Hardwood flooring is a valuable asset in your home. The structure is rising. The foundation is solid, framing is connected, walls, windows, and doors are in. Next, the plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems are connected and working. Now what? If you are fortunate enough to have genuine hardwood flooring in your home, you will want to refer to this post often. Hardwood flooring is one of the most desired hard surfaces in residential home construction according to most Realtors.
Genuine hardwood flooring is a wise investment in your home.
Construction and Renovation
Spring on its way and that means you might have pending thoughts about enhancements to your home, inside and out. In this first 2021 post, lets focus on the interior of home construction. If you are building new and have the option, choose hardwood flooring. If you are renovating, choose hardwood flooring. Did you know that hardwood flooring adds lasting value to your home?
Genuine hardwood flooring offers a lifetime of value with proper care. Furthermore, of all the flooring surfaces in our industry, hardwood is the easiest to keep clean. What is the best wood floor? Typically, you want to choose a wood that is hard and most available. Oak, cherry, walnut (my favorite), and mahogany flooring are all excellent choices.
Daily sweeping or vacuuming is all it takes initially. Choose your brooms wisely by finding one with the exploded ends. If using a vacuum cleaner, use a brush attachment, not the beater bar. If you are a duster, choose a good mop with a 12” to 18” head on it, and if using any special dust mop treatment, apply it to the mop head 12-24 hours before dusting the floor.
I have been inside many homes and was horrified that no “walk-off” mat was present. Of course, I could not keep my thoughts on it to myself. If I come to your home and there is no walk-off mat, you will hear from me (smile)! As you live in your homes, life happens, and with use, your hardwood floors can scratch, dent, stain, gouge, or split. Grit is worst enemy of hardwood flooring. Why is this? Grit functions like sandpaper against the finish. In my own home, there are two walk-off mats outside, and a third mat inside the entry door.
These classic style walk-off mats from American Floor Mats offers several options, and it depends on the size of the entry and whether you have stone preceding hardwood flooring. If you entertain often this is a must.
Yet, under the best intentions, there will come a time when hardwood flooring needs a more thorough cleaning. The easiest way to clean is with a damp mop. A recommended cleaner is beyond the scope of this post but as a general suggestion, use a good neutral PH cleaner, or one recommended by your flooring installer/product manufacturer. If your floor is sealed with wax or polyurethane and in good condition, water will not penetrate the surface (if it does it is time to refinish). Just be sure to squeeze all of the water out of the mop completely before mopping. Rinse well and repeat.
Perils and Pitfalls
Avoid dragging furnishings across the surface. If you are not able to lift them, be sure you have good felt pads under the legs and change them as needed. Hire professional movers for the big jobs. Further, wipe liquid spills, including paint spatter quickly, and be aware of long/sharp nails on pet paws, as they can seriously damage hardwood flooring over time.
The pine flooring shown below is long past needing attention. The finish is completely absent in some areas and the telltale signs of dragging are obvious. Only a thorough and professional refinishing can restore these floors.
Before image of damaged pine (softwood) flooring - Avoca - 2016 Historic Ellicott City Decorator Show House
To best preserve hardwood flooring over the years, first maintain an even balance of humidity (around 40%) in your home to keep boards from developing squeaks, or splitting. Second, pay attention to the sun’s orientation especially during the warm months, or shall we say the roasting months! Pictured above is a beautiful room, but over time that hardwood will fade and dry out. This is where you may want to think about professional installation of high-quality window film, shades, or solar panels.
Furthermore, in heavy traffic areas, a good wool rug or runner will help protect floors while offering art that you can walk on. Finally, there may come a time when your floors need refinishing. Over the years, grit from the exterior, sunlight exposure, spills, dents scratches and gouges will dull the surface and penetrate into the wood as seen above. Also note, that pine flooring often found in American historic homes is a softwood and are more susceptible to dents and scratches.
On the other hand, a old, well-preserved farmhouse would welcome more imperfections. Depending on use, refinish every six to eight years; hardwoods eight to twelve years depending on use. Speaking from experience, I have seen some of the best and worst refinishing jobs. My first advice is to hire a professional company.
The hardwood flooring pictured above passed my finger test, and is an example of floors done well by Tao Contracting, who "...builds additions, remodels existing spaces (kitchen, bath, basement) and can complete repairs and other home improvement projects for residential and small business owners." Look for a new blog post soon highlighting this company.
Professional floor refinishing
DIY is all over the internet, and while I don’t have all of the evidence, I know that the results vary. There are some who can handle this job, and achieve positive results; I applaud them. I have also seen the work of some professionally refinished floors, which varies according to skill. If it doesn’t feel like a fine piece of furniture, it wasn’t done properly. However, if there is any doubt whatsoever; just hire the professionals. Why? First, the equipment is heavy and it is so easy to either hold the sander improperly, or hold it too long in one spot, which leads to dips and valleys in the floor boards; not repairable if too deep.
Second, it is a messy job; the dust is very fine (it seeps through some bags), and careful preparation is important. Why not take a mini vacation to the beach house or to the mountain cabin? When you return, it’s a whole new world inside your home. If needing to make a choice, I recommend waiting on a rug, and paying good money to have the flooring refinished correctly by a professional. You will cherish your decision 20 years from now.
For further information, access the Hardwood Manufacturers Association.