Wood Floors

To maintain the appearance and useful life of your hardwood floors, it is important that your home maintenance program include the proper care for your hardwood floors.

Water is the single greatest enemy of hardwood floors.  Floors should never be scrubbed with soap and water, nor treated with cleaners containing water.  Spilled water should be cleaned up immediately.  See also:  Marble Flooring and Carpets & Rugs.

Shown in the "Maintenance" tab above are the recommended routine maintenance tasks for your hardwood floors. The "Questions / Answers" tab above shows our answers to related questions. And the "Articles" tab above provides links to related informational articles and sources.

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 Maintenance Task:  Inspect and wax hardwood floors

    How do you inspect and wax hardwood floors?  



Inspect the hardwood floor looking for any signs of cracking or separation.  Repair as necessary.  Also inspect the floor protection pads on the bottoms of the legs of furniture.  Floor protector pads must be kept clean of grit, and replaced as they get worn.

Regardless of the type of finish (shellac, varnish, or penetrating sealer), all hardwood floors should be protected with wax to keep dirt from becoming embedded in the finish, and to help make routine cleaning easier.  ONLY use a pasted wax or a solvent-block liquid wax (cleaning wax or polishing wax).  NEVER use a self-polishing liquid wax, as these contain a high percentage of water.

After vacuuming off loose dust and dirt, pour a small amount of liquid wax on the floor, then spread by rubbing vigorously with a soft cloth or long-handled applicator.  This action will loosen up dirt and old wax which will be picked up by the cloth or applicator.  Work in sections, changing the cloth or applicator as necessary.  Allow the wax to dry completely, then buff thoroughly with an electric polisher.  The harder the wax is buffed, the brighter the shine and the longer it will last.

Points of care of hardwood floors:

  • Hardwood floors should be dust mopped, vacuumed, or swept with a soft bristle broom as often as necessary to remove dirt and dust from the surface.  Walking on a dusty or dirty floor will quickly damage its finish.

  • Using a humidifier and dehumidifier to maintain a relative humidity or 30-50% will provide the optimum moisture in the wood, which will minimize the formation of cracks between the boards.

    Why is it important to inspect and wax hardwood floors?  



Regular maintenance of wooden floors will prolong the life and enhance the beauty of the wood.

    How often should you inspect and wax hardwood floors?  
    Perform annually (March).  




    How does Home-Wizard rate the costs and benefits for this task?  
    The cost of this task is relatively low.  The time required will depend on the size and age of your hardwood floors.  
    The benefits of this task is that it helps to extend the useful life of your hardwood floors.  
    Overall Home-Wizard benefit-versus-cost rating (one 'hat' = low and four 'hats' = high)  





QUESTIONS & ANSWERS from "Ask-a-Wizard":

QUESTION from Lima on 4/27/2008
My baseboards are mold, bent and squeak by much too low air from outside. Besides the air flow issue, how can I fix those flooring problem?

ANSWER from Home-Wizard.com on 4/27/2008
Dear Lima:

Just so that I understand your question, when you refer to your "baseboards", do you mean the wooden baseboards where your walls meet the floor? Or are you referring to your baseboard heating system? Or are you referring to your hardwood floor boards?

And what do you mean by "much too low air from outside"? Are you referring to an area that is getting wet, and not having enough air circulation to dry it out?

If you can provide me with some additional information, I can then give you the best answer.


FOLLOW-UP COMMENTS from Lima on 4/28/2008

Thank you for your reply.
The baseboard I meant is the board under the carpet sponge, in this case which is like a big pannel.
What happen was, We installed a new furnace and heat pump, along with it the installer recomended humidifierto come with it.  It was way too powerful and created extra noise and air leak from the air hundler(the leak also created a very loud hissing sound), even though no harm to the house for 5 or 6 months.
When the installer tried to fix the air leak and noise by reducing the air flow to the lowest stage, I started to notice a mugging smell, and I turned off the humilifier. Which is also when the baseboard started to squeak.
But the smell was still there a month later.  As the day passed by the baseboard started to bent here and there so I could feel the bump on the floor through my feet.
And one day, I happened to find out that the system automatically set to bring in the out side air every 20 minute for 20 minutes.  In a normal weather or air flow those damage won't happen.  But in this Northwest it rains 24/7 and the humidity is most likely more than 90 percent.  Atop of that the Forced Air flow was so low and won't be able to agitate the air.  It was prooved by the temperature different between the floor and where the thermostat is.  There are 6-8 degrees difference, also room to room temperature are so different that my hands and feet would went cold even though I set the temperature to 75 degrees.

To prevent further damage I shut the whole system down and turned on when the temperature dropped.  By the way the whole damage was caused by American Standard so called Comfort something (16 ser)heat pump along with the Comfort R variable speed furnace.  Also the Air cleaner Acu clean couldn't get rid of the oder because when I set the air flow to circulation the air is so weak.
I have never dreamt of a air conditioning system could cause so much damage. 
So, should I tear off the entire carpet and change the baseboard or I can just use a nail  gun to nail it over the carpet?  But the floor were so uneven now, I actually felt like I stepped on something and in some area the dark spots are visible ( I assume those are mold, unfortunately the carpet is white)
Thank you again.

ANSWER from Home-Wizard.com on 4/28/2008

Thank you for your clarification. I now have a much better idea of what you problem is, and can do a better job of helping you find solutions.

From you description, it sounds like you actually have two problems here:

1) how to help you fix your floor underlayment which has been damaged by moisture, and 

2) how to solve the problem that is causing the excess moisture in your home, which has led to the damage to your floor.

Let's start with your first problem: what to do with your floor underlayment that has been damaged? Floor underlayment is the layer of plywood that is fastened down on top of your floor joists. And then on top of this layer of plywood goes the surface flooring, such as tile, hardwood, or in your case, carpet. Underlayment is typically made of plywood, and it is glued, nailed and screwed down to floor joists to hold it securely in place, so that it doesn't creak. And if you have tile or hardwood flooring, it helps keeps the tile and hardwood flooring level and from shifting around.

Unfortunately, it sounds like your plywood underlayment has been exposed to excessive moisture, and as a result, it has gotten both swollen and has been attacked by mold. At this point, just drying the area out is probably not going to be enough. The plywood has gotten warped, and is not likely to go back into its correct flat shape. So where it has pulled up the nails, it will likely stay up, and therefore you will continue to get the squeaking noise when you walk over it (its the sound of the nails going in and out of the wood in the floor joists as the underlayment flexes up and down). 

But more importantly, since you have already seen significant evidence of mold formation, this plywood has become contaminated with mold, and even if you dry it out, the mold spores can remain in the wood, and can therefore return when the room gets humid. This can lead to health problems in your home.

So for both of these reasons, I would suggest that you carefully pull back the carpeting, remove the affected plywood underlayment, and replace it with new plywood. And you should be sure to remove all of the old glue, nails, etc. from the floor joists before you glue, nail and screw the new plywood down. So that the new plywood fits down tight on top of your floor joists.

Now for your other problem, regarding what is causing the excessive moisture that ruined your underlayment? If I understand you correctly, that you were told that you needed to add a "humidifier" to your air conditioner system (not a "de-humidifier"), even though you are living in the Pacific Northwest where it typically rains half of the year, and as such the humidity is already relatively high? And further, you have a fresh air exchanger that is bringing outside air into your home every other 20 minutes? 

A couple of thoughts here. First, it sounds like you need to find a different HVAC contractor. I could understand possibly adding a humidifier to run in the winter when the air might be dry. But in the Pacific Northwest, I would not add a humidifier unless you have measured the humidity in your home during the winter and determined that it is indeed too low (you can purchase a low-cost hygrometer to measure indoor humidity). But the dry season in the PNW is so short, I would question whether a humidifier would be a good investment.

On the other hand, it sounds like the more important issue that you have in your home is DE-humidification. That is, how do you get the moisture out of the air in your home. 

When an air conditioner runs, it cools the air which also lowers what's called the "dew point", that is, the temperature at which water condenses out of the air. This is why when you look at your air handler, you should see some tubing or piping that allows this water that has condensed to drain out of your house (in our Newsletter last month we had an article about how it is important to inspect this hose at least once a year to insure that it is draining properly).

So it sounds like your air conditioner is working hard to lower the temperature and remove moisture from your home, but then your installed added a humidifier that put moisture right back in.

The other problem is that, since you are in the Pacific Northwest, that your fresh air exchanger is bringing up to 90% humidity air into your home during rainy days (and of course in the PNW, you have quite a few rainy days . . . on average 155 days per year). So this is bringing a whole lot of moisture into your home as well.

This is why I suggested that you find a new HVAC contractor. It sounds like you need someone who can look at the capacity of your current heat pump and furnace, and determine:

a) do you really need a humidifier? Can it be set so that it does NOT run when the humidity outside is above a certain level?

b) how should your fresh air exchanger be set to operate? Can it be set so that it does NOT run when the humidity outside is above a certain level?

c) does your system have adequate de-humidification capacity? 

I hope this is helpful Lima. If you need additional help, just let me know.


QUESTION from Lima Chan on 7/3/2008
Some of my house's foundation beams were twisted and it pushed up the underlayment board. So I have some body put side board between the beam and post all over my house but I was told that it cannot correct the problem I have. It has to be two sister board bolted against the post. Is it right? Also, I also have him put extra posts, looks like it was not the right post. Is it right that the foundation post has to be the one with a twisted screw not cemented to the ground(I was told this kind is to be used to build the deck but not foundation) Any information will appreciated. Just to think what have done has to be redone makes me frustrated. Thank you. lima

Dear Lima:

Without seeing your specific situation, it difficult to say what should have been done to properly level your floor.

I would have thought that to provide adequate support that the new posts would need to be installed on top of concrete footers that would have needed to be cut, dug and poured into the ground below them. But again, it is hard to say without actually seeing your exact situation. Similarly with the sistering of the beams.

However, here is a link to a webpage about floor leveling that you might find useful: http://www.houserepairtalk.com/showthread.php?t=3099

Hope this is helpful.

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