The winter months bring holiday cheer. But in most areas, winter also means cold weather, snow, and damage to wood floors. Scratches from snow-melting materials and flooring gaps are some of the biggest problems that people with hardwood floors have to worry about.
But homeowners aren’t the only ones who have to worry. For hardwood floor contractors, ‘tis the season for phone calls from confused or angry customers who are experiencing winter-related issues with their floors.
Luckily, you can stop problems before they pop up with some preventative measures.
Be diligent about preventing damage from salt, sand, and water.
When the weather outside is frightful, people will bring snow and snow-melting materials inside with them. These can cause a whole host of problems.
Abrasive snow-melting particles will produce scratches if they’re dragged across the floor. Dried salt leaves an unsightly white residue on floors. Water from melted snow can damage a floor’s finish. Where does it end?
The best way to ward off damage to your hardwood floors during the winter months is to place mats near all entrances that lead outside. These will help reduce the amount of snow, sand, and salt tracked into your house.
Even better, you could ask guests to take off their shoes and leave them on a waterproof mat near the door. When it comes to protecting the integrity of your floors, you shouldn’t be shy.
If you’re a business owner, you can’t exactly ask your employees to take off their shoes (unless you own a yoga studio.) So it’s especially important to invest in several high-quality waterproof mats and encourage people to use them.
But you can’t just buy a few mats and expect them to do all the work for you. A bit of elbow grease is needed to protect your floors during the winter.
Vacuum often, especially near entryways, to remove salt and sand. Then, use a product like Basic Coatings Squeaky Clean to ensure that you’ve gotten as many abrasive particles off the floor as possible.
Don’t panic over gaps. They’re usually normal.
During the winter months, the heater is cranked up and the relative humidity in the air drops. Floors respond to this.
Solid hardwood floors move in sync with fluctuating conditions in their environment. They expand when the humidity increases, and contract when it decreases.
During the winter months, contracting floors will often leave thin cracks or gaps between the planks. This especially happens during harsher winters when more heating is used inside the home and the air is especially dry.
There’s no real solution to these gaps, but they’re usually not cause for concern. Contraction and expansion are wood’s natural reactions to the conditions in its environment. In fact, if you don’t allow wood the room it needs to move, you can end up with damaged floors.
You can put a humidifier in rooms where gaps have appeared to try and increase the humidity in that area. Or, you could try using a furnace humidifier to increase the relative humidity of your entire home. However, this might not be enough to prompt your floors to expand.
Homeowners typically have to deal with winter-related flooring gaps until spring. Once the heater is turned off and the relative humidity increases, the floors will expand again.
If you or your clients don’t want to risk the appearance of gaps during the winter months, consider installing laminate flooring. Laminate hardwood floors are less responsive to their environment and move less than solid wood. Certain species of wood are also less responsive to moisture content than others.
Education is the key to preventing excessive damage.
Hardwood floor contractors should educate their clients about what to expect during the winter months. Explain to them that some gaps and cracks are completely normal. Read up on the science behind moisture-related hardwood flooring gaps. Demonstrate proper cleaning techniques.
In turn, homeowners and business owners should do their part to prevent excessive damage to their hardwood floors. Clean frequently and make it easy for guests to leave snow, salt, and sand where it belongs: outside.
Flooring gap image courtesy of woodfloorbusiness.com