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Walk Softly, Carry a Big Broom

July 03, 1993|SHARON COHOON

Ninety-eight percent of homeowners installing new hardwood floors request polyurethane finishes, according to Steve Smith of Bob Osterlund Floors in Santa Ana. "They're so much easier than wax finishes, most people don't even consider anything else," he says.

Polyurethane's biggest enemies, he says, are grit and sand. They act like sandpaper underfoot, scratching the floor's finish. Minimize grit by dust mopping, sweeping, or vacuuming frequently, Smith suggests.

Door mats at exterior doors and proper floor protectors (such as "Easy Glides") on all furniture further protect against abrasion.

High heels are notorious for leaving tell-tale indentations in hardwood finishes and polyurethane is no exception. Keeping heel caps in good repair helps, Smith says, but the safest thing is just to get in the habit of kicking your shoes off at the door.

Though many homeowners damp mop their urethane-finished wood floors on a weekly basis with no appreciable detriment, installers would prefer hardwood floors be more rarely exposed to water. "Maybe once a month," Smith suggests.

Water doesn't harm the finish itself, he says, but it can seep into the cracks between boards, causing them to expand. If you're sweeping up frequently and spot mopping up spills, he says, damp mopping more frequently won't be necessary anyway.

Some installers suggest using a small amount of vinegar in water or a fast-drying, alcohol-based product such as BonaKemi as a cleaning agent, but any mild cleanser will do, Smith says. "The main thing is to use as little water as possible."

If you have a polyurethane finish, never use past wax, Murphy's Oil Soap, polishing products like Pledge or Mop 'n Glo, or any other product containing wax, installers emphatically insist. Wax leaves a residue on polyurethane that cannot be removed. If you use these products, refinishing means sanding down to bare wood. Otherwise, a light scuffing of the existing polyurethane and re-coating--a simple one-day job--is all that's required.

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