1. What is the best way to maintain my hardwood flooring?
  2. How do I know when it is time to refinish my hardwood floor?
  3. What type of finish should I use for my floor?
  4. What types of hardwood flooring are there to choose from?
  5. What are the different sizing and installation options for each type of flooring?

1. What is the best way to maintain my hardwood flooring?
Wood floors are a lifetime investment, and decisions concerning them should not be taken lightly.  Routine maintenance requires more than just sweeping and vacuuming; it is important to protect the floor’s surface from moisture and heavy wear.  Remember: Clean your wood floors periodically with a professional wood floor cleaning product recommended by a wood flooring professional and/or the manufacturer of your flooring product.  Failure to clean regularly may void any warranty or guarantee on the product.

As a courtesy to our valued customers, we have prepared the following Maintenance and Care Guide to highlight some of the Dos and Don’ts of caring for hardwood flooring.

Wood Floor Maintenance and Care Guide
DO take preventative maintenance measures by using area rugs, floor protectors, and routine cleaning and maintenance.
DO place protector pads on all furniture legs that come into contact with your wood floor.
DO perform all manufacturer-recommended maintenance on a consistent basis, as well as before and after any major events causing higher-volume floor traffic.
DO prevent scratching and damage by keeping high-heeled shoes in good repair and getting pets’ nails trimmed on a regular basis.
DON’T use wet mops, ammonia or dust cleaners on your hardwood floors.
DON’T track dirt onto the flooring; clean any dirt from the floor immediately.
DON’T use cleaning products designed for other types of flooring.
DON’T wax with a urethane finish—EVER!

For optimum care of your hardwood floors, remember these three simple steps:

  • Vacuum
  • Spray floor with proper cleaning solution
  • Clean with an appropriate mop

2. How do I know when it is time to refinish my hardwood floor?
The following steps will help you determine whether the finish is worn off and in need or refinishing, or just dirty.

First, go to a high-traffic area of your flooring, where the finish would be the most worn.  Then, pour one-to-two tablespoons of water onto the floor.

If the water forms beads: Congratulations!  Your floor is properly sealed.  Cleaning and/or stain removal may be recommended at this time, but refinishing is not necessary.

If the water takes a few minutes to soak into the floor, and darkens it slightly: The floor is worn.  Refinishing is not yet needed, but care and attention are important.

If the water soaks right into the floor, leaving a dark spot: The finish is seriously warn.  It is probably time to recoat or refinish your floors.

If it’s time to refinish, the following information about hardwood floor finishes will help you make the right decisions for your particular flooring needs.

Finishes protect and enhance the beauty of your hardwood floors. They can be applied before delivery (pre-finished) or upon installation in your home (site-finished).

 With pre-finished flooring, the manufacturer applies a finish at the factory (typically at least four coats of ultraviolet-cured urethane resin). Manufacturers say these finishes are more consistent and durable because they are applied under strict controls.

Factory-finished floors can be installed straight out of the box, and manufacturers offer a wide variety of stain colors and finishes. Several finish options are available in pre-finished products, including water- and oil-based urethane and wax.

If you are building a new home or trying to match a new floor with an old one, you might prefer to finish your floor on site. You'll have more color choices, but you'll also have to live with the sanding process and wait for each coat to dry.

3. The principal choices are surface or penetrating finishes.
 PENETRATING FINISHES are absorbed into the wood fibers. These oils, most often with wax applied on the surface, have a matte or satin appearance. If you can feel the wood grain when you run your hand across the surface, it is most likely a penetrating finish.

With their unique physical properties, maple and cherry do not absorb stains as evenly as other U.S. hardwood species. If you prefer a penetrating finish for your maple or cherry floor, use the natural, non-coloring type.
 Flooring Illustration
Oils and waxes penetrate the
surface of the floor, protecting
the wood from within.

SURFACE FINISHES shield floors by forming a protective layer that looks like clear plastic on top of the wood. Predominantly polyurethane, surface finishes are found on all pre-finished floors and are today's most popular choice.
Flooring Illustration
Surface finishes shield floors
from harm by forming a protective
layer on top of the wood.

OIL-BASED URETHANE is the most common floor finish. It ambers with age and comes in gloss, satin and semi-gloss sheens. A typical project will need 2-3 coats of this finish; each coat takes about eight hours to dry. A solvent like paint thinner must be used for clean up.

This type of finish emits fumes as it dries so windows and doors should be left open to provide good ventilation. If it's too cold outside for that, a water-based finish is best.

WATER-BASED URETHANE has fewer odors, dries in two to three hours, and is crystal clear. Brushes can be cleaned with soap and water. Some manufacturers sell "cross-linkers," additives that can be mixed into water-based finishes to make them tougher.

MOISTURE-CURED URETHANE is a solvent-base polyurethane that is more durable and more moisture resistant than other surface finishes. It is mostly used in commercial, high-traffic settings like stores or offices. It can be clear or amber with age and is available in satin or gloss. This type of finish has a strong odor. Its application is best left to the professional.

4. What types of hardwood flooring are there to choose from?

(Reprinted with permission from the National Wood Flooring Association – NWFA)

Wood flooring is available in a number of sizes and make-ups, each offering its own distinct advantages. People are often surprised by the limitless choices that wood flooring affords them. Today's wood flooring is right for virtually every room. Choosing the right kind and style of wood flooring is not hard if you are familiar with several industry terms.
Choice #1: Unfinished wood flooring:
Unfinished flooring is a product that must be job-site sanded and finished after installation.
Choice #2: Pre-finished wood flooring:
Pre-finished flooring is factory sanded and finished flooring that only needs installation.
Choice #3: Solid wood flooring:
Solid wood flooring is completely lumber. It is available in unfinished and pre-finished. Solid wood flooring is produced in:

  •  Strip - in thicknesses of 5/16" to 3/4" in widths of 1 1/2, 2" and 2 1/4"
  •  Plank - in thicknesses of 1/2" or 3/4" and widths of 3" to 8"
  •  Parquet - geometrical patterns composed of individual wood slats held in place by mechanical fastening or an adhesive

Choice #4: Engineered wood flooring:
Laminate wood flooring is produced by bonding layers of veneer and lumber with an adhesive. Laminate wood flooring is available in pre-finished and unfinished. These products are more dimensionally stable and are ideal for glue-down installation or float-in installation above grade, on grade or below grade, including basements and humid climates. Laminate wood flooring is produced in:

  •  Strip - thicknesses of 5/16", 3/8", 1/2" or 5/8" and in widths of 2" and 2 1/4"
  •  Plank - thicknesses of 5/16", 3/8", 1/2" or 5/8" and in widths of 3" to 8"
  •  Parquet - one-piece wood tile available in 9" x 9" or 8" x 8" and other patterns

Choice #5: Acrylic impregnated wood flooring:
Acrylic impregnated is a pre-finished wood flooring product. Through a high-pressure treatment, acrylic and color are forced into the pores throughout the thickness of the wood. The "finish" is inside the wood, creating an extremely hard surface. These floors are highly resistant to abrasion and moisture and appeal most often to commercial customers but are also used residentially. Acrylic impregnated floors are available in the same styles as laminate floors.

5. What are the different sizing and installation options for each type of flooring?
Find the type of flooring you are interested in below, and then read more about the options for that particular product.

Solid Wood flooring comes in three basic types:

  • STRIP flooring accounts for the majority of installations. Strips usually 2-1/4” wide, but also come in widths ranging from 1-1/2” to 3-1/4”. They are installed by nailing to the subfloor.
  • PLANK flooring boards are at least 3” wide. They may be screwed to the subfloor or nailed. Screw holes can be covered with wooden plugs.
  • PARQUET flooring comes in standard patterns of 6" x 6" blocks. Specialty patterns may range up to 36" square units. Parquet often achieves dramatic geometric effects of special design patterns.

Solid wood floors can be installed on a concrete slab as long as the floor is on or above ground level. They can be sanded and refinished over several generations of use.

Solid wood flooring expands and contracts with changes in your home's relative humidity. Normally, installers compensate for this movement by leaving an expansion gap between the floor and the wall. Base moulding is the traditional "cover-up" for this gap.

Engineered wood is made of several layers of different woods, or different grades of same wood, stacked and glued together under heat and pressure.

Engineered wood flooring is less likely to be affected by changes in humidity and can be installed above, on, or below ground level. Some engineered wood floors with thicker top layers can be sanded up to three times. Some can't be sanded at all.

Wood laminates involve a plywood base topped with a layer of veneer. Plies and thicknesses vary, but three-ply, 3/8” flooring is most common. (Remember that solid hardwood floors, at ¾”, are twice as thick as wood laminates.)

The veneer topping of wood laminate floors (commonly 1/8” thick) can be sanded and refinished (in rare cases, three times.) Most manufacturer warranties cover the finish for five years.

Usually ½” thick, plastic laminate flooring consists of a fiberboard center wrapped in top and bottom layers of high-pressure laminate--a tougher version of the same material used in many kitchen countertops. These floors cannot be sanded or refinished and must be removed when they wear out. They usually come with 10- or 15-year manufacturer warranties against fading, stains and wear.

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