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Tips for Hardwood Floor Upkeep

So, you’ve finally made a great decision to install a custom hardwood floor from Sunshine Hardwood Flooring. You’re thrilled about the color, the look and the feel, and the interior of your home looks that much better.

Your work is far from over, though. Now comes the long term key: Keeping your hardwood floor in good shape. A lack of basic maintenance could turn your beautiful wood floor into something far less appealing (and far more expensive) in short order, and it’s up to you to set the guidelines that will keep your floor looking and feeling great for decades.

Here are some tips to make sure your flooring lasts.

The Basics

The first layer of protection you bring to your hardwood floor is basic cleanliness and upkeep. Vacuuming and sweeping may sound like visual issues only, but this isn’t the case – dirt and grime buildup can cause many issues down the line if it isn’t driven out early.

Basic upkeep goes beyond just cleaning, though. You want to be sure to re-arrange furniture and rugs in a given room with a hardwood floor every year or two, to help your wood floors age evenly and with similar pressure distribution. You’d also be wise to limit UV exposure – too many of the sun’s rays can create warping and other issues. Window coverings are a simple solution here in most cases.

No-No’s

There are several broad themes to avoid whenever possible, as they may damage hardwood floors. Don’t walk on it with sharp heels, or shoes like cleats. Don’t use oil-based soaps or wax for cleaning, and don’t use any cleaners with acrylics or urethane involved. Stay away from harsh metal scouring pads or powders, and in general, try to get as little liquid on the hardwood floor as possible.

Preventing Larger Issues

The whole goal of basic floor upkeep is preventing any major, costly issues that may come up in the future. Everything you do should be with this goal in mind: Wipe up spills quickly, trim pets’ nails and use protective pads on the bottom of furniture. Use ice for any tougher substances like gum or wax, and don’t use metal scrapers. Use a humidifier during heating season to help wood from heating and warping.

Want to learn more? Sunshine Hardwood Flooring is your flooring expert, and our professionals are standing by to answer any and all of your questions.

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Managing Moisture Problems on Hardwood Floors

After installing a custom hardwood floor, there are several bits of important maintenance necessary to get maximum quality and lifespan out of your product. Everything from basic upkeep like sweeping and vacuuming to details like rugs and protective pads is important for preventing wear and tear. At Sunshine Hardwood Flooring, we leave our customers with detailed and useful methods for maintaining our high quality products.

However, there’s one particular type of wood floor damage that can be a bit trickier: Moisture problems. Wood can be warped and molded by moisture in the wrong places or quantities, and a big piece of maintaining wood floor products is staying on top of moisture content (MC). MC tends to rise when relative humidity (RH) does the same, and this process can cause several long term issues for your floors.

What are these issues, and how can you spot and prevent them?

Visible Issues

Many problems with moisture on custom hardwood floors are easily visible to the naked eye, mostly related to issues where moisture causes wood to expand and contract. A few of these visible signs:

  • Cracks: Separations between floor boards are some of the first signs of moisture damage as the wood loses MC. A humidifier can help during dry months.
  • Crowning: When a board’s center becomes higher than its center, usually caused by moisture imbalance.
  • Cupping: The opposite of crowning – when the edges of a floor board warps to higher than its center. Usually caused by high RH expanding the wood and deforming the edges of the boards. Cupping can often be an installation problem.
  • Buckling: When floor boards pull up, lifting several inches in at least one area. Buckling is not common, but it’s the most severe visible moisture reaction on hardwood floors.

Invisible Issues

Many moisture problems take place below the floor where we can see them, but some of these problems can be just as damaging as the visible ones. Most of the precautions here should be taken during the installation process – installers must determine subfloor MC content and determine the right material to use for the subfloor.

Leaks are some of the main invisible problems found on hardwood floors, and again, many of the risks here can be prevented by proper installation and subfloor selection. However, if your house has notable leaks in any faucets or showers, you should be wary of invisible leaking issues in your hardwood floors.

Prevention

As we noted, preventing these issues well before they start is the name of the game. Much of this is done by your contractor, so be sure to hire a reputable agency such as Sunshine Hardwood Flooring. For people looking for further avenues after installation, a wood moisture meter is a good idea – it helps track seasonal MC changes for you.

To learn more or to install your own custom wood flooring, contact Sunshine Hardwood Flooring. Our experts can’t wait to assist you.

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Wood Floors Part of Grand Renovation at Ayres Hall

It’s likely that grand ideas were always circulating in Brown Ayres’ mind as he strode the University of campus paths during his tenure as 12th president from 1904 until his death in 1919. When he took the helm of the school, it was already more than 100 years old. To help modernize his university, thus bringing it in line with its newly acquired national identity as a multidisciplinary research and education institution, Brown Ayres wanted to build a grand structure at the top of The Hill—the college’s geographic focal point—that would replace three smaller structures already there. Though Brown Ayres would not live to see the culmination of his plans, his dream was realized in Ayres Hall, a neo-Gothic behemoth made from brick and mortar—and ¾-inch beech wood floors—that served as a physical projection of educational prowess.

In recent years, though, it was Ayres Hall that was deemed antiquated. In pockets throughout the entire building, the beech flooring bore decades of damage from spilled paint, plaster and water, in addition to wear from the foot traffic of thousands of students. An ancient HVAC system left the hall
too hot and stifling for modern sensibilities. Classrooms were short on conveniently placed outlets, leaving teachers in a lurch when they needed to use AV equipment. The building was missing elevators, as well, and the fourth floor—”the tower”—had been closed since the 1970s by order of the fire marshal for being out of code. Ayres Hall was badly in need of a renovation.

As part of a comprehensive $23 million renovation project, was the renovation of the wood floors throughout the 100,000-square-foot building. Other interior renovations included lowering ceilings to accommodate utilities, enclosing stairways to conform with fire codes, expanding and upgrading bathrooms, upgrading lighting with energy-saving features, relocating door handles to conform with ADA requirements, and a plethora of other upgrades, both large and small. On the façade, the hall’s original red tile roof was removed and reinstalled, four clocks originally left out of the building due to lack of funds were added, and the original window trim was refurbished, among other improvements.

Renovating an old educational building is nothing new. “I found that the majority of classrooms had original wood flooring that was covered with carpet or vinyl over the years. “I put a proposal together insisting they refurbish the wood flooring in lieu of tearing out and replacing it with concrete or some other floor covering. Plus, we found that, overall, it was cheaper to renovate the existing hardwood.

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The Case for Dyes

Talk about changing the color of a wood floor, and most wood flooring professionals immediately think about standard wood floor stains (in their palette of browns, with maybe a white or a black thrown in once in awhile). But for an upper echelon of contractors, coloring a floor isn’t limited to golden oak or nutmeg. In fact, any color imaginable—from blue to black to bright red—is at their disposal, because they have mastered the art of applying dyes. And when combining dyes with bleach and stains, a multitude of effects can be achieved.

Using dyes isn’t for the faint-hearted. Using them correctly requires a flawless sand job and a well-honed application technique. But once mastered, dyes can open the door to a whole new clientele—designers, architects, and anybody else willing to pay a premium for a unique look that comes with expertise.

Why use dyes instead of tried-and-true stains? As Sunshine Hardwood Flooring puts it, “Your color options go from 15 to endless.” With the right combination of products, you can make a white oak floor look like Ipé, or make the same floor look like it’s been installed in a castle for 500 years. If a designer hands you a random piece of wood that’s been sitting in a window for 15 years and asks if you can match it, you can. If a homeowner hates the existing floors in a house they just bought, instead of ripping them out you can make them look completely different. And because dyes color the wood without obscuring the grain, they have a different, more natural look when compared with a typical oil-modified stain, say contractors who use them.

Creating these effects isn’t easy and it isn’t quick, so these jobs need to be priced accordingly. And, if something goes wrong and you have to back up and redo a few steps, those steps are extremely time-consuming, so Sunshine Hardwood Flooring, when useing dyes suggest pricing these jobs with a comfortable cushion, including even more time than what’s expected.

A positive is that the customers asking for these floors are often more concerned with style than budget, and if they are confident you can deliver the colors they want, you’ve got your foot in the door to some lucrative jobs. As another contractor puts it, “They want exact color matches. Whether it costs $3 or $23 a square foot, that’s the least of their concerns.”

Being this picky about color can mean many rounds of creating samples. It isn’t unheard of to spend 50 hours just creating different samples until the color is just right. That’s why, if they aren’t working for a regular customer or aren’t sure they’re getting the job, many contractors charge a fee per sample ($200 or more per sample is typical) that is credited to the job if Sunshine Hardwood Flooring ends up doing the work. Of course, keeping meticulous notes on color ratios is essential. It’s easy to lose track of what was used for what sample when you’re combining different amounts of many different dyes to achieve one perfect color.

A Common Step: Bleaching

Dyes are often used in conjunction with bleaching the wood floor. Bleaching once or more before dyeing can strip the natural color of the wood away, adding yet another method to create another look for the same wood floor. Some species are greatly affected by the bleach—it can remove the red tones from red oak, for example—while others won’t look much different after bleaching (a cumaru floor is still going to look pretty much like cumaru, even after it’s bleached).
Using bleach before dye is often done to achieve a weathered, aged look. Done correctly, it can give the floor a patina that is difficult to achieve otherwise on a brand-new floor. Although Sunshine Hardwood Flooring has successfully used household bleach, most recommend using actual wood bleach, which comes in two parts. It’s applied with a finish applicator and then usually has to be neutralized with an application of whatever is recommended (usually water or a water/vinegar mix). The floor then needs to dry overnight before being dyed.

Some notes of caution about using bleach: If you scuff or mar the surface of the wood after bleaching, you’ll reveal the real color of the wood, so be careful with the floor before the dye application. Also, be aware that bleaching the floor does degrade the structure of the wood—an effect that is more severe for some species than others.

The Final Step

Once the floor is successfully dyed, there are seemingly endless options as to what to do next, except for two things: coating directly over water-based dyes with water-based finish or coating directly over an oil-based dye with an oil-based finish. In both cases the finish will reactivate the dye and pull the color.
When Sunshine Hardwood Flooring needs to go directly from the dye to a sealer or finish coat, waterborne or otherwise, a common method is to use a universal sealer as the first coat. The shellac-based product goes on in a super-thin layer and dries extremely quickly, allowing other finishes to go over it without abrading.

Because of the custom nature of dyed floors, including those with hand-scraped or aged effects, many times Sunshine Hardwood Flooring will opt for one of the many hard wax or natural oil products that are now available. Many of these products are available in different colors, which further adds to the spectrum of looks that can be achieved. Be sure to test the finish first, as some of those products may reactivate some dyes.
Very frequently, before any finish goes on the floor, Sunshine Hardwood Flooring will choose to use a traditional wood floor stain, neutral or otherwise, directly over the dye. The conventional wisdom is that dyes aren’t colorfast, and the oil-based stain helps protect the dye from fading. Stains are also used to help the dye appear more uniform. The Hardwood Flooring Co. also uses finishes with UV inhibitors to help protect the dyes from fading.

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The Wood Story. Who Can Resist?

Today’s wood story starts with the fact that, contrary to popular belief, wood is quite affordable.  Modern, efficient manufacturing techniques mean wood floor décor can become part of a home at any time, no longer optimally at the time the home is built.  Wood flooring says, “This home is built of quality.”  No other flooring type actually INCREASES in value over time and for a variety of reasons:  The popularity of design with wood continues to grow as people discover its timeless allure.  Wood lasts and lasts and lasts, and it also develops its own character in its home.  Like your best pearls or silverware, quality wood flooring takes on a patina that is unique to its environment –your home.

As important as that is, let’s look at wood flooring from the viewpoint of a designer or decorator.  From both the material itself and its “look” (color, grain and texture) to the ability to create grand works of art for the floor in the hands of a talented designer and trained installation craftsman, wood is the most versatile floor covering there is.  Professional designers will tell you that wood is a material superior to manufactured substances installed over plywood, in terms of its innate, natural beauty and prestige, of course, and for practical considerations, too, such as ease of installation and maintenance and durability, and the ability of a wood floor to “give” a bit, making it easy on your feet when you walk on it.

Not only can you select from any variety of wood flooring options to complement or set the stage for your décor, you actually can change the entire look dramatically and inexpensively over time with custom refinishing by a certified master, the simple addition of a bit of contrasting or coordinating wood flooring here and there, or by installing, rather easily by a professional, insets and pre-assembled medallions of almost any size.

If you think you know wood flooring, unless you are “in the business,” chances are you aren’t familiar with how far wood flooring has come in recent years.  They’re definitely not your grandmother’s wood floors.  Today there are more styles, colors, species, formats and finishes available to everyone, many of them carrying exotic names you’ve never heard of arriving all the time from far-flung corners of the world.  You can be assured that truly reliable brands take pains to ensure that not only is every piece of precious natural resource material used wisely in the manufacture of their products but that the process of good stewardship begins in the forest, well before wood for your flooring is harvested, or as creative businessmen and women reclaim some of the world’s loveliest and most “experienced” wood from buildings and even the bottom of lakes and rivers where they may have lain for 200 years or more.  Speaking of the environment, because wood is a hard surface, today’s generation of wood flooring is easier than ever to keep clean, and by its structure and nature, it won’t harbor dust or allergens.

With the world marketplace constantly supplying new species in more styles and colors than ever, yours can be a floor that begins its journey in any part of the word and brings to your home four priceless qualities.

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Sunshine Hardwood Flooring is a wood flooring contractor in Ada County that specializes in hardwood floor installation, dustless hardwood floor refinishing, custom wood floor makeovers and historically accurate repairs for older homes.