It’s still summer in most parts of the world, but as the colder months are getting nearer, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared when it comes to maintaining and protecting hardwood flooring during the winter season. We’ve already looked at what it takes to protect hardwood floors during summer, keeping safe from dust, debris, and direct sunlight, but what about winter? Is there anything that needs to be done differently? Are there extra precautions one should take to protect the floors from colder temperatures? Here’s what you need to know.
Keep humidity levels in check
During the cold season, outdoor temperatures can drop dramatically, and at the same time, so does your indoor humidity level. Being a hygroscopic material, hardwood reacts to any changes in moisture and humidity, expanding in high humidity and contracting in low humidity. Low humidity caused by dry, cold air during fall and winter can cause the wood to contract, giving way to small gaps between the planks, which can be worrying. However, this is normal, and once summer comes along, the wood will expand again and the gaps will disappear.
Still, to keep the planks from contracting too much, it’s crucial to maintain a constant humidity level in the home or office space, ideally between 30% and 50%. Using a humidifier helps increase indoor humidity levels, and a hygrometer can help you keep tabs on any fluctuations. The idea is to keep a constant level of humidity and avoid any sudden changes in temperature or moisture levels, to make sure the wood has time to gradually adjust to the shifting conditions.
Clean the hardwood floors regularly
Keeping your hardwood floors clean is important throughout the year, not just during winter, but it’s good to pay extra attention once the cold settles in. Avoid entering the house in your outdoor boots or shoes, as you might inadvertently bring in moisture from snow, dirt, mud, leaves, debris, dust, and even salt, and all these things can cause severe damage to the hardwood planks.
To avoid any moisture damage, scratches, or dents, avoid wearing shoes inside during winter, and opt for soft slippers that won’t scratch the surface of the woods. Don’t wear outdoor shoes inside, and request that any guests or family members in the home take their shoes off when coming inside. Regularly dust your hardwood floors using a soft broom, clean up any spills or stains immediately, vacuum once a week, and gently mop the floors when needed using cleaning products specifically designed for hardwood floors.
Keep the floors protected at all times
During the winter season, it’s critical to impose a strict no-shoes inside policy when it comes to guests and family members. Strategically place mats at every entry point in the house, and leave your outdoor shoes there whenever entering the house, to avoid bringing in dust, debris, moisture, and other harmful materials.
What’s more, place rugs and carpets in high-traffic areas, hallways, and entryways to protect the floors from any damage and keep them warm during the colder months. If you have pets, make sure you clean and wash their paws whenever you come back inside from a walk, and keep their nails trimmed at all times, to avoid scratches on your hardwood floors. Lastly, always make sure the hardwood floors are protected with a solid coat of high-quality finish.
How do you keep wood floors warm in the winter?
An effective way to keep hardwood floors during cold winter months is to use rugs or carpets in key areas of the house, like living rooms, bedrooms, hallways and entryways, where cold air can come in from the outside. Carpets will prevent the cold from transferring to the wood surface, and provide a cozy surface for the whole family. Another good idea is to insulate the area beneath the hardwood floor, either through a layer of foam or a high-quality subfloor and underlayment to maintain an optimum temperature throughout the year. Finally, it’s important to make sure that all windows and doors are properly installed and sealed, to prevent drafts and keep the indoor temperature at a comfortable level.
How cold is too cold for hardwood floors?
Hardwood is quite flexible and can easily adapt to shifts in temperature and humidity levels, expanding and contracting as needed. However, extreme cold can lead to issues, causing the wood planks to contract excessively and develop cracks or gaps. Below-freezing temperatures should thus be avoided when it comes to hardwood floors, so extra precaution should be taken when installing wood floors in mountain cabins or cottages. If there is no heating in a space, it can cause temperatures to drop dramatically during winter, which can cause damage to the wood. Always aim to keep temperatures above freezing, and keep the floors protected and warm with carpets, rugs, and mats.
For more tips on how to properly clean, remove, repair, or replace hardwood flooring, or for information on any of the products we carry, reach out to First Atlanta Flooring and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!