The appeal of glossy hardwood floors goes back centuries. The warmth of wood floors makes them a coveted design feature, and people who have wood floors work hard at keeping them looking good. Often when people move or make decorating changes in their interiors, or when floors get really dull and worn, they arrange for professionals to sand them to remove old finishes and then apply new ones. Installing wood floors, whether of new wood or reclaimed planks or antique wood, is a popular upgrade to houses, as its known to increase the resale value.
For centuries, most wood floors were given a wax finish, which requires regular maintenance and waxing as part of routine housekeeping. Some homes still continue that tradition. But for the past 50 years, the vast majority of wood floors in American homes have been topped with layers of polyurethane. The advantage of this is a nice, durable finish and the ease of maintenance mostly by simple vacuuming and dry mopping.
One alternative to solid hardwood floors is engineered hardwood, which is made with a top layer of hardwood and a core of crisscrossed layers of other woods. Engineered wood floors are known to be very stable, so they are a popular choice for areas with concrete subfloors or in basements.
The best feature of wood floors: They go with everything.
Eco-friendly products. More environmentally friendly finishes, such as water-based polyurethane coatings, have lower VOCs (potentially harmful Volatile Organic Compounds) than traditional oil-based products.
Faster-drying finishes. Manufacturers are developing new technologies that use ultraviolet light to cure polyurethane finishes instantly, instead of longer waits during drying.
Cleaning. The majority of floors today are sealed with polyurethane, so waxing is not necessary and could actually damage your polyurethaned floors. Dust mopping or vacuuming is usually all they need. For light cleaning, use a special professional cleaner such as Squeaky wood floor cleaner for polyurethaned floors.
Beware of footwear hazards. Keep pumps with worn heels or sports cleats off your wood floors, as they can dent them.
Trim pets nails. Scurrying dogs and cats can do serious damage to a wood finish. Keep scratches at bay with a regular clipping schedule.
If you have old wood floors that are looking dull and scratched, consider refinishing. If both the finish and stain are worn off into the grain of the wood, it has to be sanded before applying new coats of polyurethane or wax.
If you are shopping for new floors or thinking of re-staining your old ones, consider the pros and cons of dark vs. light floors. Dark floors are dramatic but will show pet scratches and dust and can make a room appear smaller. Lighter floors have a timeless look and hide dirt better; plus, they never look trendy.
Buy some new doormats if you install new floors or refinish your old ones. If you keep a doormat in front of all the exterior doors to your house, it can help keep dirt from being brought in.