Hardwood flooring a substantial purchase, yet there are important questions not frequently asked. The variety of floors to choose from seems almost limitless. Here are some answers to frequently asked hardwood flooring questions. Hopefully they will assist you in selecting the ideal wood floor.
Hardwood Flooring FAQ
Does sunlight lighten or darken a floor’s color? Does it depend on the species, the stain or the finish?
A great hardwood flooring question: The ultraviolet rays that can burn and age our skin will affect any organic material, including wood. That’s why the finest art collections are kept in rooms without windows.
Prolonged exposure to sunlight will change the color of virtually any wood floor, regardless of the stain or finish. Some woods lighten when exposed to sunlight. Others, like cherry and oak, tend to darken.
The newest water-based urethane finishes seem to slow color changes more effectively than oil-based urethane finishes, which tend to turn the brownish-yellow color of amber. Some finishes feature sunscreens to help block the penetration of ultraviolet rays, extending the time it will take the wood to change.
If you’re especially concerned about your floor changing color, consider installing curtains or blinds that will limit exposure to sunlight. Windows also can be fitted with thin films of plastic that block ultraviolet rays. This type of screen — similar to those on used on some car windows — will protect your floor, furniture, drapes, upholstery and artwork from sunlight.
Is a hardwood floor a good choice for someone with allergies or asthma? Another Good Hardwood Flooring Question!
You bet. Allergists often recommend bare floors, which reduce the chance for animal dander, dust, pollen or molds to collect. Respiratory experts say as much as one-fifth of the U.S. population suffers breathing difficulties caused by allergies and asthma, often triggered by microscopic dust mites that colonize bedding, curtains and carpets.
Bedding and curtains can be laundered, but because frequent vacuuming is ineffective against dust mites in floor coverings, many immunologists and allergists suggest bringing hardwood floors out into the open.
If I have a urethane finish on my hardwood floor, can I use oil-based paint for stencils?
You can, but it may not be the best choice. Many professionals avoid working with oil-based paints because they are harder to clean up and take longer to dry. With water-based paints, smudges and spills can be wiped away easily with a damp cloth. Water-based paint can be applied over oil-or water-based urethane finishes. For best results with opaque paints, consider first applying a white primer. Let the paint dry thoroughly before applying at least two protective top coats that are the same type of urethane as the base coats.
Oil-based paints that are just the slightest bit wet will smear when you apply an oil-based urethane topcoat. If you aren’t sure whether your paint and urethanes are compatible, contact the manufacturers of your materials. Also, always test for compatibility by applying a little paint and finish on an extra board or in an inconspicuous spot such as a closet corner.
Are steam cleaners an effective way to keep wood floors clean?
An important, yet overlooked hardwood flooring question is about steam floor cleaning.
Some steam cleaning models are designed for use on hardwood floors. Others are not. Personally, I wouldn’t use any steam cleaner on a hardwood floor. If you choose to use one, check with the manufacturer to find out if your cleaner is appropriate for use on your wood floor.
Remember that water is wood’s No. 1 enemy. If the finish is worn or scratched, steam could seep into your wood floors, eventually causing damage. Keep in mind that experts say the best way to clean a wood floor is to wipe up any spills immediately with a soft, dry cloth. Sweep floors regularly with a broom, dust mop or canister vacuum with special hardwood floor attachments. Do not use a vacuum with beater bars. They can cause dent your floor’s finish.
If I buy a home with hardwood floors, how can I tell if they have a wax or urethane finish? Perhaps unusual, but a good hardwood flooring question for the home buyer.
Urethane is one of the most popular finishes in use today. An easy way to determine if your floor has this type of finish is to apply a small amount of paint remover to the floor surface. If the finish bubbles up, it is most likely a urethane. You can also try scraping up a bit of the finish with a sharp blade (also in an area hidden from view.) If you can scrape up a clear material, the finish is likely urethane.
The finish is probably wax if you can feel the wood grain when you run your hand over the floor surface. Another test is to select an inconspicuous area and try to smudge the floor surface with a fingertip, or scrape the surface with a fingernail or sharp instrument. If the floor smudges, but no clear material is scraped up, the finish is probably wax.
If you’re not certain after trying these tests, contact a reputable floor refinisher. Professionals with years of experience easily can determine a floor’s finish.
What are mineral spirits and boiled linseed oil? How about rottenstone and pumice?
–Mineral spirits are used to thin or clean up oil-based paints, stains and finishes. They also can be used to remove wax buildup on furniture and floors. Boiled linseed oil is a yellowish drying oil that serves as a lubricant. (Do not boil linseed oil: it has already been boiled.) Both of these materials can be found in the paint section at Lowe’s, Home Depot and other home centers.
Rottenstone is a fine, abrasive limestone powder. Pumice is an abrasive (harder than rottenstone) derived from volcanic glass. Either one of these abrasives can be mixed with linseed oil and rubbed on furniture to remove stains and marks caused by moisture or heat. Woodworking suppliers sell these products in stores and on the Internet. Some paint and hardware stores also carry them.
Hardwood flooring questions and answers provided by the American Hardwood Information Center.