Heavy traffic, dirty shoes, food spills and pet accidents are just a few of the abuses our floors suffer on a regular basis.
It’s no wonder, then, that regardless of what they’re covered with, most of us will likely need to refinish, recoat or replace at least one, if not all of them sometime during the life of our home.
Depending on the style and expanse, flooring costs can climb into the hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
With that in mind, it’s not a bad idea to treat the ground beneath our feet with a little more respect if we want to protect our investment and keep our floors looking their best.
For many people, hardwood tops the list of desirable flooring. It’s classic, durable, and looks beautiful; at least until the finish begins to look worn.
According to Rob Girard, owner of Mr. Hardwood, a hardwood floor installation, sanding, and refinishing company based in Rocky Hill, many polyurethane manufacturers recommend that, on average, hardwood floors get a recoating every five to eight years based on the amount of traffic in the house, along with other factors like how many pets and people are living there.
To optimize that time, Girard said to vacuum often and avoid wearing shoes in the house as they track in dirt and other corrosive particles that can ruin the finish.
“If you do need to wear shoes, have a pair that are specifically for inside; don’t even go out to the mailbox and get the mail with them because you’ll bring that sand and salt in and it grinds away at the finish.”
Putting felt pads on the bottom of chair legs, couches and other furniture pieces is important in helping prevent excessive wear and abrasions, but Girard said pads alone aren’t enough.
“You have to vacuum them off periodically because they, too, collect sand and dirt,” which causes scratches and wear marks when the furniture is moved.
Other things to watch out for are steam mops, which are fine as long as they are in constant motion, but can damage the floor if left unattended for even a short time.
“They really apply a lot of heat and that will delaminate the finish from the wood itself,” he said.
Girard also cautioned against using wax cleaners, which can do more harm than good.
“They look beautiful at first, but when you walk on it dirt gets stuck in the wax and then it begins to look dull. So, in the traffic areas you have a dull streak, so you put more wax on it, and ultimately you get a buildup that’s extremely difficult to get off.”
The best way to clean your floor, he said, is to use plain vinegar and water or a small amount of non-wax cleaner like Murphy’s Oil Soap diluted in water.
Many of us have a love-hate relationship with our carpets. We love how they feel and look, but after just a few years underfoot, they can look stained and shabby.
To maximize their life expectancy, which is typically 10 to 15 years, don’t skimp on the initial investment.
“If you put in a really good product to begin with, you can get a longer life out of that carpet,” said Leslie Boyko, sales manager at Custom Floors, a flooring retailer based in Rocky Hill.
“Quality remains long after the price is forgotten.”
Boyko said that a nylon fiber carpet is often a good choice due to its durability, and that when installing carpet, it’s important to take into account where it’s going and how much daily wear it’ll be subjected to.
“You have to think about the area that you’re carpeting; like a bedroom or set of stairs. There’s different carpets for each application. So in a high traffic area like stairs, hallway, family room, you want to find a carpet that’s very tight and dense.”
A shorter nap wears better in common areas, she said, and thicker piles tend to last longer in less used spaces like the bedroom.
To help your carpet last longer, Boyko said to care for it like you would a car.
“You have to maintain it; vacuum it regularly, you have to have walk-off mats at your door, and you really shouldn’t be wearing shoes on the carpet.”
While many carpets come with some type of lifetime warranty, Boyko said that it’s only valid if you adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions.
“A lot of people don’t know that to maintain the warranty on your carpet, you have to have it professionally cleaned every 18 to 24 months. If you don’t do it, that warranty is void.”
And renting a rug cleaner at the grocery store won’t cut it. Instead the cleaning needs to be done by reputable company and you need to save the receipts. If there’s ever a claim, the carpet manufacturer will require them as proof.
For spot cleaning, Boyko said to check product labels to ensure that they are certified for use by the Carpet and Rug Institute before using them. Approved products will display a blue/green seal, which means they’ve been tested to remove stains without adversely affecting the appearance of your rugs.
Laminates and vinyl, oh my!
Synthetic flooring has come a long way since the days of grandma’s avocado color kitchen. In fact, some laminates and luxury vinyl tiles look so much like the real deal that it’s hard to know which is which.
“The visuals are incredible,” said Steve Brody, vice president and co-owner of Atlas Floors in Wethersfield. “You really can’t tell.”
Unlike hardwood and tile, however, their shelf life can be shorter, lasting anywhere from five to 20 years, depending on the quality and grade of the product.
The upside is that they are often more affordable, durable, and maybe the best part, most of them require very little maintenance.
“Manufacturers know that today’s consumer is different; they don’t want to spend time doing maintenance,” said Brody. “So the products are so easy to take care of and they have texture and embossing that not only helps with scratches and everyday stuff that goes on, it helps mask that wear and tear.”
When sanitizing them, he said to avoid using multipurpose cleaners that can leave a film behind.
“If you take a product that is very soapy based and sponge mop it on the floor, then let it dry, it’s very tacky and when something’s tacky, it’s a magnet for dirt.”
And since most people don’t rinse their floors after an application, a buildup occurs, making the floors appear dull and dirty.
For the best results, he suggested using the manufacturer’s recommended cleanser or a small amount of non-soapy ammonia diluted with water.
“If you clean them and maintain them, they’re going to last longer and look better for years to come.”