An effective way to establish a long-term relationship with your hardwood floor customers is to provide re-coating services for the periodic renewal of their floors.

The current economic climate continues to run hot and cold. Fortunately, with increasing signs of economic stability, consumers are once again beginning to warm up to the notion of long-term investments. And, as you probably already know, hardwood flooring is one of the best such investments of which I am aware.

While alternative floor coverings can only offer a change from the existing floor, hardwood products not only create a dramatic change for an interior but also serve as a lifetime investment. Frankly, I can't think of a more suitable item to add to my portfolio than a shiny, brand-new hardwood floor. Perhaps that statement betrays a bias on my part, but I have always been considered prudent and my affinity for hardwood flooring is consistent with that prudence.

Hardwood products are a prudent flooring choice because, unlike alternative floor coverings, they possess a unique capacity for renewal. With proper care and maintenance, the most basic hardwood flooring products in today's marketplace can be renewed even in terms of sheen retention. Consumers and investors are one in the same. The value associated with a hardwood flooring installation is well recognized by the current homeowner and, no doubt, will be by any future owner of that floor as well. Without question, the purchase of hardwood flooring is not only a sound investment but also a solid one.

In addition to its obvious structural advantage, hardwood flooring can be preserved and protected by the latest and greatest finishes available in the marketplace. Historically, the floor finish industry was geared to manufacture precise, simple products. But unfortunately for the industry, the variety of available finishes was quite limited. Shellac, varnishes, lacquer and wax were deemed quite suitable and unchallenged, with regard to performance, by the end users.

The more recent introduction of urethane and colorful, new shades of stain quickly raised the eyebrows of the consumers. Hardwood flooring, once again, enjoyed escalating sales, recaptured market share and, most importantly, reclaimed its status as a formidable competitor to alternative floor covering products.

The job site finish-renewal process that took hold with the introduction of urethane, both the solvent- and water-based varieties, represented the kickoff for change in our industry's game plan for compiling wins then and for floor covering seasons to come. Soon called up from the bench to the playing field were the manufacturers of prefinished hardwood flooring. It wasn't long before our team began piling up the points. Once considered the "visitors" in the floor covering contest, hardwood flooring has since become the "home team" no matter where the flooring game is played.

Today's prefinished hardwoods also have capitalized on finish technology that is second to none. Yet despite its inherent advantages, our industry still could experience a demoralizing "turnover" if we don't begin to address the aftermarket needs of each and every hardwood flooring installation. The shine and durability of the finish that once captured the interest of our consumer fans can also diminish over time, depending upon maintenance and use.

Even wood products that carry wear warranties of 25 years or more are not insulated from consumers' long-term expectations. The fact is that all wood floor finishes can be scratched and/or dented. The sheen luster of the finish will diminish with improper maintenance or an entire lack of it.

The after-the-sale coating market that is readily available to our industry remains virtually untapped to date. Contractors specializing in hardwood flooring -- particularly job site finishing -- are ready, willing and able to address the needs of any hardwood flooring installation. The problem is that there literally just aren't enough of them to go around.

Multifaceted floor covering dealers are beginning to realize that hardwood floors, particularly in the prefinished category, are capturing a growing percentage of overall flooring sales. Prefinished hardwood flooring that was once considered taboo by specialty contractors is starting to become an integral part of their sales as well.

If the dealer really wants the customer to become a long-term client, he needs to begin to establish an ongoing maintenance program. At the very least, the dealer might furnish to the customer a referral list of contractors who can renew the finish coat of their wood floors.

The only reason that I can divine as to why you're not capable of establishing yourself in the coating business, in some form or fashion, is that you just won't. If you feel ill-equipped to operate a buffer to abrade the finish surfaces, contact your local distributor and arrange for training in both the abrasion and finish application.

If mechanical means still aren't your cup of tea, you can use alternative products that are purely "janitorial" in nature. These require cleaning of the floor with an appropriate chemical solution before applying the urethane coating. Several manufacturers have already tested and perfected this process. Again, this too can be taught to existing employees without requiring of them any knowledge and/or experience in the sanding profession.

Wood or Wood Knot invites you to capture the coating market. You just may be pleasantly surprised at how willing your potential captive really is. They have been waiting a long time to surrender. Are you ready as well?