When properly cared for, certain species of hardwood floors can last for generations. Even the softest of wood floor coverings can maintain their beauty for years, if you take the time to clean and maintain them regularly. A little bit of prevention can spare you a lot of trouble later on down the line.
Hardwood Flooring Finish Seals
Hardwood, on it’s own, is very susceptible to damage from stains and moisture penetration. That is because it is a relatively absorbent material, and when dirt or liquids fall on its unprotected surface, they can seep down into the wood causing permanent damage from within, and below.
In order to protect these surfaces a finishing agent must be applied before, or immediately after installation. The two major types of finish are penetrating, and surface treatments. Penetrating finishes seep down into the material, protecting it from within by clogging up the pores so dirt and moisture cannot penetrate it. A surface sealer creates an invisible layer over the wood in order to protect it.
Wood Finish Maintenance
Vacuuming and Sweeping: The biggest threats to the surface seal protecting your floor, are some of the tiniest particles in your house. When small grains of dirt, sand, and grit are tracked into a room, every foot step will drag them across the floor, scratching at the finish on the wood, wearing it down. That is why regular vacuuming and or sweeping is necessary on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
Re-application: Most finish treatments will come with a warranty that will give you a reasonable expectation of how long it should last. In some cases, this warranty can extend for as long as twenty five years. However, eventually, the finish layer will start to wear down. When this happens you will have to apply a new treatment, or else risk the floor becoming susceptible to stains and damages.
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Types Of Hardwood Flooring Finishes
Acrylic: This is a quick drying solution that is water soluble, and non toxic. Relatively easy to apply, it does require regular maintenance, as it will have to be waxed 2-4 times per year in order to provide additional protection for the floor.
Shellac: This is a traditional floor finishing sealer that is often used when you want to achieve a classic look. However the final surface ends up being fairly brittle, and can be scratched relatively easily.
Natural Oil Sealants: Solutions comprised mostly of all natural resins and oils, these environmentally safe finishes soak down into the wood, clogging it’s pores, while protecting its surface from stains. Environmentally friendly, these tend to be a little less effective, and to require more regular reapplication, then other manufactured products.
Natural Flooring Alternatives
Polyurethane: Probably the most common sealant, polyurethane is inexpensive, long lasting, and easy to apply, either with a brush, or in aerosol can form. However this does tend to bring out yellow shades and hues in natural wood flooring, and over time those colors will become more pronounced.
Wax: Comprised mostly of beeswax and plant waxes, it is all natural, water resistant, and even has a pleasant scent after application. However, over time wax can build if not buffed, causing unattractive splotches in the floor. It can also occasionally be slippery when wet.
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Hardwood Cleaning Instructions
Water and Spills: While the surface sealer will protect your wood from moisture damage to some extent, it is not an impervious barrier. When liquids and staining agents spill on a hardwood floor you should wipe them up immediately with a warm wet cloth. Then dry the area thoroughly with a towel.
Regular cleaning: Do not use furniture spray or wood oil on hardwood floors. Sprays will create a slick and dangerous slip surface, while wood oil will leave a filmy residue that will make the floor feel slick and slimy.
When mopping, use a solution of water and specifically formulated hardwood flooring cleanser. Follow all mixing instructions on the cleaning solutions label. Never mop with just water, or water and vinegar, as this can end up dulling the look of floors more quickly.
As you work, the mop should only be slightly damp. You do not want to ever immerse a wood floor in water. Rather, work cautiously across the room, damping each area just slightly, and then moving on so it has a chance to dry. Never let standing water sit on the floor, and if necessary dry mop, or use a towel to remove any excess liquids that may be present.