You don’t have to enforce a strict no-shoes policy, but whenever possible, avoid walking on wood floors in high heels, which can easily dent the surface. Furniture can scratch wood, too, so adhere felt pads to the bottoms of all chair and table legs. Put doormats outside every entrance to keep out dirt, sand, and salt. “If you take this precaution, you’ll prevent particles on the soles of your shoes from damaging—and possibly even removing—your floor’s finish,” says Brett Miller, the director of education at the National Wood Flooring Association.
The ideal temperature for wood floors is 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with a 30 to 50 percent humidity level. Keep the thermostat in that range year-round and you’ll lessen the chance of planks gapping and buckling, which is caused by drastic changes in heat and moisture, says Miller. But don’t sweat slight heat fluctuations: The room temperature has to change radically and stay that way for a prolonged period to affect the wood.
Keep Dust in Check
Debris takes a toll on a floor’s sheen. Sweep or vacuum twice a week—or every day, if you’re up for it. Once a week, use a microfiber mop with a pH-neutral cleaner (like Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner; $9.50, mybonahome.com) or a homemade solution (1 tablespoon distilled vinegar in 1 gallon of water) to wipe up stuck-on dirt. Avoid products that claim to “shine,” “polish,” or “rejuvenate”; they often contain additives, like acrylic wax, which create a buildup, says Josh Frink, the wood-floor chairman for the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification.
Bring in Pros
Properly maintained floors may never require replacement. “Many wood floors on the East Coast are well over 100 years old,” says Frink. But when the wood loses its luster, hire an expert to apply a new coat of finish. If your floors see a lot of foot traffic, food spills, or pet mischief, have the surface sanded every 7 to 10 years or whenever you notice worn areas, loss of stain color, or gouges.