Large dogs and hardwood floors, best species and coatings

Q: I want to put down hardwood floors in the living room and dining room, but we have a 100 lb. Golden Retriever. What type of wood flooring would be our best bet against scratches on the floor? He gets excited and prances around about 5 min. when someone comes over…

A: Any wood will get “impressions” from dog nails if enough pressure is applied. Plain sawn oak (red or white) with heavy grain pattern will do a decent job of hiding these. Maple, though harder, doesn’t really work because of it’s pencil line grain and light colour. White oak is harder than red, as is ash. Hickory might also be a good choice.

Similar Q: Can you recommend a high quality polyurethane varnish, regarding large dogs and hardwood floors? I have two large dogs at home and I am looking for something that would have a resistant finish to scratches.

A: Any finish can and eventually will scratch. However, I have used Poloplaz Primero with great success over the last 5 years or more and it is a very tough coating.

Studio casters and wood floor

Q: I plan on having 3/4″ wood (oak?) floors refinished, probably with 3 coats of water based poly. Some of these rooms will be used as video editing suites and will house tall equipment racks on casters with a moderately heavy load. The nominal dimensions of the racks are 21″ x 30″ x 7′ tall, each weighing between 150-250 lbs.

Once placed, the racks will rarely, if ever, be moved. So, removing the casters is one option to spread the weight out over the entire base of the equipment rack – rather than focus it on the caster contact points.

How long should I let the poly cure before I move the equipment into the rooms, and what should I place beneath the racks to protect the floors from the weight, and the finish too?

Should I place a rubber mat under each? Or, would a thin plywood sheet the size of the rack base with felt on the underside be better?

A: How long you wait depends on the finish used. Why wouldn’t felt pads work?

Follow-up Q: I am considering using Bona Traffic as the finish, which according to the specs cures in approximately 7 days. I definitely want to be sure it’s cured before I place concentrated weight on it.

I am concerned that the weight of the racks, and the equipment they contain, concentrated and transferred through the four casters might possibly deform the wood floor over time. My thinking was that by placing something under the racks to disperse the weight there would be less potential for compression damage to the floor. In your experience am I being overly concerned?

A: I would say that it doesn’t matter how hard a finish is. If a lot of weight is applied to a small, concentrated area (say, for example, the end of a spiked heel shoe) the wood itself will dent. Perhaps, when the floor finish is fully cured, you could place one of those clear “desk mats” under your racks. There are 2 types: one for carpets, which has little nibs to hold it in place and one for hard surfaces, without those nibs.

Can I use rubber back rugs on a hardwood floor?

Q: Can I use rubber back rugs on a hardwood floor?

A: I don’t think I would recommend that, but then, why would you? The rubber is, likely over time to stick to the floor and even “meld” into the finish.

Similar Q: Can you put an accent rug with a rubber backing on an oak wood floor or would that damage the floor?

A: I would be careful with rubber. The rubber can deteriorate and stick to the floor. Also, I don’t know what chemicals are in the rubber which might affect the floor finish, perhaps discoloring it. I think I would ask the manufacturer of the rug.

Species of wood that is best for dog owners?

Q: I was considering putting wood flooring in my home, my question is: What type of wood flooring is best for dogs to walk on and not damage? I have a Bulldog to two German Shepards who all seem to nail-walk on the tile floors.

A: I would suggest an oak floor because the heavy grain pattern tends to help hide claw marks. I would also suggest a penetrating oil finish over a top coat. The product I have in mind is Waterlox.
It is easier to maintain and re coat.

Large dogs and wood floors… best wood species, finishes / coatings

Q: I just obtained some pre-finished samples to help me choose the species, color and finish of my new floor. I have a dog. I tried to see how resilient the flooring would be by scratching the samples with my thumbnail. None of the samples seem very resilient, but what really seems to scratch is the finish, not the wood, and this uses the aluminum oxide.

A: First, I am not a big fan of factory finished floors for most situations. It is true that the aluminium oxide coating is tough and abrasion resistant. This becomes quite a problem down the road when it gets covered in surface scratches and needs to be re coated. Remember this finish is abrasion resistant, and we must abrade it to create a mechanic bond.

Being a dog lover as myself, of course, you won’t want to become a slave to your floor. Keep his nails trimmed and filed. The tendency is to get nail impressions in the wood without compromising the finish right away. This holds true even with my site finished jobs where I use polyurethane coatings. However, at least my coating can be buffed and freshened up later if need be.

With a large dog, I would tend to recommend a wood with heavy grain. This will help hide scratches. On the reverse, a floor such as maple, though harder than oak, has very tight veining and these nail impressions will really stand out. In a short time, that is really all you will see. Hundreds of claw impressions in the floor surface itself.

I have recently been working with a different kind of finish which I really like and am recommending. It is a Tung oil based penetrating oil called Waterlox. This product is so easy to apply and care for, touching up an area is as simple as making sure the floor is clean and either wiping a small amount over the area with a cloth or brush. It offers good durability and excellent water repulsion.

Similar Q: What is the best poly to use on floors we are finishing, with large dogs in mind? I found a lot of people are asking questions about large dogs and wood floors, but I can’t find the answer. Thank you.

A: I’ve been using Poloplaz Primero for a number of years. Excellent coating. Easy to apply with a roller and quite a tough finish also. The best I’ve used in this class of floor finish. There are harder finishes of the types moisture cured and acid cured. But believe me, you don’t want to even consider those. They are truly nasty and not easy to work with. I can recommend Primero:

Wavy appearance / waves on hardwood floor

Q: My hickory 4-inch-board floors were installed in December 2005 in a brand new home. The boards are not laying completely flat. They have a wavy-like appearance and you can feel the waves with your hands. I noticed the waves on hardwood floor probably a month or so after installation. I have been waiting, thinking they might flatten out in time. Also, I hear loud “cracking sounds” coming from the flooring from time to time. Could you tell me what caused this and if there is anything that can be done about it?

A: It sounds to me that you are describing “cupping” where the edges of the boards curl or raise. This is an indication of a moisture issue. The boards are expanding from excess moisture and pressure. Is this floor installed over a crawl space? I would do 2 things at this point. Go to your nearest electronics store and purchase a little device called a hygrometer, which gives you the temperature and relative humidity of the room. Place it on the floor for an hour or so to get a reading. Run a dehumidifier. If you had a moisture meter, I bet the reading of the floor would be over 9%.

Follow-up Q: The floor was installed over a poured concrete basement. The floor was installed in December, though, and it was not very humid then. Will it ever flatten out or will I just have to live with it? I doubt that the installer would do anything about it or maybe he couldn’t. I had been running the heat and air, however I live in Atlanta, Georgia area and it does get hot and humid here. I will buy a hygrometer and see what it registers. Will the dehumidifier make the boards lie flat again? I have a dehumidifier in the basement, but not the main floor of house where wood is.

A: One never knows for sure if a floor will flatten out. But the sooner you get on it and remove or expedite the transfer of moisture, the better are the odds.


Q: Will my cats nails scratch prefinished hardwood flooring? What about moist hair ball regurgitation? Would they harm the floor?

A: Cats do not extend their nails while walking, do they? I don’t think that should be an issue. Neither should the hair ball regurgitation. But this is an example of why I prefer site finished over pre finished. You have a finish coat over the entire floor surface.

Unfinished basement and moisture

Q: I will be installing hardwood flooring next month. The flooring is going to be laid in my living and dining rooms. These rooms are located above my unfinished basement. Is moisture a concern? Should I use a vapour barrier underneath the new floor? According to your recommendations on your site you also suggest that 3/8 sheathing be installed on top of OSB / ply. If my OSB is installed on the length… Should the sheathing be installed the same way or on the width?

A: Some manufacturers now say OSB is OK provided it is of a certain thickness. Myself and some others are still uncomfortable with it. I would lay the sheeting across the floor. What you don’t want is the joints on the 3/8 to line up with those on the sub floor. They need to overlap.

Your basement shouldn’t be a problem unless you have serious moisture issues down there. Make sure your dryer is vented to the outside. Having said that, it is never a bad idea to lay out some wax coated or asphalt coated flooring paper first which performs as a vapour retarder.

Protecting hardwood from dogs nails

Q: …We’d like to have our floors professionally stained and finished in a dark [ebony] stain. However, we have a golden retriever and a collie/spaniel cross. Is there a recommended finish that can protect them? Do you think this is a good idea? I don’t seem to see any damage to the current oak from the dogs nails but am concerned if we go darker. We are in the Ottawa area if you can also recommend a local contractor?

A: I think any polyurethane, with several coats applied, buffed between coats will give good protection. There isn’t a finish I know of that would prevent impressions into the wood itself. However, if the floor has been finished well, this will not compromise the finish itself for more than a year. You can always do a light buff with maintenance coats down the road. As an alternate, you could go with a tung oil finish, such as Waterlox, This won’t stop nail impressions in the wood, but it won’t scratch off either. While it may take periodic maintenance, especially in high traffic areas, it is easier to fix without showing. You can also add stain to the oil if need be.

I am a member of a forum, XXXXXXXXXXXX, and one fellow whom I have spoken with on the phone, Jim, is a member on there. He sounds like he cares what he is doing. I will have to contact him via the forum and try to link you up. He is in Cornwall, I believe.

Dogs and hardwood install

Q: We are installing wood flooring in our downstairs and we have a clumsy golden retriever. I have heard to go with natural (no stain) and a thicker than normal polyurethane. My wife, of course, wants darker-stained hardwood floors. To keep the floors looking their best with as little scratching and dents as possible, and without being overly obsessive, what would you recommend we go with? What should we ask the contractor for?

A: I think dents and nail impressions in your floor are inevitable. Keep the dogs nails trimmed and filed smooth. A thicker finish? Film thickness is determined by the amount of solids and solvents in the finish. To meet VOC requirements in the U.S. some manufacturers have formulated oil based finishes with a lower solvent content and higher solids, up around 51%. I don’t think this in and of itself determines how tough the finish will be, and the higher the solids content, the more difficult the finish is to work with. It won’t flow and level, which is why, with bowling alleys, when using 100% solids, one guy pours the finish and the other applies it in one motion to the entire lane with a wide squeegee. Any decent polyurethane, properly applied with 3 coats initially will give you good wear. But regardless of colour or finish used, the weight of the dog on tiny pin points (his nails) will impress into the floor. If this is oak, the heavy grain will help to hide the marks. If it is a tighter grained wood such as maple or birch, the marks will show quite prominently.

Once again, it won’t matter how tough the finish is. These nail impressions into the wood itself will not compromise the finish for some time. But they will compress into the wood.

Repairing wood floor damaged by chair wheels (and how to prevent)

Q: What can be used on hardwood to protect it from items such as a computer desk chair with wheels?

A: You could get one of these plexi glass floor mats from an office supply store.

Note from Webmaster: be cautious that grit doesn’t get underneath it and cause scratches!

Related Q: I have an oak wood floor damaged by chair wheels. Chair wheels have made a round circle in the middle of it. Only in that one 3 foot circle is the wood lighter. The edges are all fine. Can I sand and re-stain just that one spot? Or do I have to do the whole floor?

A: You might be able to do it, and it is certainly worth a try before pursuing something more extreme. You will have to do entire boards though.

Related Q: I have a spot under a rolling desk chair where it appears to have worn the finish away. This is on a four year old, 3/4 inch oak, pre-finished hardwood floor. How do I get this fixed? Do they have to do the whole floor (600 sq. ft.) or can this area alone be repaired (2 x 3 ft.)?

A: First find out if the manufacturer has a touch up kit. If not, then perhaps just the affected boards could be stripped/scraped/sanded and a couple of fresh coats of polyurethane carefully applied to them in thin coats.

It won’t be a perfect match but in a case like this you either make the best of it or have the entire floor sanded and finished over.

Hardwood in a kitchen

Q: I am wondering about the long-term appearance of hardwood in a kitchen. We were at a home last night that had light-stained hardwood in the kitchen, and there was a lot of wear and tear on the busier areas of the kitchen (by the sink and fridge). I would like to do hardwood in my kitchen, but this made me question how long it would hold up to the regular busy-ness of a kitchen. Are there types of hardwood or stains that hold up better? Do I just need to prepare to re-finish in the kitchen every 5 years or something?

A: I generally suggest placing small mats in front of the sink and stove. However, a well finished floor should not be showing severe wear to the point that the finish is worn off in just 5 years. Clean regularly. Vacuum. Use an approved cleaner for polyurethane finishes. When the floor starts to look a little banged up, you only need to have it lightly buffed and re coated. This buffing or screening creates scratches in the existing top coat which provides a profile for the new coat to grab.

Maple floors and dogs

Q: We’re currently building a house and am having 3in wide maple hardwood put in. Our concern is we have a large German Shepard and Jack Russel. We’d like to plan ahead and try to avoid the fate of some other folks asking questions about maple floors and dogs. What is the best coating we could put on our hardwood prior to moving in to protect from the unsightly doggie scratches?

A: I have to warn you, maple is not your best choice under these circumstances. Though harder than oak, because of it’s very fine, tight grain, maple actually high lights scratches and nail impressions rather severely! Within a year, the main thing you will notice on a floor like this is hundreds of veins (nail impressions) all over the floor. You finish of choice may not be compromised, but the impressions will be there, fully visible. At least with a wood such as red or white oak or even ash, the abundance of grain tends to hide such marks. Water borne finishes, at least of the high end variety offer a very tough, clear film, but tend to start looking shabby after a few years. I still prefer the oil borne finishes and they are easy to re coat.

Unfinished wood and paint

Q: I own a painting company and I am doing a job for a home owner who is concerned about paint dripping on his unfinished Brazilian walnut hardwood floor. The installer told him that the paint can not be removed and I need to know if this is correct or not. This floors still are going to be sanded and finished when I am done painting.

A: It is a risk to drip paint on any unfinished wood because it can get in the grain where it is about impossible to remove. As an alternate, I would suggest the floors be sanded, with at least 1 coat of finish applied. Then he can back off and let you paint. You will still need to cover the floor and use care, but having some finish on it should allow some protection. After you are done, he can come back and give it another couple of coats.

Rugs with silicone backing

Q: I’ve heard to only use certain materials (ideally 100% natural rubber) for rugs, mats on hardwood, or it may discolor the stain. I’m looking for a mat to place under dog bowls, and most are silicone. Will this affect the color of the floor? I’m also searching for padded kitchen mats, most of which are not rubber. Are these safe? Can you recommend materials that will not affect the stain?

A: I’m not an expert on floor mats but I would avoid the silicone backing. I would go online to LL Bean. They have some good mats.

Waiting to finish

Q: How long can you wait to sand and finish floors after installing?  We have other tasks to do, like stick on stone around our fireplace hearth.  Can waiting too long to sand and finish be detrimental to the unfinished floor?

A: The only issues would be if you were muddying the walls and dropping gobs of patch on the floor or were painting on bare wood and the overspray or spills got into the grain of the wood.  Otherwise, it doesn’t make any difference.

Crawl space

Q: We want to put insulated batts between the joist under our crawl space. We have a vapour barrier down and vents on all sides for ventilation. Will this effect our hardwood floors? We find the floors very cold in the winter, what would be your solution?

A: That is about all you can do, I would think, other than running a heating duct into the area. It won’t affect your floor.