The Truth About Maintaining Wood Floors

Today, more than ever, wood floors seem to be more popular. Most homeowners consider wood floors to be a long term investment that enhances the value of their home.  The fact is that wood floors require special maintenance – especially in climates like Chicago. When selling or buying a wood floor it is imperative that the parties understand exactly what they are buying and selling.  Even more important is an explanation of what things might happen that can result in a damaged floor.

Everyone understands that it is important to set a customer’s expectation properly whenever selling. Fact is, it is even more important with wood floors. Wood expands and contracts depending on the moisture in the area where it is installed. Humidity changes often result in gaps between the boards, cupping and in severe cases buckling. Water and wood are not a good combination!

Wood floors should be maintained with the proper floor cleaner on a regular schedule. Improper cleaners could void any warranty and also damage the protective finish on the floor. Depending on the traffic in the home a screen and recoat should be done periodically to protect the floor and maintain its natural beauty. Normal maintenance includes sweeping, vacuuming (with a vacuum that has a hard surface setting) and only damp mopping with an approved wood floor cleaner.  As with any cleaner it is very important that the user follow the directions. Proper maintenance will assure that everyday girt, dirt and spills do not result in a scratched finish that could require major repairs.

Another very important discussion concerns the use of chair mats under rolling chairs, floor protectors under heavy furniture and using area rugs to catch the dirt from outside traffic before it is ground into the finish of the wood floor. Some wood floors are easily damaged by high heels and if the heel is broken or doesn’t have its protective cap it will damage the floor. Depending on the level of damage it could be necessary to replace damaged boards and/or sand and refinish the entire area.

The decision whether a floor only needs to be screened and recoated as opposed to a full sand and refinish is a major one. A screen and recoat will not remove major dents and scratches. We recommend a screen and recoat when the floor is starting to show a little wear especially in the higher traffic areas. A sanding and refinishing is necessary only when there is major damage.  A floor that is properly screened and recoated will really look like new if the work is done correctly.

Having said all of the above not all wood floors are created equal. In fact, there is a great deal of difference between the same species of woods that can be graded equally. For instance, the most popular solid unfinished wood floor in our area is Red Oak select and better. There are numerous manufacturers of this type and grade of flooring. Depending on where the lumber came from, the tightness of the grain will differ resulting in a harder or softer piece of wood flooring. Furthermore, the milling is extremely important so the installer can put the boards together properly to insure a problem free installation.  The best Red Oak comes from colder climates (like Canada and Northern US states) simply because the trees grow slower and the resulting wood flooring has a tighter grain.   It is possible to purchase Red Oak from warmer climates that is graded select and better at a lower price than Northern Red Oak. Remember you get what you pay for and no installer can properly install a poorly manufactured wood floor.  When purchasing a wood floor it is extremely important that the wood itself be the best, the installer install the floor pursuant to the guidelines set by the National Wood Flooring Association and that the floor be maintained properly.

Only by doing the above will your customer be happy with their purchase.

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