How to extend the lifespan of your hardwood floor
Although there are many floor covering types available nowadays wooden floors continue to stand out with their unmatched beauty, natural feel and warmth. Yet, when it comes to longevity, many wrongly consider hardwood floors way behind other floor coverings such as porcelain tiles. Actually a wooden floor may reach over 100 years of use and may still look wonderful and have some history to tell. It maybe outfashioned but at Fin Wood we still hold to the motto "crafted for life". But to achieve this high standard there are some details which need to be considered.
Where does the wood come from?
It is a crucial aspect to really know if your wooden floor was manufactured in accordance to the industry standards. If not this will definitely have an impact on the stability and integrity of the floor through the years. We always advise you to ask for information about the country of origin, ask if banned chemicals were used in the manufacturing process, ask about the FSC certification and to see any other genuine quality certificates. As a rule of thumb, if it's cheap, ask why. The post "Why quality wooden floors?" brings more light on this subject.
What type of board is it, engineered or solid?
We have a dedicated post for this and we recommend to have a look over it here. The main reason for which we recommend engineered wood flooring is stability, consistency and again stability. As we know wood reacts to moisture by expanding and contracting. Therefore many of the dangers associated with solid wooden floors are reduced by choosing engineered hardwood floor. By risks we mean the gradual development of gaps, debonding, swelling, cupping or warping etc.
How thick is your wood floor?
Thicker floors will have a potentially longer life span. In the case of the engineered wooden floors special attention should be paid to the top layer thickness, also known as the wear layer, when choosing. The thickness will have an impact on the number of times you can renovate and re-use the floor.
Under normal circumstances, approximately two renovation cycles can be carried out for a typical wear layer of 3mm compared with the approximately six renovation cycles for a wear layer of 6mm. This translates into extra decades of service for the lifetime of your floor.
Which type of finish do you prefer, oiled or lacquered?
Firstly it is good to know that the prefinished wooden floors (due to its manufacturing process) tend to withstand better the daily traffic compared to the site finished ones. We have a detailed comparison in the "Prefinished vs Unfinished (Site-Finished) Flooring" post.
Oiled floors allow re-oiling and recoating of the entire surface or a small area. This is extremely handy because any sign of wear and tear or superficial scratches can be dealt with as soon as it's noticed. On the other hand lacquered floors cannot be mended since any intervention will not blend in. Of course an oiled floor demands a higher degree of involvement and help but this brings the huge advantage of postponing the next renovation (sanding) by even 10 years or more.
Have a look at the post "Oiled or Lacquered" for a better understanding.
Has your subfloor been assessed?
Alongside the quality of the wood this is another crucial factor with great influence on the longevity of a hardwood floor. The subfloor is the base on which the new wooden floor will have to stay for the rest of its years. Many concrete floors contain a high level of moisture or worst they are dry now but through the years a poor damp course will allow moisture to infiltrate and cause serious damage to the wooden floor. A surface which is not flat, with high and low spots, outside the BS8201 specifications will lead to technical issues like squeaks, cracks in the floor, debonding and separating elements of the floor.
There are many different types of subfloors and they are often mixed therefore a good assessment is a mandatory stage for any wood flooring craftsmen.
What is the best installation process for your floor?
This is the time when the wood becomes a floor. The majority of the work done during installation cannot be corrected after completion so it has to be properly planned and carried out. For this important aspect the experience of the wood flooring craftsman is key to have a long lasting and beautiful floor installed with care of the details in mind. We cannot stress how important it is to avoid asking the builder, the handyman, the multiskilled or inexperienced tradesman to install your precious wooden floor.
Before choosing the right company to deliver the desired results make a list with all your questions and concerns and request answers from that company. Also look for references and proof of experience. We recommend contacting at least three reputable wood flooring companies to select from.
Are you aware of the cleaning and maintenance that will be needed?
Once the installation process has ended the floor will start to slowly begin to wear and tear. This is unavoidable unless the floor is never stepped on and kept away from natural light. And this is surely impossible. Therefore expect scratches to appear, duller areas and dents. The aim is to minimise this as much as possible with regular cleaning, using felt pads for furniture, wearing soft slippers, having doormats at the entrance doors and keeping away any chemicals or liquids from the floor. Only dedicated cleaning substances should be used. We prepared a series of posts on this subject: Is it time to maintain your lacquered finished floor?, Wooden Floors Protection and Care , and Wooden Floor Maintenance - Oil Finished Floors.
What is a reasonable home environment for your wooden floor?
During the winter season the home environment may fluctuate daily thus increasing the tensions inside the wooden floor. This process may cause the floor to change dimensionally or worst to crack, show gaps and debond. We have explained these in more detail in the post "Reasonable home environment conditions for wooden floors". If you manage to maintain a constant environment inside your home, years will be added to your wooden floor lifespan.
When is it time to deep clean, scrub and re-oil?
This is the best solution for adding serious years to your wooden floor’s lifespan. It should be considered like a general overhaul and it is applicable for previously well maintained floors which have accumulated ingrained dirt. Due to lack of awareness this simple and low cost procedure is often overlooked in favour of sanding and refinishing.
During sanding the surface is totally stripped revealing a fresh layer of wood but crucially floor thickness is removed as well resulting in a shorter lifespan.
By deeply scrubbing the wooden floor with professional equipment and adequate substances the floor is refreshed. And for oiled floors a new coat of oil can be applied which will add additional protection and longevity.
We have a dedicated service which you may read about here "Hardwood Floor Professional Deep Cleaning - Scrubbing".
What sort of repairs might be needed?
Wooden floors can be repaired by replacing certain elements such as boards, parquet blocks, frames, nosings etc. This might prove to be a saving solution for your hardwood floor. Let's say that a heavy object was dropped or dragged over the floor and created a deep dent and / or scratch. One solution would be to sand the entire surface which will shorten the life of the floor and bring some considerable costs. To avoid this, or even to save the floor, in some cases the damaged elements should be replaced. Although this requires skills and craftsmanship it brings benefits on all sides. Contact us if you need technical advice and assessment.
When does it need to be renovated, sanded and refinished?
During the years of service the floor accumulates signs of fatigue like multiple scratches, dents and hard worn areas. In these cases a total stripping of the old finishing layer has to be considered followed by refinishing. It is an intervention which if it's done professionally will bring back the floor to its first day look and will not remove too much floor thickness. This is an important aspect, as it will allow the floor to go through further renovation cycles several times more. Once again we advise you to proceed by selecting professional wood floor craftsmen. Read the "Hardwood floor restoration" blog post for more information.