Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Jan 06, 2019. Hardwood floor maintenance is too often overlooked and we thought this information also needed an update for our readers.
Whether your home came with those beautiful hardwood floors or you gave it an upgrade by having them installed yourself, protecting and maintaining them is vital to a long and beautiful life. This does not need to be difficult, especially if you establish a routine that can help keep them looking their best year after year.
As hardwood floor specialists, we want to share 12 maintenance tips to protect hardwood floors, but what use would that be without telling you why it is so important and just what damaging factors you are trying to prevent? With these wood floor maintenance tips, you can keep hearing the compliments about your home’s flooring for years, or even decades, to come.
Ready to get started with these basic tips for protecting wood floors?
You may choose this type of flooring to help reduce allergens in your home if someone has asthma or other breathing difficulties, it may be about the acoustics they provide if someone enjoys playing music, or it could just be about the natural beauty that both solid and engineered wood flooring provides. There are many benefits to having them, but knowing how to maintain wood floors is important.
Not only is maintaining wood floors important so you can keep seeing those same benefits, but it can help with future costs and inconveniences for necessary repairs. For instance, in the Central WI area, the average cost for replacing a wood floor gets close to about $12,000 depending on the size, style and installation options you choose.
If you already have wood floors, it’s much easier and cost-effective to follow common wood floor maintenance tips instead of having to replace them only a few years down the road. Plus, it ensures that every day you are able to enjoy the beauty of hardwood floors.
There are several things that cause the most damage to wood flooring, whether they are solid hardwood floors or engineered. When you know what the enemy is, maintaining wood floors is much easier.
Moisture is your hardwood flooring’s number one enemy. While it is important to keep the humidity inside your home at a desirable level for the flooring, most people have a problem with too much moisture in the home instead of not enough.
We cover the indoor humidity levels a bit more in Tip #7.
However, even small spills can quickly seep into the wood and cause damage, as can water leaks, high humidity, or improper cleaning techniques.
The dirt that naturally finds its way onto your hardwood floors may be more damaging than you realize.
It’s just dirt, right? No. Dirt is very gritty and it can easily cause scratches and scuffs on the floor’s finish.
If the finish is worn away quickly by excess dirt and other gritty substances, the damage done to the finish can then be done to the wood flooring itself. Gritty dirt can even find hiding places you wouldn’t realize, like under rugs and beneath tables.
While moisture may be your floor’s top enemy, when it is mixed with food crumbs that are left behind it can cause much more damage.
This is because food crumbs and moisture often lead to mold and mildew. Regularly sweeping and also making those who live in the home more mindful of their food messes can help combat this.
These crumbs are also gritty, which is another adversary and that we covered above.
While we don’t want you to close the curtains and fasten the shutters just to protect your wood floors, excessive exposure to the sun’s UV rays can be damaging, especially over the course of many years. We cover just how sun damage happens and what to do about it in Tip #8.
The Upper Midwest sees its’ fair share of snow every winter, but protecting your wood floors isn’t only about keeping the snow outside where it belongs.
The salt that is used to de-ice your driveway and other areas of your home can seriously damage your wood floors.
After reading all that, you probably think maintaining and protecting wood floors is difficult and inconvenient, right?
You’re thinking, “Why would anyone sign up for all this extra work!”
Well, we are here to tell you that maintaining your hardwood flooring really isn’t that difficult, especially once you know a few do’s and don’ts and set up a proper maintenance routine.
And honestly, what type of flooring doesn’t need at least some care over time? You may even find that hardwood floors are easier to maintain than things like carpet or linoleum.
Our wood floor protection and maintenance tips will ensure it is as easy as possible to preserve the beauty of your wood floors.
Just as with any other type of flooring, keeping it clean is important to make it last. Regular cleaning is one of the most effective wood floor maintenance tips you can use to extend the life of your floors.
Quickly sweeping at the end of each day will ensure that extra dirt, dust, grime, or food crumbs are picked up and won’t cause further damage. Microfiber dust mops are easy to use, affordable, and very effective at picking up even microscopic dust particles. The better the quality of the broom, vacuum, or dust mop you choose to use, the longer it will last, yes. However, higher quality cleaning tools also work much easier and usually put less wear and tear on your floor.
While picking up the daily dust on your floors, it is important to think about deeper cleaning every so often. Cleaning your floors using products specifically designed for hardwood floors should only be necessary every week or so unless there are some unforeseen messes. Again using products made for wood flooring, regular cleaning can protect the shine of the floor’s finish.
Even a quick walk through the house with a microfiber dust mop once a day can go a long way to making sure your beautiful hardwood floors are always looking their best.
We mentioned that it is important to use products for cleaning your hardwood floors that are designed to bring out their best and won’t damage them. You may have heard of many methods for cleaning your wood flooring that are actually very damaging to it. Here are some examples:
What do you do instead? These are some of the most basic tips for maintaining wood floors:
Invest in a high-quality broom, dust mop, and mop that are designed for wood floors. When it comes to a dust mop, those that have reusable, microfiber pads work very well and are cost effective. A really good one won’t cost you an arm and a leg. You will probably find the dust mop your most used tool.
When it comes to the cleaners you use, look for those that:
If you find that salt has found its way onto your hardwood floors, be sure to use a stronger concentration of neutral pH wood floor cleaner.
We’ve mentioned how damaging moisture can be to wood floors.
Part of maintaining wood floors is ensuring that there isn’t any damage done to them by water or even just excess moisture in the home.
If there is an area that looks hazy, or like it has a milky coating, it is most likely due to water damage to the finish. Common areas for this are in front of the kitchen sink or near an exterior door.
This can easily be polished away with a soft, cotton cloth. However, you want to keep the exposure from happening again so rugs or mats may help in these areas.
If there is a large amount of water on the floor due to a leaky pipe, a broken appliance, or a big spill then you will need to get the water up as quickly as possible.
A wet/dry vac is perfect for getting up a large portion of the water. Then you can use absorbent towels to soak up the rest. Excess water on wood floors can cause mold and mildew which necessitate replacing the floor, so removing the water quickly is important.
Either after a spill or during a long season of wet weather, a moisture testing meter may help you determine if your wood floors are in danger and that additional steps should be taken, such as investing in a dehumidifier.
Wiping up even small spills as quickly as possible is very important. The finish is meant to protect the flooring but water can get into the smallest seams and even around baseboards, especially if it is left too long.
When moving furniture into or out of the room, placing plywood floor down can help to prevent scuffs and scratches. Your furniture can still damage the flooring once it is in place, however, so adding protective pads under it is important. The type of protectors that are ideal for each type of furniture are different so we’ve simplified them into this chart. Which will you choose?
|Tap-On or Nail-On||Stay in place much longer||If not placed correctly or if not replaced when needed, the tack or nail can cause damage to the floor||Pieces that are regularly moved|
Easy to use and affordable, can be cut to various sizes
Can come off easily
Pieces that don’t move around much, such as a couch,
Don’t come off easily
Not the best-looking choice
Chairs and other items that are moved quite a bit
Be sure to check the protective pads regularly to make sure they are still in place and working as they should.
It seems one of the hardest parts of maintaining wood floors is preventing—more like reducing—the regular wear you see in high-traffic areas.
Rugs or mats can be placed in front of doors, or runners can be placed in hallways, that see the bulk of traffic in your home. We give you more tips and ideas about using rugs and mats in Tip #6 below.
You may choose to have both residents and guests remove their shoes when they come into the house. Providing an area to keep shoes and boots where they can also change into a pair of socks or slippers makes it easier to enforce a “no shoes” policy in the home. If you do choose to wear shoes in the house it’s important to avoid anything with spikes in them, such as cleats, and also high heels. Shoes with non-marking soles can prevent markings on the floor’s finish.
Don’t forget your pets either. Keeping their paws clean and their nails trimmed can help prevent unwanted scuffs and scratches as well.
According to the National Wood Flooring Association, or NWFA, a person weighing just 125 pounds can put up to 4 tons of pressure onto the flooring when wearing a high heeled shoe! This is due to the weight of the person being placed on a very small area, the bottom of the heel.
Using mats and rugs around your home is something we’ve mentioned several times, but it should be done in a way that actually benefits the wood flooring instead of making matters worse. How?
Mats that have a rubber backing can cause moisture to build up under the rug on top of the flooring. What’s worse is that this moisture has nowhere to go. It bears repeating that moisture is your hardwood floor’s number one enemy.
The rugs you choose should have an open backing that can breathe so moisture doesn’t build up.
Any kind of rug or mat can also be a haven for dirt and grit.
If allowed to build up under the rug, then the slight movements of standing or walking on a rug can force the dirt into the finish of the floor, causing it to scuff. Regularly washing rugs and mats is important to ensure they are protecting your floors instead of causing damage.
Rugs and mats can help to prevent water damage in bathrooms and kitchens as well as in front of exterior doors. They can also be placed in high-traffic areas to prevent wear patterns.
Don’t just keep the tops of rugs and mats clean by vacuuming or sweeping them. Be sure to clean underneath them as well!
The humidity level inside a home is usually within the range of 30 to 50%.
Wood floors are designed to thrive in this environment so if you find it is either over or under that range, you may need to take action.
For example, winter time in Central WI can mean for very dry air. Running a humidifier in rooms with wood flooring can help to prevent the wood planks from shrinking. The gaps that are formed when the planks shrink can allow dirt and even bacteria to find its way in. Then, when the planks go back to their regular size, these unwanted guests are trapped and can allow mold and mildew to grow.
If the humidity level inside the home is above 50%, and is regularly above this level, investing in a dehumidifier can help in maintaining wood floors. Excess moisture should be removed from the home to prevent cupping. This type of damage may be permanent and need repair.
Keep a hygrometer in several areas in your home so you can regularly check the humidity level. That way, you can take action with either a humidifier or dehumidifier to keep the humidity at an optimal level for your wood floors.
It often takes many years for your wood floors to see damage due to the UV rays of the sun.
Most people only notice the damage when a rug or piece of furniture is moved after a long period of time and the discoloration is noticeable. The change in color is caused by a chemical process called “photochemical oxidation” and through this process, some types of wood floors will fade and others will darken.
There are a couple ways you can prevent this discoloration, however. These are just three wood floor maintenance tips when dealing with UV rays:
Your floors aren’t usually the only feature of the room to be affected by UV rays. Over the years, even the fabrics of your furniture can see discoloration. Preventing UV damage, in general, can help you keep a beautiful home.
Oxidation results in free radicals. This is the same process that your own body faces and why you combat it with foods and drinks that are high in antioxidants, such as pomegranate juice.
Even with regularly maintaining wood floors, it is not going to prevent all damage.
Over the course of several years, the scuffs and scratches can add up and the finish of the wood floors can start to look dull and worn. Recoating them can bring them back to live with renewed shine and luster. Be sure to start this process before the finish is completely worn and the wood itself receives damage.
When it comes to recoating your wood floors, be sure to ask about what options are available when you speak to your wood floor specialists. Choosing the type of finish and how it is applied can help you combat the specific types of damage your floor is most likely to see. An example of this is to have a UV-blocking finish on wood floors in a sunroom, and more moisture-resistant finish in bathrooms and kitchens.
You don’t have to have the same type of wood floor finishing applied in each room of your home. The finish is meant to protect the wood so customizing the type of finish can help to protect it from the most common type of damage it will see in that particular area.
Maintaining wood floors can help to prevent the need for refinishing.
Refinishing is the process of removing all the finish, repairing any wood that is damaged, and then placing a new coat of finish on the floors. However, some types of damage are unforeseen, such as a major water leak in the home.
If the wood floors are damaged, refinishing them may help to prevent the need to replace the flooring altogether. This means that the refinishing process should be done before any additional damage is done.
Be sure to have your hardwood floor specialists come out to assess the damage so that repairs or replacements can be made.
By following the wood floor maintenance tips you’ve read here, you can prevent the need for refinishing your floors.
This can easily be overlooked, and I’ve learned this from personal experience.
It’s common to add plastic legs on the bottom of furniture such as couches and chairs.
Many people don’t realize this creates unwanted pressure points. Remove the plastic legs and instead of those, use some sort of felt pad as the base (adding a felt pad on the bottom of plastic legs may not stick as well).
Couches will naturally slide without felt pads securely stuck onto the bottom of furniture. The combination of dust and back and forth movement will wear away at the wood floor overtime.
The nails used to secure plastic feet to the bottom of furniture poses another issue and reason why not to use them. The nails could actually pop through the legs on some furniture, so no need to risk that.
Moving large and heavy appliances items like refrigerators and ovens can be tricky.
We need to be extra careful about moving these items in and out especially on freshly refinished hardwood floors.
If we were to move a refrigerator out of a room, here’s what the basic steps are:
Wood floors bring natural beauty to your home.
Keeping them looking their best not only adds to their longevity but can prevent damage that can occur over time, such as scuffs, scratches, and a dull finish.
You asked how to maintain wood floors and these basic tips for protecting wood floors will have you well on your way to enjoying your home’s natural wood floor beauty for many more years.
Learn how to maintain and protect your hardwood floor, as well as how often it should be refinished.