Interview by Michelle Heslop. Portraits by Guy Ferguson. Interior shots by Jody Beck.
Working with wood seems embedded in your work-life DNA. Can you give us a brief history of your work with wood flooring? I started working with wood in high school and haven’t looked back. Starting as a summer job, I worked in a sawmill in Sointula, milling wood for boat lumber. We were grading lumber when it was still done by humans, not machines. This is where I gained my appreciation for wood. Eventually, I made my way back to Victoria and worked at Active Hardwood Floors, the largest wood flooring company in Victoria at the time. That was 28 years ago now. I was mostly sanding and finishing at Active Hardwood. I took many years off the tools and worked in sales and distribution at European Flooring. I was one of the pioneers to introduce engineered wood flooring to Western Canada. Now 90% of sales are engineered compared to 10% in those days. Finally, I went back to the tools as an independent contractor for big hardwood flooring companies. I was working so hard I ended up with a workplace injury and a lot of free time. This is where I came up with the idea for Plank and Saw. That was two- and-a-half years ago.
Do you have a company philosophy? Plank and Saw takes a service-first approach which is reflected in my personal mission statement: in order to build a quality home one must employ the use of both high-quality materials and skilled workmanship. We do a job right the first time and provide value for our client’s dollar. We use the best finishes and machinery on the market to achieve those goals. I strive to bring handcrafted, old-world craftsmanship back to the industry.
Do you have an area of expertise in your industry? We are one of the only companies that does everything in the flooring market: subfloor levelling, installation, sanding, and restoration. When I started Plank and Saw, I imagined us mostly doing installation, but refinishing floors is so specialized and there is such a demand for it. We are a full-service flooring company with two main specialties. The first is heritage restoration, which is our favourite; it’s the hardest work but the rewards are big when we get to see our clients’ reactions to the dramatic transformations. We also specialize in custom bespoke floors. We just finished a 3,000-square-foot luxury home with a rift cut in select white oak. We tried 30 different stains to get the final tones just right.
Let’s deep dive into some of your specialities. After sanding floors a particular way with the old belt sander for 25 years, I recently learned a new sanding system and bought all the latest tools. It’s a more European style I call ‘upright sanding’ — it has a lot to do with ergonomics and dust containment. There are only a couple other companies on the Island sanding like this; it’s a unique specialization. I really wanted to set myself apart out of the gates. There is a professional sanding school that comes to Western Canada every couple of years. I took it 20 years ago and enrolled again to update myself on the new technologies with the latest equipment. A lot of these new tools are easier on the body and designed to extend your career which fits with my goal of career longevity.
Describe the Plank and Saw customer experience. All of our work comes from referrals. We do everything from installation of new floors to refinishing, so we get a lot of work. There is a lot of knowledge required in refinishing and restoration and we offer years worth of experience to our clients. Out of my five employees, three of us have our 10,000 hours — we bring a lot of experience and know-how to make on-the-job decisions, especially how to proceed with restoration projects, in particular. We like to be realistic and transparent in our delivery of services. It’s a guaranteed professional experience with a friendly team. We want to be accessible and will work with just about anyone who wants their floors installed or refinished. We are fortunate enough to be able to choose who we work with and we service anyone with a meaningful project. We recently refinished the floors in a little cottage in James Bay; it turned out beautifully.
What do the next five years look like for Plank and Saw? We are overwhelmed with the success we’ve experienced over the last two-and-a- half years. We have so much gratitude for our clients and we’re happy where we are right now. We are currently booking weeks and often months in advance. I predict the housing growth to continue so I do see us continuing to grow and develop. I’m going to be testing the waters with some new product and want to see how that goes. Even if new installation work slows down with the custom house market, we always get refinishing work. I personally like being on the tools and want to stay where we are now to maintain that level of personal service. I like to remain nimble and let the market dictate; it’s the life of an entrepreneur.
We can see how committed you are to your profession. What do you like to do on your days off? I have a passion for music and have been in the entertainment business for many years. In the past, I curated and performed on a stage at Rifflandia which was a lot of fun. But with the growth of Plank and Saw, I can’t keep up with the business aspect of music, which is more of a passion project now. I grew up on the Island and like to do a lot of camping in my vintage camper van. Hardwood flooring work is physical, almost like running a marathon every day, so I like to make quality time to relax and enjoy Vancouver Island. Guilt-free relaxation.