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.
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.
When purchasing carpeting, you should buy the best-quality carpet you can afford, coupled with the highest quality padding. In fact, the padding that goes between the carpeting and the subflooring is as important as the choice of carpeting itself. Padding provides softness and support, cuts down on noise and insulates the floor. Often referred to as "underlay" or "cushion," padding thickness depends on the pile of the carpet above it. Padding should be no thicker than 7/16 inch, even for a very deep pile carpet. Too much cushion can actually void a manufacturer's warranty; so, take the time to find the padding that is right for your new carpet.
Ceramic tile is a natural material, and some types of tile are made from recycled glass (including the products listed below). When buying tile (especially imported tile), just be careful not to buy tiles with lead-based or radioactive (often cobalt blue or burnt orange) glazes. Also, use non-toxic adhesives, mortars, and grouts for installing the tile.
When nailing subfloor plywood, snap chalk lines on the plywood to indicate the position of each joist. This gives a nailing target to ensure that nails hit the joists for good holding.
For certain types of rooms and some aesthetic tastes, exposed concrete flooring is a nice option. You can get concrete with a pigment color integrated into the material, you can paint the concrete, or you can simply use a clear (non-toxic) sealer for a more modern or industrial look
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.
In kitchen and bathroom areas where vinyl flooring is often used, natural linoleum can be used instead. (Vinyl flooring is sometimes generically referred to as "linoleum," so be sure to request "natural linoleum.") Natural linoleum is made of linseed oil, pine resins, and jute. It was used for decades before vinyl flooring became available, and it's making a comeback. Natural linoleum can be bought at almost any flooring or home improvement store.
Here's how to protect precious woodwork during home remodeling and construction. Recycle used carpet pads removed with wall-to-wall carpet. The pieces are soft and flexible enough to wrap around banisters and other delicate woodwork. Secure the pads in place with strips of duct tape. This way, your wood will be safe from scratches, gouges, and heavy traffic during remodeling.