Care & Maintenance of Wood Floors
Proper care and maintenance is essential for the performance of any wood floor. Wood flooring should be one of the last items in the construction process to be installed. Once the flooring is installed it should be protected to avoid any damage that could be caused by tradespeople. If using the glue down or floating installation methods, do not allow foot traffic or heavy furniture on the floor for 24 hours after installation is complete.
In order to prevent scratches, it is wise to adhere to the following steps. There is no such thing as a “scratch proof” wood floor, but following these basic procedures will reduce the likelihood and frequency of scratches:
- Felt padding should be permanently affixed to the legs of all furniture before it is moved into the space.
- Do not allow people to wear spiked heels on the floor, as these will severely damage even the hardest wood floors and finishes.
- Pet claws should be properly trimmed at all times.
- Work boots and shoes that may have pebbles lodged in the soles should be removed prior to entering.
- It is important to remove grit. Care should be taken to prevent dirt, sand and grit from accumulating on the surface of the floor. They will act like sandpaper and abrade the finish. Walk off mats should be placed inside and out at all exterior exits, and the floor should be swept or vacuumed frequently. All mats or rugs should be cleaned and/or replaced on a regular basis. They should also be moved occasionally to allow natural color changes caused by light to occur evenly in all areas.
- Be sure to always use proper cleaning products. To clean a factory urethane finish, simple water (applied with a slightly damp mop, never a wet mop) is effective at removing most scuffs, dried spills, and dust film, but for a more thorough cleaning look for a non-toxic cleaner formulated specifically for hardwood floors such as Bona-X Floor Cleaner. Floor waxes, oil soaps and petroleum-based cleaners should not be used under any circumstances.
- Take precautions to avoid standing moisture. Water and wood floors do not mix. Never wet mop a wood floor, and always clean up spills and standing water as soon as possible. With water or any other cleaning agent, be sure to thoroughly ring out the applicator or mop prior to applying it to the floor. A damp mop is fine as long as the moisture is limited to an amount that will evaporate almost immediately. Moisture that is allowed to seep into the seams between the planks may cause damage to the flooring. Do not allow soiled mats or rugs to stay on the floor as they can trap moisture on the surface.
Proper cleaning and maintenance of hard wood floors will keep them looking attractive while ensuring lasting quality and value for years to come.
Environmentally friendly cleaners are capable of getting the tough jobs done while avoiding all of the harsh chemicals used in conventional cleaners.
Try Bona floor cleaning products to keep floors clean, families healthy, and the planet safe.
Wood Surface Scratching
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a scratchproof wood floor. When choosing wood flooring, it’s important to have realistic expectations and to carefully follow the care and maintenance guidelines outlined above. It’s also important to know that manufacturers of factory-finished wood floors and wood flooring finishes do not warrant against scratches. The so-called ‘finish warranties’ that manufacturers offer have to do only with wear-through, not scratch-resistance. Finally, wood flooring customers should realize that the hardness of a particular species of wood has nothing to do with how scratch resistant the surface of the floor will be. Harder woods will be more resistant to gouges and deep scratches, but most of the scratches in a typical wood floor are only in the coating, so it’s really the quality of the finish that is the main determinant of how the floor will wear over time. In general, very dark and very light colored wood floors will show scratches more readily than medium-toned woods.
Refinishing: Screening & Top Coating
Screening and top coating is a method of renewing the finish on a wood floor without actually removing the old finish and sanding down the wood. It will repair most signs of wear and create a uniform, sealed surface on the floor. It is relatively quick and inexpensive and can be repeated indefinitely. With screening and top coating, even the thinnest wood veneer wear layer can last forever because people walk on the finish, not on the wood. Factory applied finishes can be top coated just like job site applied finishes. In areas such as bathrooms, kitchens, and spaces where food service occurs, top coating a newly installed factory finished wood floor can help prevent against moisture damage. In heavy food service areas such as restaurants, two to three top coats are recommended.
There are both mechanical and chemical systems for screening, i.e. roughing up the surface of the old finish so that new top coats can adhere to it. The mechanical method usually involves putting a Scotchbrite pad on a standard drum flooring sander and operating the sander in a normal fashion. Chemical systems are offered by Bona Prep (Bona Prep Recoating Adhesion System) and Basic Coatings (Basic Coatings “TyKote” Sandless Recoating System). The manufacturer’s instructions should be followed carefully. Also, be sure that the top-coat system you choose has been tested and approved by the manufacturer of the existing finish that is on the floor.
Complaints & Claims
Many wood flooring complaints and claims are a result of conditions that are beyond the control of the manufacturer or seller of the product.
It is important to be aware of some of the most common pitfalls to avoid.
Improper heating and ventilation can cause damage. Most wood flooring is manufactured to perform best within relative humidity (RH) ranges of 35% to 60%. It is important to run heating and humidity control systems in advance of installing wood flooring so that site conditions at the time of installation are similar to those that will prevail when the space is occupied.
Conditions that are too dry can cause as many problems as conditions that are too wet! Dry climates can present environmental conditions that are very hard on wood flooring. This is not an issue with just eco friendly flooring, it is an issue with any wood flooring from any source. Wood floors are products of nature, and as such are subject to natural forces. If you expect your wood flooring installation to regularly experience humidity levels lower than 35%, the guidelines below may help prevent problems. Keep in mind that it’s not only desert and mountain areas that experience dry conditions – in cold climates, humidity levels indoors during the heating season can be extremely low. A high rise building in Philadelphia might be as dry as a home in Arizona during the coldest months of the year.
- Use Humidifiers: The best way to avoid problems caused by excessive drying is to regulate the moisture in the space with humidifiers, which should be functioning throughout the life of the floor. (Don’t turn them off if you are away from home). Most flooring manufacturers require that humidity be maintained within certain levels (usually 35% to 60%) in order for the warranty to stay valid.
- Avoid Sudden Humidity Change: If the wood takes on moisture and is then subjected to its normal dry conditions, the rapid drying may damage the floor. Painting, plastering, or anything else that artificially adds moisture to the space should only be done if dehumidifiers are in place to remove that moisture from the air before the flooring has a chance to absorb it.
- No Wet Mopping: When floors are wet mopped in a dry climate, the dry wood will absorb moisture (causing expansion) and then shed it very quickly (causing shrinking) once mopping is complete. This rapid change in dimension of the planks can cause cracking and other damage. To clean the floor, use a lightly damp applicator that does not allow moisture to sink into the seams.
Some species and formats are more susceptible to damage from excessive drying than others. For example, White Tigerwood and Oak will tend to perform better than Maple; and Vertical Grain Bamboo will tend to perform better than Horizontal Grain Bamboo. Generally, engineered bamboo or Cumaru (Brazilian Teak) are not recommended in dry climates unless humidity conditions are carefully controlled. Maple is somewhat unstable as well.
Cleaning, Maintenance and Finishing Instructions
Click on the following links for instructions on how to clean and maintain each type of flooring and finish
- Natural Oil Finishes