Whether you’re thinking about adding hardwood floors to your home or just need to take better care of the ones you have, now is the perfect time to put your wood floor knowledge to the test. Consider this your how-to manual on preserving hardwood floors.
In the Beginning:
1. As with any cleaning product, read the label before you buy to make sure it is suitable for the surface. A foolproof way to prevent damaging wood? Check out woodfloors.org, where a professional will help you choose the best product for floors that have different finishes (polyurethane, oil, or wax).
2. Add felt protectors to furniture legs to help pick up debris and protect floors from scratches, says Brett Miller, an expert from the National Wood Flooring Association. Replace them as needed, as they’ll wear down and become less effective over time. For furniture that slides around often (kitchen and dining chairs, for example), replace the protectors every month.
3. If you need an excuse to shop, the one must-have decor item with hardwood flooring is a rug. It will perform double duty as a decorating piece and floor protector.
4. Leave stilettos and tap shoes at the door to avoid puncturing the wood. While you’re at it, consider enforcing a no-shoe policy for all types of footwear to keep things extra clean.
5. Memorize this and your floors will stay in impeccable shape for a lifetime: dry first, wet second. Dry-cleaning (or “dry-tacking”) first is essential to prevent dirt from scratching the floor as you wet mop. If you don’t clean up that debris first, it’s essentially like dragging sandpaper across the floor.
6. A sun-kissed glow looks great on skin but not on wood floors. Inspect floors once a month (don’t forget to peep under rugs, too), and if there’s any discoloration, it’s time to consider a fresh topcoat.
RELATED: How to Care for Hardwood Floors
7. It’s important to keep in mind that wood floors are natural and will be affected by the environment. While there’s no need to panic if you see some gaps develop between boards during dry seasons, if the wood doesn’t shrink back into place during humid seasons (July through August), then you should bring in a certified wood flooring professional to assess the separation. The best way to avoid excessive gaps? Use a humidifier to offset the environment during dry seasons.
Down the Road:
Routine maintenance is key to preserving wood floors, so put these three tasks on your to-do list in the future:
8. Get your floors deep cleaned and add a fresh coat of finish every three to five years. Make sure you know what type of finish your floors already have (oil, wax, urethane) because you’ll need to reapply that same kind.
9. Whatever you do, resist sliding furniture. Enlist a friend and pick things up to move them.
10. Every few decades, sand and refinish wood floors to make them look new again. Typically, solid, wood floors can be re-sanded five to ten times during the expected lifespan. The beauty of wood flooring is its ability to become like new with a fresh finishing coat and a deep cleaning. If you’re not sure if it’s time for a fresh finish, check with an expert first.