No moisture barrier placed underneath the concrete

Q: I currently have my floor dug up in my kitchen. I’m trying to find a source of moisture after seeing dark stains in a few spots on my wood floor.

So far we have found no leak, but there is moisture in the soil. We have discovered that there was no moisture barrier placed underneath the concrete. Would it be considered standard practice to place a moisture barrier under concrete? Not sure how to proceed.

A: Concrete work is really out of the range of my expertise. I would think if the workers were aware before pouring the concrete that a moisture issue existed, using a barrier would have been a good idea. However, a moisture barrier can be used on top of the concrete to at least retard or slow down moisture transfer. This could include roll out membranes and even certain coatings applied to the concrete.

Cupping due to rubber mat by dishwasher and sink?

Q: Can cupping of laminate floors be caused by using a rubber-like kitchen mat by the sink and dishwasher area?

A: This is an interesting question to ponder. It isn’t having a mat there that is a big problem. However, this is near a water source and in the case of the dishwasher, hot steamy water. If that vents steam and it can get under the mat it would be trapped, and that would be a problem.

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Wood floor safe treadmill mats?

Q: We recently had maple engineered wood installed in our home. Can you recommend treadmill mats for hardwood floors? The manufacturer will not give me a straight answer. I am worried about moisture/mold problems, and do not understand what type of rubber to use.

A: Is this a mat to put under the tread mill? Why not just apply felt tacs and certain points on the supporting structure where it sits on the floor?

Follow-up comment: A mat will absorb the shock and protect the floor from dents.

A: I don’t know what to suggest for sure. What about these cheap interlocking sponge mats you can get at Walmart?

Note from Rachel: Here’s a link that mentions “Preserve Your Hardwood Or Carpeted Floor Under Your Treadmill. Pvc Plastic Mat Wont Leave Stains Or Marks. Black With Nonslip Texture.” We don’t have a treadmill to test that out with, though. Interlocking foam mats are also mentioned on other sites re:treadmills on hardwood.

Related Q: Hi, my treadmill rubber supports left block stains on my hardwood floor. They look like they are caused by moisture. What are the solutions for this?

A: If these marks are on the surface, on the finish, you should be able to rub them off with a mildly abrasive pad and some floor cleaner. Even alcohol should work. If it is actually moisture stains in the wood then the spots will have to be sanded or scraped to bare, clean wood. If they are very deep the boards would have to be replaced.

Cover that could be painted/laid onto the hardwood while potty-training the pup

Q: I am looking into getting a new puppy. Our apartment has natural wood floors from the 1800’s (the house was built in 1860). Someone in my office mentioned a silicone cover that could be painted onto the hardwood while we potty-train the pup, and then peeled off later. Does this actually exist and, if so, will it damage the floors?

A: It is possible such a product exists, though I haven’t heard of it. In any case, applying silicone to a wooden floor would be a very bad idea. Even if you could get it off later, if it left any residue at all you would not be able to apply a maintenance coat of finish. The silicone would repel the finish and prevent adhesion.

There’s a company called Paisley Protectives who carry a number of films you can roll onto the floor.

Safely moving refrigerator on hardwood floor

Q: Is it a good idea to install hardwood flooring in my kitchen? If so, how do you stop the weight of a refrigerator from denting the floor? Any tips for moving refrigerator on hardwood floor?

A: Absolutely, hardwood flooring in a kitchen is fine. I wouldn’t recommend pre finished. Have it installed and finished on site. Refrigerators are a problem. The simple solution is to buy a couple of small strips of masonite and when you need to move it out, roll it on the masonite, smooth side down.

Related Q: I just had my wood floors refinished and I have to move my fridge back in place. I read a previous response that said to use Masonite. Do I roll my fridge onto the Masonite and then drag it using the Masonite to move it into place? Or do I roll the fridge over several pieces of Masonite? Thanks for your help!

A: I would probably lay out a drop sheet first. Place the sheet of Masonite on top of that, smooth side down. You may be able to buy this is 2X3 sheets. Roll the refrigerator on the Masonite.

Similar Q: We have an area in our dining room where a fridge had been moved to temporarily, and now the hardwood is dented. Can this be repaired? The floor is approx. 16 years old.

A: How many times have I seen this disappointment happen when a sheet of 1/8 hardboard would have been very cheap insurance. It probably will need to be sanded out but you could try the wet cloth and iron trick to see if you can get the wood to pop back up. It is worth a try on a small spot to see if it will work.

Another Similar Q: I just had an Armstrong Bruce floor installed and when I moved the refrigerator back in place I scoffed the floor. The fridge is really tight in it’s cubby, and I had to take it in and out a couple times to get it to line up. I dented or scored a rather large X right in front of the fridge. Any help?

A: Have the damaged boards removed and replaced. Hopefully you have a few left over from the install.

Related Q: I need a refrigerator repair. I have engineered hardwood floors in the kitchen. I saw your suggestion to try Masonite sheets from a big box store to protect the floor from dents. Nothing like that came up when I searched their website — just hardboards 3/4″ thick. This won’t work because the refrigerator case sits directly under cabinets which have zero space clearance. I assume the Masonite is a thinner hard plastic material. What thickness do I need and where can I purchase it in NJ?

A: Masonite is hard board or paper board such as used for peg boards. One side is smooth. Does your refrigerator have wheels? You should be able to get it 1/8″ thick cut in smaller sections such as 2X4 at Home Depot. Place smooth side down and make sure there is no grit on the floor underneath it.

Follow-up: I found it at Home Depot and learned the reason my search for Masonite didn’t come up initially was because it is called at their store luan board. Sales person said they would cut it to sizes I need. It comes in 4′ x 8′ sheets.

Temporary stair runner solution?

Q: I am renting a house with hardwood stairs. I have 2 large dogs and they are scratching them up. Is there anything I can put over the stairs without adhesive or anything else? I need something that is not permanent. Floor runners? I do not want to nail anything since I am renting.

A: Perhaps an inexpensive stair carpet runner, held in place with rods secured to the riser by a screw eye hook at each end?

Dirt basement and moisture issues

Q: My hardwood floors were refinished 4 years ago. In the past year the floor is darkening, and there is separating of boards. There are smaller, darker circular areas. Mostly in the living room, which was carpeted for many years, but also in bedroom which was refinished many years ago. Some of boards are separating in the living room, and I can feel a slight bowing. My basement is dirt – house built in late forties. Few of boards appear to be eaten. Termite inspection last year revealed no termites, but moisture.

A: You need to deal with the moisture issue. Laying a tarp over the dirt might help.