A floor guy, a dog and a horse walk into a house …
There are countless funny and strange and wild job site stories out there. And many jokes get told while on the job by contractors, salt-of-the-earth people that tend to be a wise-ass kind of crew.
But that first line – guy, dog, horse – is the start of something true and extra special for the guys at Colorado Custom Floors in Castle Rock, Colo.
They’d been called in weeks earlier to give an estimate. There was water damage in the kitchen, but it didn’t take long to see the floor was failing wall to wall. And it was happening in this home that needed a floor as solid, durable and full of character as the man who lives there.
‘A Big, Hard-Chargin’ Guy’
Former U.S. Marine Sergeant Gabe Martinez had been on his second deployment. It was Thanksgiving Day in 2010 when on patrol he stepped on an IED in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Gabe now uses two prosthetic legs and a wheel chair. He has a service dog and, you might have heard, a horse.
Gabe is married to Kayla. They have two daughters, counting a newborn they welcomed at the end of February. The Martinez household is not slowing down; it’s floor had better hold up.
That was clear to Dan O’Connor, owner of Colorado Custom Floors, as soon as he met Gabe. Bart Martinez, who is no relation to Gabe and, besides being a floor technician is tackling Colorado Custom’s business development role, was on-hand for the estimate, too.
Dan and Bart walked out of Gabe and Kayla’s house and, by the time they got to their truck, knew they wanted to give something to the Martinez family.
There are veterans in Dan’s family. Giving back through what Dan calls a local hero project was an easy call.
“This is so much more personal a way to give,” Dan says. “I could write a check to anybody at any kind of charity. But Gabe and his family need something I can use my skills to give them, and it’s a platform to help lift them up in their daily lives.”
“And there is a connection with them as people,” Bart says. “It’s very inspiring to get to meet them and get to know them in a way we wouldn’t if we gave from a distance.”
So Dan, Bart and John Kowal, the third man on the crew, blocked out about eight work days. They tore out the old floor, a 3/8” prefinished engineered floor. Then they used concrete sealer and adhesive to install five-inch planks of unfinished, character-grade white oak. They ran a team of sanding machines to smooth it out. And they finished the floor with a blended-color natural oil, topped with a ceramic-fortified finish for extra durability.
“Gabe is a big, hard-chargin’ guy,” Dan says. “We put extra coats of finish in the high-traffic areas to give extra durability for him. And we’ll screen and recoat in a few years. But this floor will be the floor he needs it to be.”
Gabe is active like he’s always been. A hunter, a horseman, and he’s involved in the community.
Dan has asked Gabe to help identify the veteran who will be part of Colorado Custom Floors’ local hero project next winter. The idea is each year there will be one project, and each year that recipient will help to choose the next veteran in need.
“We’re trying to be a spark that ignites a blaze,” Dan says. “There are plenty of veterans who have come home from overseas and could use some help, just somebody to talk with them, go have a beer with them, shovel their driveway. And it’s easy to work locally. There are veterans in every town.
“You don’t have to agree with their politics or war or anything else. These people had aspirations and life goals just like everyone else, and they put those on hold for the greater good of all of us. They gave something.”
A Floor Guy, A Dog + A Horse
Even though it still was winter and it is Colorado, early March was feeling a bit like early Spring. The guys of Colorado Custom were working one day early in the project. They were heating up, so they opened the front door. They opened the back door. They kept working.
It wasn’t long … A golden retriever from a nearby ranch came through the front door. Gabe’s horse, just as curious, stepped through the open back door.
It sounds like the start of a new version of an old joke. But it’s true. And it’s the least interesting story of this project.
Wood: WD Flooring’s 5”-wide
character-grade white oak
Sanding: Lägler’s HUMMEL, TRIO + FLIP
Sealer + Adhesive: Stauf ACS 210, PUM950
Color: Arboritec’s Miracle
Oil blend (red-brown, red-mahogany, black)
Finish: Arboritec’s Avenue Satin
Gratitude that Lasts: Veterans Hall Flooring Project
Advantages of Natural Oil Finishes for Wood Floors