Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

Photo: Shaw Floors

Some allergens are more common outdoors, like pollen and mold spores, while others are more common indoors, like dust mites and animal dander. All allergen sources, however, can be present anywhere at any time. And because the cost of air-borne allergy-related illnesses can be staggering – up to $17.5 billion in health care costs and more than 6 million work and school days lost each year – it is in your best interest to prevent and minimize allergy triggers whenever possible.

While outdoor allergens can be hard to control, there are ways to minimize the impact of allergens that occur indoors. Frequent dusting, vacuuming and washing will minimize many indoor allergens, but these activities also can stir them up as well. One way to prevent allergens altogether is to eliminate many of the areas where they can gather. Flooring is one example.

Flooring is one area of the indoor environment where the amount of indoor allergens can be controlled. Certain types of flooring, such as carpet, are simply better gathering places for allergens. Small microorganisms, pollen, dust, dust mites, mold, animal dander, and other substances tend to accumulate in carpet fibers. Other flooring types, such as wood, tend to minimize the accumulation of allergens because there are no fibers to trap these substances. Taking steps to minimize these kinds of allergens can result in improved indoor air quality.

When it comes to flooring, the Environmental Protection Agency finds that hardwood floors improve indoor air quality. This is because hardwood floors do not harbor microorganisms or pesticides that can be tracked in from outdoors. In addition, hardwood floors also minimize the accumulation of dust, mold and animal dander. Both of these findings result in improved indoor air quality.

Importance of Moisture Management for Wood Floors

Photo: Shaw Floors

Wood is an organic material that reacts to its environment. It is hygroscopic, which means that it absorbs and loses moisture in reaction to its surrounding environment. Wood gains moisture and swells in humid environments. In dry environments, it loses moisture and shrinks. This is completely normal and happens at all stages of the wood life cycle, even as the tree is growing in the forest.

If wood gains or loses too much moisture, problems can occur. Wood that gains too much moisture can cup. Cupping occurs across the width of a floor board, with edges that are raised on each board and centers that are lower than the edges. Cupping always happens due to a moisture imbalance through the thickness of the board.

Wood that loses too much moisture can gap. Gapping occurs between floor boards. Gaps can vary in size and are considered normal if they appear and disappear during seasonal changes in humidity. Gaps are not considered normal if they are large or do not close during more-humid months.

Both of these issues can be minimized by maintaining an environment that is consistently between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and 30-50 percent humidity. Significant fluctuations outside these ranges can result in cupping or gaps.

Source: National Wood Flooring Association

Unique Flooring Options

 You can create a unique look with simple upgrades such as borders, medallions, distressing, painting floors, mixed media and staining.

  • Borders create a frame effect. They can incorporate multiple wood species, stone, marble, brass, stainless steel, nickel and other metals.
  • Medallions are installed in the main field of the floor. They can incorporate multiple wood species, stone, metal and leather. Medallions also can be routed into existing floors.
  • Distressing offers an antiqued appearance. Hand-scraping is the most-common distressing technique used to achieve a worn look.
  • Painted floors transform an ordinary wood floor into something unique. Features such as borders or other design elements can be added and sanded off later.
  • Mixed media mixes wood with other materials. A marble and wood foyer makes a dramatic entryway, while brushed nickel accents in your kitchen wood floor could showcase your appliances.
  • Staining can give your existing wood floors an entirely new look very affordably. Light, medium and dark stains transform your floors without replacement

Source: National Wood Flooring Association

Wood Floor Sheens: Which Is Better?

Photo: Shaw Floors

Some wood floor sheens are shiny and some are not. Is one type of sheen better than the other?

It really is a matter of preference. If you choose to install a site-finished floor, you can choose any sheen that you like. Gloss finishes offer the most shine, and will reflect the most light. Semi-gloss finishes offer some shine, and will reflect some light. Satin or matte finishes offer the least shine, and will reflect the least light.

Generally speaking, the less sheen, the less you will notice small scratches and other wear that is normal with wood floors. If you choose to install a factory-finished floor, you will be limited to the sheen available for the material you select. All sheens will offer the same protection for your floor, so it truly is a matter of which look you like best.

Source: National Wood Flooring Association

Flooring Moisture Management

Photo: Shaw Floors

Photo: Shaw Floors

Wood is an organic material that reacts to its environment. It is hygroscopic, which means that it absorbs and loses moisture in reaction to its surrounding environment. In humid environments, wood gains moisture and swells. In dry environments, wood loses moisture and shrinks. This is completely normal and happens at all stages of the wood life cycle, even as the tree is growing in the forest.

If wood gains or loses too much moisture, problems can occur.

Wood that gains too much moisture can cup. Cupping occurs across the width of a floor board, with edges that are raised on each board and centers that are lower than the edges. Cupping always happens due to a moisture imbalance through the thickness of the board.

Wood that loses too much moisture can gap. Gapping occurs between floor boards. Gaps can vary in size and are considered normal if they appear and disappear during seasonal changes in humidity. Gaps are not considered normal if they are large or do not close during more-humid months.

Both of these issues can be minimized by maintaining an environment that is consistently between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, and 30-50 percent humidity. Significant fluctuations outside these ranges can result in cupping or gapping.

Source: National Wood Flooring Association

 

 

Beetle Infestation: What to Look For

Photo: Shaw Floors

Photo: Shaw Floors

Insect infestations are not common in wood floors, but they can occur. Many people know that termites are often associated with the destruction of wood products, but beetles can infest wood as well.

The most common destructive beetle associated with wood floors is called the lyctid beetle. It is often referred to as the powderpost beetle because the damage it causes reduces wood to a powder-like consistency.

A powderpost beetle is a wood-boring insect that is reddish brown to black, about 1/32”-1/8” in length, and has an elongated, flattened body. Because this beetle is quite small, the damage they can cause is much more likely to be seen than the beetle itself.

Powderpost beetles also may not originate in wood flooring. They can be introduced into the structure in wood furniture, cabinets, paneling, moldings, firewood, and even picture frames and small decorative grape vine wreaths, so identifying the primary source is necessary to alleviate the problem and keep it from spreading.

Infestation occurs long before the wood floor is installed. Female lyctid beetles lay their eggs within the pores of the wood. The larvae feed on the wood, creating tunnels that fill with a powdery substance called frass. Later, when the larvae mature, they exit the wood, creating small pinholes, generally measuring 1-3mm. These exit holes will often be surrounded by frass. This frass material is very fine and will feel like talcum powder when rubbed between two fingers.

This infestation typically occurs in hardwood lumber. Kiln drying lumber will eliminate powderpost beetles, but infestations can occur at any point in the supply chain, including production, storage and transport. U.S. wood species are not prone to powderpost beetle infestations due to the industry standards utilized for drying and storing lumber, but imported wood species do not necessarily following these stringent requirements and may be more prone to infestations.

Not all pinholes in wood flooring indicate that powderpost beetles are present. Small pin holes in the face of wood products are a natural characteristic of wood, and will not damage the floor or affect its performance. In addition, any wood product that has been in use for five years or longer is very unlikely to have powderpost beetles as the starch content of the wood, which the beetle needs to survive, declines as the wood ages.

If powderpost beetles are suspected, a wood flooring professional can evaluate the floors and recommend a course of action for repairs.

Source: National Wood Flooring Association

 

Wood Floor Maintenance: 10 Tips

Photo: Bona

Photo: Bona

Cleaning your wood floors is easy. Regular maintenance includes sweeping with a soft bristle broom, and vacuuming with the beater bar turned off. You also should clean your floors periodically with a professional wood floor cleaning product recommended by a wood flooring professional.

Here are some other steps you can take to maintain the beauty of your wood floors.

  • Don’t use vinyl or tile cleaning products on wood floors. Self-polishing acrylic waxes cause wood to become slippery and appear dull quickly.
  • Use throw rugs at doorways to help prevent debris from being tracked in and scratching your floor.
  • Don’t wet-mop a wood floor. Standing water can dull the finish, damage the wood and leave a discoloring residue.
  • Wipe up spills immediately with a slightly dampened towel.
  • Don’t over-wax a wood floor. If a wax floor dulls, try buffing instead. Avoid wax buildup under furniture and other light traffic areas by applying wax in these spots every other waxing session.
  • Put stick-on felt protectors under the legs of furniture to prevent scuffing and scratching. Replace these often as dirt and debris can become imbedded on the pad and act like sand paper on the flooring surface.
  • Avoid walking on your wood floors with sports cleats and high heels in disrepair. A 125-pound woman walking in high heels with an exposed heel nail can exert up to 8,000 pounds per square inch. This kind of impact can dent any floor surface.
  • When moving heavy furniture, don’t slide it on wood flooring. It is best to pick up the furniture to move it and to prevent scratches.
  • For wood flooring in the kitchen, place an area rug at the kitchen sink.
  • Use a humidifier throughout the winter months to minimize gaps or cracks.

Source: National Wood Flooring Association