Hardwood Flooring Care FAQs
Surface finishes like polyurethane require only simple care. Just dustmop, sweep, or vacuum regularly. Always follow the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations if known. When cleaning no longer restores shine, recoat the floor with a surface finish. The frequency of recoating depends on the amount of traffic. Never wax a surface-finished floor, and never use vinyl or tile floor care products on any wood floor.
Dustmop or vacuum regularly, and use a buffer to maintain the shine. Always follow the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations if known. If buffing no longer restores shine, you may need to rewax. If so, apply a cleaner and liquid wax specifically for wood floors. Apply the wax evenly, allow the floor to dry, and buff to the desired luster. Depending on traffic, a properly maintained wood floor should need waxing once or twice a year. Be careful not to over-wax a wood floor. If the floor dulls, try buffing instead. Avoid wax buildup under furniture and other low-traffic areas by applying wax half as often as in higher-traffic areas.
If the wax finish is discolored or has dirt build-up, use a combination liquid cleaner/wax made specifically for wood flooring. Make sure it is solvent rather than water-based. Spread the liquid cleaner/wax with a cloth or fine steel wool and rub gently to remove grime and old wax. Wipe the floor clean, let it dry for about 20 minutes, and then buff.
No. Never use sheet vinyl or tile floor care products on wood floors. And never use self-polishing acrylic waxes on wood floors. These waxes cause wood to become slippery and dull. In this case, the floor must be sanded and refinished.
Place mats and throw rugs at doorways to help protect wood floors from grit, dirt and sand. Place felt pads under furniture legs and vacuum/dust your wood floor regularly.
Never damp mop a waxed floor. When cleaning a surface-finished floor, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. You may generally use a dampened (near dry) mop to maintain a wood floor; however excessive moisture will cause damage. Standing water can dull the finish, damage the wood, and leave a discoloring residue. If water spills on a wood floor, immediately wipe it up with a clean cloth.
Hardwood Flooring FAQs
The age old question, is it better to fix what I have or buy new? Hardwood floors present a unique situation in that sometimes the old is substantially better than anything you could buy new…and sometimes new is better. We have broken down the primary criteria used by our customers to decide if replacing is better than refinishing for them.
Price – Price is the first obvious variable to consider. It is almost always cheaper to refinish your floor than to replace it. When replacing, you must consider the cost of the new wood as well as the installation.
Aesthetics – If your only goal is to brighten your floors and restore their original shine, consider refinishing them. But if you want to change some aspect of the floor itself, like the style of the wood, the direction of the planks or the consistency of the material, you will need to invest in a full replacement. Refinishing is ideal to restore existing wood, while replacement is ideal for establishing a completely new look or feel.
Time – Refinishing can actually take much more time than fully replacing a wood floor. Refinishing is a messy, meticulous process than can take approximately four to five days, during which the floor surface must remain completely untouched. The process requires sanders, edgers, buffers, scrapers, brushes, base coat sealers, topcoat sealers, putty knives and sometimes paint. Replacement, on the other hand, can be done in considerably less time using only lumber, a couple of saws, measuring tape, a flat bar, a chalk line and a nail gun.
Quality – You cannot restore every wood floor by simply refinishing it. If your wood floor has become warped or if several of the planks have become damaged, you will typically need to replace the entire floor, as finishing will only brighten an already-damaged surface. On really old floors, you may see the tongue where the boards come together, or your boards may lack adequate thickness. Floors like this are definite candidates for replacement, as refinishing is purely cosmetic.
Age – The age of your floor also plays a role. If your floor has been in place for decades, it may resist refinishing for a number of reasons. For instance, if it has already been refinished several times or if too much of the surface wood has become exposed, refinishing your floor may have little effect. For very old floors, replacement can often be preferable to refinishing.
Prefinished hardwood flooring sales has only recently overtaken unfinished or site finished hardwood flooring sales. This is party due to the fact that prefinished hardwood flooring is less expensive to install because it requires less labor during installation. It is also due to the fact that prefinished wood flooring has a more durable finish that can’t be achieved on floors finished on the job site. However, unfinished wood flooring remains popular as well because it is available in more widths and wood species than prefinished and can be matched to existing wood floors.
When to choose Prefinished Hardwood Flooring
- If you are installing the wood flooring in an existing home, prefinished flooring is generally easier to install and less messy.
- Prefinished wood works better in areas that receive high traffic and heavy wear and tear because it provides a more durable finish.
- If you are trying to avoid fumes and a big mess, pre-finished flooring is cleaner to install.
- If cost is a concern, prefinished flooring is typically less expensive.
- If you are installing the floor in a room with high humidity, prefinished flooring resists buckling and warping and is suitable for changes in climate.
- If you are looking for a fast and easy installation, prefinished flooring is the choice to make.
- If you are looking to use engineered wood, most come prefinished.
When to choose unfinished or site finished hardwood flooring
- When trying to match to an existing floor or trim, unfinished wood is generally easier to stain to match.
- If you are having the floors installed throughout your entire home, having the floor finished on site will provide a more uniform color and finish.
- If you are looking for an unusual wood species or specific plank width, unfinished wood flooring offers the most options.
- Unfinished flooring would be most appropriate if your home has historical significance or if you are trying to maintain the architectural integrity of it.
- If your floor is not precisely level, you may opt for unfinished flooring because it doesn’t depend on a precisely level subfloor the way a pre-finished floor does.
The most commonly asked question asked by folks thinking about installing a new hardwood floor is the difference between solid and engineered hardwood flooring. We have tried to break it down for you in the six areas that we find are most important in the decision making process for our customers.
Refinishing – Solid hardwood flooring can generally be refinished many times because it can be sanded and re-sanded nearly all the way down to the tongue and groove of the boards. That could be as much as 1/4” or about one third of the thickness of the board and believe me, that’s a lot of sanding. But, most engineered floors can be sanded too, especially if you choose one with a thicker saw cut face. As a practical matter, for most residential uses, the new factory finishes are so durable that you will get a lifetime of carefree use before a new finish is ever needed. Refinishing, therefore usually becomes a secondary consideration in the selection process.
Flexibility – Versatility is always an important issue in choosing flooring. Today, engineered hardwood flooring is really quite versatile. It can be installed using either glue or staples, and as a result of recent developments in locking systems, now it can even “float”. It can also be installed over all types of sub-floors from suspended wood to concrete slab. Engineered hardwood flooring, given proper conditions, can be used below grade. Solid hardwood flooring, on the other hand, has the limiting requirement of needing to be stapled down over suspended floors – above grade. In order to fasten solid hardwood flooring over a concrete floor, plywood or firing strips would have to be installed first. It can be done, but it is time consuming and expensive.
Thickness – Engineered hardwood flooring is generally thinner than solid hardwood. That means it can be used in many remodeling projects where a solid 3/4 inch solid floor would create a height problem. Engineered floors range in thickness from 1/4 inch to 3/4 inch.
Stability – For the most part, hardwood flooring is quite dimensionally stable over time. Solid hardwood may, under certain climatic conditions, be subject to swelling or shrinking. Engineered hardwood flooring, on the other hand while still subject to slight movement is the better choice where extreme seasonal climate changes may cause problems. The plywood-like construction of an engineered floor gives it more dimensional stability.
Cost – Typically engineered hardwood flooring will cost you less than solid hardwood flooring for the same look because less of the valuable tree is used than with solid wood. Also, freight costs are lower because engineered flooring is lighter in weight and therefore less costly to transport. These factors also help make engineered flooring friendly to the environment.
Prestige – If there is no limit to your imagination and no limit to your pocket book, then there is no limit to the variety of beautiful floors that can be created from custom patterns, imported exotic species and fine finishes. Some of the most expensive custom floors around the world are made from combinations of solid hardwood species, usually 3/4” thick. Solid hardwood floors do a better job of minimizing “bounce” over suspended floors. They convey a lasting sense of value and permanence to your home.
The Janka hardness test measures the resistance of a type of wood to withstand denting and wear. It measures the force required to embed an 11.28 mm (0.444 in) steel ball into wood to half the ball’s diameter. This method leaves an indentation. A common use of Janka hardness ratings is to determine whether a species is suitable for use as flooring.
It should be noted that the test is meant to be used only for “unfinished, open grain flooring” manufactured before the 1990s. With the advent of pre-finished flooring in which hardwood floors are treated with aluminum-oxide based sealers that often double or triple the dent and scratch resistance of the flooring, the Janka Hardness test has been essentially rendered useless in modern-day hardwood flooring, unless the end user is purchasing unfinished flooring or oil coated flooring.
Once you have decided to install or refinish a hardwood floor, you may wonder what will happen next. Knowing what to expect before, during, and after the work takes place will help ensure a high-quality job.
Before – Before work begins, remove all furnishings, draperies, paintings, and other items from the room. Flooring professionals typically are not insured against damages to these items, so removal will be your responsibility. For new installations, the wood will need to acclimate, which will vary from two days to two weeks.
During – If your floors are being sanded, finished or refinished, be prepared for some noise and disruption. Dust containment systems can minimize debris, but no system is 100% effective, so cover any items that you want to keep dust-free. When the finish is applied, stay off your floors until it has dried. The time required will vary depending on the type of finish used.
After – After the finish has dried, put felt pads on the bottoms of any furniture to minimize scratches and dents. Place scatter rugs at all entrances, avoiding those with rubber backs, which can discolor your floor. Avoid walking on your floors with cleats or high heels in disrepair.
Keep in mind that no two floor boards will be identical. Variations in appearance are completely normal. As your floor ages, some color change can occur. This also is normal, but can be minimized by limiting exposure to direct sunlight, and periodically moving furniture and rugs. Cracks are normal as well, and will appear and disappear between floor boards during seasons of high and low humidity. Generally, anything less than the width of a dime is considered normal, and will correct itself as seasons change. Flooring inspectors recommend inspecting the floor from a standing position in normal lighting to identify irregularities.
The angle at which a board is cut determines how the finished product looks. Wood flooring is either plain sawn, quarter sawn or rift sawn.
Plain Sawn – Plain sawn is the most common cut. The board contains more variation than the other two cuts because grain patterns resulting from the growth rings are more obvious.
Quarter Sawn – Quarter sawing produces less board feet per log than plain sawing and is therefore more expensive. Quarter sawn wood twists and cups less and wears more evenly.
Rift Sawn – Each rift sawn board is cut from the center of the log, outwards. Riftsawing is similar to quartersawing, except that each riftsawn cut is made at a slightly different angle. While this method of sawing creates many wedge-shaped scraps, it also results in boards with similar grain patterns; such boards have great uniformity and stability, even in extremes of temperature and humidity.