Taking Care of your Wood Floors

 Protecting your New Wood Floor 


Are there common mistakes that I should avoid?

Yes. Overly aggressive sanding. If someone drops a cast-iron skillet that creates a dent a quarter-of-an-inch deep, and then sands a quarter-inch off the whole floor to smooth it out, that will greatly shorten the floor’s lifespan. A few sandings like that and your wood floors will become veneer.

 So I shouldn’t sand at all?

In many cases you’re better off screening a floor. Screening is a lighter form of sanding. It uses mesh discs attached to a floor polisher that you can rent for about $25. Screening removes the finish, not the layers of wood. But screening won’t get rid of deep gouges and it can be messy, gunky, and slow.

 What if my floors are water damaged?

We see people overreact to leak damage. If you come home from a trip and there’s been standing water for a few days and part of the floor has warped and cupped, you should let the floor dry out and stabilize. That process could take months, depending on the season and the climate. If you sand off the buckled parts too soon, you may be left with gaps between the boards when they dry out and sink back down.

Are houseplants OK?

Plants on floors cause a lot of water damage, too. Use a trivet under the saucer, so air can get under the plant. Otherwise water can wick underneath and sit there for months, and you’ll end up having to sand or patch that spot. Oh, and we sometimes see patches made from the wrong wood. If you don’t match the species—and ideally the grain pattern—the patch may wear differently than your existing floors.

 To really protect floors, should we avoid wearing shoes?

That depends on the kind of floor, shoes, and your tolerance for surface imperfections—what’s politely called ‘character.’ High heels on softwoods like pine or chestnut can be a problem and stilettos are bad for any wood floor.

How about furniture feet? Should I put floor protectors on them?

On rolling chairs, rubber casters are better, and the bigger the caster, the better. If you have an older floor that’s been sanded a few times, the joints between the boards can be very thin and vulnerable enough to break under any point-load. So if you’re moving furniture around and rolling a chair on top of them, first put down one of those ugly plastic sheets. For furniture you don’t move often, there are leather and fabric stick-ons available. But remember to check them once in awhile. You don’t want the fabric to get worn and thin.

Do you have stains and finishes that you can recommend?

For stains, we use aniline dyes or pigmented stains. Minwax and Dura Seal both make good stains—there’s not much difference in quality between the brands. For finishes, urethanes can be tricky. If they’re not applied well they can have a cheap, tacky, glossy look, and if you reapply one over an existing coat, it won’t readily stick to itself. We tend to use boat varnishes, floor paint that’s been varnished, or a super-strong sealant from Glitsa that holds up for decades, even in public lobbies.

 Is there any maintenance I can easily do myself?

Whatever the finish, damp-mop once a week with a mild soap like Murphy Oil Soap. Mineral oil will hide some scratches, and a rag dipped in alcohol can draw out moisture if you have a patch of cloudiness on your floors, what we call a blush or haze.

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