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Experts discuss advantages, care of hardwood flooring

What are the advantages to having hardwood flooring in your home?

Rose: Resale value - hardwood flooring always adds value to your home. It's also good for individuals who have allergies. Carpet tends to trap dust and dust mites and to aggravate allergies. Hardwood flooring is easier to clean and maintain. You're going to dust it regularly. When you feel there's a need, there's a mist cleaner you can spray on and wipe up.

Wilson: The main advantage is longevity - a hardwood floor can last up to 100 years. They're also very clean; they're friendly for people who have allergies; and they're easy to maintain. You're using a natural product, so they don't create a whole lot of waste.

Harrell: Hardwood is maintainable and gives your room a warmer feel. Wood is quickly becoming one of the most popular options when it comes to flooring. Carpet people are starting to realize how dirty carpet really is, especially when allergies develop and doctors recommend people get rid of it. Wood floors can be extremely flexible with types of colors and sheen, but mostly the health benefits and easy maintenance are the biggest advantages.

What do you do when you refinish hardwood floors?

Rose: The room has to be emptied of all furniture or existing carpeting and sealed off for any dust that escapes. We sand the floor, apply the stain and apply two coats of polyurethane, which can be oil-based or water-based. I prefer an oil-based polyurethane - I feel like it's a heavier coat - but a lot of people prefer water-based. We have stains customers can choose from, and we can custom-match stains. If someone has railings that are a certain color and they want the floor to match, we can do that.

Wilson: Beyond cleaning, we do a screen-and-recoat maintenance process for scratched or dull finishes. We take a screen and buff down the top coat of finish and lay down a new top coat. You probably want to do a screen-and-recoat about every five to seven years. Then you won't have to refinish your floors as often, which we generally recommend every 10 to 15 years.

Refinishing is a much more comprehensive, 10-step process. We sand down the finish to get to the actual wood. Then there are two options: staining the wood or sticking with the natural color without staining. After that, we typically add three coats of polyurethane finish. Refinishing about 2,500 square feet of flooring would take about six or seven days.

Is there any type of stain or scratch you can't remove?

Harrell: The only stains that usually aren't removable are really bad pet stains. Also, we had a client whose cleaning people plugged one of those refillable air fresheners into the wall upside down. All of the oil spilled out and ate through the finish. But if you're refinishing a floor, you can repatch the area. Another client had painters in after we stained her floors. She had to let them go, so they dumped paint all over the floor before they left. The paint came right up and didn't damage the floor a bit.

What can homeowners do to maintain their hardwood floors?

Rose: Remove your shoes when you enter the room. Keep mats on the floor. If you're going from the kitchen floor to hardwood flooring, have a rug there to catch some of the dirt on your feet. Put felt pads under chair legs. For items you don't want to be moved, like a table, you can cut a piece of rubber shelf liner and put that under the legs.

Wilson: For cleaning, the best thing to do is use a dry dust mop and a non-residual product called Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner. Don't use any product that claims to make or restore shine, like Murphy's Oil Soap. If you want to add a new coat of finish down the line, the waxy residue it leaves will prevent the new coat of finish from adhering.

Harrell: Definitely use some sort of protector under the furniture. I think some people anticipate having to refinish hardwood sometime in the future, but it doesn't have to be that way. The finishes available now are so advanced. Find out what type of finish you have so you'll know what to do if you have a problem.

Keeping the grit off the floors is your No. 1 goal, because that's what wears them out. I recommend a hardwood floor vacuum. If you have wood floors in an area that sees a lot of spills, you should mop them only with a terry-cloth mop. You can use vinegar and water or a cleaner made by a hardwood floor company. You don't need to wax or polish the floor. And you don't typically need to get them cleaned professionally, as long as you keep them clean.


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