Wood Flooring - Prevention is always better than the cure, but what if you can’t prevent?

Posted by Terry Guilford on

One of the key questions good customers ask when their floor has been sanded and re finished is “how do I maintain my beautiful new floor?” and they are right to ask because more than anything else, prevention and maintenance are the key to longevity.

So, let’s take a look at a few simple steps you can take that will make a big difference to the lifespan of your new floor finish, most are already well documented which makes it all the more surprising that they are so often ignored.

Firstly, prevention is better than the cure, so make sure that as much grit and soil from shoes makes it no further than your front door. If you are a family that can take outdoor shoes off when you enter the house, happy days…….. like most, we aren’t, so we invested in good quality entrance barrier matting. Don’t be tempted by the cheap ones in supermarkets etc., they contain products that can discolour your floors and attack the finish (have you ever seen a white vinyl floor that has had a cheap mat put on it? It changes the colour, and it is permanent!) The next mega important thing to do is use good quality floor protectors on all furniture that moves, dining chairs are the number one culprit for scratching floors, but it makes sense to do everything, why? Well don’t you ever pull out the couch, TV cabinet etc., to dust behind them. A good quality floor protector has a cup with a buried screw that cannot damage your floor if worn away, a felt pad clips in the cup and is replaceable, DO NOT BUY CHEAP SELF ADHESIVE PADS OR EVEN WORSE CHEAP SCREW ON PADS WERE THE SCREW CAN BE EXPOSED.

Now we have minimised the risk how do we deal with what does make its way into your house? Strictly speaking a wooden floor should be dusted every day! Dusted??? Yep dusted, a wooden floor becomes more slippery when it has a fine coating of dust and of course an element of dust comprises of fine grit which abrades your floor. So, if you can find the time (an element of hypocrisy creeping in here) a quick whizz round with a fluffy microfibre mop works wonders and by rights should be the pre cursor to what follows.

Next up we have our actually cleaning of the floor and there are two really simple but totally vital elements, number one ONLY USE A NEUTRAL PH CLEANER UNLESS YOUR FLOOR IS EXTREMELY HEAVILY SOILED, number two ONLY USE GOOD QUALITY MICROFIBRE MOPS NO STRING MOPS AND DEFINITELY NO “STEAM CLEANERS”. It is one of life’s great mysteries as to the popularity of steam cleaners (the subject of another article by myself floating around cyberspace), but hey people seem to like spending more time and money to achieve less so who am I to argue. Starting with number one (feeling traditional today), neutral PH cleaners are designed to clean you floor without using highly alkaline products that can attack the finish and moving on to number two (seems logical) microfibre is the single biggest leap forward in cleaning technology in years but because we don’t plug it in, it is grossly undervalued (I think I covered that in the steam clean article too).

All of the above are the subject of literally thousands of blogs/articles etc., on the internet and in traditional media, most is cut and paste stuff plagiarised by people with no technical or real world knowledge but who are paid to write stuff and actually that is fine because it is basic, factual and will make a genuine difference to the lifespan of your floor. But what about the stuff no one talks about and yet floor sanding contractors have to deal with the consequences of every day? Some of this is going to offend, especially you animal lovers but since barely a week goes by without a phone call concerning pet problems, I’ll take the risk.

As far as I can tell the pet that does not urinate or defecate on the floor at some point has not yet been invented, the number of times I have  heard “he/she has never done that before” is amazing and of course irrelevant, if you murder only once it is still murder. Cutting to the chase urine will penetrate just about any floor finish if it is left for any length of time and faeces the same, the amount of damage depends on the condition of the animal, the length of time the problem was left undealt with, the type of finish and the species of wood (so please don’t ask the question). Remediation nearly always requires sanding (I put nearly always because I guarantee some smarty pants will mention oxalic acid or something similar) and so if it happens please don’t expect a cheap fix. Staying on pets, if you have a large dog with untrimmed nails, it will affect the life of the finish so maybe consider using a finish that can be “topped up” rather than one that must be totally removed. Whilst still on the subject of nails (or is it claws, not sure) it is not uncommon for a dog or cat to find it hard to grip a newly finished floor, this is not the fault of the contractor or the manufacturer of the finish, the animal will eventually learn to retract its claws/nails and its pads will grip the new finish. Surprisingly finish manufacturers make products to fit human needs not pets (it doesn’t surprise me, but it does seem to surprise a lot of people) maybe because pets don’t buy a lot of floor finish.

Leaving pets alone, lets deal with the biggest culprits, their owners. Now soiling the floor in the same way as pets is not such an issue (but not unheard of either) but doing really dumb things like dragging fridges across newly finished floors and thinking this is reasonable, are. When a floor finish is applied there will be a “drying time” and a “curing time” these are not the same thing, a floor may be okay for light foot traffic a few hours after finishing but the curing time generally takes from 12 hours for a two component oil finish to 14 days for a single component water based finish. Even after this period, dragging large heavy items across a wooden floor is a really bad idea, get a suitable wheeled transportation method and protect the floor from the wheels, the old “slide it on an upturned rug trick” can work but don’t do it on uncured finish and do it slowly, the friction between the rug and floor can cause heat build up that will dull the finish.

To complete my whistle stop tour of “surprising things that can happen to your floor” I will end with painters and decorators, many of whom recommend us so I will be as tactful as it is possible for me to be, which is “not very”.  In fairness to these guys they are competing with an irresistible force invented by a bloke who thought an apple on the head kept the doctor away or something like that, I refer of course to gravity. Gravity seems determined to ensure that absolutely everything should end up at the lowest point possible which is not a problem most times as you simply pick up newly deposited object and place it where it is meant to be. Paint, however, is not so easy to pick up so Dave the decorator will no doubt have a rag in hand for such emergencies and will give the little splash a quick rub. Wood, having grain, is not so easy to wipe paint off however so Dave now gets some white spirit/meths/God knows what, soaks the rag and gives the floor a good hard scrub. Now another surprising fact about wood floor finishes is that manufacturers design them to do many things but dealing with solvents isn’t one of them so depending on what finish you possess, a level of damage will be done.

So, having offended homeowners, pet owners, steam cleaner salesmen, manufactures and salesman of cheap floor care products and painters and decorators my work here is done, not bad for a Sunday morning.

If you would like to purchase good quality wood floor maintenance products, please follow the link below.

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