How to Protect Your Floor from Winter Damage Part 2, "The Enemies Within"
In our first post on winter protection, we primarily looked at minimizing the moisture and elements tracked in on our footware. This post considers how our internal responses to the weather can hit our floors, the dryness of our heated air being a big one, but first we have one last water issue to consider. The water which can destroy your floor might not come from outside, but from above, a storm leaking through the roof, a leaky pipe, a busted pipe from freezing water - any of these events can lead to all out flooding, which will whack any floor that isn't 100% waterproof, like our vinyl plank flooring is. Water resistant floors are great at doing what they claim, but once they're submerged, that quality ceases to be sufficient. We're discount flooring people, not ceiling people, but to be comprehensive about water, we want to point out that one of the best ways to protect your floor lies within your ceilings and walls, doing all of the proper winter things for your pipes, roofing, etc. So definitely do that stuff.
Early preparation for the weather
You might find that starting the winter season with extra wax or floor finishing can make the biggest difference in how the weather affects hardwood flooring. Before winter, just do a good floor scrubbing, and then add some additional coats of finish to what is already on your floor. Use the highest quality stuff your manufacturer allows, because this can really protect against salt and ice melt, and keeps the floor finished despite the extra mopping that comes with frequently tracked in weather.
Heat The Empty Parts Of Your Home
Say you leave town for a time in a much warmer clime. As you leave for your suite you just turn off the heat, and the cold of the land makes the soil expand. Without your warm home to maintain a warm zone, and keep unfrozen that with immediately contact, the ice of well saturated soil can press against your foundation from all sides, even from beneath, leaving you returning to surprise, major floor damage.
Likewise, a cement floor in an unheated basement is not much different than an outdoor driveway (covered by a tent, let's say). You won't get rain, but that surface is going to freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw, and by the end of the cold season your floor can have cracks in it. Even having unnoticed standing water on an unheated basement floor can cause structural problems, especially if there are already small cracks into which it can seep.
Don't let any part of your home actually freeze. Ever.
When you run the heat, use a humidifier
Internal environmental changes, namely temperature and humidity, can affect the sizes of some flooring. It's cold outside, so we heat the inside. This dries the air unnaturally, a change which affects most wood based floors, especially solid hardwood. The difference can be quite substantial, actually, and any changes in the environment can affect a floor, this one specifically leading to shrinkage. As boards or planks shrink, gaps can form or widen where the pieces are joined together. Use of a humidifier can make a big difference in what you see in your floor. If you can't cover the whole house, definitely keep the device near your high risk areas, where the most responsive flooring would be (think solid hardwood first, laminates second, engineered hardwood flooring next) or where traffic is highest.
Keep up on regular floor maintenance
While it's good to let your floors absorb some moisture in the winter, don't leave puddles, even wee ones. With the anti-ice chemicals from outside blended in, these can leave very difficult to remove water stains, beyond what standing water does to any floors that are not 100% waterproof.
For major cleaning needs, you might start with a wet-vac to get up excess water, snow, ice and the larger dirty bits. Sweep and mop regularly, especially entrances and high traffic areas, keeping in mind the mopping recommendations for your particular floor (some only allow damp mopping). Rinse out the mop frequently while you clean, to keep the chemical residue the mop picks up from just spreading around. Let the mop pick it up, and then rinse it right away. This can take away fine dirt and salt particles as well as snow melting chemicals. If you notice your floor getting a dullness to the sheen, increase the frequency of your mopping. There are "salt neutralizers" available as well as neutral cleaners. Again, check your manufacturer's instructions before either using any cleaning chemical, or fully wet mopping any floor.
Once the bulk of the bad weather has passed, go through your house and look at your floors. Assess any thorough cleaning needs, and do them with manufacturer's cautions in mind. Then it might be time for a new application of finish, if your floor is refinishable (true for most hardwoods, not needed with laminate. You never want to refinish a photograph, on a floor, in a frame, in a box, near some rocks…). Before refinishing, do the appropriate stripping, and make sure the air will be dry enough to dry the finish in a good amount of time. Most of your hardwood flooring uses a water based, polyurethane based finish, which means that the process can be easily done without professional help.
I want a new floor
If all of the above seems daunting, consider putting in flooring designed to handle these issues, even if you only do it in the primary entrance areas. We have two recommendations. Many of our vinyl plank floors are 100% waterproof, very durable, easy to install, easy to clean (you CAN wet mop these!) and they're easy to install - easy for beginners, I mean, not just easy for professionals. Second would be cork flooring. It can be good in high-traffic areas generally, but cork also comes moisture resistant right out of nature. If you consider this option, Floors To Your Home specializes in good, durable, discount flooring. You'll find what you're looking for there, and our customer service people are a very helpful lot, especially with tough questions.
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David is has written and made videos about flooring products and installation since 2011 at Floors To Your Home (.com), where he is also the PPC Manager, a Researcher, a Website & Marketing Strategy Team member, Videographer, Social Strategist, Photographer and all around Resource Jito. In my spare time I shoot and edit video, put together a podcast, explore film history, and mix music (as in ‘play with Beatles multi-tracks’). Connect with W. David Lichty
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