When properly installed, cared for and maintained, hardwood floors can add a richness and beauty to your home to last for generations. But wood is also a natural resource, and like anything else in nature, wood has a few natural enemies. If these “enemies” attack your wood floors inside your home, they can cause unsightly damage. Fortunately, these threats are fairly easy to avoid. Let’s take a look at the six most common threats to your hardwood flooring, and what you can do to protect against them.
Changes in Humidity
Wood is highly responsive to moisture in the air. When the air is humid, moisture fills the pores and causes the wood to expand. When the air is dry, moisture evaporates from the pores and causes the wood to contract. Most hardwood floors adapt easily to gradual shifts in humidity, but sudden or extreme humidity changes may cause cupping or crowning of the wood panels, causing them to crack or separate.
How to avoid this threat: To keep your floors at their very best, try to keep indoor humidity levels between 35-45 percent. You can track humidity with a hygrometer bought at your local hardware store. Consider investing in a dehumidifier to run during hot, humid weather, and a humidifier for cold, dry weather.
For the same reasons mentioned above, liquid spills can cause your floors to absorb excess moisture, resulting in buckling, warping or cracking of the wood under the extra pressure.
How to avoid this threat: Spills are sometimes unavoidable, but if you clean them as soon as they happen, you’ll reduce the threat of damage to the wood. Also, never use a wet mop on a wood floor.
Dirt and Dust Particles
In nature, dirt and dust pose little threat to trees—in fact, trees grow in dirt. But in your home, it’s a different story. The threat isn’t so much from the dirt particles themselves, but when a heavy foot or furniture leg grinds that dirt into the wood, it causes scratches and scrapes.
How to avoid this threat: Clean your wood floors regularly using a dry mop or non-beater vacuum cleaner to remove excess dirt and dust. As an added layer of protection, consider going shoeless in the house.
Again, in nature, direct sunlight poses little threat to trees because they are protected by a layer of bark—and in fact their leaves use the sunlight to make food for the tree. But when the wood is exposed, direct sunlight can cause bleaching over time. When this happens in your home, it causes unnatural variances in the color of your hardwood floors.
How to avoid this threat: Draw the curtains or shades during times of day when the sun shines directly on your wood floors. Depending on the layout of the room, you may also use strategically placed rugs to cover parts of the floor that get direct sunlight.
Heavy Foot Traffic
Even if you clean your floors regularly, the parts of your floor that experience heavy foot traffic may be susceptible to damage over time, whether from dirt carried in on the bottom of shoes or the general wear-and-tear of the weight of people’s feet. In time, you may see scratches or signs of discoloration along high-traffic paths.
How to avoid this threat: You can reduce the risk of damage here in several ways. Try placing rug runners along the heavy traffic walkways. If your layout allows it, move the furniture every few months to change the walkways and the traffic patterns. You can also go shoeless to slow down the overall wear-and-tear. If none of these options work for you, you may just want to have your floors refinished every few years or so to refresh those high traffic areas.
Pet feet pose a consistent threat to hardwood floors. Most notably, dog toenails and cat claws can cause visible scratching of the surface.
How to avoid this threat: Again, you have several possible strategies here. Keep your dog’s nails trimmed and buffed to reduce scratching, and have cats declawed. If possible, keep pets out of rooms where they can cause damage. For a more worry-free existence, if you’re a family of pet lovers, consider installing floors with a distressed finish so nail scratches won’t be noticeable. (We cover more tips on pets and wood floors in this blog.)
The best news about all of these threats to your hardwood floors is that they are all preventable with a little bit of care, planning and mindfulness. Of course, accidents happen, and if you do find your floors damaged, Renaissance is always here to help. To learn more, give us a call at 918-298-4477.