Winter Care for Hardwood Flooring
Now that winter is fast approaching, long dark nights and cold days mean that most people spend more time indoors to escape the worst of the weather. Whilst this may be good news for us it is not such good news for our hardwood floors. In addition to central heating, additional moisture in the air, open fires and kitchen ranges your floor also has to cope with heavy traffic and lots of winter debris of salt, snow, slush and mud. This will, over just one season, dull down the veneer of any type of hardwood, while sustained moisture in the air will cause boards to swell, causing gaps and warping.
So, because winter is both unavoidable, but you still want your wooden floor to look its best no matter what the seasons throw at it, here are some handy hints and tips on how to successfully preserve your hardwood floor this season.
If you haven’t already done so…
Place sturdy jute-backed mats at the main points of entry from the outside, not forgetting patio doors. Train children to remove jackets and shoes before entering the house to stop an excess of mud and detritus from being dragged indoors!
However, pets are not so easy to train, so a good idea is to have your pet’s towel on standby so you can wipe off paws and legs as they come in. By using the treat system, dogs will catch on quickly that if they wait on the mat to be towelled dry before entering they will receive a favourite treat (cats, however, may take a little more persuading!). This not only helps save the floor but also helps your pet resist rheumatics and arthritic conditions later on in life.
If you have a porch or conservatory then these spots are ideal for the removal of outside clothing for your family, and don’t forget to ask guests to do the same. Good friends will never be offended and will appreciate that you are making an effort to maintain a warm, clean and inviting home.
Be prepared for emergencies
Be prepared to stop what you are doing to clear up any small amounts of moisture which may have escaped your entry system. If you do this you will avoid large mop up operations, which could seriously damage your floor. Invest in a quality wood floor cleaner and a mop with a washable head. Use it regularly and train the family to do likewise.
The nature of the hardwood floor
Hardwood floors sanding has pores through which it can ‘breathe’, and when central heating systems dry out the moisture in the boards they become dehydrated just like people do. When this occurs the floorboards can shrink, causing gaps and warping and will lose condition, shine and sparkle. Think of a human skin which has been over-exposed to the sun – your hardwood floor reacts in a similar way.
So when the floor becomes drier the shrinkage causes the boards to move apart so you will see gaps that were not there when the floor was laid. The floorboards then move within the gaps, causing squeaking and crackling noises.
Whilst there are many tall tales on how to repair a moisture damaged floor the only real solutions are:
• For floors in their first winter season it may be worthwhile investing in a quality humidifier.
• For flooring which has been water damaged over many seasons, the only answer is to lift and re-lay boards at the problem areas.
Don’t forget the insurance
Check home content policies carefully as you may be covered for seasonal damage to your wood flooring.
On the plus side
If you are thinking of having a wood floor installed winter is actually the best time for doing so. This is because the natural decrease in interior moisture means when the floors are laid there is significantly less change of gaps occurring.
Whatever season you choose to install your floor though, be sure to keep it puddle-free in winter and your family, your pets and your flooring will enjoy many quality years together.