As the holiday season brings in festive lights, good cheer and great memories, we must remember to take extra precautions for the cold weather. While snow, ice and rain can do lots of damage to a hardwood floor, some minor changes to your cleaning routine are all you need to protect your floors against debris, excess moisture and humidity changes.
As roads and walkways get battered with excess snow and ice, we turn to using sand or ice melting products to get rid of potential hazards. Sodium chloride (rock salt) is an abrasive to floors and finishes while calcium chloride can leave a greasy film on floors when tracked in. Grit and debris can get tracked in throughout the year, but this issue is greater in the winter months.
The best way to handle winter debris is to prevent it from ever getting into your home. One of the best ways to handle this problem is to use mats outside and inside your home. Coarse mats used outside of the home can help prevent large chunks of debris from getting on your floors. For indoor mats, make sure you have a finer, more absorbent mat to remove even more debris from shoes and boots. Make sure you clean and change mats regularly to avoid a buildup of damaging materials.
We all know that moisture on wood floors should be avoided. Left unattended, excess moisture can warp floors and cause gaps between boards. As winter brings in excess water from rain, snow and slush, we must take extra steps to avoid standing liquid on our floors.
To deal with excess moisture, make sure guests in your home leave their wet shoes in a safe area to dry. If you’re already using mats, make sure you have mats ready to handle wet shoes. If you have pets, make sure they are trained to wait to have their paws dried before they go on your floors. Extra sessions with a dry mop are a great way to reduce excess moisture and water.
As the temperature outside goes down and homes heat up, the changes in humidity can lead to gaps and separations in floor boards. The cold, dry air makes floors contract, which can leave noticeable spaces in your floors. Excessive humidity issues can lead to cupping and crowning, where the floor boards are higher at the edges than in the center (cupping) or the center is higher than the edges (crowning). In extreme situations, floors may even buckle, separating itself from the subfloor.
When dealing with humidity changes, the most important thing to remember is that floors expand and contract naturally. Having some gaps in the floor isn’t necessarily a sign of greater damage to come. Especially if you notice gaps only in the winter time, you can simply live with it and wait for the floors to get back to normal in the warmer months. If you want to be proactive during the winter season, use humidifiers and dehumidifiers to get your home at the right levels. An acceptable range for humidity would be 40-60%.
It’s possible to enjoy the winter weather and your wood floors at the same time. Even though the winter elements can potentially cause great damage, a little extra care and attentiveness are all that are needed to keep your floors looking great.