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.

Your finish of choice may not be compromised, but the impressions will be there, fully visible. At least with wood such as red or white oak or even ash, the abundance of grain tends to hide such marks. Waterborne 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 recoat.

How to touch up indentations from dog’s claws (on maple floor)?

Q imported from our old site, Face Lift Floors:  I have pretreated maple floors with numerous indentations (not scratches, the finish is intact) from my dog’s claws. Is there a lacquer or poly touch-up product I can use to fill those indentations and then buff to be level with the surrounding flooring?

A: And this is one issue with maple flooring even though it is harder than oak: the grain is pencil thin so does a poor job of hiding such pet nail impressions. I can imagine there are dozens of these marks visible. The only real way to fix this is to have the floor sanded and finished over. Then you have to figure out how to prevent your dog from causing this again, though it isn’t his fault.

There are wood fillers of various colors but maple can be quite difficult because it is basically light colored but does have variation. So one color may blend pretty well in one spot but not the next. Additionally, pre-finished floors are extremely difficult to simply re-coat because aluminum oxide coatings are by design abrasion resistant. If you can’t get sufficient scratching of the existing finish you won’t gain a bond with another coat. And what to do with those pesky beveled edges?

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  1. Follow-up Q: You mentioned that the dogs may not compromise the finish, but will leave fully visible impressions. I’m guessing refinishing on a annual or bi-annual basis will cover/re-fill the impressions? Or are you suggesting that the wood will also have impressions and will need to be sanded?

    A: Well, yes the nail impressions are actually into the surface of the wood itself. Obviously, you can’t be sanding the floor every year, or you would have to replace it in a few years. These floors should last our life time at least. Maple is very revealing with any kind of marks. I would stay away from it if you have a large dog. Whatever floor you choose, have it buffed and re coated every several years as needed. While I don’t consider satin finish to be quite as hard as gloss in the OMU finishes, it does a better job of hiding marks.

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