June 18, 2024

Hardwood floors have long been sought after by home buyers. In its 2019 “Remodeling Impact Report,” the National Association of Realtors® revealed that new wood flooring was the fourth most popular project to attract buyers.

Of course, hardwood floors aren’t just for buyers. Homeowners who already have hardwood floors know just how impressive these floors can be, especially when they’re well maintained. Maintaining wood floors is not necessarily as straightforward as it may seem, and homeowners may benefit from a few tips on how to keep the floors under their feet looking good.

“Hardwood is a living floor, so they need to prepare that hardwood, scratches easily, and it does not play well with water,” said Lori Butner, owner of Abbey Van Dam Carpet and More in Marysville, in an email. She said hardwood floors will absorb the water which makes it swell and eventually develop waves. The only way to repair this type of damage is to refinish the top of the floor and sand it to a flat surface. 

She added that hardwood is similar to skin. When water and soap are applied, it cleans, but also dries it out. She said homes with natural gas or wood burning stoves, are also very dry. When using such heat sources, hardwood floors can become extremely dry, the wood will shrink and gaps and cracks become visible. This is normal. She recommended using a humidifier. 

The only sustainable hardwood available is cork, which is the bark of a tree that will naturally recover and can be harvested again, Butner said. 

To polish or not to polish?

Polishing floors is an inexpensive way to keep them looking good. But the home improvement experts at BobVila.com note that not all floors can be polished, and determining which ones can depends on the finish. Floors with waterproof barriers such as urethane will benefit from routine polishing. However, floors with penetrating finishes like tung oil will need to be waxed rather than polished. 

“New hardwood floors today should never be waxed or polished,” Butner said in an email. With new finishes available, customers will either have an on-site urethane or water-based finish, or, with pre-finished hardwood, the finish is most likely aluminum oxide. 

What finish is on the floor?

The Hardwood Distributor’s Association recommends a simple way for homeowners to determine which type of finish is on their hardwood floors. Homeowners are advised to rub a finger across the floor. If no smudge appears, then the floor is surface sealed. If a smudge is created, then the floor has been treated with a penetrating seal. The HDA also notes that recently installed wood floors are likely surface sealed.

What can I do on a daily basis?

Some simple tricks and daily maintenance can help wood floors maintain their impressive look. 

νUtilize floor mats. The HDA notes that floor mats near entryways can reduce the time it takes to clean hardwood floors and reduce the wear and tear they endure. For example, tiny particles like dirt can scratch the floor and contribute to the kind of minor damage that adds up to significant scarring over time. Floor mats near entryways ensure that most of that dirt never makes it to the wood floors.

Butner said area rugs should be removed from the hardwood floor at least twice a year. 

“Most area rugs will scratch the hardwood floor over time,” Butner said. Also, the area rug will shield the area underneath from the natural elements of the home. The floor underneath an area rug will maintain its original color while the rest of the floor will amber. 

νVacuum without a beater bar. Some vacuums contain beater bars, which are designed to pick up human hair, dog hair and other things that conventional vacuums may not be able to pick up. The HDA advises vacuuming without the beater bar as it can contribute to small scratches in the floor. Sweeping with a high-quality broom or microfiber cloth is another way to pick up dirt without damaging floors.

Butner said a deep scratch is really challenging to hide or repair without it being very visible. 

νUse manufacturer-recommended cleaning products. Local home improvement stores sell a host of hardwood floor cleaning products, but the HDA notes that many flooring manufacturers now sell their own hardwood floor cleaners designed specifically for their floors. These products are likely homeowners’ best bets. Homeowners who can’t find them can seek recommendations from a local flooring retailer.

“We recommend a neutral cleaner,” Butner said. Abbey Van Dam sells a cleaner from Glitsa because it doesn’t have a reaction with a urethane finish applied to an on-site finished floor. 

Hardwood floors are attractive for many reasons. And they look even more stunning, and last much longer, when homeowners make an effort to maintain them.

Abby Van Dam Carpet and More was established in 1968 by Ben and Jeanne Van Dam. It is a second-generation, family owned and operated business with a full-service showroom and professional installation services.  

For more information, go to www.abbeyvandamcarpet.com or call 360-653-2210.