How to Recognize When It’s Time to Refresh Your Hardwood Floors

Your hardwood floor is a significant investment in your home that can endure for many years with proper care. A key aspect of maintaining its longevity involves the ability to refinish the surface layer of wood repeatedly, making it resilient to damage while restoring its original beauty. Depending on the extent of wear and tear, there are various methods for restoring hardwood floors. In this guide, we’ll explore these options and provide insights on determining which approach is needed and when. Typically, it’s fairly easy to discern when your floor requires attention. If it appears lackluster, worn-out, faded, or scratched, it’s time to give it some care to restore its former glory.

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Refinishing: This method involves the most extensive restoration process. It requires removing the top layer of wood using a buffer machine or drum sander. Once this step is completed, a new stain and finish can be applied to the raw wood surface.

Buffing and Recoating: Also known as a screen and recoat, this method involves gently buffing the floor to remove the old finish without causing damage to the wood beneath. Following this, a fresh coat of finish can be applied on top. As a general guideline, it’s recommended to perform a buff and recoat every three years. Most solid hardwood floors can only undergo refinishing 10-12 times in their lifespan. Hence, many homeowners opt for refinishing only when the floor has sustained significant damage.

Not all floors are suitable candidates for a buff and coat. Engineered hardwood floors may not accept a new coat of varnish if buffed, depending on their construction. It’s advisable to check with the manufacturer regarding maintenance options. Additionally, floors that have been waxed previously or treated with a mineral oil-based cleaner may not be eligible for a new coat of finish. If you have a raw wood floor, it would require sanding and the application of its initial coat of finish instead of a recoat.

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A buff and coat is recommended for addressing the following issues with your floor:

  • Dull finish or visible wear in high-traffic areas
  • Desire to change the type of finish, for instance, from glossy to semi-gloss
  • Light scratches that are limited to the finish level

Deep scratches reaching the wood level or moisture stains would necessitate a full refinishing rather than a buff and coat.

Avoiding Pitfalls with Hardwood Floor Cleaning Products:

After recoating your floor, it’s crucial to maintain its cleanliness to prolong its lifespan until the next recoating. However, some homeowners inadvertently damage their floors by using improper cleaning products. Here are common cleaning mistakes to avoid:

  • Excessive water usage: Using a wet mop or excessive soapy water can lead to moisture damage, especially if the water is left to air dry. Use a damp mop sparingly on hardwood floors.
  • Harsh chemicals: Products containing ammonia or vinegar can cause chemical damage and staining by breaking down the wood. Opt for gentle products specifically designed for high-quality hardwood maintenance.
  • Oil-based cleaners: While products like Murphy’s claim to be suitable for hardwood floors, they should only be used on waxed floors, not finished ones. Oil-based cleaners can penetrate the finish, leading to sticky floors or a ruined finish appearance.
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In Summary:

Maintaining a hardwood floor requires regular care and attention. In addition to routine cleaning, buffing and recoating every three years can address wear and tear on the finish and minor scratches. For more severe issues, a full refinishing may be necessary, involving the removal of the top layer of wood. This process can only be done a limited number of times throughout the floor’s lifespan.