Everything you need to know about your wood floors

Wood floors are among the most beautiful and long lasting floors available, and when properly cared for, can last a lifetime and then some. We’ve compiled a list of key things that you will want to know about care and maintenance to protect your investment.

Humidity control

  • Wood is a hygroscopic material, meaning it gains or loses moisture with changing humidity levels.
  • Wood will shrink in dimension when it loses moisture and expand when it gains moisture.
  • This will result in seasonal cracks or gaps, which open in the winter and close in the summer.  This process is completely normal.
  • In our climate, relative humidity levels in your home should be maintained between 30% and 50%, year round.
  • The key consideration is careful monitoring to maintain a level that is as consistent throughout the year as possible.
Chair on hardwood floors
  •  Humidifiers are recommended to keep humidity levels from bottoming out in the winter, and depending on your home, a dehumidifier may be necessary in the summer months.
  • Leaving the home for extended periods of time (longer than two weeks) can be hard on your wood floors, as they acclimate to a condition where humidity
    levels are different from your normal living conditions.
  • We recommend that you leave your thermostat set as close to normal living conditions as possible when gone for extended periods.
  • Solid wood floors will respond more to moisture changes than engineered wood floors, due to the multiple layer plywood construction of the latter, but both will respond adversely to dramatic moisture changes.
  • Wider planks, especially solid, will expand and contract in changing humidity much more dramatically than narrower strips.
Protecting your floors
  • The main challenges in protecting a wood floor are from chairs, dogs, children and general debris that can be brought in from outside.
  • Placing entrance mats at all entries can help protect your wood floor from moisture, dirt, sand and salt that can be brought in from outside.  Dirt, sand and small rocks can act just like sand paper to your wood floors.
  • Moving chairs, especially around a dining room table or office can deteriorate your floor finish fairly quickly if you do not take steps to protect it.
  • The legs on your chairs should be covered with felt pads, and these should be checked and replaced on a routine basis.  An area rug under a dining room table does a great job of protecting your floors from most damage.
  • Chairs with rollers are extremely hard on wood floors. We recommend placing these on rugs or protective mats depending on the type, width and material of the rollers.
  • If rugs or protective mats are placed on a wood floor, we recommend moving and cleaning under these on a regular basis, or debris collected under them can act like sandpaper.
  • Large dogs (usually larger than 20-25 lbs) can scratch or dent almost any wood floor. You can minimize this to an extent by keeping their nails well trimmed, or by choosing a harder species of wood. However, even the hardest species of wood can be scratched or dented by a large, active dog.
  • Solid wood floors are often a better choice for a homeowner with large dogs, as they can be professionally sanded and refinished many, many times to restore them to good condition.
  • Regular cleaning is very important. Start by sweeping it with a soft broom to remove the debris, and follow up with an approved hardwood floor cleaner and terry cloth or microfiber pad.
  • Vacuums with rotating beater bars are not recommended.
  • A good hardwood floor cleaner should not add shine, it should merely clean. Products that purport to make your floor shiny or “restore” it tend to build up and look hazy over time. It should not contain finish or wax of any kind (never use wax on a finished floor as it will build up, make the floor slippery, and could prevent future finish from bonding to it).
  • DO NOT USE STEAM MOPS (see humidity control above). Steam mops introduce water directly into your wood floor. This can not only make your floor expand and cup (raised board edges), it can also raise the grain of the wood, dramatically accelerating the finish wear.
  • High heels should not be worn on wood floors. The narrow weight bearing surface of high heels makes the pounds per square inch your floor is exposed to multiple times higher than an elephant walking on your floor!
  • Area rugs, while important to protecting your floors, can also cause color differences between the wood underneath and the wood next to them, due to the fact that one area is exposed to sunlight and the other area isn’t. We recommend moving your rugs a little bit each time you clean to prevent a distinct color-change line where your rug sits.
  • Area rugs should have a breathable backing.  Rugs or rug pads with a full rubber back are not recommended (waffle pads are available that allow the wood to breathe).

    Watch for areas of wear
  • The first areas that exhibit wear on a wood floor are usually entryways, high traffic areas such as the kitchen or hallway and around chairs in an area like a dining room or breakfast bar.
  • Usually the finish in these areas will get dull or worn well ahead of the rest of your floor.
  • It is important to have your floors refinished (with a maintenance coat) before these areas get down to raw wood, as exposed wood can have the stain worn off of them, or turn gray from moisture, resulting in the necessity of a full sand and finish.
  • Phillips’ Floors gives free estimates to assess the condition of your wood floors, and give recommendations on any action needed (or not).

  • Your wood floor, after all, is a floor that is designed to be walked and lived on. That is its purpose.

  • My floor at home has several dents and scratches, and I know where every single one of them is, but the only thing people talk about when they come into my home is how beautiful the wood floors are!

  • In most cases (solid wood and engineered floors with good wear surfaces) can be refinished and restored to like-new condition.  Good care and maintenance can greatly extend the time between new coatings and sand and finishes.  As always, please let us know if you have any questions!
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