Advice to extend the life of hardwood flooring.

Q: What advice will help purchasers extend the life of their factory finished hardwood flooring?

A: The best advice is to regularly clean the floor using a hardwood floor cleaner in a spray bottle. And follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for using chair protectors, walk off mats etc.

Wood floors aren’t indestructible ~ and will inevitably get scratches and dents.

Water, spills, dirt and other abrasive substances can damage a wood floor’s urethane finish, in spite of today’s technology. Factors affecting wear include location, traffic patterns, children and/or pets; these have a direct impact on how often a floor needs to be cleaned. The floor should be swept or vacuumed (without the beater bar on) as needed, and spills should be wiped up as they occur.

Pivot points are very important

High-traffic areas, are subjected to more than normal standing, pivoting and spills; The placement of small area rugs in these areas will to add protection. Kitchens with wood floors sometimes show surface wear and abuse where no precautions are taken. Tables and chairs are tough on any floor; having the felt pads or glides is important for protecting the finish and wood and helps prevent scratches and dents

Hardwood floors in foyers or areas with exterior doors also need extra protection. Placing walk-off mats just outside helps prevent dirt and debris from being tracked in. Just inside these entry points, I suggest placing small area rugs. When choosing an area rug to be placed directly over the wood, make sure the backing allows the floor to breathe.  Lastly, instruct the homeowner to vacuum or shake off area rugs and walk-off mats frequently.

Humidity matters

Wood is a natural product that expands and contracts at different times during the year. Homeowners need to understand the importance ofmaintaining proper humidity levels year-round to help minimize the effects of too much or too little airborne moisture. Controlling humidity with a humidifier, especially during the heating season, helps minimize gaps between boards. Make sure to keep the floor in manufacturer’s recommended humidity level range to ensure the wood remains as stable as possible. A thermal hygrometer that monitors the relative humidity can usually be purchased at a local hardware store.

Species also make a difference

Each species has a unique set of characteristics that need to be considered when choosing hardwood flooring; be up front when helping the consumer decide on a particular species.

Hardness: Just because one species is harder than another doesn’t mean it won’t dent or scratch; all woods can dent or scratch given enough applied pressure or resistance.

Grain: The flooring’s grain pattern also needs to be considered. For example, maple is a beautiful wood that is harder, denser and lighter (in its natural color) than oak. But maple can dent and scratch, and its lighter color and lack of visual graining tend to make dents and scratches more visible. Also, remember that higher gloss finishes tend to show scratches and wear more readily than duller sheens, usually requiring more maintenance than lower gloss finishes.

Photosensitivity: Both natural sunlight and artificial lighting can change the color of a floor over time. Flooring installed in rooms with a lot of direct sunlight can be dramatically affected; often times, this isn’t evident until a rug or piece of furniture is moved. Keeping blinds closed while rooms are unoccupied helps minimize the negative effects of prolonged exposure to sunlight.