New or refinished hardwood floors aren't difficult to care for. However, they can be damaged with improper cleaning techniques.
Child’s toys, pet nails, furniture legs, dirt brought in on shoes, high heels—these and many other things can scratch and dent floors. The finish on high traffic areas can wear relatively quickly and area rugs can prolong the life of finish. Excessive exposure to sunlight can cause finished wood floors to fade.
And all too often, well-meaning homeowners—in an attempt to maintain the beauty and sheen of their finished wood floors—do far more harm than good.
An Ounce of Prevention
Checking children's toys for sharp edges is a great way to protect your child and your floors. Keeping pet nails trimmed and ground smooth is the key to living with pets on a hardwood floor. Applying high quality felt floor protectors to the bottom of furniture legs helps reduce wear around tables and other areas where furniture slides on the floor. Strategic placement of area rugs in high traffic areas will help prolong finish life, and areas exposed to extreme sunlight should have rugs moved frequently to reduce uneven fading.
The Proper Way to Maintain Finished Wood Floors
To keep potentially damaging dirt and grit off you hardwood floors, you can sweep, dry mop (with a soft microfiber mop) or vacuum. Soft-bristled brushes are fine on vacuums as long as they aren’t rotating brushes meant for use on carpet.
For cleaning up spilled food and drinks, you can use paper towel or a soft cloth, being careful that it is only damp and not saturated with water. Or better yet, you can use a mop specially designed for use on hardwood floors, such as those manufactured by Glitsa. Whichever safe method you use, be sure to clean all spills immediately.
To keep your wood floors clean, use a product such as Glitsa Clean, which is designed for use on hardwood floors and won't cause damage. Never use waxes or oil-based cleaners, which can damage your floors to the point that they need resanding. And wait two to three weeks after a floor has been finished to use any cleaning products at all.
Follow Directions and Clean Often
The important thing to remember is that the wrong cleaning products and methods can ruin a floor’s finish. Know what type of finish you have and follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions, as well as the instructions for any products you use.
Dry mop, sweep, or vacuum to keep grit off the floor.
Wipe up spills as quickly as possible.
When necessary, use Glitsa Clean to keep your floors clean and beautiful.
...this will prolong the time before a new finish will need to be applied.
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the home of Pat and Rhonda, who are recent customers of Ralph’s Hardwood Floors. I stopped by to shoot a few photos of their beautiful new hardwood floors and talk to them about their experience with our company. I was also happy to be able to meet "the boys," a pair of friendly, energetic Labradors.
I worked with Pat and Rhonda in the showroom, on and off, for over a year. Like most of our customers, they came in with a general idea of how they wanted their finished wood flooring to look but needed some suggestions. They were looking for "just the right floor" but hadn’t discovered it yet.
Rhonda saw a large sample of Asian walnut and fell in love. This was not surprising—that species gets a lot of ooohs and ahhhs in our home show booth.
After a year of deliberating between a less-expensive floor and the floor they loved, Pat and Rhonda decided to move forward with their dream floor. Knowing they were planning on being in their current home for a long time, I was extremely glad they chose this floor and didn't settle for something less than what they really wanted. All too often, I see customers make the mistake of settling for wood floors that they don't truly love. Not only do they deprive themselves of enjoying the floor of their dreams, they usually end up spending more in the long run when they finally upgrade to what they’ve desired all along.
While at their home, Rhonda and I talked about the installation and sanding crews. She was so impressed with Mike and how meticulous he was about every little detail. We aren’t satisfied unless our customers are satisfied, so I was delighted to hear this.
Isn't this a stunning floor?
Treatments for maintaining your wood hardwood floors vary in cost, time, and effort, but one of the most common treatments is recoating. Less expensive than refinishing, recoating provides excellent protection for your floor and brings out hardwood's natural beauty.
Before you embark on recoating your wood floor, check out these 5 things you should know.
1. You don't need to recoat every year.
Time and wear are the enemies of your floor's finish and as you use your floor, surface scratches will appear and the finish will begin to dull. That being said, you don't need to re-coat the floor until finish shows real signs of wear (but don't wait until bare wood is showing!). This will happen somewhere between two to ten years depending on the amount of traffic and care your floor gets.
2. Recoating will not help every floor.
If you have been using cleaning products like oil soaps, waxes, or furniture polishes, there is a good chance a recoat will not work. Those cleaning products leave a residue and can cause the new coats of finish to wrinkle or separate. To avoid this we recommend you clean your floor with vinegar and water or with our cleaning solutions.
3. Recoating doesn't require sanding.
Recoating your wood floors doesn't mean we need to sand. A light screening is all that is needed prior to applying finish.
4. Recoating previously carpeted wood floors usually doesn't work.
Many mid-century homes were built with hardwood floors, but many of those floors were subsequently covered up with wall-to-wall carpeting. We do not recommend recoating in this situation. Many of these floors were covered because finishes were not what they are today and thus were a lot harder to maintain. Although today's finishes are incredible, most will not bond to the wax buildup usually present on previously covered floors. In this case we recommend a complete sanding to bring the floors back to their former glory.
5. Recoating can make your floors look new again.
In many cases recoating your floor will bring back it's orginal beauty. Our experienced sales team can look at your floor and determine if a recoating process will give you the result you are looking for.
If you have further questions about recoating wood floors, give us a call. We can take a quick assessment of your floor and determine what is necessary to restore it to its highest quality.
Photo by Nicolas Vigier. Available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.
A fundamental rule in caring for hardwood floors is to keep them dry. Yet on TV, there are commercials for steam cleaners made to use on them. And if you search the Web, you’ll find numerous manufacturers claiming that their steam cleaners won’t hurt finished wood floors.
Steam is a form of water, but with all this advertising, it’s understandable if consumers come to believe that it’s alright to use steam on finished hardwood.
But don’t be fooled. Even if the H20 is in its steam state, the adage holds true—water and wood don’t mix.
The Damage Done
Steam cleaner manufacturers are able to get away with declaring their products are safe on finished wood flooring because the damage isn’t always immediately apparent. The floors are cleaned, and there’s no sign of a problem.
But over time and repeated cleanings, the wood will absorb moisture from the steam—even if the wood is finished, be it solid or engineered. As the floor boards absorb this moisture, they swell. And since the boards have nowhere to go but up, they begin to pop up and buckle.
And the more you use a steam cleaner, the more damaging each use becomes. Finish doesn’t keep out all moisture, but it helps. However, steam cleaners wear down the finish—causing it to peel, whiten, and cloud—leaving your hardwood floors more vulnerable than ever to water damage.
Listen to the Right Sources
Rather than pay attention to steam cleaner ads, go by the recommendations of the flooring and finish manufacturers. All of them advise against water on finished wood flooring. And in response to the proliferation of steam cleaners claiming to work on hardwood floors, many have begun to specifically mention steam cleaning as something to avoid in the literature they provide consumers.
Your hardwood flooring is an important investment and is a central element of your home’s character and beauty, protect it by not exposing it to harmful heat and moisture.
Gary the good nephew.
Recently a customer of ours, Gary, stopped by Ralph's with his elderly aunt Marian, a sweet and very spry woman. They were looking for a hardwood floor for her condominium and although Marian had been shopping around she had not been able to find something she liked that fit her budget. When Gary heard that Marian was looking for a hardwood floor, he suggested he bring her to our showroom.
Getting to know Marian.
We spent quite a bit of time talking with them about her lifestyle, which was very quiet, and the style of her home, her likes, dislikes, etc. It was decided that before we proceeded, a visit to her home would be in order. With a site visit we could determine all of the details that would need attention and better determine what flooring material would best fit her style and budget.
Shortly after, Paul visited her home and took an immediate liking to her. They shared some stories and Paul got a real sense of not only how Marian lived but who she was.
The right floor is one you love...and can afford.
When Marian made her next visit to the showroom, we were able to show her some custom samples that we felt were a good fit for her. Marian agreed they looked good and so we went out to her house to take a look at the samples right in her home. After much deliberation, Marian decided on her favorite and expressed how happy she was that she didn’t have to settle for something less than what she really wanted.
We got to work installing her new floor and after the project was finished, Marian called to thank me for helping her select the floor. She was so pleased with how beautiful it made her home but that there were a couple of dull spots that were bothering her and wondered if we could send someone out to take a look. We inspected the areas she was concerned about and had them fixed up for her.
Here is a picture of Marian's floor.
Working at Ralph's is more than just a job.
Working with customers like Marian is one of the reasons I love working for this company. To be part of a project that means so much to someone makes my job very fulfilling. She even called me a few weeks ago to tell me she was the proud great grandmother of a new set of twin babies, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled for her. I would like to thank Marian for her business, and for all the kind words she has said about everyone in this company. It means the world to all of us.
Here is a picture of Marian and me. (Doesn't her floor look great!)
Once you have your hardwood floors installed, it’s time to start thinking about keeping them clean. Hardwood floor maintenance is very easy but requires different techniques than other hard-surface floors. With care, you can keep your hardwood floors looking new for many years to come.
The Right Technique
We recommend dusting your floors weekly with a flat, dry microfiber mop designed for hardwood floors. Occasionally you may want to use a solution for deeper cleaning. To do this you can use a solution in a spray bottle, mist a small section of the floor and wipe with a terrycloth or microfiber mop designed for damp cleaning.
Never use a cleaner that has wax or oils in it, or one that will "restore the shine" to your floor. These almost always contain ingredients that make it nearly impossible to recoat your floors should this ever be necessary. If you have questions about whether or not a cleaner is safe, please contact us.
You may also use a vacuum cleaner if it has smooth wheels with no sharp edges. If the vacuum cleaner has a beater brush, this must be turned off to avoid burn marks caused by friction.
Installing a whole-house or a single room humidifier in rooms with hardwood flooring will also help maintain your wood floors. In the winter, when the humidity levels drop, wood can dry out which causes gapping or cracks between the boards. Ideally, the relative humidity in your home should remain between 30-50% at all times. In the summer, humidity can be controlled by running the air conditioning and also a dehumidifier in the basement.
What Not to Do
Never use furnish polish on your hardwood floors. While it will make the floors shine, it will also create a slick, hazardous surface. In addition, the wax that is in most commercial brands of furniture polish will create an unsightly build-up on your floors.
Water and wood do not mix, so keep exposure to water at a minimum. We do not recommend mopping your floor with the bucket and mop method often used on other hard surface floors. Water can become trapped within the seams of the floor and inside the wood itself. Over time, this can lead to warping of the wood and water damage to the floors.
Need supplies to keep your hardwood floor looking new and beautiful? Ralph's Hardwood Floors has a great line of cleaner and supplies needed to help you out. Simply call us at 1-800-354-9902 or visit our showroom and we will make sure you get the right product for the job.
Photo by Michael Bentley. Available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.