Hardwood floor care

In many homes in Houston, hardwood floors are one of the most beautiful focal points in the home. They come from a wide variety of woods and can be finished in just about any color and finish you can imagine. While hardwood floors are very durable and traffic resistant, proper care and maintenance is essential to keeping them beautiful for many, many years.

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The key to keeping hardwood floors looking beautiful lies with keeping them as clean and dry as possible. Dust and other debris on the surface of hardwood flooring gets ground into the finish, and this causes floors to dull over time. The longer this surface contamination is left on the floor, the more deeply embedded the debris becomes and this causes more damage to the finish. If not attended to, this can actually strip away the finish and leave raw wood exposed. Keeping a good coat of wax on the floors will prevent casual spills from absorbing into the wood if you act quickly clean them up. The good news is that keeping your floors clean is a simple matter of sweeping them a couple of times a day with a swifter mop (use a micro fiber pad) and a product like Orange-Glo.

The biggest problem with hardwood floors is getting them scratched by the demands that simply living on them causes. You must take care when moving things around on hardwood floors. When living on hardwood floors, do not drag anything across them when moving furniture or other heavy objects. Use large area rugs under heavy furniture, and keep pads under furniture legs, as these will move when sat upon or brushed up against. These will dig into the wood if left unprotected. Large dogs with toenails that click as they walk can do a lot of damage to hardwoods. Even small dogs and cats can damage hardwood floors. If their toenails are clicking on your hardwoods, it is time to clip them back. Have a door mat so people can clean the soles of their shoes before they walk on the hardwoods.

In my home, I put a ceramic tile “stoop” inside the front door so someone who comes in with grit in their soles can slip them off without damaging the hardwoods.

Pets also may have an accident on your floors, and these must be attended to as soon as found. The beauty of the floor and the health of your family is at stake. Bacteria in the animal’s urine or feces are a health hazard, and when animal fluids get on hardwood floors, acids in the fluid will attack the floor. It is important to use something like Orange Glo that will eliminate the acids. Keeping your floors properly waxed will help prevent these stains from penetrating the wood as quickly.

While scratches are the most common wear and tear issue hardwood floors have to deal with, by far the biggest enemy of hardwood floors is water damage.

Houston hardwood floors are often subjected to high humidity, tropical storms and even hurricanes. Local flooding is always a possibility when living along the Gulf Coast. In addition to weather related flooding normal hazards like plumbing leaks, roof leaks and such can play havoc with hardwood floors. Water will destroy the finish of your hardwood floors, and in severe cases, such as urban flooding, the individual slats of wood will absorb so much water that they will begin to swell and warp.

Almost any Houston handyman service can wax or refinish your hardwood floors, but restoring hardwood floors that have been flooded is a job best left to those professionals certified by the IICRC. Always bring in a professional when this happens, because inadequate drying will result in mold growth later in the areas that did not get dry. Be sure that your technician is certified in water damage restoration with the IICRC, the national certification organization for floor care professionals. If called in time, these professionals can take measures to save your hardwood floors from total destruction. You can visit the IICRC online at http://www.iicrc.com.

In the event of major urban flooding, these steps can save your floors while you wait for a professional to arrive.

Call your insurance adjuster and take any photos you need for insurance purposes before you start the cleanup process.

  • Get everything off the hardwood floors as quickly as possible. This means carpets, rugs, and furniture.

  • If it is safe to do so, use electric blowers to blow air onto the hardwood

  • If possible, direct the flow of these fans downward. Just prop them slightly to one side.

  • When you get a large dry spot, move the fan, and dry out another spot

  • You will notice that your previous dry spot will begin to look wet. This is due to wicking. Just keep moving the fans around until there are no more wet areas.

  • Lean the fans along cracks of walls to force air into these places to help the drying process along.

  • Humidity in a flooded home is incredible, open the windows and place fans in them on one side of the house to force wet air out and bring dry air in. This will do more to dry your floors than the fans on the floors will. You must get the moisture out of the house or it will simply absorb right back into the wood.

The key factor to saving the floors that have been flooded is to get them dry as fast as possible. As soon as possible after the flooding event, you MUST remove everything from your hardwood floors, not just carpet and rugs, but furniture as well. Get as many fans and blowers as you can find and point them downward so that they will dry out the hardwood. As soon as you see a dry spot, move the fan. Be sure to open the house up to the outside so that all this water vapor you are creating will be able to escape from inside the home. If your relative humidity is 50% or less, you can dry the floors out much faster by using fans to blow this hot, drier air into the house along with the floor blowers. (do not do this on high humidity days, it is not as effective). You will have to blow the floors until they are dry, which may take many hours, even days.

Because wood wicks water, as soon as you create a dry spot, the dry spot will start to pull in moisture from the wet wood around it. This greatly increases the rate of drying the floor over not moving the fans around. Many hardwood floors are installed on a “bed” that creates an air gap under the wood slats. If this is the case for your floors, try to create a funnel with a piece of plastic or canvas and force air underneath the floors along any cracks you can find. Use duct tape to tape the funnel to the fan, and an office stapler to staple it over the crack you want to dry out. Take your time, failure to let the floors dry completely out will set up conditions for mold to grow.

While hardwood floors can almost always be restored or replaced, or simply re-finished to restore their beauty. this is very expensive compared to performing the proper maintenance in the first place.

You cannot do anything about flooding, but you can avoid dragging that recliner across the room to put in front of the TV for the big game.

Remember, keep them clean, wax them as needed, get water off as fast as possible, deal with pet stains (and toenails!), properly.