Caring for Your Hardwood Floor

The beauty of a hardwood floor comes with a price attached; they require vigilance and maintenance to keep them looking and performing at their best. Most people find the little extra care pays off in long lasting beauty, and are willing to accommodate the care needs of wooden flooring

Moving Day

OK, you’ve installed the new flooring and now want to get back to living in that room. Wait! Slow down and take a few simple precautions to preserve your brand-new floor and finish. Here’s a preliminary list of preventative measures that are easy to implement and will keep the finish – and your marriage – safe!

  • Stop it at the Door! Care of hardwood floors starts at the door! Dirt and dust are annoying, but fine grit, stones, and sand will be your new floor’s biggest threat. Put bristle or other robust doormats outside all entrances, then a softer rug inside the door. And not some puny little carpet scrap (with a hard backing that can also scratch your floor!) Put a sizeable, 3’X5’ minimum rug inside as a second step.
  • Shoes are Bad News. Small grit and sand are ALWAYS embedded in the soles of shoes, and heels are commonly culprits in floor damage due to their nails which can become exposed aver time, and the concentration of weight on a high heel, which easily dents softwood floors. If at all practical, ask everyone to leave shoes at the front door, and wear stocking feet in the house. It’s a great way to keep the home and floor clean in the beginning, and for years to come.
  • Create runways through the room. Rosin paper is an excellent protective covering that can be rolled out, taped down with painter’s tape, and easily removed. It helps to keep grit off the wood, but offers little in the way of dent protection.
  • Dent Protection. If you have more work going on in the house, and people and equipment moving through, you may want to get some industrial hallway carpets. These rubber-backed carpets are sold in Home Improvement stores and are cheap, reusable insurance agents the dents that tools boxes, ladders, and boots can make. Be sure to get area rugs too of this same material for workmen to put down their tools, material or sawhorses.

Ongoing Protection

Ok, you’ve survived the first phase, now let’s look at ways to protect your floors on an ongoing basis. With the care of hardwood floors, it’s mostly common sense, and a bit of preparation.

  • Furniture and Floors. The best thing you can do is to invest in some leg protectors appropriate to the furniture and floor. The heavier the furniture, the wider the protector should be, and carpeted underneath. Smaller, felt pads may be fine under smaller, lighter piece. And you may want to invest in wheels for certain items that need moving on occasion. Note of caution: Dirt and grit can also become trapped under these pads and protectors, and when they are slid – you’ll get scratches – so clean them periodically, too.
  • Moving the Big Stuff: Appliances. Refrigerators and dishwashers account for many of the scratches in brand new floors, and that is easily avoided! Use either a hand truck to position these appliances, or lay down some thin, hard material such as Masonite for the fridge to roll over on its wheels as you position it. Remember to clean the floor beneath the board first!
  • Water. Sand and grit are worrisome, but water is sneaky and will get into and under your hardwood floors if you’re not careful. Trouble areas include in front of the sink, fridge, pet’s dish, and near doors, particularly sliders that may allow rain to drift in through the screen. Also a big pile of snowy boots quickly turns into a torrent of water if not stopped by a thirsty rug.

Kids, Dogs and Other Floor-Slayers

Floors are subject to a lot of wear at the hand – and paws – of kids and dogs, but there are a few things you can do to minimize the damage.

  • Train them early. The kids that is, dogs never learn new tricks! Train your kids from the beginning to remove shoes at the door. Be relentless until this becomes second nature to them. Help them by giving them slip-ons such as Crocs, or Velcro sneakers that save them time. Also, by placing this shoe-removal impediment before them, they may choose to run around the house, rather than through it!
  • Dog Gone it! Large dogs can ruin wood floors quickly and easily unless you take some precautions. The first is the Kitchen Kennel, a large wire cage that’s designated as the dog’s spot with a soft blanket or Doggie Bed inside, this becomes an easy way to lock her in when needed, and designating a welcome place that she‘ll seek out as her own, rather than wandering through the house. Large rugs placed near the doors are a must with pets, as they’re constantly coming and going, tracking everything with them.

Caring and Feeding of your Hardwood Floor

Just like religion, there are many schools of thought on this topic, and it’s a lively discussion. Some prefer the old standards such as vinegar and water, or Murphy’s Oil Soap. Both have their place, but remember that too much water isn’t good for your floors. It can raise the grain of areas with thin or exposed coating, and can seep between the boards causing problems below. Damp mopping is the key here, not sloshing, but damp mopping. Remember too, that vinegar is acidic and can affect the finish over time. Oil soap may create a buildup that requires removal with an alcohol based cleaner, prior to refinishing. Many are choosing Swiffer and Bona sweepers for the care of hardwood floors because it’s a controlled amount of moisture with this style of damp mopping. And without the heavy bucket and smelly cleaners, there’s a lot to recommend this practical approach for light cleaning.

Waxes and Polishes

Because there are so many types of finishes today on flooring, check with the manufacturer, installer or retailer where you bought your flooring before using any waxes or polishes. Traditionally, care of hardwood floors has involved regular waxing, but with the newer finishes, you should ask first. Also talk with other homeowners who’ve had your type of flooring for a few years, see what they use. There are now neutral pH cleaners, which are being favored by manufacturers for modern finishes. Check around as to the best recommendations for your flooring.