Everything to Know About Hardwood Floor Care
Hardwood flooring is one of the most in-demand, durable, beautiful types of flooring for the home. Given that it can last for more than 100 years, it's not surprising that homebuyers look for it, and homeowners love to have it. However, hardwood flooring is not all created equal, and it requires a different kind of upkeep than people would use for vinyl or tile. Understanding how to minimize problems and the best way to maintain the flooring help people get the best return on their investment. With this information, homeowners will know what to expect from hardwood flooring.
Table of Contents
- How to Choose Hardwood Floors
- How to Install Hardwood Floors
- How to Maintain Hardwood Floors
- How to Avoid Damaging Hardwood Floors
- How to Repair Hardwood Floors
- Is Hardwood Flooring the Right Choice for You?
How to Choose Hardwood Floors
Selecting a hardwood floor often starts with a discussion of colours and grain patterns. However, homeowners should also keep in mind installation requirements and other lifestyle considerations. These tips help people understand their options.
Hardwood flooring comes in different types that homeowners can choose. For many applications, people can select between solid hardwood flooring and engineered hardwood. Solid hardwood offers the benefit of solid planks, which tend to last longer and can be refinished several times. These planks can be pre-finished or unfinished. Unfinished boards provide a perfectly smooth surface after finishing, while prefinished flooring takes less time to install. Engineered hardwood uses boards made of many layers of materials. With a thin layer of hardwood below the finish, engineered hardwood is easier to install in places like the basement.
Homeowners looking for the right kind of flooring should know they have a variety of popular options:
These species come at a variety of price points and have different benefits. People should research their hardness and durability, as well as any complications for installation. Like Brazilian cherry or Ipe, less-common hardwood materials provide a much harder surface and are also not as sustainable. People who want to use sustainable flooring might choose to look for reclaimed wood, bamboo, or cork.
Hardwood flooring can be highly durable, but the makeup of the home may affect upkeep. For example, homeowners with dogs may need to choose a flooring with a higher hardness rating, like Brazilian Cherry or bamboo. These materials are less likely to scratch or gouge under a dog's nails. Households with young children may prefer options that are less likely to sustain damage or stains from spills. Engineered hardwood may be a better choice. In regions with an exceptionally dry or humid climate, homeowners usually need to give extra time so that the wood can acclimate before installation.
How to Install Hardwood Floors
Installing hardwood flooring is one of the most critical aspects of the project. The flooring may last as long or even longer than the house with the correct preparation and installation. Homeowners should take care to follow instructions and consult a professional as needed.
Subfloors and Installation Types
Subfloor materials can affect the installation of hardwood flooring. Solid hardwood planks must be installed on a subfloor made out of wood or wood fibres. Pine floorboard planks or plywood are good examples. These options can handle the most common forms of solid hardwood installation, such as nails, staples, or glue. Nails are often better, especially in areas with high humidity and for harder woods. Homeowners who have concrete subfloors or existing flooring of another type may only install engineered hardwood flooring. This type can be installed as a "click" type or floating floor.
Professional vs. DIY
Although it's possible to do a DIY installation of hardwood flooring, it's often easier to hire a professional. Professional installation usually takes much less time, in large part because the workers have experience with the project. DIY installation costs less but is much more labour-intensive. Carrying hundreds of solid planks, cutting them to size, and placing them can be an arduous task for homeowners. Additionally, people who lack experience with the project are more likely to make mistakes that can require repairs later. Despite this, self-installation has become easier in recent years with the standardization of click-lock mechanisms, and this mechanism adds to the allure of hardwoods for professional and DIY home improvement projects alike.
There are a variety of mistakes that people can make during installation, including:
- Failing to acclimate the wood in the home for at least a week
- Installing flooring when the region's humidity is high or low
- Skipping subfloor preparation, leaving an uneven or squeaky surface
- Assuming the room has perfect angles
- Selecting boards individually instead of planning rows in advance
Hardwood flooring installation can take longer than other flooring types. If homeowners do not allow sufficient time for a sound installation, they may have to replace boards or refinish earlier.
How to Maintain Hardwood Floors
Maintaining hardwood floors should be done daily. Homeowners may only need to spend a little bit of time each day and once a week. With careful upkeep regularly, people will be less likely to damage the surface.
Most of the cleaning tasks involved with maintaining hardwood require dry, soft implements. Sweeping daily with a soft-bristled broom or vacuuming with equipment set for hard floor use is ideal, reducing dust accumulation and keeping the floor looking fresh and clean. Once a week, people can also run across the surface with a dry dust mop. This step can help them reach the corners and other areas the broom or vacuum might miss.
On occasion, homeowners will need to clean the surface with a small amount of hardwood floor cleaner. They should avoid using any cleaner not labelled for use on hardwood floors. Many cleansers and all-purpose cleaning solutions can damage the finish of a hardwood floor. Most of the time, lightly spraying spills or stains with a bit of hardwood cleaner and wiping it with a dry microfiber cloth will be sufficient. Those who want to mop the floor should confirm the mop is damp and never dripping. If homeowners would like to polish the floor, they should consult manufacturer guidance to ensure the product they want to use will not leave a waxy or oily residue.
Homeowners may want to purchase and keep the following for exclusive use on hardwood:
- Soft-bristled broom
- Dust mop
- Microfiber cloth
- Spray bottle with water
- Hardwood floor cleaner
Steam mops are problematic for hardwood flooring as they can warp the boards. Similarly, harsh or abrasive cleaners like ammonia, vinegar, or baking soda do not work well with hardwood. They can strip the finish and expose the boards underneath. Oils are popular for use with hardwood, but they can become slippery and hard to remove.
There are a handful of mistakes that people make while cleaning their hardwood flooring. For example, failing to sweep and dust mop regularly can lead to an accumulation of debris or stains, requiring a more complicated process to remove. Vacuuming can be much faster than sweeping, but people should ensure they are not using the brush roll. Mopping is an effective way to get a substantial part of the surface clean, but excessive water can damage the boards. Homeowners should use as little moisture as possible and none unless it's needed.
How to Avoid Damaging Hardwood Floors
Besides performing routine maintenance, there's a lot that homeowners can do to avoid damaging hardwood flooring. A few additional products and some slight changes to the daily routine may make a significant difference in the flooring's durability and appearance.
Excess liquid and humidity take their toll on hardwood. Therefore, homeowners should take a multi-faceted approach to prevent spills and leaks. To start, homeowners should confirm their plumbing is in good condition and avoid putting off repairs. A burst or leaky pipe can release thousands of gallons in a relatively short period. Ensuring the pipes are installed tightly and kept clear of debris will avoid unexplained leaks or overflowing fixtures.
Additionally, people may want to use rugs at the door and in the bathroom to minimize water tracks. When someone spills liquid onto the floor, soaking it up with a dry cloth immediately is the best approach. Paying attention to the home's humidity throughout the year and adding a dehumidifier if necessary can often keep the boards in their best condition for the most extended time.
Homeowners can do a variety of things to minimize scratches. They may want to:
- Add felt pads to heavy furniture, ensuring the pad covers the entire bottom of each foot
- Use plastic slides on metal furniture
- Place rugs in areas with a lot of foot traffic
- Avoid using rolling chairs, carts, or other equipment
- Take off shoes just inside the exterior door
- Sweep or vacuum daily, especially for dirt and abrasive debris
- Trim pets' nails regularly
The likelihood of scratching also depends on the flooring material and the type of finish. Softer woods like pine are more likely to gouge and may need a higher level of care. Those who are unwilling or unable to prevent scratches might prefer a harder wood. An aluminum oxide finish tends to be the hardest, and homeowners may want to re-coat it once every few years.
How to Repair Hardwood Floors
Homeowners may need to engage in some hardwood repair a few times a year, depending on their lifestyles. Following these tips can make it easier to remove minor stains and scratches and know when more complicated repairs are needed.
People have a few things they can try to deal with a stain before consulting a professional. It's best to follow the cleaning products and methods recommended by the flooring manufacturer. Failure to do so can result in additional damage to the floor that requires refinishing.
Light-coloured stains, which indicate the stain has not gone very deep, may be relatively easy to remove. People with hardwood flooring with a wax finish can use a light touch of steel wool and follow it up with wax. Homeowners with hardwood flooring that has a urethane finish should use a specially designed hardwood floor cleaner. Dark stains often require refinishing. People may have some luck using a handheld iron without steam, with a cloth barrier to protect the wood. Otherwise, they may want to consult a professional before they take any other steps.
The best way to fix a scratch on a hardwood floor depends on the scratch's location, size, and depth. There are a variety of home supplies homeowners can use to minimize the appearance or even fill in a minor scratch:
- Crayons or markers in a matching colour
- Wax filling kits
- Steel wool or sandpaper with a fine grit
To start, homeowners should use the least amount of effort and force necessary. The last thing they want is to make the scratch or dent larger. Applying a light hand with steel wool or sandpaper should remove the scratch to then apply a coat of mineral spirits, wax, or finish to cover it up. Deep scratches or noticeable dents often require replacing the plank, which may need to be done by a professional. Experts often recommend homeowners keep a few extra planks of engineered hardwood for an easier replacement.
Other Types of Damage
While the standard advice for most other hardwood problems involves refinishing or replacing the boards, homeowners should know a few things before they try to repair them. For example, issues concerning the shape and placement of the board, including cupping, gapping, buckling, or crowning, all relate to some degree of water damage. People should confirm they have eliminated the source of the water damage and allowed the boards to dry thoroughly before attempting any repair.
Minor cases may not require replacement. In these instances, homeowners can sand down the boards to create a level surface and then refinish them. They can also do the same for other problems, like burns. Mould usually requires a professional trained in mould remediation because it's easy to spread by accident. If the boards are severely damaged or not good candidates for refinishing for other reasons, replacement may be a necessity.
Refinishing the hardwood is one of the most complicated tasks that homeowners can do. As such, they usually only need to do this once every several years. With good upkeep, they may be able to re-coat once every few years for well over a decade.
To know which type of service they need, people should know the difference between re-coating and refinishing. Re-coating means applying a new layer of finish to the flooring. This process involves a thorough cleaning of the surface and treating stains and minor scratches. By comparison, refinishing sands down the board. Refinishing provides a new, level surface on which a professional can apply several coats of a new finish.
Homeowners usually know they need to refinish the flooring by a gradual yet noticeable change in the boards' colour. For example, planks that have turned gray, black, or faded usually cannot be fixed with spot treatments or re-coating. Before deciding on refinishing, people may want to consult a professional to determine whether the flooring will take refinishing. Some engineered hardwood planks are too thin to refinish. In other cases, the boards are old or in poor condition to the point that replacement is a more practical choice.
Is Hardwood Flooring the Right Choice for You?
Hardwood flooring is likely the most popular type for both modern and vintage homes. However, this preference can obscure the fact that hardwood is not the easiest flooring option. Many choices that homeowners make during selection, installation, and maintenance can affect the longevity they get from the material. By taking this as a serious investment and putting in the time to take care of it, people can have flooring that looks better and lasts longer. Avoiding common mistakes will make minor problems easier to solve and minimize the need for extensive repairs.