Many homeowners decide to invest more money in installing hardwood flooring than they would do rolling out new carpet. What is the secret to hardwood’s popularity in the contemporary interior design?
The question is worth answering, as surveys show that 54% of prospective home buyers are willing to accept higher stakes for houses with hardwood flooring. It is a royal-akin material that, if treated gently, will pay back to its owners with its invaluable appeal.
It is no wonder that hardwood’s revered features have to meet certain conditions, one of which is proper cleaning. How to clear that popular material to preserve its natural beauty and allow it to shine? Let’s leave no stone unturned.
What questions to ask before buying hardwood?
- Where can I use hardwood? Where you want to apply the flooring will be decisive for choosing the right material. Spaces beneath ground level, also known as below grade, shouldn’t be floored with regular hardwood, for the moisture level that amass in a basement, for example, will be inappropriate for it. In this case, you should place your bet on engineered hardwood. Spaces on and above grade are welcome to be floored with normal hardwood.
- What is the subfloor made of? Most of the times, it will be concrete. Given this, if you have concrete flooring, you should – again – opt for engineered hardwood. Moreover, there are dozens of various types of engineered wood, so there’s a lot to choose from. Plywood is the second most common subfloor and allows the immense possibilities of using hardwood floors, either of solid or engineered wood. On the other hand, particleboard owners will have to replace the subfloor with plywood, as particleboard is inappropriate for hardwood due to its cheap price and lower sustainability
- What is your lifestyle? Consider how much your floors will be abused and what it will take to maintain the neatness and the top quality of the hardwood finish. If you host large parties often, you will need a sterner material than people who are single and travel a lot. Remember that high traffic houses require harder wood; in addition, you can play with grain patterns as well as with stains that will hide any imperfections.
- What is the style of your interior? Natural maple is perfect for modern styles, as it is more of a Norwegian-akin design with a tidy appeal and natural simplicity. Traditional style, in turn, goes well with materials like hickory, boards with knots and wider planks.
- What are your priorities? Is it budget or the appearance with which you will show off? Sorting out the right hierarchy for your needs is crucial for determining the matching wood for your floor.
- How will you test the floor? Without considering this step, you may end up having 1000 square feet of Mahoney floor based on the photograph you saw in a catalog. The easiest way to avoid this grave mistake is to ask for a 2-by-2 foot sample of what the floor will look like with a particular finish and stain. Test it with your paint colors and the overall design to see the bigger picture.
What to focus on before cleaning the floor?
Contrary to a popular belief, it’s not the wood that determines how the floors should be maintained. It is the finish that is the hero. Surface finishes are often called urethanes or polyurethane and are on the podium of the hottest treatments today. They are applied to hardwood floors right after the installation is complete, which makes them water resistant. To create a protective barrier, you have to choose from the following finishes: acid cured, moisture cured, water or oil based.
How to figure out the finish of your floor?
In order to determine what kind of finish you’re dealing with, I suggest you run some tests:
- If you can feel the texture of the grain after running your hand over the wood, the floor is finished with a combination of wax-topped natural oils.
- Add a bit of a paint remover and – if the finish bubbles up – you are probably dealing with polyurethane that adds a protective layer to your hardwood.
- To check whether the protective layer is still up or rather worn away, you may run the following experiment: in a less visible question, spill a few drops of water. Should the water soak into the wood and leave a dark spot, it means that the protective layer is either damaged or used up.
- Floors sealed with wax tend to show white spots beneath the droplets 10-15 after they’ve been sprinkled.
- To determine if the finish is made of a varnish or shellac, you should take a coin and grind it over the surface of the hardwood in an indistinct area. If your wood is embraced with one of these finishes, the coin will shed them from the material.
How to protect hardwood from getting messy?
One of the best ways to maintain the neatness of your flooring is to introduce the no-shoes policy to the dwellers and your guests. This way, you will reduce dust, dirt and scuffs, which will reduce the overall cleaning time.
According to the report from The National Wood Floor Association, shoes – especially high heels – are harmful to hardwood floors, as a woman of size 38 walking in high heels has an impact of 2,000 pounds per one square meter, so introducing a no-shoes policy is a win-win situation both for the floor and for its owner.
What to avoid when cleaning?
Regardless of the type of your hardwood, it’s not smart to clean it with products meant for other flooring types (as obvious as it may sound, many people are too lazy to pick a designated detergents). They cause wood to become slippery and get darker sooner than expected.
Another grave mistake made by homeowners is cleaning their floors with a wet mop, which leads to leaving a discoloring residue or dulling the finish, as the water stands for too long. Standing water also does harm to the woods structure, making particular panels swole and distort the surface.
The cleaning routine
For floors installed after 1970, there are three stages to complete the cleaning process: vacuuming, sweeping and damp-mopping
- Vacuuming. This task should be performed on a daily basis or, in some cases, at least once in a week with a vacuum cleaner that has the appropriate brush with switchable endings to adjust them to carpeted or soft surfaces. Provided that you do the vacuuming often, you will get rid of the residual dust.
- Sweeping. There’s not much to elaborate on, as all you need is a broom with so-called exploded tips, a.k.a sythetic fiber ends.
- Damp mopping. As soon as you’re done with clearing the surface dust, vacuuming the whole floor, it is high time you clean it with a wet mop. Although a common belief from the past decade had it that you should soak the mop in water mixed with vinegar, researches around the world shown that acidic solutions make wood floors dull faster, so people turned to a simple solution of pH-neutral soap and water. All in all, there are dozens of relevant pH-neutral cleaners available in local domestic stores. When you’re finished with mopping the floor, leave the area and don’t allow anyone enter the room to avoid visible footsteps. If you are a DIY lover, you may incorporate the solution into a spray bottle and spread it across a dry microfibre cloth and clean uncomfortable spots.
As sweeping the floor and dump mopping it may cause the finish to lose its luster, you should observethe sueface and, when its time to have it refinished, act respectively.
How to clean unfinished or waxed floors?
Waxed or unfinished floors, akin to those known from older movies have a surface similar to floors in which the protective layer has worn away, should never be treated with water or any liquid cleanser because they will penetrate, warp or stain the wood. Instead, you should opt for a soft-bristled broom, to which you will add daily vacuuming to attain the primary line of defense. Beware, though, as a waxed floor must not be damped with a mop.
As far as additional cleaning is concerned, it’s wise to consider waxing the floors once or twice a year. This way, you will help them maintain their luster. So, to wrap it up, if you share the courtesy of being an owner of this vintage kind of floor, regular care should definitely exclude water and liquid cleansers, and involve frequent vacuuming and sweeping, instead.
How to clean engineered hardwood?
Engineered hardwod is created by fusing a thin veneer atop a plywood base. This material is more sturdy and durable than a regular hardwood, which has its share of the popularity of this variation.
To clean the engineered wood properly, you should apply the same rules as you do for regular hardwood floors with urethane finishes; keep them clean by sweeping and vacuuming, followed by damp mopping if necessary.
How to clean painted wood floors
The trend to paint floors in houses and apartments rules the roost because it makes a clever way to disguise wood flooring that has seen better days. Cleaning them is no different than maintaining regular hardwood; nevertheless, one has to keep in mind that abrasive cleaners ar harmful for painted surface. With that said, one should stick to a simple soap and water solution (forget about vinegar because of its acidity level). When you’re done with cleaning, dry the surface immediately to avoid unnecessary moisture.
A perfectly fit hardwood flooring that is maintained with the respective routine will make an immense improvement of your interior design. However, this is a hard nut (or a trunk) to crack due to the subject’s complexity. First of all, you have to determine where you want to place your hardwood flooring. Basements and spaces with particleboard are not supposed to be covered with anything but engineered wood while rooms that are on or above the grade will make a perfect match for solid wood or light pannels.
Always set your priorities. Only then will you be able to determine the right wood for your floor. Whether it is budget or aesthetics, without a proper plan, one cannot attain an eye-catching and sustainable flooring. Should you find your dream-come-true, have it installed but remember about cleaning routine. There is nothing more important for a floor than to upkeep it and maintain the finish’s luster over years.
How about you? Do you favor hardwood flooring? What type of hardwood is in your house and what was the decisive factor for your choice?