It is important to remember that timber flooring is a living material. The wood, although no longer growing as part of a tree, is still very much a part of its environment, responding to the light, temperature, humidity and wear. The general rule is that a proper wooden floor takes four seasons to settle into its environment. It is normal to see some movement in the boards, as some gaps do open up owing to changes in temperature and humidity- fluctuations, which are brought about by heating and the naturally changing seasons of the year. Also, as the floor ages, the colour will mellow and deepen. This is no cause for alarm; it is a natural process due to the oxidation of the wood and finish, and the ultraviolet light present in sunlight.
This same process is occurring to your painted surfaces, upholstery, furniture and rugs.
With the correct care, your floors will stay beautiful for many years to come. Common sense and a few preventative steps can lengthen the life of your floors. A regular cleaning routine will simplify your floor care. Good preventative maintenance lengthens the time between major renovations, such as re-oiling, re-coating and refinishing. Everyday dust and dirt are your floors worst enemy, dust mop, vacuum or sweep regularly.
To keep your floors as beautiful as the day they were installed or refinished, simply follow these easy steps and always use the manufacturers' recommended cleaning product:
- Wood and water DON'T mix!!! Excessive amounts of water can cause your wood floor to swell and cup. Use a slightly damp mop to clean your hardwood surfaces.
- Vacuum beater bars can cause damage to your floors' surface. If possible, turn off the beater bar, or use the hose or wand attachment with a soft upholstery nozzle, for your hardwood floor
- Never use household dust treatments or furniture polish on hardwood or highly polished floors, as this may cause your floor to become very slippery and dull the finish.
- Under NO circumstances should laminate floors ever be sanded, remember it is only a photograph applied to a high pressure laminate backing. Avoid using harsh abrasive cleaners, waxes, polishes, urethane or lacquer on your laminate floor.
- Never place potted plants directly in contact with your flooring, even if they are placed in waterproof saucers. Condensation can develop under these saucers and damage your flooring. To avoid this, place your plants on trivets or stands, so that air can circulate underneath.
- Dog and cat nails can scratch and dent your floor's surface. Keep nails trimmed regularly. Immediately clean up pet urine, as it will damage the floor's finish if allowed to dry.
- Use dirt-trapping walk-off mats at all exterior doors to prevent dirt and sand (which can act like sandpaper) from entering the building. Vacuum, sweep or dust mop as needed to remove dirt and grit prior to cleaning your floors.
- Use area rugs on high traffic pathways and pivot areas: at ends of steps, near doorways, etc. All rugs should allow floors to breath. Avoid rubber-backed or non-ventilated rugs
- Wipe up food or other spills immediately, using the manufacturers' recommended cleaner and a soft cloth. Use a vacuum or broom for dry spills and abrasives.
- Keep high heels in good repair. Heels that have worn down or lost their protective cap, exposing the steel support rod, will dent and pit wood, fracture ceramic tile or stone and perforate vinyl. A person in stiletto heels, weighing 125 lbs. exerts approx. 2000 lbs. of pressure per square inch !! Do not wear stiletto heels on any wooden floor!
- Certain chemicals in wood oxidize in strong light causing the floor to change colour. To avoid any uneven appearance, move area rugs occasionally and drape or shade large sun-facing windows.
- Always put felt protective pads (for sale from us) on the legs of your furniture, this allows the furniture to be moved easily without scratching or denting your floors finish. This also provides a sound deadening barrier but remember to replace your felt pads often, as dirt and grit can become embedded in them or as they become worn.
There are many types of finishes on hard surface floors today. Sometimes, different finishes are used in different rooms, so the type of care required may vary. It is important to know how your floors were finished so that you can apply the proper floor care product.
In choosing the proper product, you must first determine if your floor has a water based lacquer, oil or wax finish. The care for a wax floor finish is very different from that of a lacquer finish. Therefore, it cannot be emphasized enough, that you know the finish your floor has!
If the manufacturer of your flooring is not known you can follow the guidelines below:
Surface finishes including water based lacquers
Keep grit off the floor, dust mop or vacuum regularly and keep doormats clean. Wipe up spills promptly with a dry cloth. Use a slightly dampened cloth for sticky spills.
Do NOT wax a urethane-finished floor. Waxing a urethane finished floor will cause the wood floor to be slippery, requiring continuous waxing as your maintenance, and any re-surfacing will require a full sanding process.
For general cleaning, use a generic hardwood floor cleaner. If the luster does not return to traffic areas, the floor may require recoating. Acrylic impregnated floors require a spray and buff system as recommended by the manufacturer.
Oil is a traditional finish for wood flooring and wood finished by this method possesses a soft, natural sheen and mellows with age. It is more forgiving of scratches and scuffing, as more oil or wax can be rubbed into the odd scratch, virtually erasing it.
The finish on your wooden floor should provide years of protection against reasonable wear and tear. Day to day maintenance should be carried out using a soft broom or a normal cylinder vacuum cleaner. It is very important to note that care must be taken to prevent any excess moisture coming into contact with the floor. Oiled floors, because of their more porous nature, should not be cleaned using excessive amount of water! Spot cleaning with a damp cloth or light mopping is fine. A mild detergent can be used; bleach or abrasive cleaners are not suitable. We recommend Osmo or Fiddes ‘wash & care’ for regular cleaning.
Hardwax oiled floors will need to have a coat of maintenance oil reapplied to them periodically. We can supply a recommended product. The frequency with which this is necessary will depend on the amount of wear on the floor, and on your own preferences. High traffic areas such as hallways will need more frequent applications. Generally, the floor will need re-oiling every 12-24 months.
The method for re-oiling is thus:
Thoroughly clean the floor first using ‘wash & care’ and key back with a 150 grit mesh or sandpaper. Apply a thin coat of maintenance oil either by hand with a soft cloth, brush or buffing machine. Let it dry, it may take a number of hours, then buff to the desired sheen either by hand, with a soft cloth or with a buffing machine if required. If requested, Just Wood could quote to carry out this work if required.
All cleaning materials mentioned above, including buffing machines, can be obtained from Just Wood on 01243 827888.
After a number of years you may wish to have the oiled surface sanded down and re-finished.
You could then choose to re-oil the floor or have it stained first or even re-finished in lacquer. Just Wood offers a sanding and re-finishing service. Please call us for details.
For waxed floors
Keep grit off the floor, dust mop or vacuum regularly and keep doormats clean. Wipe up spills promptly with a dry cloth or dry paper towel, use a slightly dampened cloth for sticky spills and buff with a dry cloth to restore luster. When the floor looks dull, buff first to see if luster can be restored before waxing. When areas of heavy use no longer respond to buffing, wax only those areas and buff the entire floor to an even luster. When the whole floor needs attention, clean the floor with a solvent based wood floor cleaner and then wax. Your floor should only need to be completely rewaxed once or twice a year depending on traffic. Cleaning a waxed floor with water will leave white water marks.
What is the difference between laminate flooring and wood flooring? Laminate flooring consists of synthetic backing with a high-pressure laminate surface with a photograph of wood. Laminate flooring therefore cannot be re-sanded. Wood flooring consists of wood backing with wood wear surface or solid wood. Wood flooring with proper care will last generations. Wood floors can be refinished, re-sanded, and re-coated to look like new again.
Will my floor age or change in colour?
Yes. You can expect to see shade differences in your floor over time. The cause is usually from exposure to the ultra-violet rays of the sun, whether direct or indirect. This colour change will be more noticeable in lighter shades, which will darken over time. In addition, certain species like Brazilian cherry will naturally darken over the years. These changes are due to the natural characteristics of wood and are not covered by manufacturers' warranties.
Movement of wooden flooring
The most important point to realize is that a wooden floor is subject to expansion and contraction of the boards themselves and any knots/windshakes, according to the amount of moisture in the local environment. Hence your hardwood flooring may contract during winter months (as central heating produces a much drier atmosphere) causing gaps and lifting of windshakes and expand during the summer when windows are open, heating is turned off, and the atmosphere within the house has more moisture. This expansion and contraction is magnified when dealing with under-floor heating as the wood is subject to a higher than usual temperature and degree of moisture loss this is intrinsic with wooden flooring and not a fault.
All houses have their own indoor climate. With that we mean the amount of moisture in the air (humidity), the temperature, the type of heating and the amount of ventilation. Some factors you can control yourself, some are caused by outside conditions.
In a comfortable home with slight humidity variation through the seasons, wooden floors react by expanding and shrinking. These changes may be noticeable. During warm, humid weather wood expands. During dry weather (usually during the heating season), wood shrinks. This seasonal movement is a normal characteristic of wooden floors and it never stops, regardless of the age of the wooden floor.
If you notice gaps appearing between your boards in winter then 9 out of 10 times there is nothing to worry about, these gaps will reduce again when the humidity gets higher. Gapping is almost inevitable in the wintertime, but nothing to be worried about.
If your floor is expanding in a normally dry season (spring/summer), then you might have a moisture problem (leak, large spillage of water or perhaps one of your pets had an 'accident').
Some types of wood react more than others. Beech is known as a 'very nervous' wood. It can expand or shrink 7mm per meter width. By 'steaming' beech (giving the floor also its characteristic reddish/pinkish colour) the reaction will be less.
Solid wooden floors react more than Wood-Engineered floors. The crossed backing of W-E floors stabilizes the reaction This makes this type of flooring preferable in areas where there is more moisture (kitchens, bathrooms), were temperatures can change quickly (conservatories) or on under-floor heating.
Most important to keep your wooden floor (and in fact also yourself) healthy is to allow for a stable humidity in the house, the optimum temp for wooden floors and humans is 18 to 20’c
When humidity is higher (Summer, Autumn) wooden floors expand. A simple way to help prevent excessive reaction is to open window(s) every day, even for 10 - 15 minutes, to allow the cumulated humidity to disappear. Alternatively, when you are away for a whole day: keep a small window upstairs open and keep all other internal doors open.
In winter and early spring, the heating season, try to keep the humidity between 50 - 65 %. This can be done by having plants in house, ceramic water containers on radiators etc. When the humidity in house gets very low (30 - 40%) you will notice this yourself (dry skin, lips and even sore throats). A simple 'trick' to increase the humidity rapidly is to place damp (NOT dripping wet) tea-towels on radiators. (The humidifier is a more accurate option and this is what we advise) When you have under-floor heating you might notice these conditions during most seasons. To help minimize the effects we recommend the use of a humidifier with humidity monitor, rugs can also compound this problem especially with under-floor heating where the heat cannot dissipate.
Installation of a Floor with Underfloor Heating
We have several floors that have been designed to be compatible with under-floor heating. The majority of these are of an engineered construction which can be floated over a suitable underlay or glued to the sub-floor.
There are many different systems of under-floor heating available on the market, ranging from water fed systems set in concrete or slung between joists to electric matting laid over the sub-floor and beneath the wood floor covering.
It is imperative that the customer obtains full installation and operation instructions from the under-floor heating supplier together with guidance from them regarding the suitability of their product when laid in conjunction with wood flooring.
The most important factor when laying under-floor heating is to ensure that the pipes are set at a consistent level below the floor covering and evenly distributed to avoid heat spots. Heat spots can cause the wood flooring to move exceptionally in those isolated areas. Consequently, as suppliers and/or installers we can take no responsibility for any abnormal movement that may manifest itself at some point in the future.
Prior to installation
The site should be free of all wet trades and the environment compliant with normal living conditions, i.e. humidity should be between 40 – 60% and the air temperature should be not exceed 24 degrees centigrade.
It is vital that the sub-floor is uniformly dry and that the heating is fully commissioned at least two weeks before the floor being laid. Concrete screeds take on average one day per mm of thickness to dry in a normally ventilated house but under-floor heating may accelerate this process.
It is important that the heating is started at its minimum setting and that the temperature is increased only gradually to avoid an excessive shrinkage or cracking of the sub-floor.
The heating should be increased to maximum operational temperature but no more than 27 degrees centigrade floor temperature by raising the temperature on a daily basis from the minimum level by a maximum of 4 degrees centigrade. The room should be well ventilated and/or a dehumidifier be put in place to allow any excess moisture to be removed from the room.
The heating should then be run at the recommended maximum level for several days prior to installation and then prior to installation reduced it to the lowest setting.
Prior to installation of the wooden floor, the sub-floor should measure a maximum of 3% moisture content by weight.
After the installation
Wait 24 hours before turning the under-floor heating on and raise the temperature slowly from its minimum setting to a maximum of 27 degree centigrade floor temperature at around 1 to 2 degree a day, evenly over a period of at least one to 2 weeks, then reduce the temperature slowly to a comfortable living temperature.
If the wood flooring needs protecting after it is laid, then the covering must be permeable to heat or the heating should be switched off thus avoiding any baking of the floor.
One should also expect some seasonal movement in the wooden floor, which may lead to gaps appearing between boards when the heating is at its winter setting which should then reduce in size in the summer months when the heating is off or low and humidity is increased.
The ambient air humidity must be kept at 40 - 60%. Recommended room temperature is 18 to 22 degrees centigrade. If these conditions are not observed, abnormal movement may occur. The manufacturer, seller or installer cannot accept any responsibility for such occurrences, nor are they covered by the guarantee.
As a result of the insulating properties of wood, it may take longer than if compared to stone or ceramic tile to heat the room to a comfortable temperature of 18-22 degrees C. In this event do not raise the set flow temperature of your heating. This would have an adverse effect on your floor; just let it takes its time to heat up. On the flip side it takes longer to cool down compared to stone or ceramic.
The temperature of the surface of the wood should never exceed 27degrees C - any higher will potentially cause the floor to fail. Unfortunately a guarantee can not be offered for its use with under floor heating due to conditions on site which are beyond the control of the supplier and fitter. If a dispute arises there is no reliable way of recording or monitoring the under floor heating system settings or room conditions over a period of time. Because of this it is impossible to prove or disprove how the system had been used or abused by the customer.
- 17th May 2011
Cleaning and Maintenance