How to Maintain Hardwood

Commercial Hardwood Floor Maintenance

 

General Instructions

  • Maintenance Required.  Growing technology has enhanced the durability of flooring products immensely. Yet, our fast-paced world still renders a lot of wear on our floors from spills to rolling carts or foot traffic. Regular maintenance and preventative measures can significantly prolong the new look of your important investment.
  • Supremacy of Manufacturer.  The following information is the accumulation of many years of experience, the guidelines of regulatory flooring agencies, and the instructions provided by the leading manufacturers of flooring products. The manufacturer of your flooring product may have unique guidelines that should be given seniority over the general advice given by Wolfe Flooring.
  • Documents and Samples.  Retain the sales receipt and any product description from the purchase of the goods. If possible, document the manufacturer’s name and the manufacturer’s full product description, including color and type of finish. Furthermore, retain a sample of the hardwood for comparisons. For insurance purposes, it is prudent to safely store a photograph of your new product.
  • Not Initial Care.  The following guidelines are for regular maintenance, not initial care. Most likely, the initial care that your flooring needs is different than regular maintenance. Generally, new flooring products need about 12 to 72 hours after the installation before they are ready for furniture, regular foot traffic, etc. while the adhesive or finish cures.
  • Generic Intent.  These instructions are for normal hardwood in common environments. Techniques, products, etc. change and some situations are very unique; thus, Wolfe Flooring assumes no liability for omissions, errors, or outcomes. These instructions may not apply to special situations (e.g., historic hardwood). You’re welcome to call us for a specific professional address of your situation. Please exercise general caution implementing any of the following guidelines.
  • Staff Training.  Train your personnel using the manufacturer’s instructions. Print these instructions as needed.
  • MSDS.  Collect and retain each material safety data sheet (MSDS) for cleaning agents or finishes (if used).
  • Caution Signs.  Place caution signs or safety cones in the area before starting any maintenance in a professional or commercial environment. Do not remove the signs or cones until the floor is completely dry and all supplies and equipment is properly stored. Also, use caution signs or safety cones if the floor becomes wet or develops a trip hazard.
  • Attic Stock & Storing.  Retain extra hardwood for the possibility of future repairs. Keep your attic stock materials in a dry place that stays between 60°F and 80°F. Extreme heat (as in attic) and humidity (as in a moist basement) can damage hardwood. Additionally, the more stable the temperature, the better. Insects may damage hardwood if given a chance. Store your hardwood on a flat surface. Do not stack more than six boxes high. Align the boxes so that the material is fully supported. Hardwood will bend over time if unsupported.
  • Entrances.  Keep the outside entrance areas (e.g., sidewalk, service entrance, grand portico, driveway) free of sand and debris. Non-staining walk-off mats (avoid rubber mats) and budget-friendly entry rugs are strongly recommended at your building’s entryways (both inside and outside) to catch most of the soiling. Use mats at the entrances to a commercial kitchen and at the top and bottom of escalators. The mass majority of the soil and grit that will fall into the room will do so in the first six feet of the entrances. Transitional mats should be cleaned recurrently; otherwise, the mats will accelerate the soiling.  Read a blog article on an overall strategy.
  • Rugs and Underlayments.  Area rugs are very helpful in places of high activity (e.g., in front of the reception desk) and at pivot-points (e.g., a corridor intersection) to avoid the apparent traffic patterns. Never allow moisture to become trapped under your rug. Use non-slip underlayments under rugs to prevent possible dye transfer and to prevent the rug from sliding or “walking.” Small rugs are especially prone to slip on smooth hardwood. The grip that is provided by a non-slip underlayment can prevent a nasty fall. Underlayment also benefits by absorbing a portion of the impact of each footstep, which means that underlayment helps the rug experience less crushing.
  • Sweep or Vacuum.  Sweep or dust-mop your commercial hardwood flooring once or twice per day. You can also use a vacuum cleaner without a beater bar. Sand and grit are among the greatest enemies against your hardwood's sheen and will act as abrasives to scratch and dull the finish.
  • Mop.  Never wet-mop your hardwood floor with water or other general cleaners. Exposure to too much moisture can ruin your investment by causing the wood to delaminate, discolor, or swell. Damp-mop your hardwood floor using the appropriate wood cleaner in the smallest area possible and using the least amount of moisture possible if sweeping or dust-mopping is insufficient. Sweep the dry particulate before mopping. Your manufacturer likely recommends a cleaning agent bearing their label. Be very careful when using any over-the-counter wood cleaner. Some products will void your warranty. Cleaners based upon or including oil, ammonia, or soap can cause damage to the finish. Test the product in an inconspicuous area.
  • Soiling, Stains, Spills, and More.  See our Hardwood Spot Cleaning Guidelines.
  • Keep Dry.  Keep your hardwood dry. Moisture is also among the great enemies against hardwood. Wet hardwood presents the risk for (1) slipping, (2) mold or mildew, (3) discoloration, (4) delamination, and (5) swelling. Be especially mindful of walk-off moisture or drips when weather conditions outside are wet or snowy. For safety, immediately dry-mop or use towels to wipe the floor dry. Immediately place your caution signs or warning cones if you expect an on-going risk or you have a residual of moisture after mopping. Fans will accelerate drying. Warm air is more effective than cold air to dry up moisture.
  • Spray-buff.  Apply a spray-buff hardwood cleaner throughout occasionally, especially in the high traffic areas. The frequency will vary depending on the foot traffic and maintenance quality. Residential properties are generally going to need buffing once per year. Commercial properties will likely need buffing every two to three times per year. (This may not apply depending on the type of finish you have on your wood floor.) Make the application with a cloth pad or use a buffing machine. Hardwoods possess a soft surface and would typically use 3M™ White Super Polish Pad 4100 or softer pad.
  • Recoated or Refinished.  Have your hardwood professionally screened and recoated after your finish has developed general scuffing or have your hardwood professionally sanded and refinished after the finish has worn through in the high traffic areas. The average commercial hardwood floor needs to be professionally recoated or refinished every ten to fifteen years.  Click to learn more.
  • Repairs.  Tend to repairs immediately to limit exposure and to keep repair expenses as low as possible. Place a caution sign on or near a damaged area if a tripping hazard develops. Place painters’ blue tape or a mat over a transition or flooring that is lifting. A color-matched filler, pencil, or marker supplied by the manufacturer might be used to hide some minor dents and superficial scratches. Broad superficial scratches need to be recoated or refinished. Wood with moisture damage, a deep burn, or a deep scratch or gouge needs to be repaired by piece replacement.
  • Spiked Heels.  Walking on hardwood with stiletto or spiked heels, especially those with worn spiked heal caps, will cause excessive wear which is often not covered under warranties.  According to Mohawk, a "high heel can concentrate as much as 2,000 pounds per square inch on the floor" when the heel's diameter is about 3/8" at the point of contact.
  • Furniture Placement.  Relocate furniture occasionally to distribute traffic patterns.
  • Furniture Legs.  Hardwood can tolerate a limited amount of pressure per square inch (PSI). Prevent indentations due to heavy weight concentrated upon the legs of furniture by using casters with a flat undersurface made of glass, wood, or hard plastic. A caster should be no less than 3 inches in diameter, depending upon the weight of the object. A wide caster will disperse the weight of the furniture better than a narrow caster. Avoid heavy furniture with ball-type casters which concentrate the PSI. Use felt protectors on the bottom of furniture that is moved frequently. Change your furniture pads periodically. Hard plastic or metal tabs on the bottom of furniture can scratch hardwood.
  • Chair Mats.  Chair pads are required under desk chairs (including those with roller casters) to preserve appearance and prevent the accumulation of scratches. Hardwood with a smooth surface (unlike hand-scraped or distressed wood) needs a mat of 110 mils (0.11″) thickness. Hardwood with an irregular surface needs a mat of 170 mil (0.17″) thickness. Purchase a mat with a felt or smooth bottom (i.e., no cleats). Add a thin underlayment under the chair mat if the mat will not remain stationary, if the mat is too noisy, or the hardwood has an irregular texture. Do not permit sand to remain under a mat.
  • Moving Furniture and Heavy Equipment.  Sliding or dragging furniture or equipment over your hardwood may scratch or cut the surface. This advice is especially important if your hardwood has an irregular surface or has beveled edges. Rolling a heavy load (i.e., a load that exceeds the PSI weight limit) over your hardwood may leave indentations. Loaded pallet jacks and portable aerial hydraulic work platforms (a.k.a., mobile scissor lifts) present risks. At a minimum, use 1/4-inch hardboard runways.  See our expanded guide, How to Protect Flooring, to learn more.  The Plywood and Masonite section and the Moving Tools section are most applicable.
  • General Renovations, Painting, or Major Events.  If you will be renovating, painting, moving in or out, etc., then read our guide, How to Protect Flooring.
  • Pets.  Most commercial properties will not have pets, but pets are present in select environments (e.g., veterinarian offices, zoos, police academies, etc.). As with humans, pets can track in dirt, mud, etc., so attempt to keep your pet's paws clean. Keep your pet's nails trimmed so that its nails do not scratch the surface of your hardwood. Finally, address urine and other accidents as quickly as possible. Hardwood is highly vulnerable to any form of moisture. First, clean with a dry towel, mop, or sponge. Then, wipe multiple times with a towel dampened by cold water. Wipe your floor dry once more.
  • Plants.  Do not set a potted plant directly on your hardwood flooring. Excess moisture migrating from the plant may ruin the floor. Place a waterproof tray underneath. Over time, your floor may oxidize from light at a different rate than exposed flooring, as would be caused by a rug covering your floor.
  • Temperature.  A steady temperature is best for all flooring products. Maintain temperatures between 65°F and 80°F to avoid substantial contraction or expansion. Interior hardwood flooring possesses a narrow range of tolerance. Cold temperatures make hardwood contract; hot temperatures make hardwood expand. Extreme fluctuations can make hardwood flooring bow upward from the substrate.
  • Heat.  Avoid placing an appliance directly on your flooring that produces high levels of heat. Refrigerators and ovens are known to produce heat that can permanently damage your flooring. Avoid direct exposure to heat from radiators, hot-air registers, and other heating devices. If you have a radiant floor heating system, be cautious to not exceed the limit (which is commonly at 85°F to 90°F) established by your manufacturer. Excessive heat can cause hardwood to discolor or expand.
  • Sunlight.  Deflect direct sunlight away from hardwood to prevent fading, discoloration, or expansion.
  • HVAC.  Change the filters in your air conditioning system regularly to minimize pollen and other airborne particulate.