Today's consumers continue to take advantage of the long-term value and durability associated with the purchase and installation of hardwood flooring products. Unfortunately, consumer expectations, if improperly addressed by the dealer, can promote the incorrect impression that hardwood floors are virtually maintenance free.
Without fail, warranty and maintenance procedures must be conveyed to the consumer at the point of sale, as opposed to being subsequently presented in response to a complaint. Working to protect the consumer's investment in hardwood flooring also helps protect our industry and its future prospects.
One of the most important advantages inherent in any hardwood floor is its capacity for restoration. In this vein, the first and most frequently used method is merely to "refresh" the hardwood floor. This particular process can range from routine to intense cleaning with compatible manufacturer-recommended products. Cleaning procedures vary according to the type of finish, be it a penetrating seal, wax or urethane. To avoid contamination, strictly adhere to guidelines established by the manufacturer.
The old saying, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink," aptly applies to the cleaning of hardwood products. Unfortunately, when the homeowner neglects to perform routine maintenance, results of the "refresh" process can be diminished to a point where the installation's original appearance cannot be restored.
As far as I am concerned, anything of value deserves protection. When a hardwood flooring product is installed, it becomes integrated into the structure of the home. Smart homeowners understand the need to protect the exterior of their homes. They go to great lengths to protect the roof, windows, siding, and trim from the damaging effects of the elements. And yet, because their hardwood flooring "resides inside," they falsely perceive that their finished hardwood floors are indestructible and permanently sealed for the life of the floor.
As durable as today's factory- and job site-applied finishes are, the need for subsequent additional protection is inevitable - unless the end user has mastered the discipline of levitating herself and her furniture across the room when movement is required.
Adding fuel to the fire, relative to our concerns about educating the consumer on the need for routine maintenance and periodic refreshment of an excessively dry, worn and aged finish, was the introduction of aluminum oxide finishes and similarly advanced products. As a result, confusion and false security have taken root.
Consumers tend to lump together durability and sheen retention into one category. This misconception needs to be addressed. Traffic patterns will always create potential for reduced sheen level in the most heavily trodden areas of the floor. Consumers also insist that the lack of sheen equates to a loss of protection.
Any urethane finish that's been neglected is likely to have reduced sheen luster and a dramatically increased number of scratches. Even though the finish has by no means served its full tour of duty, it is unjustly critiqued and condemned for poor performance.
I will always remember the first time I witnessed a Taber Abrasion Test. For those of you who are unaware, the test makes use of a rotating disk that is brought into contact with the surface of the finish. Individual products are rated for durability based on the number of disk revolutions required to remove the finish from the hardwood floor.
But the test is primarily a gauge of durability - one that doesn't address hardwood's long-term capacity for renewal. First of all, most hardwood floor products can be sanded and refinished. Hence, scratches in a wood floor are not necessarily permanent.
Second, unless the consumer intends to stand in one position and on the same exact location on the hardwood floor surface and spin like a ballerina for an extended period of time, the Taber Abrasion Test results will probably be somewhat irrelevant with regard to day-to-day use of the floor in a home.
Another misconception with factory- and/or job site-applied finishes is the notion that thicker is better. Overstating or "over-selling" the number of coats on prefinished products, or the viscosity of each coat of job site-applied finish, merely underscores the consumer's unrealistic concept of finish longevity. The quality and purity of the urethane resins in the finish remain the key factors that determine gloss retention and abrasion resistance.
If you make it clear to the consumer that scratches are inevitable and acceptable under most environmental conditions, her confidence in the hardwood floor's surface finish should be restored. Point out that even a material as hard as concrete will develop a scratch when an abrasive object is dragged across its surface.
The floor's age, usage and quantity of scratches will determine whether a renewal of the surface coating is in order or, as with a heavily worn floor, total removal of deep-penetrating scratches via the resanding-and-refinishing process is necessary.
Requirements for the recoat-only process are precisely defined. An old misconception holds that the only safe coat is a new coat applied over a newly sanded floor. Fortunately, education overrides ignorance. When the existing surface is qualified for a recoat rather than total resanding, most customers are usually pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
In closing, Wood or Wood Knot knows one thing for sure: your customers wouldn't contemplate leaving their homes and going outside when the elements predicate the need of a coat. So why should they subject an their hardwood floors to the elements that they bring back inside when they return home?