A Guide To Caring for and Refinishing Hardwood Floors

If properly cared for and refinished, hardwood floors last for years. Check out this guide that can help ensure your hardwood floors look good for years to come.

Dining Room Area with Refinished Wood Floors

Hardwood floors are desirable not only because they are classic and beautiful, but also because they are easy to maintain, durable and allergen-resistant. If you are fortunate enough to have solid hardwood floors in your home, make sure you’re taking care of them properly so they will continue to look good for years to come. Many types of hardwood floors actually develop a patina that improves their appearance with age as long as the right steps are taken to care for it.

Door mat and hardwood floors

Caring for your hardwood floors starts outside your home. Placing mats at doorways encourages people to wipe their feet before tracking in dirt; also, a handy bench or chair nearby gives them a place to sit and remove wet boots and shoes. Place area rugs or carpet strips in high-traffic areas to minimize floor wear, such as in entryways, hallways and frequently used rooms. Make sure that rugs and rug pads are made from a breathable material that won’t hold moisture and harm the flooring surface underneath. Put pads or floor protectors under furniture that sits on hardwood floors.

Mop hardwood floors

The most important step for basic hardwood floor care is to regularly vacuum, sweep or dust mop the floors to remove dirt and objects that can cause scratching. If there’s a risk that your vacuum might scar the floor’s surface, use the brush attachment connected to your appliance. Always wipe up any spills or mud right away, even if your floor is protected with a polyurethane finish.

Humidity levels can affect hardwood flooring, especially if they vary drastically. It’s best to keep the relative humidity between 35% and 55%, if possible, using a humidifier or dehumidifier as needed. If you notice shrinkage, cracks, cupping, or buckling, you may need to regulate the humidity in your home.

To properly clean your hardwood floor, it’s important to know what kind of finish is present: is it a polyurethane/other surface finish or a wax/penetrating stain finish? Polyurethane floors should never be waxed, and wax finished floors need to be periodically buffed to keep the shine. When buffing no longer brings back the shine, it’s time to wax. Polyurethane floors can be lightly damp mopped, provided the water is not allowed to stand. A waxed floor should never be mopped regardless of how wet the mop is.

When mopping hardwood floors with a polyurethane finish, use warm water and a small amount of dish washing liquid or wood cleaner. Make sure you are using a damp mop and not a wet one; be sure to wring out the mop well before applying it to the floor. Try to mop with the grain as much as possible, and wipe up any excess water with a soft cloth, polishing the hardwood floors as you go. Avoid using products with ammonia, vinegar, or abrasive cleaners. When in doubt, ask the manufacturer or installer of your floors what products and methods to use for cleaning.

How often hardwood floors need to be refinished depends in large part on how much wear and maintenance the floors receive. If floors have deep scratches or gouges, the planks will probably need to be replaced rather than refinished. Conversely, it may be possible to buff out light scratches without deep sanding, followed by reapplying the finish.

Floor sander on hardwood floors

Clean the floor. The floor area that will be refinished must be thoroughly cleaned before you begin.
Prep – Move furniture out of the room, remove shoe molding, tape walls edges, and cover doorways and vents with plastic (there’s going to be a lot of dust generated). Also, remember to “prep” yourself by having masks and gloves ready
Sanding/screening – With a rented floor sander (often a drum sander), start with a low grade of sand paper to make a pass over the entire floor. Continue the process and increase the grade of sand paper each time. Use a handheld or orbiter sander for the edges of the room
Vacuum/wipe down – When this phase of the sanding is complete, you’ll vacuum and wipe down the floors completely, taking time to fill in any cracks or holes with wood filler.
Stain/seal – Depending on your floors and your desired result, you’ll apply a stain, seal, or both, and may sand/buff the floors again.
Finish – Apply the polyurethane or other chosen finish.

Once you’ve considered the overall layout, you’ll want to be sure to address these key components of a well-designed laundry room.

With a little tender loving care, your home’s hardwood floors will serve you well for years to come, all while looking great and adding warmth and charm to your décor. If you don’t have hardwood floors but are considering making the investment, research the different types, finishes and styles that are available to you. Also, know the difference between solid and engineered floors. Hardwood floors will increase the value and appeal of a home both at point of sale and in the meantime for your family to enjoy.


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