While hardwood floors are popular for their classic beauty, warmth and tradition, they’re not a go-to option for kitchens, mainly due to their risk of damage.
From spills and food stains to dropped utensils, heat and heavy foot-traffic, your kitchen floor has to endure a lot. The potential to damage hardwood comes from the fact that, unlike vinyl or ceramic, wood is an organic material. That means its cellular structure can break down easily when subjected to undue pressure, moisture and sunlight.
Whether you already have wood flooring in your kitchen or are keen on installing it, you need to know how to protect it. This will extend its life and keep it shining like new.
But before we discuss some effective maintenance tips, let’s learn about some of hardwood’s biggest enemies. When you know what causes the most damage (and why), its care and upkeep will be much easier.
What Can Damage Hardwood Floors?
Hardwood floors can last for decades when properly cared for, but when it comes to your kitchen, things get a little trickier. Even the slightest negligence could ruin your expensive flooring.
Here a few common kitchen factors that can affect the beauty and functionality of your wooden floors.
The number one damage factor for hardwood floors is water and excessive moisture. Even small amounts of spilled water (or other liquids) can seep into the wood and cause cupping, warping and mould growth. Leaky dishwashers and kitchen sink splashes can also have dire consequences.
Site-finished wooden floors have less chance of damage because they have filled seams, but prefinished hardwood floors don’t.
That said, site-finished wood can withstand a small amount of water but not pooled water that sits for a long time.
Dirt and Dust
These may be more damaging that you realize. When left too long, they work like sandpaper to slowly wear off your flooring’s top coat. Hidden dirt, like under tables and sinks, often goes ignored, which can lead to further abrasion. Over time, your floor will lose its top coat and force you into refinishing it.
While sanding your wood floor is a great way to restore its looks, it shouldn’t be done frequently. Repeated hard sanding wears off the top coat and a fair amount of wood. Eventually, this weakens the floorboards, causing them to have to be replaced.
When mixed with dirt and moisture, crumbs can cause an equal amount of damage because the starch in food, when made wet, often leads to mould, fungus and mildew. It can also lead to insects and rodents.
Wood expands and contracts with temperature and humidity changes. While minor fluctuations aren’t much of an issue, major ones, like those due to excessive heat and steam, which are common in kitchens, can become a problem.
Engineered hardwood doesn’t expand as much as solid wood, which means it can endure pretty much any amount of heat and moisture. As heat rises and steam fills your kitchen, the floorboards will expand slightly and then contract when the temperature returns to normal.
Top Hardwood Floor Maintenance Tips
As with other types of flooring, regular cleaning is important to keep hardwood in its best shape. A quick sweep at day’s end makes sure that there’s no dust, dirt, grime, or food crumbs left. Use a microfiber dust mop to remove any remaining debris or dust. The better quality your vacuum, broom or dust mop, the longer your hardwood floors will last.
Wipe up Spills Immediately
Hardwood floors can be stained by spills of water, beverages and sauces. While old stains may need sanding, a fresh spill needs to be cleaned immediately. Avoid using wet or steam mops as these can lead to wood soaking up a lot of water, which will eventually cause cupping, splitting and gapping.
Use Mats and Rugs
Proper use of mats and rugs can go a long way towards protecting the beauty of your hardwood kitchen floors. Certain high-risk areas, such as the floor in front of the sink, dishwasher and refrigerator, need protection. Be sure to choose a mat backing that won’t trap moisture on your floor. For example, mats with a rubber backing can cause moisture buildup. This leads to mould and fungus formation. Instead, choose a mat with an open backing that doesn’t trap dust, dirt and moisture. Regularly wash and dry mats to keep your hardwood floors in good condition.
Even with regular cleaning and maintenance, chances are that your kitchen floors will suffer some kind of damage like scratches and dents. In time, these minor scuffs add up and the wood can start looking dull and worn out. With professional recoating, you can bring back their lost shine and luster.
Your kitchen is an important part of your home and should reflect your taste and lifestyle. A dull and damaged floor can affect the value of your property but is easily revived. No matter what type of wood flooring you choose for your kitchen, proper maintenance is a must. With these simple tips, you can enjoy flawless hardwood floors for years.