Cleaning Your Hardwood Floors: A Beginner’s Guide To Do’s and Don’ts

Cleaning your floors can be a chore, especially if you don’t know how to clean them, and if you do, they end up looking even worse than before. With so many cleaners on the market, and information to dig through, how do you know what to do and what to use? Start with some advice from a hardwood flooring expert. They will know what type of finish you have, and what the best products are for your floor. However, here are a few general tips that are true for all hardwood floors:

vacuuming wood floorsVacuum or Sweep

Start with a simple vacuum or sweeping of the floor. This will help to remove large pieces of grit or dirt, and remove them from the surface. Dusting/sweeping your floors with a microfiber cloth is a great idea if you don’t need a full vacuum or sweeping; make sure the microfiber cloths are soft and regularly cleaned so they don’t push dirt and grit over your floor. Daily cleaning is helpful, but may not be necessary for your lifestyle; keep in mind whether or not you wear shoes, have pets, or have high traffic on your floors.

When using a microfiber mop, you should keep it touching the floors so the dirt stays on the cloth; microfibers use static electricity to trap dirt. At least once a week, you should vacuum or sweep them to get those hard to reach areas and give your floors a deeper clean. Be careful when doing this, because the vacuum wheels may damage the floor. Ensure the beater bar is raised, and/or the wheels are in good shape. If possible, use an attachment with brush bristles to keep your floors from plastic or metal scratches.

mop going over wood floorMop without Water

When mopping, remember that you should never clean hardwood floors with water, and/or never ‘damp mop’ using a bucket or old fashioned wring mop. Instead of water, use a special hardwood flooring cleaner, like Swedish Summit Rena Cleaner. A cleaner that is specifically designed for hardwood floors is important. Your hardwood floors are not a piece of furniture, and do not require the same maintenance techniques.

You should never use steam mops or wax or oil soaps on your hardwood floor if you have a urethane floor finish. Steam mops, oil soaps and waxes are not necessary, are especially hard on your floor, may damage your finish and will most likely void your finish warranty. Using excess water can cause cupping, gaps, staining and long term damage to both the finish and the wood itself. Avoid using water, vinegar and soap based cleaners.

rug in front of doorUse Walk Off Mats

To help with keeping your floors in great shape and looking like new, try to place walk off mats on the floor in places like the entryway or back door, to catch dirt, grit and excess water. Try to get mats that are specific for hardwood floors, so they don’t trap moisture or dirt, which can damage the floors over time. You can also use felt floor protectors on your furniture to prevent scratches and dents. Make sure to maintain felt pads as well, as they can also trap dirt and debris, acting like a small piece of sand paper on your floor. Depending on your wear level, you may need to replace these every few months.

Make sure to keep pets nails trimmed, and if you wear shoes in the house, make sure they are well maintained, clean, and without metal or plastic pieces that can scratch, gauge or dent the floors.

If you plan to move furniture or other items across the floor, make sure to pick them up completely, rather than slide them across the floor. Even clean floors can be scratched by plastic, metal, or wood. Don’t rely on paper or fabric, as these can trap dirt and debris while movement is occurring over the top.

Use a Good Quality Wood Floor Cleaner

We suggest you also use a cleaner like Swedish Summit ‘Rena’ hardwood floor and laminate cleaner. Its quality that can help maintain without wear, and is great for your floors; Rena cleaner provides a ‘no-residue’ alcohol based detergent, designed for urethane floors. This cleaning system will protect and maintain the life of your floor, not add to the grime! To use, spray a small mist of Rena cleaner on the floor or microfiber cloth, and then use the mop to clean periodically in small sections at a time.

Develop a Routine

Developing a cleaning routine can be confusing with all of the different brands of cleaner, and requirements of different surfaces. You want to protect the investment of your hardwood flooring by using the right products and methods from the beginning! Contact Treadline to hear about Rena Cleaner, mops, microfiber cloths and other products to keep your floors looking great for years!

Author Kelly Ragalie is a National Wood Flooring Association Certified Wood Floor Inspector, Sander/Finisher and Sales Advisor; she and her husband have owned and operated a hardwood flooring specialty contracting/retail company for over 10 years.

For more information, contact Treadline Hardwood. http://www.treadlinehardwood.com.

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Engineered vs. Solid Hardwood: What is the right choice?

When shopping for new hardwood floors, the choices can seem very overwhelming.  From red to grey, handscraped to smooth and beyond, the many differences between each of the options is daunting.  But many homeowners need to start with the basics, right from the start: engineered versus solid hardwood.  What are the differences?  Which is better?  Why do I care?  All of these are great questions, and hopefully by the end of this article you’ll know exactly what you need.

Almost every conversation I have with a customer begins with the statement: “I only want REAL hardwood floors, none of that fake stuff in my house!”  In reaction, I always start with “ Ok, let’s talk about that!”  Most people have someone they know who has had hardwood floors in their home; grandma, Uncle Bob, neighbor Susie…some have even lived on hardwood floors themselves.  Most people have experience with ‘traditional’ solid hardwood floors. These are the floors that are 3/4” thick, solid wood from top to bottom.  They come in hundreds of species and widths, and are sanded and finished in the home after installation.  What tend to confuse people are ‘Engineered’ floors.  Engineered hardwood floors are a top wear layer of a wood species (could be Oak, Maple or anything), on top of ply-layers, usually 3-7 layers, cross-laminated together using high-pressure resins.  These products are technically superior, and designed to counter-act the natural expansion and contraction that happens to all hardwood flooring.  These floors are superior in the fact that they are more stable and can be installed in many different applications such as over concrete, below grade, or floated in areas in which a solid floor cannot be installed.

Example of Engineered Wood

 

Example of Solid Wood Floor

The confusion comes from the word “laminate” and “laminated”.  These two words, while similar, mean two very different things.  Laminated is the act of gluing layers together – and can be in reference to wood, plastic, metal, etc.  The word laminate is in reference to a plastic product found in both countertops and flooring products.  A laminate floor is not wood, but rather a plastic picture of wood, laminated to a mdf or hdf core.  Lamination, in engineered wood, on refers to the gluing together of the layers of ply to form the product.

When purchasing an engineered wood floor, there are a few things to consider.  One: what species are you looking at? Two: how wide is the product.  Certain hardwood species including Hickory, Domestic Cherry, and exotics like Acacia are highly unstable woods. They have a tendency to move (expand and contract) more often, and with more gusto that the average Oak or Maple.  In this case, an engineered hardwood would counteract that movement, and make it a much more stable floor to have in your home.  In addition, any hardwood product over 4 inches in width should be engineered for the same reasons.  Hardwood flooring will move with changes in humidity and temperature no matter what you put down.  However, the engineered products behave much better, and you will have less change for a flooring failure over time.

Stability is not the only thing to think about when wood floors are concerned.  While many newer projects are heading towards engineered flooring, there are certainly instances with a traditional hardwood floor can fit the bill.  The biggest factor is aesthetics.  Engineered floors usually come in a pre-finished form.  Pre-finished flooring is sanded and finished at a factory, under certain conditions using manufacturer specific finishes to their standards.  These products are milled, sanded and finished individually.  This is much different than all of the boards being installed, sanded and finished on-site, in your home, using site applied finishes.  The biggest difference is how they look.  Pre-finished floors have what is called a ‘micro-bevel’ in the industry.  This is a slight angle at each side and end joint.  This is because each board may have microscopic differences to the board it will be installed next to on the jobsite.  Therefore, a micro-bevel will give an overall uniform look to the floor.  This is in contradiction to the site finished floor, where the gaps between all boards are usually filled and the height is the same, as they are all sanded at the same time.  Some homeowners do not like the look or feel of the pre-finished micro-beveled floors.  Unfortunately, this an inherent characteristic of a pre-fnished floor that cannot be changed.  There are a few product in the market that may downplay this fact, and have a ‘square edge’, but in reality they still are pre-finished and have some kind of edge effect.  In this case, a smooth, uniform appearance from a site-finished floor is the way to go.

Example of Pre-finished floor and Sand and Finish

Ultimately, each product is a good choice for the right family in the right application.  Make sure you educate yourself, and seek out professionals that understand these characteristics, and understand your ultimate expectations with your floor.  They can then properly guide you to the right product for your home.

Kelly Ragalie is a NWFA Certified Sand and Finisher, Sales Adviser, and probationary Inspector; and a Certified Subfloor Moisture Tester with ICRI.  She and her husband have owned and operated a retail hardwood flooring company since 2006.

Hardwood Floor Maintenance: The Danger of ‘Polishing’ Your Floors

When living on hardwood flooring, we want to ensure proper maintenance. Proper maintenance will prolong the life of the hardwood floor, and may decrease the future need for multiple refinishings or replacement. However, the products used to maintain a floor should be carefully considered prior to application. Some products can have an impact on how the floors can be treated down the road. It can be quite a costly mistake to make. Here is an example of how one homeowner learned the hard way.

Mrs. Anders purchased a new home in January. The home was about 7 years old, and had existing engineered, pre-finished Brazilian Cherry smooth hardwood flooring throughout the main floor. When she purchased the home, she loved the floors, and was very excited to find such beautiful floors in the home, and it was truly one of the selling points. The floors were used, showing their 7 years of wear, but still in very good shape. Overall some micro-scratches and dull look covered the flooring area. Mrs. Anders contacted a local hardwood flooring specialty company to add some additional flooring on the upper floor and stairs. During the install process, Mrs. Anders discussed her existing flooring with her contractor.

Brazillian Cherry They determined that the existing flooring was not ready to be refinished – which would involve sanding the wood all the way down to raw wood, remove the existing factory finish, and they would apply a new finish, that was not the same. Mrs. Anders and her contractor determined that a deep cleaning would freshen up the floors, remove any grime and grit, and keep the floors looking fresh. The contractor was using a proprietary system that includes a professional deep cleaning machine with nylon bristle scrubbing pads, and a professional cleaning solution, specifically designed to cut through grease, grime and build up on a hardwood floor.

Hardwood Floor Cleaning

Before the contractor began the cleaning process, he had asked Mrs. Anders if she knew what the floor had been cleaned with regularly or if there were any other known substances applied to the floor. As the new owner, Mrs. Anders stated she had never cleaned the floor with anything and she had spoken with the previous owners, and they said they just used a common household hardwood floor cleaner. Unfortunately, Mrs. Anders and the contractor did not do any pre-testing to see how the cleaner would work on the floor, or to determine if there were any unknown substances or contaminants on the floor.

When the contractor began the cleaning process, he immediately noticed a ‘smeared’ look to the finish. It almost looked like water beading, that smeared and wouldn’t disappear. The contractor assumed that the cleaning product was leaving a residue, and would dry after it was completed. However, this residue did not go away, and Mrs. Anders thought the contractor had scratched the floor and ruined it with his cleaning system.

Brazillian Cherry Before Deep Cleaning

The contractor was confused, and immediately contacted his manufacturer’s representative for questions. The representative asked if the contractor had performed an Acrylic test on the floor prior to applying the cleaner. The contractor had not performed this test. They scheduled a time to come out and perform an Acrylic test, and determine the next steps in the system.

When they performed the Acrylic test, it immediately came back positive. The contractor and representative again asked Mrs. Anders if she knew what products had been applied to the floor before. She got on the phone, during the meeting, and the previous homeowners texted over a picture of a well-known, readily available hardwood floor polish. This polish was marketed as ‘A durable, urethane acrylic blend with exceptionally fast dry time and no waxy build-up….Adds a subtle sheen and protective new layer and fills in micro-scratches, evening out the appearance of your floor…specially designed for wood floors, including factory finished floors…’ The key term in that marketing is “Acrylic.” Acrylic is a chemical substance that notoriously reacts badly with most professional flooring maintenance and finish systems.

Hardwood Floor Acrylic Cleaner

Once the product on the floor was determined, a plan of action was put in place. Luckily, the cleaning system can be followed by a deeper penetrating cleaning solution, that will remove the Acrylic polish. Then a new coat of finish is applied, without damaging the existing factory finish.

When this final step was performed, the floor was almost like new again. All of the grit, grime, build up AND the micro-scratches had disappeared. Mrs. Anders was thrilled to pieces, and was so happy her existing hardwood floors were saved and would be just as beautiful, if not more so than before!

Often homeowners don’t understand the variety of products available for hardwood floor maintenance. There are hundreds of products, all marketed for hardwood floors in one fashion or another. What many homeowners find is these ‘fresheners’, ‘cleaners’ and ‘polishes’ only mask a problem, add to a problem, or create a problem when in reality, professional hardwood flooring companies should be consulted to see what is the right maintenance for the flooring in question. Each floor is individual, and will have its own requirement for maintenance depending on finish, species and traffic.

Brazillian Cherry After Deep CleaningThe lesson learned is this: make sure you know what you are using to maintain your floors, how it will affect any future maintenance, and always pre-test an area so that you know how the solution be applied with react on the floor. In Mrs. Anders case, it turned out better than expected. Don’t get caught in a situation where your only solution is a full refinish of the flooring to get back to square one. Contact your local hardwood floor professional, to speak about the proper maintenance for your floors!

by Kelly Ragalie, Treadline Construction

 

How to Pick the Right Color For Your Floor: 5 Tips From a Professional Flooring Company

When refinishing your existing hardwood flooring, you have an opportunity to change the color. Natural hardwood floors come a plethora of hues from light tones such as Maple or Hickory, to darker, richer woods like Walnut or Brazilian Cherry. However, many people are bored with the natural tones of their existing floors. Maybe those tones are not the current trend. Possibly, the natural color of the wood is nothing close to what you would LIKE your hardwoods to look like. Many homeowners don’t even know they CAN change the color of their floors. A new stain color could change everything! While this might seem like a daunting decision, there are ways to make the decision easier. Here are a few tips for choosing the right color for your hardwood floors.

  1. Start by thinking about contrast. You do not want to ‘match’ your cabinets, moldings, doors, or furniture. You want to compliment these items. Many homeowners make the mistake of thinking everything should match. This is a huge mistake. Not only is it nearly impossible to get everything to match exactly right, it creates monotones that end up becoming boring and ugly. Too much of a bad thing is a very bad thing. Try looking at a grain pattern in the floor, and try to go a shade or two darker, or try looking at tones that are the opposite of the cabinets or trim moldings. Once you think of complimenting, your tones start to narrow down.Treadline-Construction-Floor-ColorsDon’t think about looking at every color available in the rainbow. A stain color from one paint store or big box department is going to look different on every sample you see. It will then look different on your wood floors, in your home, next to your cabinets, moldings and furniture. Lighting, paint colors and time of day can all change the color you see on the floors, so really the only true way to view a sample is to put it on your floor, on your wood, in your home and look at it over a period of at least 24 hours.Treadline-Construction-Floor-Kitchen
  2. Avoid custom color mixtures. Custom colors can become tricky and a potentially a large problem. When custom colors are chosen, the formula is put together by the on-site technician. While there are often ‘formula’ calculations, it often works that the technician may not follow the recipe exactly, or a homeowner might want something slightly darker, lighter, redder, browner, etc. In addition, if a custom color is chosen and applied, should something happen to the floor in the future that would warranty a repair – the matching of such a color is impossible. Custom colors will never exactly match a specific furniture piece or a tone of paint, and therefore will likely disappoint. Try to find a color that is directly from the stain manufacturer.
  3. Think about maintenance of the color. Many customers pick a color based upon decor or the advice of an interior designer. That is certainly helpful, and a part of the decision, but often these decisions don’t take into consideration the daily life that will be occurring on this floor. Lighter tones will hide things like crumbs and dust, but you may see more denting a scratching if your species doesn’t have a strong grain pattern. Darker tones will show just about everything like scratches, dust, dirt, etc., and can drive someone obsessed with clean floors absolutely insane. A dark floor in a house with a white haired dog, may not be the best choice. Ultimately, the expectation of what to expect should be discussed and deliberated thoroughly before the choice is made. In theory a medium tone is the most ideal for many homeowners and can give a warmth and richness, without the issues that some of the other tones might present.Treadline-Construction-Floor-family-room
  4. Be selfish, pick the color you will love for the next 15-20 years. Remember that this is your home, your lifestyle, and your choice. Some customers fall into a trap of thinking they need to follow trends, listen to friends or family members, take the advice of a designer, or not know what they really want. This thinking is opposite of the truth. You purchased the home, you live in the house day in and day out, and you are the one who will need to clean the floors for the next 15 years while staring at this color. Choose something that YOU love, and that speaks to you. This often happens the minute it goes down on the floor. You WILL know, and you will be able to fall in the love with the color right away. Have confidence in yourself, and you will make the correct decision!

Treadline-Construction-Floor-dining-room

For more color options, visit the Bona DriFast Stains page. If you would like to see some images of floors we’ve completed, visit our recent jobs gallery.

Kelly Ragalie is a NWFA Certified Sales Advisor and Sand and Finisher, a hardwood flooring inspector, and has spent the last 10 years owning and operating a retail hardwood flooring company, specializing in refinishing and staining hardwood floors.