Proper care and maintenance of solid wood flooring

An overview of the complexity of wooden flooring and why it is not a decision to be taken lightly.

The following IS NOT a guide to treating or taking care of wooden floors but is simply here to give some sense of the complexity involved in choosing what type of finish to use on a wooden floor – or even whether or not to install a solid wood floor. In fact, the very word finish is misleading because when it comes to products used to protect floors, artificial products are commonly refered to as finishes.

Like any natural material, real wood flooring is not something that can be installed, treated once and then ignored for decades as you might do with concrete. No, real wood, as an organic product, needs to be taken care of because if you don’t it will not only loose its beauty quickly but its life will potentially be greatly shortened.

When people have solid wood installed, unless it comes with a factory-applied lacquer, the three most common treatments are oil, wax, or varnish. Regardless of whether or not a stain is applied to the wood (obviously if a stain has been applied it needs to be left to thoroughly dry before any other treatment is applied), the type of treatment you choose will need to be reapplied after a period of time determined by both the treatment itself and the environment in which the floor sits.

In recent years the most popular treatment for solid wood floors has been oil, and Danish oil in particular. The purpose of oil is that it soaks into the wood affording it protection from wear and tear, anything that might be spilt on the wood, heat and moisture. Some oils also offer protection from some types of wood parasites. Whatever oil is used, at least three or four applications are necessary to afford proper protection. Providing that the environment is neither too hot nor cold and the air is neither overly dry or too moist, if the floor is not receiving excessive foot-traffic, then one treatment should last around 3 to five years. This is, however, a very rough guide because there are simply too many variables to be able to be more accurate without writing pages and pages regarding specific conditions and different oils.

After oils, the next most popular treatments are wax and varnish, which are about as popular as each other and which you choose is purely a matter of personal preference unless there is a practical reason for choosing one over the other. Varnish is the only product which offers full protection against penetration of moisture, so is more commonly found in places like bars.

Waves are hugely varied and can be used individually or in combination with an oil. In fact, there are now products on the market which are a combination of an oil and a wax, and some even contain a stain.

For durability there is no question that varnish offers the greatest protection, and whilst there are now some extremely durable varnishes designed for indoor floors, traditionally the only product that was deemed tough enough by many was yacht varnish. Designed, as the name strongly suggests, for use on the decks of yachts and thus able to take exceptional levels of wear and tear whilst providing outstanding protection from heat, cold and moisture, many traditionalists still use yacht varnish for interior wooden floors.

Ultimately it is a personal choice; they each look slight different, and even with the advanced modern waxes which can be applied with a mop and require little or no buffing, wax still needs to be reapplied most often. The most important thing is simply to be aware that choosing to have solid wood floors is not an easy option. In many cases, choosing the most expensive option of something means not having to worry about it, but when it comes to wooden floors it’s more like buying a vintage car: they cost a lot of money but you will not get any return on your investment in terms of enjoyment unless you regularly invest time and energy. Although you do always have the options of calling in an expert company such as STT to do the hard work for you, leaving you to simply reap the pleasurable rewards.

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