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How To Clean Your Hardwood Floors: Secrets From the Pros

Hardwood Floors: Preventive Maintenance

Cut hardwood-floor cleaning time with smart preventive maintenance. Position mats both outside and inside exterior doors to lessen tracked-in dirt. In snowy or rainy weather, include a boot removal area to avoid damage from water and de-icers.

Prevent marks by using floor protectors under furniture and by using rugs in play areas to ensure children's toys don't scratch the floor.

Hardwood Floors: Basic Care

Speed up the cleaning process by first dusting the floor with a mop that has been treated with a dusting agent to pick up dust, dirt, and pet hair that might scratch the floor surface. For weekly or biweekly cleaning, vacuum with a floor-brush attachment on a vacuum cleaner or an electric broom. Do not use a vacuum with a beater bar attachment, which can scratch a wood floor's finish. For quick dusting, use disposable electrostatic cloths, available at grocery and discount stores. Save money by using both sides of the disposable cloths.

Hardwood Floors: Deeper Cleaning

Dirt, oil, and grime build up over time and aren't completely removed by a weekly dust mopping. For occasional deep cleaning (consider doing the cleaning in the spring or just before the winter holidays), use a wood-cleaning product diluted according to the label instructions. Saturate a sponge or rag mop in the water, then wring it almost dry so it feels only slightly damp to the touch. Damp-mop the floor, being careful to prevent standing water on the floor. Rinse with a clean mop dampened in clear water, but only if the cleaning product requires it. Wipe up excess liquid because standing water can damage wood surfaces. If the weather is humid, operate a ceiling fan or the air-conditioner to speed up drying.

Hardwood Floors: Removing Marks

Consider your floor's finish before trying to remove a mark. If the stain is on the surface, your floor probably has a hard finish, such as urethane. If the stain has penetrated through to the wood, the floor probably has a soft oiled finish -- common in older homes whose floors have not been refinished and resealed. Wipe surface stains from a hard finish with a soft, clean cloth. Never use sandpaper, steel wool, or harsh chemicals on such a surface because they can permanently damage the finish.

The following remedies are for hardwood floors with soft oiled finishes. If needed, end each treatment by staining the wood, then waxing and buffing the spot to match the rest of the floor.

  • Dark spots and pet stains: Rub the spot with No. 000 steel wool and floor wax. If the area is still dark, apply bleach or vinegar and allow it to soak into the wood for about an hour. Rinse with a damp cloth.
  • Heel marks: Use fine steel wool to rub in floor wax.
  • Oil-base stains: Rub the area with a soft cloth and dishwashing detergent to break down the grease. Rinse with clear water. If one or more applications don't work, repeat the procedure. Keep children and pets out of the room until you're done. Let the spot dry, then smooth the raised grain with fine sandpaper.
  • Water marks or white stains: Rub the spot with No. 000 steel wool and floor wax. If the stain goes deeper, lightly sand the floor and clean with fine steel wool and odorless mineral spirits.

Having Your Stairs Refinshed?

Hardwood Stairs

One of the most labor-intensive, detailed parts of having your hardwood floors refinished is the process of having your stairs refinished. 

They seem pretty easy...but they're not.

The skilled refinisher has to balance a 40lb machine spinning at high speeds while trying not to damage the surrounding walls. After going through three grits, hand scraping corners, and finally palm sanded with a fine grit sandpaper, they are now ready for the stain process.

With all this process in mind, here are some things to keep in mind when you are getting your stairs refinished.

1.) Nicks and Bumps Happen: Whisking a 40lb, high powered machine that doesn't fit fully on a stair tread isn't easy to do. Even the most trained professional refinisher has a difficult time prevented bumps and nicks. Plan on having the risers and/or the side walls touched up with paint

2.) Risers are near impossible to refinish: The part you walk on is called "treads" while the vertical part you tend to kick with your toes while walking up the stairs are called "risers". While refinishing stair treads is very common, most flooring companies do not offer to refinish the stair risers. The reason is that everything is vertical. Drips in the finish occur more (due to gravity) and the actual sanding is extremely difficult. Painting risers is very common due the brilliant contrast it creates with easy maintenance. 

3.) Consider High Traffic Polyurethane: Stairs are one of the most walked on parts of any house. Consider spending a little more to get high traffic finish to protect from wear and tear.

Mind the Gap!

hardwood floor refinishing

Wood Floor Expansion

One of the number one issues our customer's have with their hardwood floors during the summer is waves in their hardwood floors. It looks like this:

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During the summer months when humidity is at its peak, moisture is absorbed into the wood, causing the wood floors to expand outward. If there wasn't a proper expansion gap left along the walls, the wood floors will expand outwards until it no longer can, leaving it only to expand upward, causing ripples in the floors. Minor rippling can occur but will normally go back down in the winter months when the air is more dry. 

If major rippling occurs, you have two options:

1.) Remove the base boards, cut the bottom of the base board off, and reinstall, allowing the wood floors to expand underneath the baseboards.

2.) Remove the boards that run parallel to the wall ("long wall"), cut them down a 1/4" and reinstall.

Many times this will solve the expansion problem but will still leave rippling. The only step you can take to get rid of the waves is to sand and refinish the floor back to level. 

So make sure to mind the gap along the "long walls" when you or a professional is installing your new hardwoods.

How Long Will My Hardwood Floors Last?

How long will my new hardwood floors last?

This is a question we receive quite often from our clients. There are many factors that we take into account when answering this question. The main question we ask is:

What is your life style? 

  • How many people will be walking on the floor consistently? 
  • Do you have kids?
  • Do you have any pets? How heavy are they?
  • Do you have people over at your house often?
  • What type of finish is your top coat? Prefinished? Oil-Based Poly? Water-Based Poly?
  • How many coats of finish do you have?

These are just some of the factors that must be taken into consideration. Below is a general  timeline of some general lifestyles.

  • If you are two adult professionals who do not entertain a lot of guests, the coatings should last between 10 to 15 years in the main traffic areas.

  • If you are two adult professionals who do entertain a lot of guests, the coatings should last between 6 to 8 years.

  • If you are a family of two adultstwo children, and a couple of pets, the coatings will last between 4 to 7 years.

Does this mean you have to refinish your floors every 4-7? Yes and No. No you dont have to have a Full Refinish every 4-7 years BUT we highly recommend getting your floors "Re-Coated" every 4-7. This process is fast, odorless, walkable in 3-5 hours, and well over half the cost of a full refinish. What a new coat of polyurethane does is it adds another layer of protection to your floors, extending the life of the floors usually for another 3-5 years.

Doing this every 4-6 years will prevent you from ever having to fully refinishing your floors again. Don't wait until it is too late and "wear" begins to show.

How to Maintain and Care for Your Hardwood Floors

Do you remember the commercials back in the day with the lady with a giant gap in her teeth telling you to use the their "Pine Fresh" products on all your floors?

Please don't listen to her.

A regular practice up until the late 1990's for cleaning your floors was the good ole fashion string mop, yellow bucket, hot water, and Pine Sol. Yes, your floors smelled like a lemon forrest and there was even a shine for 3 or 4 days, but this technique has proven to be the absolute wrong way of cleaning your hardwood floors.

Here are are three steps for cleaning and maintaining your hardwood floors:

  1. Sweep, dust mop, or vacuum regularly. A microfiber dust head comes with many hardwood floor cleaning mop kits (like Bona Kemi)
  2. Only Use mop kits designed for hardwood floors. This is important as there are many hardwood floor cleaners out there. We always recommend Bona Kemi or Armstrong Cleaner to our clients as they do not leave a haze to the floors. DO NOT use any wax based cleaners. They will cloud your floors and even prevent from your hardwood floors from being "recoated" in the future!
  3. Have your floors Professionally cleaned once per year.  Dirt, dust, and water can seep into the pores of the wood. Cleaning with a mop or vacuuming can't even get this out. Just like carpet, it is important to have your floors professionally cleaned at least once per year.

Proper maintenance will prevent your floors from ever having to be refinished!

4 Reasons Why You Should Paint After Refinishing Your Floors

One of the number one questions we receive from our customers is "should we paint before or after we have our floors refinished"?

Great question!

Refinishing hardwood floors is a major undertaking when it comes to construction projects. Our technicians have to maneuver 180lbs+ machines in tight areas, leaning against walls is sometimes required for awkward positions, and dust is a real thing. 

Here are 4 reasons quick why you should paint after we refinish your floors:

  1. Bumps/Nicks: Our edgers bump against base boards. While 95% of the time the shoe molding will cover these nicks, sometimes the base boards will get bumped. A little paint will cover these marks no problem.
  2. Staining: We do everything we can to prevent stain from getting on the base boards. We tape door jams, keep stain under the height of the shoe molding, and take our time with precision. Sometimes, it will get higher than the shoe, requiring some paint
  3. Sweaty Bodies: Our technicians are maneuvering heavy 180lbs+ drum machines. They are hand scraping corners in closets. It is hard to prevent bumping up against a wall due to the complexity of refinishing. Painting after solves this problem.
  4. Shoe Molding/Quarter Round: When we remove and replace shoe molding, the base boards have to be re-caulked and painted. Why do this before refinishing your floors?

While it is completely your decision to choose when to paint or not too, we hope this helps in your decision making.