Friday, January 2, 2015

10 Tips On How To Keep Your Historic Wood Floors Shining

From Houston Houses & Homes Magazine, January 2014 Issue:

10 Tips On How To Keep Your Historic Wood Floors Shining
By: Marsha Canright

For those who love the warm tones of reclaimed antique pine flooring, or the rich hues of new exotic woods, nothing else is better underfoot.  Protecting the natural beauty of your wood floors requires simple care and is an investment in the value of your home.  In Houston and Galveston, prior to 1930, almost all homes and commercial buildings were built with Texas Long Leaf Yellow Pine, including the floors, ceilings, studs, beams and wainscoting.

"This handsome whiskey-colored wood came from the three-million-acre pine forests on the Texas-Louisiana border," says Bill Hynek, who has restored wood flooring in hundreds of Texas homes over the past four decades, including national landmarks like Bishop's Palace in Galveston.

Much of East Texas forest was cleared in the process but wood mills throughout the country are now reclaiming beams and joists from century-old buildings to create new flooring that cannot be produced any other way.  No matter what kind of wood floors you have, Hynek offers these simple tips to help keep them well-nourished and glowing for years to come.

1.  Keep dirt and sand off any wood floor.  The tiny abrasive particles will wear any finish over time.  Use a vacuum or dust mop regularly.  Keep a coarse doormat on the outside of exterior entrances to remove dirt and keep a more absorbent cotton rug inside the door to absorb moisture from shoes.

2.  Its not the type of wood but the type of finish last applied to your floors that dictates necessary maintenance.  If floors have a paste wax finish, they should be cleaned and rewaxed once each year after resealing the dry areas.  To seal dry areas, use a thin coat of a ung or linseed oil and follow with a paste wax like Treewax or Johnson & Johnson.  Apply a thin coat and when it dries, rub with a terry cloth.  Paste wax will dissolve the previous application, cleaning the floors and building up a modest patina.

3. If floors have a urethane finish, there are a few products, such as Bona and Swiffer, that will clean them.   Water and wood don't mix so never flood the floor.  Go with the direction of the boards to avoid streaking.  In 10 or more years, if you feel your urethane floors look beyond hope, you may wish to recoat them with a compatible urethane.  Consult a professional for assistance.

4. The most obvious damage to floors occurs from furniture.  Protect your floors from scratches by using compressed felt pads from any hardware store.  Also, remove metal or plastic protectors that may be on the bottom of your furniture.  Metal causes a black corrosion stain on wood and plastic skids will dry and break exposing the nail and damaging the wood floor.  Use furniture cups for heavy furniture like beds and pianos.  When possible lift furniture in place, don't slide it.

5. If you have big dogs, Hynek recommends a wax finish.  Dogs can't get a good grip on the floors and any urethane film finish will show more scratches.  However, urethane floors are more chemical resistant.  So, if your pets have accidents, urethane may be the best for you.

6. A urethane finish is much more susceptible to damage from direct sunlight and heat.  Make  sure you have adequate shading on your south side windows.

7. Sometimes it's what you don't do that will keep your floors looking good.  For example, never use water-based cleaners on wood floors that have a wax finish.  The cleaner will disolve the  wax allowing the water into the pours of the wood, swelling them and breaking the seal.  Save the Murphy's Oil Soap for urethane finishes and then only apply it with a damp applicator.

8. Don't put planters - even with a drip plate - directly onto a wood floor.  Condensation will form on the bottom of the pot or plate and the moisture will stain the floors even if you have a urethane finish.  Always put air space between the floor and the bottom of the pot.

9. Good maintenance won't protect your floors if you don't keep a constant moisture level in the wood.  If you're upgrading your central air and heating system, make sure you don't get one bigger than you need.  A unit that is too large will cool your house down quickly but won't recycle the air as often leaving the house more humid.  This can cause wood floors to cup.

10. Check your home's downspouts to make sure rainwater is directed away from your house and not underneath.  Also check that sprinklers are far enough from the foundation.  When moisture accumulates under your house it can wreck havoc with a wood floor.