The maintenance of wood flooring is significantly different
than that of most other flooring materials. The reason for this has mainly to
do with the fact that wood is water sensitive as well as abrasion sensitive.
All wood flooring can be negatively affected by water and
even the hardest of hardwoods is really not that hard. It is easy to forget
this and, as a result, damage can occur.
Wood floors, as one might expect, begin as trees. Hardwoods
are from deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves in the winter) and
softwoods are from conifers or evergreen trees (trees that do not lose leaves
in the winter). The live timber is cut down, removed from the forest and sent
to mills to be cut and fabricated into usable building materials. Some of those
building materials end up as finish flooring.
Finish flooring, whether hardwood or softwood, has the
potential of being used as solid wood flooring, engineered wood flooring or as
wood byproduct to be used in other types of flooring such as high-density fiberboard
and laminate. The type of flooring material selected will dictate the
Solid wood flooring, softwood or hardwood, is cut directly
out of the tree and is solid in construction throughout the entire body of the
strip, slat or board. The grade of the lumber as well as the way it was cut,
will determine the cost of the flooring and how that flooring will perform.
Solid wood flooring is traditionally unfinished at the mill
and sent directly to the job site. The wood flooring will sit at the jobsite
for a number of days to acclimate to the weather and humidity conditions that
it will be exposed to. These types of floors are sanded and finished on site as
part of the initial maintenance of the floor.
Today there are many manufacturers that incorporate
application of sealers and coatings as part of the system and send the flooring
materials out pre-finished or factory finished. After installation of these
floors, sanding and refinishing should not be required for several years.
Engineered wood flooring is constructed of 3 to 5 cross
layers of softwood underneath, and a layer of hardwood on the surface.
Engineered wood is factory finished with polyurethane or acrylic impregnated
finishes and shipped to the jobsite. There is no need to finish the floors once
they are on the jobsite.
Maintenance for wood flooring is not all about sanding and
refinishing the floor, although that is the perception. Solid wood floors are
seldom sanded and refinished and engineered wood is more often replaced or worn
out before screening and refinishing.
Maintenance of wood flooring is the key to keeping them
looking great. The coatings used on wood floors are extremely durable; they
have to be. They protect the wood floor from the damaging effects of erosion,
but they are not invincible. Maintenance for wood flooring is primarily about
keeping soil off the floor before it causes damage.
The tiny particles of micro grit that reside in soil have
sharp edges that continually attack the surface of any floor. Keeping soil
outside is the first defense and is usually accomplished with a good walk off
mat program. A good matting program will have exterior and interior matting
that will pick up large debris, moisture and soil that is attached to the shoe.
Stopping the soil from coming into contact with the wood floor will eliminate
or reduce potential damage to the surface.
For soil that gets by the mats, the next step is the dry
service procedures: dust mop using a microfiber cloth system, or vacuum the
floor to remove as much dry particulate as possible. In facilities that have
heavy traffic, the frequency of these service procedures can be increased to
accommodate the additional soiling. The more dry soil you remove, the less
Unfortunately, the dry service procedure will not eliminate
all soil. In some cases of light soiling it may be easier to take care of the
problem areas with a spray bottle of neutral cleaner solution and some towels,
but when soil is widespread on the surface the damp mopping procedure may be
required. Damp mopping is a mopping technique in which most of the cleaning
solution is wrung out of the mop, leaving a minimum amount of moisture in the
Many building service contractors use microfiber mopping
systems today. When using a microfiber system it is very important to go back
over the floor with a dry towel or microfiber to pick up the residual moisture
left behind. The key is not to allow standing solution on the flooring.
It is impossible to eliminate all soil in the facility at
all times, so eventually the coating on the wood flooring will begin to get
scratched. These scratches are minute and barely visible to the naked eye, but
they are there. We know this because the floor develops dullness in appearance
and usually a clear traffic pattern. Buffing of these floors with a soft
polishing pad can bring some of the luster back. In many cases, especially with
engineered wood flooring, there are aerosol or spray buff systems that are part
of the system that can be applied periodically to restore some of the gloss to
Larger scratches that occur on wood floors are considered
damage. Polishing and spray buffing will not make these go away. There are
systems available today that help to address these scratches without sanding or
screening, they work more on the principles of scrub and recoat. Specialized
machines are used for removing the surface soil and solution, followed by
application of polymeric finishes that protect the floor from additional
Wood floor maintenance is all about keeping soil off the
floor. The combination of a good matting program followed by removing dry soil
frequently will extend the times between damp mopping. Periodic services will
reduce unsightly traffic patterns and new methods for recoating wood flooring
reduce the need for sanding or screening and refinishing.