If you’ve ever had an upholstered sofa or a decorative rug in front of a window and noticed it fading more and more each year, you know what direct sunlight can do to your furniture and belongings. You might not realize that it can actually even change the color of your wood floors and bleach your artwork and family portraits. Sun damage isn’t only unsightly, though. It is also costly and will likely force you to replace your rugs and other home furnishings more often.
While you might not be able to slather a layer of sunscreen on your sofa, there are a number of preventive measures you can take to ward off sun damage. Use these tips to protect your belongings and save yourself a little money while you’re at it.
What Causes the Damage?
Like with sun damage to your skin, the majority of damage to your floors and furniture is caused by ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun. In fact, according to the National Fenestration Rating Council, a nonprofit that assesses windows to determine their energy efficiency, roughly 40 to 60 percent of damage is caused by UV radiation, which results in bleaching and corrosion in furniture. The other causes include heat, humidity, and artificial light.
What is the Best Form of Protection?
Obviously, some measures of protection are relatively common sense, such as keeping your curtains closed and blinds drawn. However, if you’re like most of us and don’t want to feel like you’re living in a dungeon, you may want to consider other options.
Upgrade Your Windows
One of your first lines of defense is your windows themselves. If you are in the process of building a new home or upgrading your windows in your existing home, a great option for your windows is laminated or low-e coated glass. Some manufacturers claim their products made with this type of glass can filter as much as 99 percent of harmful UV radiation. Keep in mind, though, that this option may cost more than traditional windows.
Use Window Film
Window film is another option to consider if you’re not in the market for replacing all of your windows. Not only does this film filter UV light, but it also makes windows resistant to breaking and facilitates less heat loss. If your main concern is sun damage, then focus on UV protection when you are selecting films. You can purchase window film from a local home improvement center and install it yourself, or have a professional complete the install.
Leverage Window Coverings
It’s obviously nice to let a little sun and air in your home on occasion. But, there’s a good reason to keep them covered, especially when you’re not home. Curtains and blinds not only provide privacy, they also protect your furniture and other interior assets from unsightly Sun damage. So, keep window coverings on at all times — open them up when you want to experience the sunlight and close them up when you’re not home and at night, when sleeping.
Can Specific Items Be Protected?
If you’re concerned about a certain item in particular, such as a valuable painting from your great aunt, there are options for protecting precious possessions without installing new windows or special film.
Protect Your Floors
Sun exposure lightens certain types of wood and darkens other. Be sure to move furniture and rugs regularly to create more even sun exposure throughout each room. Likewise, consider applying a sun-resistant sealant on your wood floors. Depending on the type of floors you have and the look you’d like to achieve, you can use varnish, lacquer, polyurethane, or shellac. There are also several wax and oil finishes that will protect your wood floors.
Preserve Your Art
Expensive artwork is another grave concern for collectors. Ultimately, you might consider having a copy made of your favorite pieces and hang the copy instead of the original. However, if you’re set on having your collections hung in rooms with windows, always hang artwork out of direct sunlight and behind UV-blocking glass, such as acrylic.
Carpet and Rug Maintenance
Rugs and carpets are also highly susceptible to sun damage. You may want to consider applying a spray-on protector, though their efficacy has come under debate in recent years. Likewise, rotating your rugs and moving furniture around periodically can help equalize fading.
While you may not be able to completely eliminate sun damage to your floors and furniture, you can prevent and reduce a great deal of it. Follow these tips to minimize damage and keep your floors and furniture as pristine as possible for as long as you can.
Hardwood floors are prized in many homes for their beautiful looks and easy cleaning. Yet, just as with any flooring materials, hardwood brings with it unique challenges which any homeowner must address. In particular, dry climates and high altitudes expose hardwood to adverse conditions not found elsewhere. Even so, if you live in a desert climate or tucked away in the mountains and still want a beautiful floor, you don’t need to give up on your dream of owning hardwood.
Unlike artificial flooring, wood is a living material. It derives many of its qualities from internal moisture both at build time and over its life. If you’re in a high, dry climate, your floor isn’t getting the moisture it needs.
This lack manifests in several ways. Most common is dry cupping, a process caused by the difference between the floor’s underlying plywood substrate and the hardwood top. As these layers dry, they contract unevenly. The result is a top layer that contracts faster than the layer beneath, causing cracks and other disfigurements.
Fortunately, dry cupping and other hardwood floor issues are easy to prevent by following a few important principles.
Pick Good Materials
Wood thickness and density plays an important role in how flooring responds to drier climates. Thicker woods absorb less humidity, but once they’re warped, those changes aren’t going away. Dry climates need materials that will respond well to sudden shifts in humidity and temperature.
Cherry and walnut are very stable woods. They may warp over time, but not in ways that will adversely affect the utility of the floor. No hardwood floor is perfect, and good materials will settle into their structure over time. A wood like hickory is dense and unyielding, but walnut and cherry will accommodate a foundation and retain that shape despite shifts in temperature and humidity.
Acclimate When Installing
Floors were most likely not manufactured in the environment where they are to be installed. Even if they are, conditions in the factory and at the installation site may differ enough that the wood’s character will change slightly over time. It is important for these changes to manifest before the floor is installed.
Acclimation is the process of letting wood sit in the ambient environment before commencing installation. This is especially important in dry climates, whose conditions are particularly harsh for moist woods.
Heat in Winter
Cold materials contract. As such, hardwood in winter will shrink and split, causing cracks that may expose the underlying plywood. Since colder temperatures are particularly harsh at high altitudes, heating in winter is critical to minimizing the temperature transitions to which a floor is subjected.
Humidity permeates wood more slowly than it does air. As such, variable humidity levels will travel through hardwood and plywood like waves, causing tension that damages your floor over time.
By maintaining a constant humidity level, the tension between these layers can be normalized. Rather than expanding and contracting at random, they will maintain an equilibrium appropriate for their environment. The best way to achieve this is by integrating humidity control directly into HVAC systems, thus maintaining regulated levels of moisture throughout the life of the home.
While caring for a hardwood floor in high, dry climates may seem more complicated, it is just a matter of making the right initial choices while being aware of an area’s unique weather conditions. With the right wood, acclimation and internal environment, hardwood floors will look good and perform well for many long years.
Summer is here, and while many people would cheer in celebration, those people probably aren’t thinking about how to protect their hardwood floors. If you want to protect your hardwood floors from the damages of the summer Sun and heat, then these are the tips and tricks for you!
What is the Harm?
Before getting into how to protect your hardwood floors, you should know what the summer can do to them. Prolonged exposure to the Sun can cause discoloration in a lot of types of hardwood floors, and the additional heat and moisture can ruin them just as easily.
With these easy tricks, however, you can rest assured that your floors will be good as new when fall comes around.
Run the AC
While many people hesitate to turn on the AC during summer, it can have a big impact on the longevity of your hardwood floors. This will not only keep your home from overheating, it will also drain the moisture from the air. As you might imagine, moisture and hardwood floors do not exactly get along!
The obvious downside is that it can be expensive to run an air conditioner for an extended period of time. While this is true, consider how much it will cost to replace your floors. Once you’ve done that, crank up the AC and enjoy your 68 degree home in the middle of July!
Imagine that your hardwood floors are a red-haired, light-skinned and freckled little boy. If you don’t keep him out of the Sun, you can be sure that he is going to burn like crazy! How would you protect the boy when he goes outside? Probably with an umbrella. The same concept proves effective here!
No, you don’t want to build a giant umbrella over your house (at least not for this reason). Instead, install awnings over the windows of your home, especially those that look into your hardwood floors. Not only will this keep your home cool in the summer, but it will make sure that you don’t have to worry about sun damage on your floors.
Change it Up
Another great tactic to protect hardwood floors is to periodically move the furniture around the room. The Sun cannot reach your floor if the couch is sitting over it, so move that around to protect a wider area.
If you do no other step on this list, this is the one that you should be doing. That way if your hardwood floors do experience discoloration or damage, you at least won’t have stains in the shape of your furniture!
Before anyone gets too excited at the idea of having three months without the need to clean, let’s clarify. You should still be cleaning your floors, but you can back off with a couple of things. Polishing and waxing your floors won’t do much good in the summer months, as this will just draw the sunlight to them even more.
That said, you’re not off the hook entirely. You’ll still need to vacuum them from time to time…unless you want your mother-in-law to give you that look when she comes to visit.
Most of all, just be smart. Don’t leave your bay window open on the hottest day of the summer. Try to give your floors as much shade and cool air as you can, but don’t obsess. Just follow these simple tips and you won’t need to worry about your hardwood floors discoloration this summer. It’s the summer, so don’t drive yourself crazy worrying about your hardwood floors. Enjoy the warm weather, do your best with your floors and have a little fun!
Because it is a natural product, hardwood floors respond to temperatures and humidity levels in your home. For example, when the humidity level in your home is high, wood flooring expands. On the other hand, when humidity levels drop, the flooring in your residence will contract.
The reality is that this cycle of expanding and contracting can actually cause unnecessary and damaging wear and tear to your wood floors over time if the levels are extreme enough. There are tactics that you can and should consider employing to address the issue of rising and lowering humidity levels in your home as a means of prolonging the life and luster of your hardwood floors.
Install Humidity Controls Before Placing Hardwood Floors
If you are planning installing hardwood floors, you can be proactive when it comes to rising and lowering humidity levels. Before you have your hardwood floors installed in your residence, you can first have a humidity control system added to your home.
This type of system is the only real way in which you can garner continuous and reliable control over fluctuating humidity levels. Although there are some other strategies that can be employed to control humidity levels in your residence, an automated system is your best bet. Once it is programmed, it really does all the work for you.
Optimal humidity for wood floors is between 40 and 60 percent. If it deviates beyond this zone, hardwood flooring can be impacted in a negative manner.
Controlling Humidity in Wintertime
In the wintertime, particularly when the heater is on in the residence. humidity levels drop. When humidity levels drop, wood contracts. This can result in gaps between the planks of a hardwood floor.
If the home lacks a humidity control system, a portable humidifier can be placed in the room or rooms that hard hardwood flooring. In the alternative, in the absence of an installed humidity control system, a humidifier can be added to the furnace.
Controlling Humidity in Summertime
In the summertime, humidity levels can rise significantly inside a home. Humidity levels can rise as high as 90 percent in some instances based upon your home’s location.
High humidity results in an expansion of wood. It can result in planking, as has been discussed. If this persists, the wood planks that make up a wood floor can lose their integrity and become damaged permanently.
In the absence of a humidity control system, a homeowner should look at installing a dehumidifier to control rising humidity levels.
Dealing with Floor Cupping
Cupping is the ultimate problem you may experience with hardwood floors when you have humidity issues in your home. Cupping occurs when hardwood floors bows up, usually rather slightly, but noticeably.
In addition to humidity being a potential cause of cupping, it can also be caused by a plumbing leak, usually in the basement under the floor. In most cases, cupping corrects itself when the source of the moisture, a leak or humidity issue, is corrected.
If cupping is more than minimal, some additional work may be need to be done on the floor in order to restore it to a normal condition. It may need to be sanded and refinished. Keep in mind, however, that the floor must be completely dry before the restorative processes are commenced.
Domestic Versus Exotic Wood Flooring
A homeowner needs to keep in mind that some of the more exotic types of wood flooring is more susceptible to cupping and other problems associated with variable humidity levels. Domestic woods tend to be heartier and less susceptible to significant issues associated with humidity fluctuations.
Contact a Flooring Specialist
If you find yourself having problems controlling your interior environment in your home, do not hesitate to consult a specialist. You invested a good deal of money in your hardwood floors. You do not want your floors to suffer permanent damage because of an issue like humidity levels that truly can be regulated and controlled.
Your Health and Humidity
There is a major side benefit to getting humidity levels under control beyond taking care of your hardwood floors. A constant humidity level is believed to improve the health of residents in a home. This includes lowering the incidence of lung related issues and other maladies like the cold and flu.
Well, our Denver Broncos made it to the Superbowl, and the whole city is getting ready for Sunday. If you’re having a Superbowl party and worried about how your hardwood floors will hold up to the extra traffic, inevitable spills, and jumping up and down of excited fans as out beloved team creams the Panthers, fear not. We’ve got some tips to help you prepare for the big day so that you can focus on cheering out team to victory.
This time of year, wet, muddy, snowy shoes are any floor’s worst enemy. Add to that heavy feet stamping and jumping for touchdowns and victory dances, and your best bet might be to ask guests to remove their shoes at the door. If this isn’t your usual custom or you worry that your guests will find it uncomfortable, make it part of the theme – the Broncos pro shop has a great selection of Broncos socks and slippers, or, if you’re looking for something at a lower price point, just pick up some blue and orange house slippers or fuzzy socks in various sizes. You can even let guests keep their fan slippers as a party favor.
As part of party prep, consider laying an area rug under the couches and chairs in the TV room. A few runners in the areas where guests will be walking most (between the front door and the party zone, on the way to the bathroom) will also help to protect your floors and let you relax during the party. These can be easily rolled up and stowed away for future parties or you can leave them down to accent your home décor. If you don’t want to spring for a proper rug or don’t have a place to store it, consider putting down a rug pad and laying a Broncos blanket, tablecloth, or even bedding. This sort of thing will be widely available all around town this week and will generally be less costly than and area rug. Plus, you can just pick thm up after the party and throw them in the wash.
With the winter storm upon us, Superbowl Sunday is sure to be a messy one. You’ll do yourself and your guests a favor by having plenty of towels on hand for wiping up slush, along with napkin for cleaning up spills. Once again, Broncos-themed towels and napkins should be abundant in area stores right now.
Though you may feel inclined to polish your floors to get them in tip-to shape to showoff to guests, it is not really a good idea to wax your floor before a gathering. Wax and other polishes will make the floor slippery and increase the likelihood of drink and food spills, especially if you’re guests are sporting their Broncos slippers. A run with the dry mop should be sufficient to keep your floors free of debris so that they’ll look great and start out in the best condition for receiving guests. If it will make you feel better, you can run the dust mop over the floor again once most of the guests have arrived, just to keep things clean and clear away any finish-threatening debris.
When you prepare in advance, you can relax knowing that your hardwood floors are protected. Remember – prefinished hardwood is one of the most durable flooring materials around. As long as you don’t let moisture from spills or slush stand for long periods, your floors will d just fine. And after the party, call your friends at MacDonald Hardwoods and we’ll be happy to recommend cleaning products and supplies.
Winter is here and the holiday break is upon us. While there is plenty of fun to be had outside (check out our post on keeping the outside out), this is the time of year when family fun tends to move indoors. If you’re worried about how the added traffic might affect your floors, there are some things you can do to prepare your floors for heightened holiday activity. Plus, we’ve come up with a list of fun games that are perfect for a home with hardwood.
1. Build a fort
Who doesn’t remember the delights of building a fort out of sheets and living or dining room furniture and bedding? If you’ve taken our advice, your furniture should all have soft pads where its legs come into contact with the floor. As long as fort building doesn’t involve chair stacking or table climbing (falling furniture is dangerous for kids and floors), you should be good to go on this fun-for-all indoor activity. If the kids are on holiday, consider letting them build a fort somewhere where they can continue to add to it throughout the week. It can then also be a great staging ground to make other indoor activities – like puzzles and reading time – that much more fun.
2. Jigsaw puzzles
The flat, smooth surface of your hardwood floors is also a perfect place to lay out a jigsaw puzzle. There are some really cool ones out there these days that can keep the family entertained for days. Just section off an area of the floor (perhaps by building a fort…) where the jigsaw will reside and folks can come back to it whenever they want.
If you’re looking for something a little more creative, have the kids draw a picture of their own or color something out of a coloring book then paste their creation to some thin cardboard. You (or they, depending on their age) can then cut the picture into small (or small-ish) pieces and they can reconstruct their own picture or each other’s. Hint: Adult coloring books are becoming popular and easy to find and have some more complicated images that can sometimes be more fun to put back together.
Have you ever seen a proper dance floor that wasn’t made of hardwood? The smooth surface of a hardwood floor is perfect for swirling and twirling and generally getting down. So move the coffee table aside, turn on some tunes, and get the whole family out in their sock feet (slipping and sliding makes everything more fun – though bare feet might be better for the littlest ones) moving and grooving. It’s a great way to get some indoor exercise and use up some of that winter energy.
4. Musical cushions
Most people are pretty familiar with the game musical chairs. Well, a great way to play the game without having to worry about chairs sliding all over your floors, is to replace the chairs with large pillows or cushions. If you’ve got older kids who enjoy a bit of a rumble, you can just set the cushions in a pile in the middle of the floor so that players have to grab for them. The result? A tumble of cushioned fun. Bonus: This game can be surprisingly fun to play with adults as well.
5. Laundry basket ball
All you need to play this version of the high-energy game is…laundry. Just place a laundry basket at the end of a hall or against a far wall (you want to make sure it won’t slide around), ball up some socks or gather up some stuffed animals, and have at it. To make it more engaging, you can set out prizes at certain intervals away from the basket that the kids can collect when they make it in from that distance.
6. Balloon ping pong or tennis
This is a great and easy way to use things around the house to create a fun and energy-consuming game for the indoors. All you need is some paper plates, something longer than it is wide to serve as a grip (longer for tennis, shorter for ping pong), and a balloon of whatever size you wish. Attach the grip to the plate using heavy-duty tape or staples, inflate the balloon, and decide on a court. For extra fun, the kids can decorate the plates before attaching them to the grip. For the smaller kids, bigger balloons can be easier to hit, while older kids may prefer smaller balloons, or even use more than one at a time!
7. Plastic bottle bowling
Have some empty plastic water or soda bottle waiting for the recycling bin? Why not have some fun with them first? Just find 6-10 bottles of roughly the same size and set them up in a triangle pattern at the end of a hall or in an open space in one of the rooms. Then find a soft plush or rubber ball (a tennis ball works great for smaller water bottles, a soccer ball is good for 2-liter soda bottles) and knock ‘em down. One word of caution: It is sometime recommended that you put water, marbles, or something else heavy in the bottom of the bottles to stabilize them. This is not recommended for hardwood floors, since bottle often have seams in the bottom that can cause scratches if partially-filled bottles go sliding. On the flat surface of hardwood, though, the bottles should stand up find on their own. If you really want to make them harder to knock down, you can put a rubber mat underneath them and put a little something dry in the bottom like rice or, yes, marbles.
8. Domino run
This can be an especially fun one for homes with stairs and is a hardwood floor exclusive. Pick up a couple of sets of dominoes at the local dollar store and let the kids find out what it means for something to “fall like dominoes”. If they’ve never done it before, they can start out small, maybe with one pack, and experiment with what works and what doesn’t. It’s a great way for kids to practice problem-solving, observation, and special awareness. Just make sure they don’t let any stray dominoes get underfoot.
9. Grocery bag blocks
If you haven’t switched over to reusable grocery bags yet, or if you have but still have that stash of paper bags in your utility room, this is a great way to make them into something fun. Just put one inside the other, mouth to mouth so that the bottom of one bag makes one side of a block and the bottom of the other forms the other side. You can easily change the size of the blocks by cutting down the bags and you can make them a little more stable by crumpling up newspaper or ad sheets and putting them inside first. And, of course, you can always add a little fun by having he kids color the bags first. If you have older kids, you could even have them plan something to build with the blocks and figure out how they need to color them accordingly to come out with the design they want. Then, when all is done, you can recycle the whole thing!
10. Slip-n-slide cleaning
You’ve probably seen those slippers with the cleaning fibers on the bottom so that you can walk and dust your floors at the same time. Well, why not let the kids try them out? You don’t even have to buy anything new. Just take the hardwood-friendly cleaning cloths you would normally use and attach them to the kids slippers with tape or an elastic band around the ankle (you want to avoid safety pins, since they are likely to cause scratches if sliding gets rambunctious). Hardwood mop covers often fit nicely on feet with no extra attachment necessary. Then give them an area to slide around on and let them free. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could even attach cloths to their bellies or back-sides and let the older kids pull the younger ones around. Depending on how big your cloths are, they may be big enough to serve as a sort of sled for this purpose. Just make sure the kids are in their pajamas – you don’t want the rivet of a blue jean spoiling the floor or the fun.
This is another classic game that seems to be made for hardwood floors. You should be able to find a set at any variety or toy store. The instructions are simple and the game is challenging enough to entertain older kids (and adults) while helping younger ones (older than 5 or 6, though) develop their fine motor skills. Another game, by the way, that can be played inside the fort.
12. Pom-pom obstacle course
Set out a series of goals throughout the house (these can be as simple as a shoe box on a counter or bed). Get different colored pompoms and place one of the same color for each kid in each goal. Each player starts out with a spoon and the starting color. They then have to make their way through the house keeping the pom-poms on the spoon and exchanging them for the new color at each goal. Make up a fun rule for if they drop the pom-pom, like they have to pick it up with their toes or they have to ask someone else to help them. Each kid who makes it back to the finish with the correctly colored pom-pom (the one from the last goal) gets a treat or some other prize.
13. Paper cup tower
Have a bunch of cups left over from your holiday party? Maybe let the kids have a go at them? Or the adults at your party. You can divide the players in to teams (teams of 1 work fine if you’ve got just a couple of kids) and have them stack the cups as high as they can without the towers falling over. You can then re-use the cups for a cotton ball toss once the towers fall.
There is perhaps nothing better than curling up in a cozy place and reading through the winter doldrums. Whether it’s in their fort, on the big living room chair, or a warm place by the fire, the right book can keep kids and adults alike content indoors for hours at a time. Plus, you can involve the whole family by having family reading time, by reading to the kids, or by having the older kids read to the younger ones. You can even take it a step further and have the kids act out what they’ve read for the rest of the family.
15. Card games
Card games are an old go-to for keeping busy while stuck inside. Hardwood floors make and excellent venue for all kinds of card games – as easy to use as the dining room table. Tired of playing “Go Fish” and “Old Maid”? Check out these 40 games kids can play with a deck of cards.
There are tons of fun things to do inside when our Colorado winters get to be too much. Often, the precautions you take to avoid things getting broken (soft, lighter toys in lieu of heavier ones) will also help to protect your floors. Making sure to keep arts and crafts confined to tables and counters can also help to avoid abrasions from things like glitter and damage from paint, water, etc. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to enjoy you family indoors during the winter months and still be able to enjoy beautiful hardwood floors for the rest of the year.
Hardwood floors can stand up to a lot of abuse if you choose the right species and the right finish for your lifestyle. But a scratch here and there can sometimes be impossible to avoid, especially in homes with dogs, cats, or small children. While there are some precautions you can take to protect your floors from damage, it is also usually possible to repair small imperfections without having to take drastic measures like resanding and refinishing.
Very light scratches can often be repaired by going over them with a hardwood refresher like Bona Pro Series Hardwood Floor Refresher or Hardwood Floor Reviver by Minwax. Here’s what you need to do:
Make sure your floor is refresher-compatible. Many prefinished floors will not respond well to refreshers, and using one on an incompatible floor can ruin the finished. Check with the manufacturer or a hardwood floor professional to see what kinds of treatment are recommended.
Read the directions on the product you choose.
Thoroughly clean the area of the floor to be treated and make sure the surface is perfectly dry.
Apply the refresher according to the directions and allow to dry completely, undisturbed.
You may need to reapply every few months.
Deep, Narrow Scratches
If a scratch has penetrated through the stain and finish and into the raw wood exposing the lighter color beneath, but is too narrow to require filling, you should be able to mask the scratch by applying a matching stain. This will, of course, not repair the scratch, and you will still be able to see the damage up close, but it may hide it well enough to suit your purpose. This is an especially effective treatment for handscraped or otherwise distressed floors, on which additional dips and “imperfections” just add character. What to do:
Find a matching stain. If your floor was site-finished, you may have some leftover stain on-hand (stain should be viable for about a year once it has been opened, 2-3 years if it has not) or be able to order a small amount of stain from the same manufacturer. If your floor is prefinished, you may be able to request a repair kit from the manufacturer. Otherwise, you can likely find a pretty close match in the form of a stain pen at your local hardwood flooring dealer or a home repair store.
Thoroughly clean the area of the floor to be treated and make sure the surface is perfectly dry.
Dab stain onto an applicator. Even if you are using a stain pen, it is better to dab a small amount onto a rag or other applicator (be sure not to use anything that may leave debris like cotton threads or lint) to give you more control over the amount of stain that enters the scratch. Too much will cause the scratch to stain darker than the surrounding area, exacerbating the problem.
Rub the stain into the scratch with the same motion you might use to polish a piece of silver, going over each area repeatedly until it once again matches the wood around it.
If the scratch is in an area where it is likely to come into contact with water (kitchen, entrances, dining room) you may also want to refinish the area to seal it from water, as stain does not protect wood from moisture ingress.
Wider Scratches and Gouges
For thicker scratches and gouges smaller than 2-3 inches, you can usually patch the damage and get a close enough match that the gouge will not be noticeable from a natural distance. This is a little more complicated than fixing a scratch, but still a fairly simple and quick repair. Here are the step to follow:
Make sure the gouge is relatively free of dust and dirt.
Purchase a pre-colored wood filler that closely matches the color of your flooring.
For scratches (for gouges skip to stage 4) gently rub light-weight sandpaper over the scratch and about an inch on all sides of it, taking care to rub only in the direction of the wood grain or in a circular motion. Don’t overdo it – you just want to blend the scratch into the area around it a little. Once you have a good blend, clean the area with mineral spirits, then let the area dry thoroughly.
Scoop a bit of your filler onto your finger or putty knife (only use a plastic putty knife so as to avoid making worse scratches with metal on the wood) and fill the scratch or gouge completely. You can be generous with it, since you will remove any excess at a later stage and it should be fairly easy to clean up any extra that may smear around the area. Smooth the filler in different directions to make sure there are no bubbles or missed bits. Once you are certain that the gouge is completely filled, use your putty knife to gently scrape off any excess, taking care not to scratch the surface nearby.
Let the filler dry thoroughly. The directions on the product should tell you how long to leave it.
Once the filler has dried, use very fine (180 grit) sand paper to buff the area around the filler and remove any smears. Rubbing in a circular motion should help you avoid creating any obvious marks in the fill. Use a barely damp cloth to remove any additional smears, taking care not to rub it over the filled area.
Seal the sanded area.
Depending on the condition of the surrounding wood, you may also want to refinish the board to match the rest of the floor. It is best to use a lambswool applicator or natural bristle brush in order to avoid bubbles in your finish.
There’s no denying the beauty of dark woods and dark stains. Especially with younger generations and those seeking an upscale, sophisticated look, darker flooring like Brazilian Cherry, Mahogany, and dark-stained Oak or Walnut hold a strong appeal. But there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding on a darker wood. They can require a bit more maintenance than more forgiving mid-tone woods, a reality that dark wood fans need to prepared to live with.
Dark wood or dark stain?
If you’re looking for a darker hardwood flooring, deciding whether to go with a darker species or a dark stain can be difficult. In most cases, darker woods tend to be less abundant and therefore more costly. Darker planks generally come from heartwood, which represents a smaller portion of the tree than lighter sapwood. Moreover, species that produce truly dark heartwood are not as common and those that produce more medium shades. Consequently, these woods can cost as much as twice what you might pay for a more common wood with a darker stain.
On the other hand, a lighter wood with a darker stain is far more likely to show scratches and dents, since these remove the dark stain from the damaged area revealing the much lighter wood beneath and causing a starker contrast than you would get with a darker species.
A compromise might be to choose a medium wood like Black Walnut with a darker stain or a wood that is a little lighter than, say, Mahogany or Wenge, like Brazilian Cherry or even Jarrah, which can produce a similar effect but tend to be less costly and still mask scratches. Similarly, while a very uniform super dark floor certainly creates a striking and beautiful effect, variation will always be more forgiving when comes to dents, scratches, or other damage.
Regardless of whether you decide to go with a stain or a naturally dark wood, the finish you choose will make a big difference both in how well your floor hides damage and how much it shows dust and other undesirables. Dark wood owners commonly complain of two things: dust and footprints. While a regular cleaning schedule will certainly help to keep this under control, the finish you choose can be your greatest ally in keeping your dark floors looking beautiful all the time.
High gloss finishes are typically a no-no with dark wood floors unless you intend to clean them several times a day and they get virtually no foot traffic (from people or pets). Dark, glossy hardwood will unforgivingly display every speck of dust that lands on it, along with oils from bare feet, pet hair of any kind, shoe prints, and even streaks from floor cleaners. The best way to avoid this is to go with a finish no shinier than semi-gloss. The most satisfied dark wood floor owners tend to be those who go with a satin or even cashmere finish.
To avoid visible scratches, especially on stained woods, consider purchasing a prefinished wood. Because it is tougher than any site-applied finish, a factory-applied urethane will protect against scratches better and will camouflage those that occur, since the scratch will damage only the clear finish rather than tearing through the stain.
Another thing to consider when deciding how dark you floors will be is the lighting in the room or rooms you are considering. Bright natural light is by far the most unforgiving when it comes to darker floors. If your home has a lot of large windows, you might want to go in another direction. Low-light rooms will hide dust best, but of course a dark room will be made even darker by a dark floor. Fortunately, dark floors do best with contrasting room features, so the lack of light can be easily countered with pale furniture and cabinetry and contrasting walls and rugs. This will also serve to enhance the striking, sophisticated look that dark floors serve best.
The key to keeping your dark floor looking spiffy is regular cleaning. If possible, try to run a dust mop (or Swiffer pad) over the floor at least once a day. This does not need to be a proper cleaning—a dry dust mop will serve just fine. If you find that your dry mop isn’t getting everything, you might try vacuuming instead on the same schedule. Make sure, though, that you use a vacuum cleaner specially designed for hardwood floors or with a hardwood floor setting—the brushes and wheels on many vacuums will damage the finish of a hardwood floor. Among dark wood owners, Roomba machines seem to be popular to automate the daily vacuuming process. Miele also makes some popular models. You can check out our earlier post on hardwood vacuums for pet owners to find some other recommended machines.
In addition to daily dust-mopping or vacuuming, you will also want to clean your floors with a cleaner recommended by the manufacturer about once a week. With dark floors, it is especially important to use the right cleaner, as solutions not recommended for the purpose can leave streaks and dull spots, which show up starkly on darker floors. It can also help to turn on a fan or open the windows while the floor dries, to eliminate streaks and discourage potential damage from excess moisture.
A word of caution: Though much advice on cleaning hardwood floors can be found on the Internet, recommendations found in forums and similar places often fail to take into account long-term effects. Two examples that recur frequently in this context are steam mopping and vinegar solutions. Though the immediate results of these may seem satisfying, repeatedly exposing wood to steam will eventually cause it to warp while long-term use of vinegar solutions often results in the gradual dulling of the finish of your floors, an effect that is difficult to reverse. It is for reasons such as these that it is generally best to consult the manufacturer’s instructions or a hardwood flooring professional before trying a new product or method on your floors.
More and more, people are opting for removing shoes upon entry to their homes, largely to avoid tracking in the many nasty things they might tread through on the streets and sidewalks outside. Many dark hardwood floor owners are taking advantage of this trend to ask family and visitors alike to remove their shoes at the door. To make this more comfortable (and to avoid sweaty sock or barefoot prints on the floor), it can be fun to provide a basket of slippers at each entrance. If you choose to go this route, as you are out doing your regular shopping, keep your eyes peeled for fun slippers that might be added to the collection.
There is no doubt that darker hardwoods are a thing of remarkable beauty. But if you choose to have them in your home, choose wisely and know that they may take a little more TLC and require a bit more tolerance for imperfection than their more forgiving mid- and variegated-tone alternatives.
In the first part of this two-part series, we offered general floor maintenance advice to consider when choosing a vacuum for your hardwood, especially if you have pets around. These days, more and more manufacturers are coming out with vacuum cleaners that claim to work miracles on the dirt, hair, and general messes that animals can leave around the house.
Unfortunately, many of these are designed more for carpet and upholstery and can be ineffective on bare floors and even cause damage to your hardwood. While some homeowners and landlords opt not to allow pets in their homes, this isn’t always an option — our furry friends are more than often part of the family. So, you need to know your best vacuum and cleaning options.
Several machines are great for cleaning both hardwood and carpets/ upholstery. To help you pick the best, we did some research and came up with the list below. Of course, no poll of this kind can be truly complete, and we know that a lot of variables besides the ones mentioned factor in when it comes to choosing the right vacuum cleaner. But in case you’re not up for hours of internet research and on-site testing, here are what we found to be the most recommended vacuum cleaners specifically designed or easily adjusted for use on hardwood floors that also offer the power and flexibility needed for cleaning up after pets.
Recommended across the board; designed for bare and wood floor surfaces but can also vacuum area rugs and low pile carpeting; V-shaped design offers wide and precise cleaning angle; superior suction takes care of even larger debris like pet food and litter
15 – 20 min average battery runtime, takes about 3 hrs to fully charge
interchangeable battery with charger
convenient brushroll on/off switch
Fuel Gauge registers remaining battery life
edge cleaning bristles
wide cleaner mouth
extreme recline handle and low-profile base to reach far under furniture easily
bottom release dirt cup
Frequently recommended; removable battery and separate charger mean you don’t have to find a place for a dock; picks up everything from pet hair to Cheerios, no problem; surprisingly powerful; can also be used on short and mid-pile carpeting
(full unit); canister is 8.0 lbs
on its own
Lift-away portable canister
Brushroll on/off capability
Anti-Allergen Complete Seal Technology™
Dust-Away™ hard floor attachment
premium pet power brush
extra-long crevice tool
lifetime HEPA filter
Frequently recommended; great for all types of floors; one of the best vacuums for allergy sufferers; the portable lift-away canister turns the upright into a lightweight canister, great for stairs, drapes, etc.; 5-Year Warranty
BONUS Coming Soon (we hope): Though it is not on the market in the U.S. yet, we understand from Dyson Japan that the new Dyson Fluffy (DC74) may be the hardwood vacuum cleaner of our dreams. It has a soft roller made of tiny microfiber bristles in place of traditional upright brush rollers, enabling it to wipe the dust off the floor without scratching. Combine that with Dyson’s signature mastery of cordless, lightweight machines with powerful suction, and, well, it’s hard to imagine anything better. You can check out the preview of the Fluffy at Gizmodo.
The key to keeping hardwood beautiful, pets or no pets, is keeping it clean. When dust is allowed to accumulate on your hardwood, it becomes like very fine sandpaper underfoot, slowly rubbing away the finish and causing your floor to appear dull and uneven. One of the best ways to do that, especially when dogs or cats are tracking dirt and dust around throughout the day, is to vacuum or dry mop several times a week.
What to use? Well, we have a favorite dry mop that we recommend and even sell in our store, but there are a variety of options. Try to make sure that, whatever you use, the head is made of soft cotton, terry, or microfiber cloth that will attract even the smallest dust particles and will not scratch your finish. Also, whether mopping, sweeping or vacuuming, always try to go with the grain of the wood; this will enable you to capture those little bits that may have filtered down between boards or into the ridges.
More and more often, people have started using vacuum cleaners to remove dust, dirt, and pet hair from their hardwood floors. They can be more effective for getting the smaller particles out from between hardwood planks and for getting into the tight areas where the wood meets the wall. Many vacuum cleaners also have filters designed to remove allergens, including pet dander, from the environment. There are some things to be careful of when using a vacuum cleaner on your hardwood, though.
1. SAY NO TO BRUSHES.
First and foremost, never use the beater brush typical of most vacuum cleaners on a bare floor. Not only will it scatter dust and debris away from the suction of the vacuum, the hard, but powerfully spinning bristles will also cause damage to hardwood finishes. Most modern vacuum cleaners have a switch that allows you to raise or still the rotating brushes. Many also have unique heads or pads designed especially for hardwood that can be attached to the vacuum hose or cleaning head.
2. BEWARE OF BAD WHEELS.
You will want to make sure that any wheels that will be rolling over the surface of your floor use higher-quality rubber, rather than cheap plastic. The hard plastic can easily scratch hardwood. Even rubber wheels should be checked to make sure they are free of debris before they come in contact with your floors. It is for this reason that canister vacuum cleaners are often more popular with hardwood floors owners, as their bulk remains relatively stationary while you clean.
3. THINK ABOUT LARGER DEBRIS.
With pets, you also want to consider whether your vacuum cleaner is powerful enough and designed to pick up larger debris like pet food, kitty litter, or the unrecognizable remains of whatever it was your new puppy just devoured. If you try to clean these things up with a low-quality vacuum, you will end up pushing and dragging them around under the machine, leaving a mess at best and damaging your hardwood. It is better to gently sweep debris up before vacuuming or to use a machine specifically designed with this in mind (we mention a few below).
4. DON’T MAKE A MESS CLEANING YOUR CLEANER.
An increasing number of vacuum cleaners these days utilize a bagless collection method, which allows you remove a canister, empty it out, and replace it for reuse. Some of these, though, can cause a real mess when you open them. You want to make sure that your vacuum’s disposal process is not going to make an even bigger mess than what you started out with, so consider machines that use bags or that have self-sealing collars or dust cups and smooth-release mechanisms.
5. CONSIDER THE WEIGHT.
When vacuuming carpeting, having the extra weight of a sturdy upright can be helpful for getting down to the grit that tends to get embedded in the pad and deep fibers. The opposite is true for bare floors. With hardwood, you want a machine that is light and agile. Everything you need to clean is right there on the surface, so you don’t need the extra weight, and the heavier your vacuum cleaner, the more likely it is to cause scratches as it rolls over the floor, especially on turns.
There is a lot of information out there about which vacuum cleaners are best for hardwoods floors, and there is a lot of information about which ones are best for collecting pet hair and other pet-related debris. Check out our Guide to the Most Recommended Machines to learn more about which vacuum cleaners seem to excel at both.