The condition of the floor in a home can tell a story about how well the home was maintained, or not. These days hardwood and carpet are the most common types of flooring and fairly simple to care for and repair. The floors in a home are constantly taking a beating. So, no matter what type of floor is in your home the upkeep of it should be on a fairly regular basis. This chapter walks you through some simple maintenance tasks that will stretch out the lifespan of your floors by making up for all the wear and tear.
The beauty and character of hardwood flooring has become so popular over the years that many homeowners are also having it installed in their kitchens, mudrooms, and bathrooms. This would not have even been a consideration back in the ’70s or ’80s when contemporary homes were in fashion, but a homeowner can never go wrong with this classic look. However, a wood floor can augment the look of non-contemporary or contemporary homes.
Like older homes before linoleum, composition, or ceramic tile, the concern for many was the potential damages to the floor as a result of spilling, dropping objects, and wear in high traffic areas. This is not the case any longer. Harder urethanes do a much better job of protecting wood floors and last much longer than they did years ago.
A wood floor throughout the home has a warm appealing feel and look. There is something distinctive about the warmth of wood and the old world charm it lends to a home. It looks attractive and, if installed properly and cared for, has a beauty that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.
Wood flooring comes in many styles and widths. The different types and colors of wood flooring vary significantly, which can make it difficult when the time comes for you to make a selection. But suitably selected, wood flooring can significantly enhance and flatter wall colors and furnishings in a room.
WHAT TYPE WORKS FOR YOU?
Not only do we have to choose between the many types of wood floors, but now we also have to decide whether we want a regular 3/4″ floor, a laminate floor, or an engineered floor in our home.
Engineered floors are less expensive than solid hardwood floors, and easier and cheaper to install, but require regular maintenance like hardwood floors. Engineered floors can be installed over concrete and in basements because they can easily adapt to changes in humidity.
Laminate floors are composed of a durable vinyl and are fabricated to look like wood and ceramic. They are less expensive than engineered and natural wood floors and don’t require as much maintenance.
During installation of an engineered or laminate floor, dust is significantly reduced. These floors do not need sanding. Although today, for natural wood floors, they have floor scrapers that vacuum up the dust as the floor is being scraped for relatively the same price.
Odor and the potential for a fire hazard with the application of polyurethane is a nonfactor, since polyurethane for an engineered floor is applied at the factory. Pre-finished floor applications are done in environmentally controlled areas, making the application much more sustainable and uniform.
It takes one day to install a pre-finished floor in a standard size room, whereas unfinished natural wood floors can take up to a week before they are ready to be used. There is a three-coat application process of polyurethane for natural wood floors. Each coat needs to dry and to be screened (very light sanding) before the next coat is applied.
Another important consideration when having your floor installed is the humidity and temperature in the home. Natural wood floors need at least three days to acclimate to the temperature and humidity in a home, prior to being installed. If this is not done the floors can buckle and the expense to repair them can be extensive, to say the least.
Erase Minor Scuffs and Stains
Start by working a pencil eraser over the darker scuffmarks.
Pour some oil soap like Murphy’s Oil Soap on a clean rag.
Rub the rag in a circular motion over the scuffmarks and stains. Work from outside of the stain to the middle.
Wipe the target area clean with a dry rag.
Buff Your Hardwood Floor
Here’s how to buff your hardwood floor without wax to bring back the natural shine.
Purchase an inexpensive manual hand buffer from your local home improvement store.
Use a wet mop to evenly spread an oil soap like Murphy’s Oil Soap across the area you intend to buff.
Start at the farthest point in the room from the doorway and work the manual buffer evenly across the floor. Be sure not to trap yourself in a corner as you buff.
Do not let anyone walk on the newly buffed floor for at least one hour.
For floors that are severely damaged, a more extensive repair may need to be done and a wood floor professional should be consulted.
Here’s what you should and shouldn’t do in order to maintain the great look of your hardwood floor:
Sweep or vacuum the floor on a weekly basis; clean the floor with a cleaner suggested by the manufacturer.
Wipe up spills immediately, eliminating any chance of the floor absorbing the liquid, which will cause swelling and destroy the finish.
Place a mat in front of your sink (if you have wood floors in the kitchen) to eliminate water getting on the floor. If water puddles on a floor for long periods, it can damage the texture and finish.
Lay a runner or throw rug at the doorway to prevent tracking dirt from your shoes onto the floor, which will scratch and wear down the finish.
Install window treatments to minimize the sun’s direct ultraviolet rays from destroying the finish and making the sheen dull.
Do not use wax on a wood floor as it damages the finish.
Do not wet mop a wood floor regularly; it can destroy the finish.
Do not slide heavy furniture across the floor when moving it. Sliding can scratch the finish and remove the polyurethane.
Natural wood floors never go out of style and are very easy to clean. Wood floors hold their value well and can easily return your investment when you decide to sell your home.
Oak flooring is the most common hardwood floor installed and is very hard to drill or nail through without first pre-drilling a hole.
A Quick Wood-Floor Transformation
If your floors are worn and tired looking, a quick fix is all they may need. If done properly, it can help to add life and sheen to your wood floors. Nevertheless, if your floors are damaged beyond what is considered standard neglect, you may need to resort to a more expensive, messy, and time-consuming method of sanding, staining, sealing, and coating your wood floors.
Let’s get started . . .
Remove all the furniture from the room you’ll be working in.
Sweep the room thoroughly.
Use a clean mop and plain hot water to wash down the floors. A damp (not soaked) mop should do the job. The hot water will clean and evaporate quickly so there will be no moisture left in the wood. Water should not be used regularly on the floors.
Once the floor is dry, open the windows. Apply polyurethane to a clean cloth and, starting at the farthest part of the room, work your way across the room wiping the polyurethane on the floor in a pattern you’ll be able to distinguish. Keep the polyurethane uniform, and be careful not to miss any spots. Polyurethane has a watery consistency, and a light coating is all that is needed, and if a brush or roller is used it can make a mess.
Before you purchase the polyurethane, determine if you want a matte or gloss finish on your hardwood floors. Polyurethane also comes in a water or oil base finish. The oil base finish has an overbearing smell and is highly flammable, but the water base, although a little more expensive, is much easier to handle and odorless.
As you finish each room, close the door and lock it if you are able, or put a piece of painters tape across the door opening to prevent anyone from stepping on the floor while it is drying. In twenty-four hours, your floors will look shiny and new.
Take the Squeaks Out of Your Floors
It’s late at night when you’re walking down the hallway and suddenly a loud creaking sound is heard throughout the house. That’s right—you forgot to step over that spot, again. Don’t worry, here are some solutions that may help to correct that noise and make it less of a problem.
A squeaking floor is usually the result of a finished floor rubbing against the sub-floor or the subfloor rubbing against the floor joist.
Fix the Squeak from Underneath
If access from below is possible and there is blocking or bridging (metal diagonal strips) between the joists, look to see if there is any space between the floor joist and the sub-floor. If you encounter spaces between them:
Purchase wood shims at your local lumberyard or home improvement store.
Tap the wedges into place at the affected areas that have a space until the squeak is gone. This will fill the space, avoiding any rubbing and prevent any further squeaking.
Wood glue will help to keep the wedge in place.
If you are comfortable that the problem has been resolved, remove the wedge, apply wood glue on both sides, and re-tap it into place. Make sure to have paper towels handy to catch any excess glue that might drip.
If you cannot find any areas where there is space between the joist and sub-floor but know the thickness of the sub-floor and the finished floor and have access from below:
Purchase screws that are shorter than the sub-floor and finished floor combined. The thickness of a standard hardwood floor is 3/4″ and the sub-floor should also be 3/4″ thick, although sometimes a builder may skimp on the thickness of the sub-floor in order to save money.
From below the floor, screw upward into the sub-floor and finished floor. This will pull the two tight eliminating any squeaking that may be caused by them rubbing together.
Fix the Squeak from Above
If you can’t access the floor from underneath, go to your local hardware store and purchase finish screws, a tip for your drill or screw gun, a drill bit slightly narrower in diameter than the shaft of the screw, and wood putty that matches the color of the floor. A natural hardwood floor is typically 3/4″ and the sub-floor should be 3/4″. A 11/2″ finish screw should be sufficient to penetrate the finished floor and sub-floor.
Find the location where the squeak in the floor is coming from by walking slowly across the floor and putting pressure on and off the area to confirm the spot.
Pick a place in the area of the squeak and in the grain of the floor that will be least noticeable and pre-drill a hole approximately 3/4″ deep. Try to prevent drilling through the sub-floor in order for the screw to have a good hold when it goes through.
Using a drill or screw gun, screw the finish screw into the hole and slightly counter-sink it (which means to make the head of the screw go slightly below the surface). This is accomplished by moving the drill in a circular motion to allow space for the screw head to enter.
Use the wood putty to cover the screw head and wipe off the excess.
Use a rag to smooth it over and to apply a dab of polyurethane.