Hardwood Floor Care & Maintenance
Floor care can begin as early as selecting the right product before it's installed. By way of explanation, if you're a careful household with two adult residents, a large number of styles and types will compliment your maintenance duties. On the other hand, active households may want to avoid types that damage easily or those floors in the softer category, but it is not an excuse for lighter maintenance responsibilities.
For existing flooring it becomes a matter of awareness and following a consistent maintenance routine that may be dictated by use or household activity. Following are some of the key ingredients to a successful and long lasting floor.
Preventing Scratches - Don't Freak. There Will Be More To Come
It's going to happen. It's almost like buying a new car, but you can't simply park your floor in the middle of a parking (away from other cars) lot like you do with that new car. Following are several preventive measures in order of importance:
Protective Throw Rugs
Protective throw rugs should be used in many parts of the home. The most important would be exterior door entries. Other spaces used for rugs include high traffic areas in hallways or foyers, water sources in the kitchen, or if you should have hardwood installed in powder rooms.
Larger ornamental rugs may be a good idea in areas where you do a lot of entertaining, but don't cover up the entire floor. Worth noting, synthetic anti slip or non skid pads used under area rugs can cause an impression on to wood over a period of time. Likewise, area rugs will have an effect on a the floor color because direct or indirect light cannot reach underneath. All hardwoods change color in one form or another.
For site applied floor finishes it is suggested to resist area rugs for a minimum of seven days or longer, depending on how well the finish itself is curing. This can be dependant on weather conditions or the relative humidity of your home. Your floor finisher can best decide when to put the rugs in place.
Walk Off Mats
Often made of bristle type material, these mats are extremely useful for exterior door entry ways. Their course structure allows for trapping grit and small stones from entering the home. Naturally, with any effective use of these products they should be shaken free of dirt frequently.
For all rug protective measures, other benefits include absorption of moisture in kitchens or entry ways. Snow melt can play havoc an any wood floor when it is not noticed in time. Don't expect the rugs to eliminate the need to check from time to time. During periods of inclement weather it's best to dry out your area rugs periodically.
Furniture Leg Protection
Hardwood flooring needs protection when furniture is moved frequently. Today there are numerous brands on the market for chair and or furniture leg protection. The most inexpensive form is your common felt pad protectors available in all sizes and can be found in any hardware store or home improvement center.
Leg protectors come in many forms. At the low end are your basic peel off sticky type, applied to the bottom side of furniture or chair legs. These tend to be an effective solution for stationary furniture or ones rarely moved. However, if your chair legs are not proportionately flat (they don't sit without minor rocking) they will wear out quickly. All protectors become a dirt and grit magnet of sorts if there is no attention to cleaning them. Strictly speaking, when cleaning take a look at the bottom side of the protectors while rubbing off any grit that may have collected.
For optimum protection roller blade type casters (image above) work ideally. Easily found in the bigger office supply stores. Simply remove your old worn out flat plastic ones and install new. I use nothing else in my office and home as top notch casters. However, don’t let the kids or grandkids know as they glide quickly. Races may ensue.
Caution With Felt Pad Protectors - Better Solution
One word of caution with felt pad protectors. They are more of a temporary solution as they can easily rub or fall off with heavy use, particularly with chairs that are used frequently.
On the safer and more effective end, higher quality nylon type leg protectors offer the best protection against scratching when furniture is moved. But they too can be compromised with prolonged heavy use. As with the felt protectors, always check to see if they are secured during regular maintenance periods.
Types Of Cleaners - Infomercials. Too Easy To Be True
Likely to be the most important part of cleaning any wood floor, new or old, is what the finish manufacturer recommends. When I brought this website online in 2002 the wet swiffer was the rage. TV advertisements claimed it was an easy solution. That miscue in itself became a boon for guys that do floor inspections for a living. The principle is okay, but far too many don't read directions which inevitably creates problems.
Now it's Orange Glo cleaner. Once again the basic principle behind the idea is good, but the infomercials make it sound too simple for anyone to handle. Next time you're enticed with these easy solutions ask yourself; are your wood floors worth experimenting on? A failed application or too much moisture can cause thousands of dollars in repair costs.
Murphy's Oil Soap
A few years ago while sitting down to lunch at a National Wood Flooring Association convention, a rep from Murphy's moved from table to table in a large conference area. Murphy's can be used effectively, but once again advertising makes it sound too simple and more of a no brainer, which often lands people in trouble. The negative sentiment from pros was echoed throughout the luncheon with waves of grumbles as the rep passed out literature from one table to the next.
Vinegar and Water
This system has been used for years and some still stand by its use. However vinegar can be acidic for floor finishes. Initially, you may not notice the effects, but used consistently over the years it will affect the shine of your floor. Additionally, using too much water in the actual application always results in problems or ruined floors.
Many of the products above are often ridiculed with negative consumer experiences. What is often missing in the overall picture is the preparation before the actual application. Residues from cleaners used before can have a drastic effect on any type of finish, be it a wood floor or a fine piece of furniture. More times than often the complaints are dull or cloudy appearances, sticky messy buildup or streaks. More important than being aware lies in many common cleaners and those mentioned above can possibly void any warranty you may have with any new floor or finish.
Wood Floor Polishes
Should be seriously avoided when it comes to the more common finishes used with hardwood flooring today. Polishes themselves often contain oils that can play havoc on many finishes today. Always consult a professional before attempting to use any form of polish. For most floors today, neutral pH cleaners are the recommended norm.
BonaKemi Floor System Care Kit
Now you're in the right spot on this page. The Bona Hardwood Floor Care System (link to Amazon) has been the leading provider of wood floor care systems for years. Designed for factory pre-finished and site finished flooring, Bona offers peace of mind for many that become mislead with other too simple to use cleaners.
Dogs. Kids Too
There is no perfect solution eliminating problems with scratching, dings, and dents when it comes with dogs and kids. Larger, heavier pets can cause damage quickly. Their favorite sport seems to be running to the door when the doorbell rings. Using rugs in this area can reduce scratching when Fido finds he can't stop and keeps banging into the front door while scratching the floor at the same time.
New Buyers - Choose A Rugged Floor
For those in the planning stage, a choice to hardwoods that do not show damage as much as others is a solution. Obtaining products with busier grain patterns and low luster finishes will certainly hide dog nail damage more than those with open grain patterns and high gloss finishes.
Taking a look at the spectrum, some of the better choices could be character graded oaks, or ash with natural oil finishes and matte sheen levels. A poor choice would be a first grade maple and a high gloss finish.
On another note, I found a decent solution for preventing or minimizing dog nail damage we like to call doggie boots. In a nutshell, doggy boots are a protective coating that is applied on a regular basis to dogs nails. Other protective solutions call for trimming animal nails on a regular basis or just keeping them in their backyard doghouse.
How About Those Kids?
Kids? That's a mouthful just thinking about it. The current popularity of hand scraped flooring could be an answer. Other solutions with kids are a basic understanding how you feel about your floors. But as any parent knows, kids don't have attention spans like adults, so any lecturing may go in one ear and out the other.
High heels are never popular with hardwood floors and don't let anyone convince you otherwise. I've heard all the sales pitches. High heels will damage any wood floor regardless of hardness; the often touted "easy solution" to preventing problems.
My suggestion is to expect inevitable damages. Select a character hardwood (new buyers), or limit your guests to a particular area if shoe removal is not an option. I am often asked; are more durable finishes the answer? Or how about that fancy aluminum oxide stuff? Sorry folks, no finish is strong enough to withstand the punishment heels can cause.
For yourself and other close friends that may visit often, a quick check on heel condition can prevent some of the more uglier dings and dents. Some heel caps are fastened with micro nails that can loosen over time and become exposed.
Moving Furniture And Appliances
The best form of protection I've found while moving furniture if you cannot actually lift, is the use of carpet scraps that may have been removed before the installation.
Using Carpet Scraps
In order for this to work effectively you must shake out any grit that may have collected over the years, then cut into manageable sections for placement under furniture legs. Place the fuzzy side down against the floor and you have the answer. Keep in mind, cheaper carpets may still damage the floor. A plush type that has enough cushion is best.
Moving Kitchen Appliances
For kitchen appliances, 1/8 inch thick masonite board is the answer in my opinion. You can easily obtain 4 x 4 foot sheets available in the lumber aisle at any big home improvement store, down at the end, in the bins where precut plywood can be found. Sorry no pictures of this procedure. Cut the sheet into 12 inch by 48" strips, place in front of the area a few inches inside of where the front legs of the fridge will finally rest. After being pushed in place, lift the front of the fridge and remove.
Hand Trucks - Dollies
How about dollies to move appliances and furniture? Well, I don't call them dollies, but hand trucks. They're effective in moving appliances when placed away from the work area, other rooms or out of the house when work is being done, but it's important to know what types work best. Much older hard rubber wheel types may actually damage your floors. It's best to use balloon type tire hand trucks, making sure the bottom metal lift part is protected. Any burrs in the metal itself can scratch your new floor. Tires should be inspected for small rocks and the like.
Other Notes: Masonite board also works great for laying hand tools on during the work. You may also want to buy a one or two 4' x 8' sheets (cost about $ 7.00 each), playing it safe when trying to maneuver appliances if you have installed wood floors in the kitchen. Finally, any protective measures are meaningless if the floor isn't clean of debris. Watch out for those electricians and cabinet installers! Loose screws and wire clippings can often get hung up under all sorts of stuff.
Ask any experienced hardwood floor professional about using steam cleaners and the answer is a resounding absolutely no. My curiosity got to the best of me and I approached one of the technical experts at
the National Wood Flooring Association on the subject. His reply was "If I were to build a machine to destroy a wood floor, it would be a steam mop."
So why are these companies pushing almost the same thing as the Wet Swiffer a few years back? If you pay any attention to their current advertisements, few show or talk about using the product with wood floors. It’s quite obvious the benefits did not outweigh the profit.
Warranty Claims. Not!
To make matters worse, no prefinished floor manufacturer will honor a warranty claim if any machines forcibly move water, or steam onto the surface of the floor. With the new steam mops many assume the vapor dries quickly. On the surface yes, but let’s examine the millions of square feet of micro beveled products out there.
Moisture will find it’s way into the smallest crevices and this is no exception. These systems inject moisture. By seeping into the joints, it disallows quick flash off of the moisture. Over time discoloring will become obvious with lighter colored hardwoods first. In due time, floor finishes will be affected in these areas as well.
What’s Different With A Steam Cleaner?
Nothing. It produces water vapor. That’s the same thing as what the wet swiffer does. Although steam cleaners expel less moisture on to a wood floor, it still offers one of the major leading causes of failure with any wood product. Wood and water never works.
My Sister Has Been Using The Shark For A Year
You may be thinking, my sister hasn’t had any problems with her steam cleaner, why shouldn’t I invest in one? Let’s think about it in a different way. Your floor is valued more than some of the finer pieces of wood furniture you may have in the house. Would you side with a popular gimmick for the furniture or pay attention to the long standing methods of care you have depended on? Repairing any damage caused by moisture to it’s original condition may cost thousands of dollars.
Vacuum Cleaners - Good & Bad
With the advent of products like the schmop and similar products, I lean towards the non use of conventional vacuum cleaners that utilize beater bars and or coarse bristles. A better solution is a suction only type small lightweight vacuum cleaner. Their characteristics do not have multiple parts that can break down causing the vacuum to work in an ineffective manner, and possibly creating scratching.
Cordless. Lightweight and Simple Design
Today there are several cordless type vacuum cleaners designed specifically for hard surface flooring. Design is quite simple, opposed to the bulky components of a regular sized vacuum. Benefits include getting into tighter spots without having to pull out the accessories.
Roomba from I Robot
Another clever option is the Roomba. This automated gizmo works on its own, whirling slowly across your the floor while picking up all that daily debris you prefer not to deal with. Without any adjustment changes, the Roomba can work from tile, hardwood and on to lower pile carpet effectively. No need for attachments here when it encounters corners, or when your other vacuum cannot reach under toe kicks, go under furniture and beds!. This cute little critter has limited vertical height to get under all types of furniture.
The Roomba can be programmed for time of day to handle its duties, given parameters to clean, and even returns to its station when batteries need recharging. A few words of advice for those that may be interested in this time saver include; clean your floor thoroughly before activating the unit. It is not a product that should be expected to perform heavy duty cleaning. It works ideally as a maintenance item. For pet owners, hair can create problems with the system functions, but a periodic check on the brushes and o-ring from time to time will eliminate any potential problems.