process is natural and gradual but can result in distinct colour differences where rugs have been put on the floor.

Some of this change can be minimised by not putting rugs down till six or so months after the floor has been completed. To avoid severe effects it is beneficial for flooring contractors to make clients aware of how the coating used may result in colour differences. From there it is up to the owner to manage how rugs are used.