Wood Floor Maintenance
Preserve the Beauty of Your New Wood Floor
© 2016 Housecleaning-Made-Easy.com
America has fallen in love with hardwood floors because of their beauty and lifespan. Far too many though, that install hardwood floors, truly understand the maintenance requirements needed to keep them looking at their best from day 1 into the future. Contractors and sales people generally are not going to mention the maintenance needed even if they are well aware of the drawbacks inherent with hardware floors. Failure to mention the almost daily care hardwood floors need is common. Installation cost and higher maintenance requirements can quickly disillusion home owners.
Installation of hardwood can and usually does cost at least double what carpet costs. Carpets can be vacuumed 2 or 3 times a week hardwood floors, however should have possible debris removed daily. Then there are steps that must be taken to prevent scratches, even gouges from damaging the finish and even the wood itself. There are products that should be avoided to prevent the shine from being diminished. In other words, someone considering installing hardwood floors has to consider not only the initial cost, but also the full details of how to provide the best care for them long-term.
After 30 yrs working in private homes, as the metamorphosis to hardwood floors occurred, there are a number of things I've observed that need to be done in order to preserve the beauty of hardwood floors, for many years into the future. Some of these things will cause minor disruptions in the way that you actually live in your home, others are more urgent to avoid permanent damage.
Most people will opt for laminate wood floors today vs hardwood. Laminate floors are about 50% cheaper than hardwood, but has definite drawbacks. First and foremost is laminate flooring cannot be refinished. This can be a major future hurdle in families with active children and pets causing the resale value to plummet. On the other hand hardwood flooring can be refinished maintaining the added value their original installation promised.
- Hardwood floors must be cleared of the dust and debris tracked in every day. You might not think this is a big issue, but that nearly invisible dirt can cause microscopic scratches in the finish that over time will become major problems. Scratches, even very minor ones compromise the finish, a compromised finish allows moisture to seep below the finish causing minor swelling, thus cracking the finish further and lastly that moisture will begin to cause discoloration.
- Use a DUST MOP, not a Broom. Today's dust mops are wonderful! Eighteen to 24 inches in width they make short work of having to do this chore. As an added benefit they are also flat enough to allow them to reach at least 9 inches under most of the lowest furniture, eliminating that irritating migration of dust blowing on to your clean floor every time a door opens or closes causing a draft.
- Do not wear the same shoes indoors that you wear outdoors. Every type of shoe sole will pick up dirt and small stones that will damage your floors. Every home I've worked in either has a mud room, a laundry room or racks beside the entry door from the garage to the house. A mud room and laundry room allow for many different configurations for storage of outside shoes. A seat in the garage allows for taking off outside shoes and slipping on indoor shoes.
- Leave the High Heels, especially stilettoes, at the back door. Every step you take will leave a small dent in your gorgeous wood floor. Your weight is not evenly distributed making the average woman walk in an unbalanced manner which causes the heels to strike harder than flat shoes.
- Pet nails have to be trimmed on a regular (probably monthly) basis. All it takes it one leap into motion and longer toenails will leave scratches. Long toenails are also very uncomfortable, especially for dogs, so regular trimming will save your wood floors and make your pet much happier. Yes even cats can benefit from regular trimming, that doesn't even take into account the damaged furniture it will save you as they abandon sharpening claws.
- Housebreaking a Puppy? Do not give him/her free rein of the house! Pet accidents must be cleaned up immediately to prevent permanent damage to your wood floor. The floor under area rugs, where an accident happens, must be cleaned and dried and the rug has to be completely dry before being replaced.
- Do Not Use Applicator Pads! I cannot stress this enough. I haven't found one that doesn't pick up and embed the same small stones and other debris, that shoes do, in the fibers. This as you continue to clean your floor will cause the same type of damage. I always advocate using a dust mop and string mop. The dust mop can be shaken out regularly and the string mop rinsed (wring out tightly) repeatedly.
- Modern floor cleaners when used inappropriately are one of the biggest enemies of wood floors! First and foremost the pads that are recommended (see above) can actually cause damage if they pick up debris. If you must use them have multiple pads and pay attention as soon as you hear or feel the drag of something on the pad replace it with a fresh one. Second, just because a wood floor cleaner says safe for wood floors doesn't mean that using an excessive amount won't cause damage. You can avoid the temptation to use excessive liquid by changing to a string mop. There are two types, the old fashion cotton or rayon version or the Libman Wonder Mop - The Wonder Mop® which is self wringing keeping your hands dry. Wring both out good and tight to avoid too much moisture being transferred to your wood floor.
- If any of your furniture has legs and can move the legs have to have furniture pads/feet applied to each leg. Even a slight bump, causing a shift in the furniture, will leave behind scratches on your wood floor. Kids diving into the over-stuffed couch may leave actual gouges because of its weight. Dining chairs/bar stools sliding in and out from the island or dining table will leave more scratches. As time passes, those scratches will accumulate until there is actually no finish left in the chair leg path. Pads and feet come in many styles, a simple pad (choose natural material) or a cup type that will stretch to accommodate most leg styles. Felt pads can be purchased quite inexpensively at most home improvement centers in sizes from 4" x 6" squares, 3" circular shapes clear down to 3/4" self adhesive dots. The ideal ones for dining chairs and bar stools are the type that actually nails into the bottom of each leg. Taking the time in the beginning to apply felt feet will save hundreds of dollars in the future.
- Rocking Chairs deserve special mention. They can cause the worst damage with even one use. Long deep gouges as they travel back and forth, side to side. The worst I ever saw in a client's home was a brand new home, new baby and grandparent provided antique rocking chair. Less than one week of use and the whole section of the floor had to be replaced. Felt pads of all types, including felt caps and 36" long strips can be found online. Google Flexi-FeltTM for most of your felt pad needs.
- Do your hardwood floors start at your entry doors? Placing a large exterior and interior (interior at least 3' x 5') entry door rug, aka mat, at those doors can be doubly beneficial. They give a warm, welcoming persona to visitors, but their functional benefit is they will trap a fair amount, but not all, of the incoming debris that can damage your floors.
- Use Pads Under ALL Area Rugs. Area rugs come in all sizes and qualities. Some are bare backed leaving synthetic fibers in direct contact with floors, an invitation to scratches. A client discovered too late that her 6' x 9' small area rug had a back coating mixed with sand for traction. Using a rug mat beneath your area rugs, all sizes, is the wisest choice; however; the material must be chosen wisely. Rug pads have to be made of real rubber. Natural Rubber has been rated as totally safe for all flooring types including wood. Imitation rubber must be avoided. Plastic and nylon coated with an adhesive will transfer the design of the pad/mat to your floor dulling the finish considerably in only a short time. There are two brands of rug mats that are rubber. One is Rug-Chek, Google the name for where to find it. The second brand is Super Hold, which is available at many retail locations including Kmart and Wal-Mart.