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.