Homeowner Tips: How to Maintain Your Hardwood Flooring

For many homeowners, hardwood floors are a must-have: They’re classic, attractive, and add value to the home. But once a homeowner has those hardwood floors, how do they take care of them so they retain as much of that value as possible over the lifespan of the house? 

Know the Enemies of Hardwood Floors 

Once homeowners understand what damages a hardwood floor, they can make sure to protect it. Top enemies of hardwood floors are moisture and scratching. 

It’s smart to develop a policy of mopping up spills as soon as possible before the liquid has time to penetrate the floor. To protect floors in the winter and spring, when shoes may track in snow or water, use a boot tray in the entrance or carefully wipe the feet on a doormat to remove moisture from shoes. 

Protect furniture with felt pads and avoid walking on hardwood floors with high heels (which can damage the wood surface), so that floors will age much better. 

If there are children in the home, provide rugs in play areas so that children do not accidentally damage the wood floors during play. It’s also more comfortable for the little ones this way! 

Watch for Humidity

In humid climates, summertime humidity can affect the warp of the flooring. Dry air in winter months can also impact floors. Signs that a floor is affected by humidity include cupping, or rises and dips in the wood, so the floor no longer feels even. 

Wood floors do best when the humidity level falls between 30 and 50 percent. The best approach is to keep a constant humidity in the home through humidifying the air in winter months and using a dehumidifier in the winter. 

If the floor has already been damaged by humidity, such that it is significantly uneven, it may be necessary to replace the damaged wood with fresh planks. 

Sweep Regularly 

Over time, dirt and debris can become ground into the floor by regular foot traffic. Some homeowners adopt a no-shoes policy in the home, so they do not have to clean the floor as often. Others use doormats on the inside and outside of exterior doors, providing multiple opportunities to wipe debris off shoes before entering the home. 

If these measures are unrealistic, plan to sweep the floor on a regular basis, especially if there are children or pets in the home, which may be bringing more debris into the house. To maintain wood floors properly, sweep at least twice weekly – and as often as every day if floors appear dirty. 

Clean Floors

Wood floors benefit from regular cleaning with a pH neutral product or with a vinegar/water solution (1 cup vinegar: 1-gallon water). Steer clear of products that contain acrylic waxes, as these can cause buildup on wood floors over time, which tends to make the floors look dull. When cleaning, lean toward the exit, to avoid walking over a freshly mopped wood with dirty shoes. Change water when it appears dirty. 

When homeowners follow preventative maintenance and clean hardwood floors regularly, they will be rewarded with attractive floors that stand the test of time. In some areas of the country, hardwood floors have lasted for over 100 years, in fact!