Ralph's Blog

What Makes a Hardwood Floor Durable, and Why Does It Matter?

Posted on Thu, Dec 31, 2015 @ 15:12 PM

The more durable hardwood floors are, the better they can stand up to wear caused by pets, chidren, heavy traffic, etc.“Durability” in hardwood floors refers to how long the floor can look good without the need for refinishing. Your lifestyle will determine how important this factor is.

If you have a lot of traffic on your floors (kids, pets, a lot of entertaining, etc.), a more durable floor can pay big dividends down the road, as you may be able to put off refinishing for years longer.

On the other hand, if floors will see light traffic (as in, say, a little-used formal dining room), durability becomes less of a concern. That’s because virtually any hardwood floor, regardless of its durability, can stand up to light use for many years before refinishing is necessary.

When determining durability, the first element to consider is the hardness of the species of wood used for the flooring. The harder the wood, the more resistant it is to denting. You can determine how hard a wood is by looking up its score on the Janka hardness test. Popular species that are very hard include Hickory, Brazilian cherry, and Asian Walnut.

However, hardness isn’t the only consideration. We advise customers seeking highly durable floors to also consider the grain of the wood they’re choosing. Some species have prominent grain patterns, which help to hide any dents and scratches, thereby delaying the need for refinishing.

And you can’t forget the finish itself.  We’ve consistently found that urethane “conversion varnish” finishes—such as our Swedish Finish—look better longer than polyurethane finishes. That’s not to say that polyurethane finishes can’t be beautiful and durable, but if you expect heavy traffic on your floors, a conversion varnish is worth considering.

You should also pay attention to the sheen of the finish. Glossy finishes will show dents, scratches, etc. more readily than matte finishes. Color is another factor—dark-stained floors will show wear more than light-to-medium stains.

All that said, one point we’re always sure to make is that even the least durable hardwood floors are still extremely durable. They’re all easy to care for and to keep looking wonderful for many years. Some just happen to be more durable than others—which may or may not be an important part of your decision about which flooring to go with.

Image courtesy of simonov, Creative Commons.

Tags: about hardwood floors, picking the right floor for your lifestyle, finishes, stains & textures, FAQs

How Should I Clean My Hardwood Floors?

Posted on Thu, Dec 10, 2015 @ 15:12 PM

It's not difficult to keep finished harwood flooring clean.Hardwood floors are not only beautiful, they’re an investment that needs protecting. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to keep hardwood floors looking gorgeous for many years.

For surface-sealed floors (i.e., those finished with urethane, polyurethane or polyacrylic), simply follow these basic tips.

1. Clean all liquid spills right away.

Today’s surface-sealed finishes protect against liquid spills, which won’t be any problem as long as they’re wiped up as soon as possible with a damp cloth rag, paper towel, etc.—anything that’s not abrasive. You can also use a mop specifically designed for hardwood floors, such as the Glitsa Mop.

If the spill remains too long, it could cause the finish to whiten, but this can easily be cleaned off.

2. Regularly clean up dirt and debris.

To keep potentially harmful dirt and debris off you hardwood floors, all you need to do is sweep or vacuum it up—or use a dust mop with a microfiber pad. If you use a vacuum, make sure it has a soft-bristled brush that doesn’t rotate.

Like liquid spills, dry spills should be cleaned up immediately. Otherwise, vacuum, sweep, or dust mop as needed. High-traffic areas may need cleaning several times a week.

3. Use a manufactured-approved hardwood floor cleaner to mop floors.

We recommend Glitsa Clean, but whichever cleaner you use, a key point to remember is that none of the ingredients should be on the “do-not-use list” of the manufacturer of your floor or finish.

When mopping, prepare the cleaning solution according to the manufacturer directions, or use a pre-prepared solution. Use a damp mop made for hardwood floors rather than a sopping-wet one, and change the cleaning solution when it gets dirty. When done, mop again with clean water to rinse.

Don’t use oil soaps, waxes, abrasive cleaners, or silicone-based products (e.g., furniture polish).

As with vacuuming or sweeping, common sense will tell you how often you need to mop. Generally, however, high-traffic floors can benefit from cleaning once or twice a month, while less trafficked areas can be mopped even less often.

Wait two to three weeks after a floor has been finished to use any cleaning products at all.

4. Don’t use steam cleaners.

You may have seen commercials touting steam cleaners (e.g. steam mops) that are supposedly able to sanitize, deodorize, and clean finished wood floors. However, flooring and finish manufacturers advise against the use of steam cleaners—with good reason.

The reality is that, while these steam cleaners may appear to work great at first, over time they cause finish to peel, whiten, or cloud. The combination of water and heat also causes the wood to swell, which can lead to cupping or crowning of the planks. This is true for engineered flooring, as well as solid plank.

These tips aren’t meant for hardwood floors finished with natural oils or other penetrating seals. However, for hardwood floors that are surface-sealed—as most are—these simple maintenance steps will keep them in excellent shape for years to come.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, Creative Commons.

Tags: caring for your hardwood floors, FAQs

Can I blend new hardwood floors with old hardwood floors?

Posted on Thu, Nov 26, 2015 @ 15:11 PM

Borders between rooms can blend hardwood floors together.It’s not at all unusual for homeowners to want to add new hardwood flooring adjacent to an existing hardwood floor. But we’ve found that many people hesitate because they presume there’s no way to blend the new with the old.

In most cases, that’s an incorrect assumption. Existing floors and old floors can be harmonized, and the transition between them can be virtually seamless.

Three factors should always be considered:

1. The species of wood used. Obviously, if you have two different species next to each other, the floors aren’t going to match. Even when we know the species, some woods, such as Red Oak, are easy to blend, whereas others, such as Maple, are more difficult.

2. The condition of the existing floor. Usually, it doesn’t matter if the existing floor is worn, because we can sand it at the same time we sand the new floor. However, some damage, such as large black spots caused by water, may not come out. And some homeowners don’t want us to sand the existing floor, making blending more difficult.

3. The age of the existing floor. Age can change the color of the wood. For example, Maple starts out blonde but over time becomes a light beige color—making it a challenge to blend new and old Maple floors. It can be done, however, by blending the two floors together using specialty cuts of Maple and using specialized staining/finishing processes that we have implemented over the past 50 years.

Matching isn’t always necessary

Now that we’ve talked about how nice it is to be able to blend old and new flooring, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that floors next to each don’t have to exactly match to work together well.

In some cases, a good match may not be possible, even with the most-skilled hardwood flooring experts working on the job. But don’t give up on new flooring! Contrasting floors can be beautiful and quite visually interesting.

In fact, some people seek out a contrast in order to differentiate rooms (e.g., between a living area and a kitchen) or just to mix things up.

To make the transition smooth between the contrasting flooring, you can use hardwood borders between the old and new flooring to make it clear that the contrast is intentional and to highlight the differing character of both floors.

Visit our showroom or give us a call to discuss how we can help you add new flooring next to old flooring in a way that you’ll love.

Tags: restoring hardwood floors, hardwood floors & interior design, remodeling, FAQs

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