Caring for Hardwood

Too many times consumers are led to believe oil soap and wet swiffers can be used on hardwood. Having seen the effects both can have on site finished hardwood we recommend you stay away completely from oil soap. Unfortunately wet swiffers can cause damage to hardwood as we've learned through the many inspectors we know. Oil soap on the other hand, will leave a residue build up and dull any hardwoods surface appearance.

Hardwood care and maintenance is just as important as making that decision to invest in one. Over the years Fat Andy's has seen some that were maintained beautifully and it shows. On the other hand we have also seen those that were abused and no attention to preservation was considered. Not only does cleaning play an important role to the longevity of your investment, but attention to damage prevention as well. Here are several items to be considered that some people may overlook.

  • Never wet-mop a wood floor. Standing water can dull the finish, damage the wood and leave a discoloring residue.
  • Place bristle type mats at all exterior door entries. These will collect larger pieces of grit or small stones.
  • Never use sheet vinyl or tile floor care products on wood floors. Self polishing acrylic waxes cause wood to become slippery and appear dull quickly. The only remedy in this situation is to sand and refinish the floor.
  • Place area rugs at all entry points inside the home.
  • Felt pads are a great idea for placing under furniture legs, but keeping them free of grit is just as important. Each time the floor is swept or cleaned check for any grit that may collect under a chair or furniture leg.
  • Place area rugs at all water areas. Kitchens are most important in this case. One may not be enough and I would suggest others in front of the refer/ice maker, dishwasher, and kitchen sink area.
  • Remember that cleats, sports shoes and high heels can dent any floor surface. When a 125 pound woman takes a step in high heels she exerts 2,000 psi (pounds per square inch). An exposed heel nail can exert up to 8,000 psi. And don't forget about animals with long fingernails!
  • Any time they are moved please use some kind of protection to prevent scratches and gouges. Appliance delivery guys are notorious for not taking the necessary precautions. Our suggestion is to use 1/8" masonite board making sure the surface and the floor is very clean when any appliances are moved. One small piece of grit will make any efforts worthless.
  • Use a humidifier in the home throughout the winter months to keep all wood movement and shrinkage to a minimum.

Humidity Control

Wood flooring is a natural product that responds to humidity variation by expanding and contracting. These changes may be noticeable. During warm and humid summer wood expands. During dry weather wood contracts. This seasonal movement is a normal characteristic of wood flooring. The best way to reduce this movement and even make it invisible is to install humidity controls and make sure they function before the flooring is installed.

In winter, when homes are heated and the air is dry, wood flooring gives up some moisture and therefore shrinks. When it happens thin gaps can appear between planks. This is normal, and a homeowner should be prepared for this. Once indoor heat goes off in the spring and indoor environment regains moisture, most of these gaps will close up.

Lack of moisture can dry out your hardwood floors and can cause problems. A good quality humidifier can help solve these types of problems.

To avoid these separations try to add moisture to the air during dry period. The best way is to install humidifier in the furnace or moveable humidifier in the room with good air circulation. If humidity does not go lower than 45%, no separations will appear at all. To keep permanent control over humidity in the house, install simple humidity meter, so you can constantly monitor humidity level in your house.

In warm and humid summer when indoor humidity can rise up to 90% the opposite occurs. Wood absorbs moisture from the air and therefore expands. If wood flooring is exposed to extensive humidity even for a couple of days it can cup. Cupping means that edges of a board are higher than its center. It can also occur after water is spilled onto the floor and it is absorbed by the wood. It takes a while for humidity to return back to normal. It is very important to be certain before installation that humidity level on the job site is within allowed range 45-55%.

In extreme cases, if wood expands significantly, boards get under enormous pressure from adjoining boards.  As outcome boards can lose structural integrity and crack. To prevent cupping do not allow humidity rise over 60-65%. Keep air conditioner or dehumidifier running during humid summer.

If you see cupping in your flooring, first, identify and eliminate the moisture source. It can be plumbing leak in the basement, the terrain of the lot with rain and runoff not moving away from the house or indoor humidity may need to be controlled.

After the source of moisture is controlled cupping can usually be cured. If cupping is moderate, the floor may improve on its own as it dries out over time. If cupping is excessive, floor may need to be sanded and refinished. Be certain that the floor has thoroughly dried before sanding.

If sanded in the wrong time, before moisture content returns to normal and boards flattened, crowning may occur. Crowning means that the center of the boards will appear higher than the edges.