The first step in keeping your hardwood floors in top shape is to keep grit off them. Use dirt-trapping, walk-off mats at all exterior doors to help prevent dirt, grit and sand from getting inside the building. Throw rugs or small sections of carpet just inside the entrances are also recommended. Dirt and grit are any flooring's worst enemy, and that includes carpets and vinyls as well as hardwoods. Keep door mats clean. In kitchens, use area rugs at high spill locations and at work stations-stove, sink, refrigerator. Cotton is generally the best fabric since it is easily washed. Mats with a smooth backing, i.e. rubber or vinyl, may trap water beneath.
Floor finishes and certain chemicals in wood oxidize and are affected by ultra violet light sources. This may cause the wood and finish to change color and develop a patina or aged appearance. To avoid uneven appearance, move area rugs occasionally and drape or shade large windows.
Many people find bamboo flooring very attractive. It looks similar to regular wood flooring, but it is harder and more durable. Bamboo has a short growing time, so it is a rapidly renewable resource. Most bamboo flooring contains trace amounts of formaldehyde; one brand that does not is Bamboo Hardwoods, and Teragren contains very low levels.
Here's an easy way to protect hardwood floors during home remodeling and construction. Recycle used wall-to-wall carpet pieces by turning them upside down on your hardwood floors. Secure the carpet pieces in place with strips of duct tape. The inverted carpet will protect your floors from scratches, gouges, and heavy traffic during remodeling projects.
You may be able to renew a dull finish without completely refinishing the floor. Still, some hardwood floor manufacturers recommend that only professional refinishers tackle the job. If you decide to do it yourself, begin by sweeping with a good broom and then vacuuming the surface. Next, use a buffer with an abrasive pad and/or fine-grit sand paper until the finish feels smooth. Another option would be to use a rectangular oscillating sanding machine. Hand-sand any areas that remain rough or irregular. Keep in mind that you want to lightly sand the top coat of the finish, not sand through it. Remove dust by sweeping, vacuuming and wiping the floor with a lint-free towel slightly dampened with water. (Make sure the towel has not been treated with fabric softener or anything else.) Allow the floor to dry completely before applying a single coat of polyurethane finish. Check with the manufacturer of the new finish if youâ€™re not sure itâ€™s compatible with the finish already on the floor. For a waxed floor, apply a mineral-spirit based renovating product and buff with a No. 1 steel wool pad. Allow the floor to dry completely. Next wax and buff. Keep in mind that these steps will brighten the appearance of the finish, not lighten the wood itself.
Properly maintained, hardwood floors can last a lifetime. The key to preserving your investment is assuring that the finish on your floor is still doing its job. You can test this by going to a high-traffic area where the finish is likely to be most worn, pour a tablespoon or two of water onto the floor. Does the water: Bead up so that you can wipe it up without a trace? Congratulations! Your floor's finish is doing its job! Soak into the wood after a few minutes, darkening the floor only slightly? Don't panic, your floor's finish is only partially worn. Immediate refinishing probably isn't necessary, but keep a close eye on the floor. Immediately disappear into the wood leaving a dark spot? If so your floor's finish is seriously worn and it's probably time to recoat or refinish.