Both engineered and solid hardwood floors are a great asset to any home. Learn how to avoid scratches and protect wood floors (and your investment!) with these simple tips!
My husband and I both grew up in old homes, and while that didn’t always mean fancy, it did mean solid hardwood floors. That’s just what we were used to. And when we married, we lived in two 60+ year old homes – again with solid hardwood floors. When we bought this 1990’s home, we knew that we wanted to replace the tile and carpet with hardwoods, and we settled on two types of engineered white oak. All that to say, we have a lot of experience with hardwood floors… and with four kids, we have had a lot of practice protecting them! Read on for five tips on how to protect wood floors.
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How to Protect Hardwood Floors
Preventing scratches on hardwood floors doesn’t have to be difficult! Knowing how to take care of your hardwood floors is key, and it helps to have some simple rhythms and routines,
1. Layer with rugs, especially at entries.
Area rugs are not only fun decorative elements, they provide incredible protection for your floors. By layering rugs throughout our home, especially in high traffic areas like entryways, we’ve managed to minimize the wear and tear on our engineered wood floors. Additionally, having rugs near entries traps much of the dirt before it makes it onto the wood floors, avoiding more scratches and damage throughout the home. Shop our home and its rugs here if you’re interested.
2. Leave shoes at the door.
Speaking of entryways, I think it’s helpful to try to establish a system of leaving shoes near the door. It is not a hard and fast rule in our home (we wear shoes throughout the house often), but we do have a shoe box (a piece I built to replicate an antique firewood box) near our front door. This not only helps to prevent scratching by limiting the amount of dirt tracked into the home, it also keeps mom from losing her sanity every time the kids need to put their shoes on to leave. 😉 It also goes without saying that soccer and baseball cleats and particularly sharp high heels are best left at the door, too.
3. Apply felt furniture pads to furniture feet.
Especially since I don’t use rugs under the kitchen or dining room tables (with four little kiddos, I just can’t imagine the food stains!), I’m a bit of a crazy about this. Whether you go for the ones with adhesive (my choice) and replace them every year or so (just whenever they fall off from use) or you want to try the ones with the little nail to keep them in place… felt footies are a must with wood floors. It not only protects your floor from chair legs and table bumps, it makes rearranging your furniture much easier. And for a serial decorator like myself, that’s super helpful. Ha!
4. Use plastic slides for metal furniture.
Knowing how to protect wood floors from furniture is key, but what about those weird furniture legs that don’t make felt feet very easy? We got these beautiful barstools for our island at the ranch house, but I quickly realized that they could easily damage the finish on our new floors. For furniture like this, you’ll want plastic floor glides that fit the size of your metal legs (like these: for 1″ tubing, for .8″ tubing, for .6″ tubing, and for .4″ tubing). Unfortunately, those plastic slides sometimes spin… Luckily, I found the perfect solution to the problem. And I like to add felt pads to the plastic slides, too, for extra protection.
5. Sweep and mop regularly.
Are you seeing a pattern? Keeping your floors clean of dirt will help them to stay looking beautiful. There’s no magic formula for this: use a traditional vacuum, a handheld one for bare floors, or a good ol’ fashioned broom for routine cleaning. Just get the dirt off in your preferred method. Then follow with a light mopping with a damp mop and appropriate cleaner for your floors. We use a microfiber mop and this cleaner on our upstairs floors (which have an aluminum oxide finish); while we use a swep mop and this soap on our downstairs floors (which have a UV oil finish). Be sure to choose a mop and hardwood floor cleaner made for your type of finish.
FAQs on Caring for Wood Floors
Since my tips include specifics about cleaning your floors, I thought I should answer a couple of questions regarding different types of wood flooring. This is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but hopefully it gives you a bit of context to treat your floors with the proper love and care!
What is the difference between solid and engineered hardwood floors?
Solid hardwood floors are made from pieces of wood cut straight from a tree. For example, if you took solid pieces of oak, laid them next to each other, and then sanded it all smooth, those would be solid wood floors. It is the same time of wood all the way through the board. These are often installed raw and then finished (stained and sealed) on site. They can be sanded down and refinished several times since it is the same wood all the way through.
Engineered hardwood floors, on the other hand, are more like a veneer. They are usually plywood on the bottom (a mix of wood pieces fitted and glued together) and then have just a thin layer of hardwood on the top. These are usually finished in a factory before being installed in your home, and they generally are only thick enough to be refinished on site once or twice, if at all.
Are engineered wood floors real wood?
Yes! The portion you see, touch, and clean is real wood. See above for more details.
Can you clean hardwood floors with water?
Wood is naturally porous, which means it can absorb water and swell, ruining your smooth floor. However, this does not mean that you cannot ever use water on your wood floors, it just means that they should never have excess water on them. Your wood floors are finished with some kind of sealer (either polyurethane or oil, most likely), which is water resistant, so a damp cloth or mop should not penetrate the finish and damage the floor. In fact, cleaning the dust off the floors regularly with something damp can help the finish actually last longer. But damp is the operative term. Just damp enough to pick up dust, but not wet enough to damage the floors or finish. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions on your particular floors to know what kind of mop spray or soap is best.
How do you fix a scratched floor? Can you repair the finish on wood floors?
The answer to this question depends on how your floors are finished. If your floors were finished on site, you likely have a polyurethane finish. But if you chose prefinished floors, you likely have an aluminum oxide finish. The aluminum oxide finish is naturally more durable than the polyurethane, but it is also harder to repair. With either kind of finish, I love to start with a little oil (like a lemon oil or some other furniture oil) and a little time. Often scratches will blend in over time. In either case, a complete sanding and refinishing is possible, but requires a lot of work.
A third possibility is a UV oil finish, which is the most forgiving kind to repair. You can actually get the oil and simply touch up scratched yourself. We have this kind of floors downstairs in our house and throughout the new ranch house.
Caring for Hardwood Floors
If I had to sum it up, I’d say the best tip for protecting your hardwood floors is to keep them clean. Even with felt pads and rugs, dirty floors can be scratched more easily. So do your best to keep dirt off your wood floors (easier said than done, I realize 😉 ).
And don’t forget to pin this for later!