The Original Floor People
Post-Standard, The (Syracuse, NY)
Post-Standard, The (Syracuse, NY)|
February 18, 1989
CARE NEEDED WHEN RESTORING HARDWOOD FLOORS
Author: MAUREEN NOLAN
But in the last 10 to 15 years, hardwood floors have gained popularity. They now are found in foyers, kitchens, living rooms and stairways in old and new homes nationwide.
Local builders say floors of oak, and increasingly, birch, are in demand in the Syracuse area, in particular in higher-priced homes.
Dan Oot, president of Ashbury Homes and president of the Home Builders Association of Central New York, said ``just about every house'' his company builds has some oak flooring. ``The first place would be in the dining room,'' he said.
But you don't have to build a new home to get a hardwood floor. Homeowners who wonder if the wood floor buried under their carpet is salvageable are likely to find that it is.
Just about any hardwood floor can be restored, according to Steven LeBeau, who has installed and refinished fl! oors for a living for about 20 years. An exception would be softwood floors, such as a pine floor, or a floor that is too thin, he said.
On average, LeBeau charges $1.40 a square foot, including materials, or about $175 to refinish an average room.
When thinking about redoing a floor, consider the durability factor as well as the aesthetic appeal.
``This floor will outlast that carpet 50 times,'' said LeBeau, standing in an oak foyer leading to an oak stairway, one room away from a spacious oak-floored kitchen, in a new, upscale DeWitt house.
Hardwood floors can take a lot of abuse, Oot agreed. But even the protected wood can be damaged.
``The big thing is you can't drag anything heavy or sharp across it,'' LeBeau said.
These days, hardwood floors are coated with a polyurethane finish that doesn't require waxing, LeBeau said. A new coat of polyurethane to protect the wood may be needed every three or four years, depending on use, he said.!
``If you add a coat every once in a while, you'll never have to sand it again,'' he said.
But LeBeau cautioned against homeowners trying to refinish a floor themselves, and Ron Frey, a former home builder and principal of occupational education at the Thompson Road Ononadaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES, concurred.
Frey, who has worked with a variety of woodworking equipment, said some people can do a passable job with rented equipment.
``But if I ever do hardwood floors, I'm going to have a professional do it,'' he said.
Mistakes can happen in a blink of an eye, according to Frey and LeBeau.
``I've seen novices use the machine incorrectly and put deep gouges in their floor that are almost impossible to remove,'' Frey said.
LeBeau said he gets calls every day to finish up jobs for do-it-yourselfers who sand themselves into desperate corners.
The equipment is heavy, the job is dusty, and even applying the protective coating is ``not just a matter of slapping it on,'' Frey said. It takes time, proper eq! uipment and ventilation, he said.
A good professional will get the job done relatively quickly and will who stand by his work, Frey said.
On the other hand, Thomas Pileski, manager of Taylor Rental Center on Onondaga Boulevard, said homeowners should not necessarily be scared away from doing their floors themselves.
Even with the cost of renting the machines and buying materials, supplying your own labor can save you money, Pileski contends.
``There are a lot of horror stories. Some are true and some aren't,'' Pileski said. ``The results will depend on how well you prepare yourself for it.''
In other words, don't plan to refinish a floor on the spur of the moment, beer in hand, during halftime. It takes thought, work and time to bring a floor back to life, according to Pileski.
First, assess the amount of work that needs to be done, he said. Do you need merely to remove the finish, or do you need to work on the wood itself? The folks at T! aylor will help you decide, according to Pileski. They also will also give you a how-to pamphlet, published by a sandpaper manufacturer.
There are a few things you have to do to a floor before you even can think about sanding it, Pileski said:
Empty the room of furniture and do the entire room at one time, while it's empty.
Fix any loose floorboards or nails that stick up.
Remove excess dirt and wax.
To reach the wood, a do-it-yourselfer needs a heavy-duty sander, weighing about 100 pounds. At Taylor it rents for $45 a day, plus sandpaper. Also required is an edger, a kind of sander which rents for $19 a day. Very few people rent the equipment for more than a day, Pileski said.
``I would say 90 percent of the time they made out fine with it,'' he said of his customers.
If only the finish needs to be sanded, and not the wood, the equipment to rent is a ``vibe sander,'' for $29 a day plus sandpaper, Pileski said. The smaller machine is less powerful and has a wider sanding surface, which means its weight! is less concentrated, Pileski said. It removes less of the surface than its big brother. And an edger is not needed, according to Pileski.
Once the sanding is completed, vacuum the floor with a heavy-duty ``shop'' type vacuum. Also, clean the floor with tack cloth, a gauzelike material impregnated with a sticky substance that picks up sawdust.
Refinishing the floor after sanding requires applying the polyurethane finish, which generally costs between $10 to $25 a gallon, Pileski said. The price will vary depending on quality and whether it's on sale, according to Pileski.
Read the label to determine the ratio of the active ingredient to applicant or thinner, he said. It should be at least 40 percent active ingredient, he said. Cheaper brands may have less.
While you are applying it, ventilate the room well. The fumes can make one's eyes water, LeBeau said.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, vacuum cleaners roared mightily nationwide; in those decades, wall-to-wall carpet was everywhere.
Post-Standard, The (Syracuse, NY)
Post-Standard, The (Syracuse, NY)|
October 12, 2003
FAMILY FLOOR BUSINESS THRIVES
FAMILY FORGED COMPANY'S FUTURE SINCE STEVE LEBEAU DIED AFTER A 1998 ACCIDENT.
Author: Jennifer Jacobs Staff writer
From his hospital bed five years ago, his skin scorched from a lacquer-vapor explosion, Steve LeBeau urged his wife to continue his 28-year-old company for him.
"His first words to me after the accident, and I'll never forget it, were, "Well, sweetheart, now it's your turn. We'll see what you can do,"' Carole LeBeau said. "I was like in total denial. "You're not going anywhere. Don't be so morbid."'
Steve LeBeau, of Manlius, who had earned a reputation as one of Central New York's best hardwood floor refinishers, died five days later.
Instead of letting LeBeau Hardwood Floors fold, Steve's wife, daughter, son, nephew, son-in-law and brother-in-law have stepped up. They still employ five of Steve's crew, all of whom are like family, they said.
Since Steve's death, the LeBeau touch has been applied to hardwood floors at a sorority at Syracuse University, Lincklaen House in Cazenovia, Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles, the stage at t! he Everson Museum of Art and hundreds of private homes.
They do 875 to 1,100 projects a year.
But the future of the business was once in doubt.
The explosion happened on a steamy August day in 1998. Steve, 49, was doing an oddball job for the friend of a friend, coating a floor on Burnet Avenue in Syracuse with a quick-drying alcohol-based product. The owner wanted the lacquer to seal in cat urine odors so that new carpeting could be installed.
Carole stopped by. When Steve kissed her, he dampened her face with his sweat. The windows were closed so that dust wouldn't contaminate the wet finish.
Minutes after she left, a pilot light on the stove that Steve thought had been snuffed out ignited the vapors. The explosion shattered windows and blackened the walls, ceiling and floor.
To escape the fire, Steve threw himself down the stairs and dragged himself out a door. A third of his body had third-degree burns; his face had what looked like a! n angry sunburn.
At University Hospital, a team of nine doctors - Steve had done the floors of several of the medical staff caring for him - said he needed skin grafts and physical therapy, but he had a 90 percent chance of a full recovery.
"I thought, "Finally I get some time with him - he's going to need me,"' Carole said, weeping as she recalled the memory.
But Steve gently told her he wanted a closed casket, topped with that picture of himself riding his tractor.
On Sept. 1, he went into cardiac arrest. His children, then ages 21 to 28, several relatives and friends, and all his employees gathered to say goodbye.
"We were hysterical," Carole said. "It was just horrible. Something out of a nightmare. Everybody was crying."
Steve had built his business from scratch, buying his first set of used tools when he and Carole were newlyweds in 1970. Since then, the LeBeaus had taken their vacations only in winter - the warmer months were the busiest for the business. If the home telephone rang, everything! stopped - supper, the movie, the bedtime story - because that caller could be a customer.
On Christmas Day, Steve would open gifts and make french toast, then head out to finish a job. He had a talent for remembering clients' names, even 20 years later. His hobby was planting 42 acres of sweet corn near Brewerton, then giving most of it away at harvest time.
At the hospital, the LeBeaus, in shock, gathered in a conference room. Steve and Carole's son, Bill, spoke up.
Carole recalled his words: "I know we miss Dad, but sometimes people never really know their parents. We had a parent that was a gift - we knew he loved us. The time he spent with us was quality time. Some people never get that in their lives."
It gave the family the strength to keep going.
The first time Carole had to give a customer an estimate, she was shaking all over. Before, she'd always been behind the scenes, answering the telephone and doing paperwork. The most hand! s-on work she'd done was to deliver materials to a job site, sometimes with four children in tow.
The friendliness of Central New Yorkers comforted her.
Now she's never without a tape measure in her pocket. She has perfected her style of dress - professional but not intimidating. She knows what to do when a customer answers the door in boxer shorts, expecting a man. She doesn't hesitate to lay out a cost estimate on the spot, explaining that she'll need 50 percent up front, 50 percent at the end.
None of her workers, paid $12 to $20 an hour, uses alcohol-based lacquers, only nonflammable polyurethane products.
Steve and Carole's daughter, Angela LeBeau-Britschge, is the operations manager, and her husband, John Britschge, does accounting and floor work. The Britschges are purchasing a 25 percent share of the company from Carole.
Carole's nephew, Jesse McKenna, and an in-law, George Balintfy, do floor work. Steve and Carole's daughters, Susan Patsos and Nicole Hanna, have helped out over the years.
Bill has! branched out into floor refinishing in North Carolina.
"There's no happy ending - we just go on," said Bill, who named his own son Steven William LeBeau II. "We're just continuing what he would want us to do."