Cleaning smudgy maple floors

Q: We recently moved into our house and I am having a hard time keeping my maple floors looking good. Any time my baby crawls on the floor, or we have a lot of traffic, the floors have a smudgy imprint. I have used a damp mop to keep them clean, but it doesn’t last long. What can I do?

A: Assuming these floors are finished with a top coat and not wax, you should consider a product such as found at this web site: www.hardwoodcleaner.com

Related Q: I have new dark hardwood floors, and small children. I don’t know what to use on the floors to prevent foot prints. I don’t know what type of brooms or mops to use. I’ve used M***** oil for hardwoods.

My house is in a new construction area. So, the dust from outside is always coming in.

I will buy rugs for all entrances as recommended on your site.

Please give tips on how to keep them clean.

A: What you have to do is vacuum regularly with a soft brush and use a proper poly urethane cleaner. Bona, Basic Coatings, Mirage, Poloplaz? Look up these companies. They all have good cleaners.

How to revive wood flooring that was covered by carpet?

Q: I placed carpet over my parquet floors about 12 years ago. Now I would like to remove the carpet. What do I do to revive my parquet flooring?

A: If the finish is worn off they will need to be fully sanded and finished.

If the finish is in good shape you will need to give them a good cleaning with an appropriate polyurethane cleaner that does not leave a residue. You should be able to purchase such a product from a local wood floor retailer.

You might then decide a light polisher buffing and fresh coat of finish will do the trick. Again however, if the finish is worn off and the wood gray and discoloured in any spots this may call for a complete sanding.

Multiple gaps running the length of the planks

Q: We purchased a new home in January (2 ft. of snow on ground!) The house had just had 3/4 inch thick x 5 inch wide oak pre-finished micro edge hardwood installed in an open floor plan: living room, dining area, kitchen and family room. This installation is above grade on plywood main floor, but with an unfinished basement below it (which is below grade and has a concrete floor).

No vapor barrier was used either underneath the oak flooring or on the ceiling of the unfinished basement. It looked great. Now in Sept., and a dryish summer (we’re in BC), the floor has developed multiple gaps running the length of the planks, that are wide enough to insert a 5 cent coin. What’s the best repair here?

A: Increase the humidity in the house.

Related Q: I recently purchased a house that had not been lived into for two years. The house is approximately eight years old. The floors were pine tongue and groove over what appears to be avantec sub-flooring. When the house was purchased the floors looked good, but had some of the finish flaking off. I had someone come in and strip and re-seal the floor prior to moving in. The work was done in Sept/Oct with no heating or air conditioning having been run for two years.

After approximately one month after the floors were done and the heating systems were turned on there are several boards in several rooms where the boards are cracking down the center of the board, and several other boards where the seams are coming apart. In the worst seam you can place approximately three quarters in the crack. These splinters and cracks between the boards were not there prior to the sanding and refinishing. Could it be that with the house vacant for 2 years that the boards had a high moisture content when the sanding and refinishing was done? How can this be remedied? I’m trying to find out what you think the cause could have been and what the possible fixes could be.

A: I would say the boards had a higher moisture content than they did after the heat was finally turned on. That is why they shrunk and gaped. Try to keep the RH in the home around 40%. Wood has moisture traveling through it all the time from it’s environment. The goal is to control how much. I don’t suppose the person who sanded the floor took any readings before sanding?

Second A (for some reason he answered the same question twice, and obviously had more time for the second go!): Pine is notorious for serious shrinkage. Now that heat if finally in the house the planks are shrinking. You can try to maintain a higher humidity level in the house. During winter months around 40% is ideal. You can’t go much higher than that, but don’t let it drop into the 20’s which is too dry. I doubt this floor will close up but it might be wise to wait until the humid summer to see what the floor is going to do. Then you could fill the large gaps with a polyurethane adhesive. There is a liquid form at Home Depot. You will have to tape the surface of the boards along the edge of the gap and crack because this adhesive will expand. After it has hardened, cut off the overflow to flush or preferably below the surface of the boards with a sharp utility knife and then use a colour match wood filler to apply on top of it. I suggest the moisture cure polyurethane adhesive because it won’t crack out.

Similar Q: I moved into a new condo about a year ago. The floors are floating engineered hardwood (non glue). They have developed small gaps at the seams, in different areas, at the top of the planks and at the sides. One was repaired in the past but the gap returned in the same place. Should this be happening? What is considered acceptable? Also, what do you suggest to repair the problem? Thanks!

A: I’m assuming these are click joint floors. It sounds like you have a low humidity issue. It must be significant to cause this gapping. Is it possible you have a hot spot in the concrete, perhaps from water pipes beneath?

My floors had to be raised, now I can’t put a rug at the front door

Q: I just got my hardwood floors done. My floors had to be raised. Now I can’t put a rug at the front door. If I cut the door bugs will come in. What can I do?

A: There are various types of weather shield strips that can be installed on the existing wood threshold.

You’ve seen them: an aluminum raised strip with a rubber bumper which is screwed in place and when the exterior door is closed it pushes up against the rubber strip hiding the gap at the bottom of the door.

Does filler make the floor water tight?

Q: We have a few gaps between boards where the filler has popped up. I don’t mind filling it again (and again as needed), but I am wondering if doing so makes the floor water-tight (or as water-tight as it can get). I ask because I love my Scooba floor cleaner, but it can only be used on hardwood with no cracks.

A: There should only be slight amounts of water used on any wood floor. By slight I mean a dampened or rung dry cloth. Filler won’t make a floor “water tight”.

Wax from floor mop causing light patch

Q: My dark 2 year old hardwood floor has developed a light patch in front of the couch. I have tried gently washing it. I usually clean with a [popular brand] floor mop. Do you have a suggestions for me?

A: My guess? According to the makers of these products one of the ingredients is wax. Wax should not be used on polyurethane coated floors. When wax is used as a finish and a small spill occurs, for example water, a white spot will appear. I would suggest you look into getting some appropriate cleaner which leaves no residue of any kind but does remove such contaminants. Poloplaz, Basic Coatings and Bona Kemi are, amongst others, companies which make such products.

Landlord says a large dog would scratch the floors

Q: I would like to adopt a 95 lb. golden retriever, but my landlord says he will scratch the floors that were recently redone. What is the usual damage done? And what is the average cost for repair in a house with 4 average sized rooms with hardwood floors?

A: I am an animal lover too. Along with that comes large responsibility and a lot of patience I guess. Things will happen. Especially with a larger dog, a great amount of pressure is exerted through the tips of their claws on any surface and the impact will partly be determined by how well his nails are trimmed and filed smooth, how active the dog is, and what species of wood the floor is. If any floor is well finished, in your scenario, I wouldn’t expect the dog to easily scratch off the finish. However, he can leave nail impressions in the wood itself. The only way to remove these is by sanding the floors again. If the wear surface on the floor is too thin, it would mean replacing the floor.

What about putting down an area carpet and a runner for the main walk through? Also, and I don’t know how practical this really is, but I have heard that their are doggy boots. I have a 20 lb. Boston Terrier and he doesn’t make many marks on my floor, though some. He can really spin his wheels though. But in no case has he scratched off the finish.

It is kind of a tough call. I understand where your landlord is coming from. At the same time, floors are not table tops. They are meant to be walked on. I wear my boots (at times covered in snow) on my floors, with no adverse affects. It depends on ones expectations.

Would it harm the floor if we place a piano (on plywood) onto the newly stained and refinished floor?

Q: We plan to have newly stained and refinished red oak hardwood installed in our kitchen. Would it harm the floor if we place a piano (on plywood) onto the newly stained and refinished floor? It needs to be moved to work on the living room.. any suggestions?

A: No, that should be fine. I would lay a drop sheet out and then the plywood. Make sure the floor is clean. It is also a good idea to allow the floor finish to fully cure before covering it. Depending on the finish used, this can take anywhere from a few days after the last coat to as much as 4 weeks.

Wooden floor became very slick after adding large rug

Q: We recently moved into a home with very nice wooden floors. We added a large oriental rug in the middle of the room. Within a day or so, the wooden floor became very slick. I have vacuumed, cleaned the wooden floor (which helps for a day), but it quickly becomes slick again.

A: Is it possible this carpet is shedding either tiny fibers or some stain repellent and you are tracking it onto the wooden floor? I would purchase a polyurethane cleaner and try using it as needed. Bona Kemi Pacific floor cleaner, Mirage floor cleaner for example, which can be purchased from your local hardwood flooring retailer. Or buy online: http://www.hardwoodcleaner.com
or http://www.circa1850.com
They have a product called Bare Floor.

Planning to close down the house for the winter months

Q: My father has a 30 year-old, nailed down hardwood floor. This winter is the first time he is planning to close down the house for the winter months (drain water pipes and shut down the heat). He is concerned that if he does not leave any heat on in the house that his hardwood floors will be damaged.

The outdoor temperatures can vary from highs of 9 to 12C during the day to lows of -30C at night. The house would be closed between January and April probably. Is my father right to be concerned about his hardwood floors? If yes, what minimum temperature should he keep in the house?

A: I’m not as concerned with the cold temperatures per se as I am with the lack of any exchange of fresh air in the house. I would be worried about possible condensation eventually occurring throughout the house. Perhaps he could leave the heat set for around 40F-50F to keep things above freezing. Draining the pipes is still a good idea just in case something went wrong with the furnace.

It would be interesting to monitor the RH in the house under real world conditions, both when it is very cold inside and when it is above freezing. One thing I am sure of: Unless the house has a lot of windows exposed to direct sunlight, if it gets freezing cold in the house, it will stay freezing cold.

Turning the heat off in winter

Q: We had new oak floors put in 3 years ago. We would like to go away for 3 months in the winter and turn the heat off. What can happen to the floors?

A: Well, it can get damp in the house without fresh air exchange. The sun will pass in the morning and heat up certain rooms and then get cold at night which can cause moisture to condense. You could get some cupping of the wood. Couldn’t you just turn the heat down to 50F and have a neighbour come in every few days or each week just to air the house out a bit?

Here’s a longer answer related to this: What is the lowest wood floor safe temperature that we can have our thermostat set at (when away)?

Protection under the fridge?

Q: I am redoing a kitchen with wood flooring. Should I put some covering under the fridge to protect the floor from any drips, wayward ice cubes or condensation? The fridge will have some space between it and the surrounding cabinet, so I should have room. I hear ice cubes fall somewhere in it now and wonder what I’ll find when we move it from its current spot for the remodel. I just would like to protect the floor as much as is reasonable… thanks!

A: What did you have in mind to place on the floor? I think if the wood is well finished, that should be good enough. Ice makers cause problems often enough. And I don’t mean an errant ice cube now and then. I mean a full on leak. If that happens you will be looking at damage for sure. Whoever hooks it up needs to make sure it is not leaking.

Follow-up Q: I didn’t know if I should place some kind of plastic sheeting under the fridge on top of the flooring..

A: I think the plastic sheeting could actually be counter productive. If there is any moisture coming from below, as wood does tend to allow moisture to pass through it, you would end up with condensation under the sheet. Ample air circulation is a good thing.

Related Q: Is there a protective sheet that can be put over hardwood floor before putting in a built in refrigerator, to protect against water leaks?

A: A protective, water proof sheet to use under your refrigerator? Not that I’ve ever heard of. Tell your plumber to make sure it is connected correctly. I think covering the wood floor with a water proof sheet may cause more harm than good. Wood absorbs and releases moisture so you want it to be able to breath.

Cleaning a polyurethane floor that’s been coated with wax

Q: I moved into a house that has real hardwood floors. I do not know for certain what finish is on it but after testing, it seems to be polyurethane. However, it must have been waxed over at some point because it gets clear streaks/marks when things get dragged across it. I’ve tried a few techniques, but nothing has worked to remove the marks. Also, should I use a cleaner for waxed floors? Thank you!

A: I would try to remove the wax. A product that can help accomplish this is Tie Tac from Poloplaz. You would need a floor polisher with a mildly abrasive pad. Put the cleaner in a spray bottle and mist a section at a time. Buff over the wet spray thoroughly and do this to the entire floor. Then have a towel well dampened in the solution and wrap around a push broom. Go up and down the floor. Let this dry and then with a clean towel wipe it down again.

Similar Q: I recently bought a house with wall to wall hardwood flooring. The floor could use another protective coat to spice it up; however, I believe it has been waxed in the past. My question is, how do I remove the wax and put another coat of urethane on the floor?

A: Are you saying wax has been applied to a polyurethane finish? If so, here are a couple of possibilities. You could clean the floors with any number of polyurethane cleaners on the market. Here is one of them: www.hardwoodcleaner.com.

You might also use a TSP solution. I think I would go over it a couple of times and then buff or abrade the existing finish, clean up well and re-coat.

Using a steamer vac on wood floor

Q: I have finished in place rosewood floors. I’ve been using a steamer vac, spraying a mixture of water, vinegar, and droplet of dawn dish liquid. I’m having an issue with an oily residue! I went over the floors 5 times and it’s almost as if it’s getting worse. Not sure if it’s a residue in the cotton pads? Is it possible for the oil to come out of the rosewood floor? Through the poly?

A: Using a steam cleaner on a hardwood floor is a really really bad idea. You need to stop that and let the floor settle for a while. There are floor cleaners you can buy from wood flooring professionals which won’t destroy your floor. You simply spray a bit on a micro weave or terry cloth mop and wipe your floor. I hope you don’t have to have this floor refinished.

Similar Q: Using a floor steamer seems to have become popular to clean wood floors. We have recently installed hickory wood floors in our house. I am contemplating getting a steamer in order to make the cleaning easier but am concerned about damaging the wood due to the moisture and heat. There isn’t a lot of moisture left on the floor but it does get quite warm. What would you recommend? Thank you for your time.

A: I’m glad you asked first! Absolutely NO to the steamer. I don’t know what type of finish your floor has but I will assume some type of top coat such as polyurethane. Vacuum regularly with a soft brush. There are any number of cleaners available manufactured by wood floor manufacturers and floor finish manufacturers that do a good job of removing stuck on grime. You local wood floor retailer will have something for you or you an check out Poloplaz, Bona Kemi, Basic Coatings or Mirage Floors for a start. Simply spray a small area and wipe with a micro weave or terry cloth mop. Oil soaps are not a great idea and nor are swiffer products as their product data sheet indicates the solution contains wax which will create an adhesion issue if you ever tried to have the floors re-coated.

Hardwood floor in a barn

Q: I’m going to be putting a hardwood (probably oak) floor down in a barn. This barn has gaps and holes in the siding so it’s kind of exposed to the elements. It’s definitely exposed to the temperature. How should I treat the wood? Should I even bother letting it acclimate? Thank you in advance.

A: Quite an upgrade. I’d probably give it a couple of coats of Waterlox penetrating tung oil finish and a couple of coats of Marine varnish. All the best with that. I wouldn’t worry about the acclimation either. Let’s face it: this floor is going to take a beating and isn’t meant to look like a piece of furniture.

Related Q: What do we apply to maple flooring that is being laid on an outside wrap around porch, that is covered by a roof? To seal it up well for Wisconsin weather?

A: I would probably go with a couple of coats of Waterlox followed by a couple of coats of exterior marine varnish. Not the choice of wood I would use on an exterior porch.

Condensation under washer/dryer

Q: What can we use under our clothes dryer on my hickory floor to help with the condensation? We put a plastic tray under the washer, can we use the same under the dryer? Right now I jam a towel a few inches under the dryer & open the windows, but I still get that dang condensation.

A: I wouldn’t have thought you would get any condensation from the two machines. Is the dryer vented outside? I think L.L.Bean has mats for entry ways that don’t allow moisture to pass through.

Follow-up: Thank you. Lot of condensation from the dryer, it is vented outside. I will check will LLBean. I did not want put anything under the dryer just in case it would interrupt air flow.

Oily soap left whitish chalky/ashy haze

Q: We just bought a house that is over 80 yrs. old. There is wood everywhere and we hope to be able to make it look great (we’ve even ripped out almost all the carpet & tack-strips). The banister on the stairs has a lot of black dirt on it, I think no one has used wood polish or anything for decades. I don’t think it has ever been polyurethaned. Not knowing any better, I took some M*****’s Oil Soap and it took away a lot of the black dirt, but now there is a whitish chalky/ashy haze! Oh no! Should I run out and buy some O***** Oil cleaner, will that help? I hope I have not ruined it.

A: You could remove this mess with a polyurethane cleaner or a solution of TSP. Supermarket cleaners are not the way to go.

Follow-up Q: What is TSP, and where can I get it? Should I hire someone to ‘restore’ it? What kind of professional would I look for?

A: TSP is trisodium phosphate and is available at any hardware or big box store. It generally comes in granule form. This sort of work is generally done by a painter.

Related Q: Hi, We have polyurethane finished Brazilian cherry hardwood floors for over 14 years. I have tried many different wood floor cleaners and I now have a oily haze on them. Can we use a floor buffing machine to remove this? I see you recommend Bona cleaner, which I’ve used in the past, but did not get good results. Is there another product you would recommend? The rooms are big, so I need to cover a large area.

A: Yes Poloplaz also makes a floor cleaner as does Basic Coatings. Try to find a wood flooring distributor in your area and contact them. They likely carry somebodies product. Have you been using something like an oil soap?

Protecting wood floors from insecticide treatment

Q: I have bed bugs and everything I read says to seal all cracks in the room before using insecticide. The wood tile floor (Parquet?) has little cracks all round them. It’s very old and unfinished but I just want to seal it, not bothered by color or a bit rough or stains, etc. Ideally a one coat brush/roller job. Do you know of a sealer/treatment that will seal the surface and fill/bridge up to 1/16″ cracks? Many thanks.

A: Any coating you choose, whether it is solvent based, water borne or de-waxed shellac won’t necessarily bridge the gap but will flow into the cracks. There are safe treatments you can use for bug infestations such as Diatomaceous earth / clay. This very fine, talc like powder can be spread about and is harmless to people and pets if ingested. It should not be breathed in though.