As timber floors have grown in popularity so has the advice offered by supposed ‘experts’. However, this type of flooring requires specific care and there are some processes and products that are definite no-nos when it comes to maintenance – particularly if you want them to last a lifetime (which they should). Here is an expert guide to timber floor care.
What do I need to consider when maintaining timber floors?
Just as timber species vary in both colour and hardness, so do the finishes and coatings that are used on timber flooring. For example, flooring finished with solvent-based polyurethane will look different compared to an oil finish. This means the type of maintenance and the products you should use when caring for timber floors can differ significantly as well. One cleaning product and method definitely doesn’t suit all! Regardless, timber floors always benefit from regular care, which will enhance their visual appeal and extend their life.
What if I’m dealing with a newly finished floor?
If you are undertaking timber floor maintenance on a newly finished floor there are some factors you’ll need to keep in mind. Although floors may be walked on after the initial curing process, some precautions are necessary until the coating has fully hardened. This can take several days to several weeks depending on the coating and the weather conditions at the time of application. Failure to take this into account will increase the risk of scuffing and scratching – definitely not ideal on your beautiful new floor!
It is recommended that rugs aren’t laid until after the finish has hardened and also rugs with rubber backings should never be used as they can stain or otherwise affect applied coatings.
Heavy furniture should be carefully moved into position and lifted not dragged over newly finished floors. It’s also worth attaching furniture protection felt pads to the feet of tables and chairs, and care should be taken with chairs with castors as they can indent softer timbers and cause premature wear.
What about ongoing care and maintenance?
There are a variety of aspects that affect how often you need to undertake timber floor maintenance, including how much grit is present, the level of foot traffic, the type of footwear your family wears, the types of interior and exterior matting used and the general conditions of the area outside the house.
Sand and grit that’s brought into the house via footwear can act like sandpaper, which can cause scratches. Mats placed inside and outside external doors and rugs and carpet runners in high-wear areas like the kitchen can help to reduce this. These should be kept clean and rearranged periodically to allow the floor colour to age evenly.
You should also avoid walking on wooden floors with sports shoes, cleats or stiletto heels as the impact can dent the floor’s surface. Shoes should also be removed at the door to avoid potentially sharp objects being dragged in on shoe treads. Pet’s nails should also be kept trimmed as a dog running through the house at full speed will most certainly scratch any finish!
High levels of humidity and direct intense sunlight can also affect wooden floors and contribute to gapping and the cupping of boards which will cause a board’s edges to be higher than the centre of the board. It can also cause the colour and finish of boards to change with time. Some floor finishes are also more prone to darken with age and direct sunlight can accelerate this process. Curtains or blinds can filter sunlight and control cupping and gapping and also slow down the colour change process.
Spills should be mopped up as soon as they occur and any leaks must be attended to immediately. Failure to do so can result in severe problems with a floor particularly when it’s laid over sheet flooring or directly adhered to a concrete slab.
What about cleaning products?
Depending on your floor’s coating or product type in all instances you should obtain advice from your installer and/or manufacturer in terms of what cleaner suits your floor. In terms of cleaning timber floors, stubborn stains and scuff marks can generally be removed with a light rubbing using a recommended wooden floor cleaner.
However, bleaches, domestic detergents, vinegar, methylated spirits, abrasive cleaning soaps, kerosene, wax-based products and commercially available cleaners should never be used as they will damage your floor. Before evaluating any recommended cleaning product it’s also worth testing on a less conspicuous part of the floor surface first!
In terms of maintaining timber floors, a just-damp mopping on a fortnightly to monthly basis will assist with cleaning and for a deeper clean, a recommended neutral PH wood floor cleaner can be used. Excess moisture should also be removed as water and timber floors definitely don’t mix. That’s why you should also never, ever wet-mop a floor! Steam mops should also be avoided because regardless of what manufacturers say, they can often cause a floor’s finish to peel or become white or cloudy.
If you want to use a vacuum cleaner you’ll need to check the condition of the brushes as if they are hard or have worn thin, the contact of the metal head with the floor can result in scratching.
When is re-coating and re-sanding a floor necessary?
Timber floors are subject to different wear patterns and you’ll probably notice initial signs in high traffic areas. Most timber floors need to be rejuvenated at some point and this usually requires coatings to be buffed back and the floor re-coated. Some oiled and waxed floors will also benefit from a more frequent application of products including metalized polish, oil refreshers, or maintenance oil, wax or paste which will provide additional wear layers to a timber floor’s surface.
If you’re not sure if your floors need recoating, place a few drops of water on the surface of high wear areas and if beading occurs then the finish is still intact and your floors probably only need a clean. If after a few minutes the water begins to soak into the floor and the timber colour darkens, then the finish is beginning to wear and recoating should be undertaken.
When it comes to timber floor care, it’s important that excessive wear doesn’t occur before recoating is considered, otherwise a total re-sand and re-finish will probably be required. Prevention is always better than cure!
Need some advice on how best to look after your timber floors? We can help! Contact the experts at Brisbane’s Finest Floors today on 0411 220 488.