The number one enemy to hardwood floors is water. Not only will the finish lose its shine, it can also cause the hardwood floors to warp. Wipe up any liquid spills immediately with a soft cloth, starting at the edge of the spill and working towards the center of the spill. If using a steam mop or other type of steam cleaner on your hardwood floors, make sure that it is appropriate for hardwoods. If the steam cleaner is not appropriate for hardwood floors, it could cause moisture to absorb into any scratch and eventually seep into the wood and cause damage.
Dirt, dust and grit can also damage your hardwood floor by dulling the floor’s finish as well as scratching it. In such cases, the only way to repair the floor is by refinishing it.
Sweep your floors on a regular basis. Brooms with exploded tips help to trap dust and dirt, not spread it around. Dust mops can also be very helpful in keeping dirt, dust and grit under control. Vacuuming frequently, with an upright or canister vacuum, with special hardwood attachments, is also a helpful method of cleaning the floors. Lastly, doormats at the entrances of your home can help trap dirt and grit. Clean them regularly.
Another method to prevent scratching is to place glides made of felt or some other type of fabric under the legs of furniture to prevent scratches. Clean the glides on a regular basis to ensure that dust and grit do not become embedded.
Another detriment to hardwood floors is sunlight. Ultraviolet radiation in sunlight can cause hardwood floors to discolor over time. Prolonged exposure to sunlight will change the color of any wood floor, regardless of stain or finish. Some woods lighten when exposed to sunlight. Others, like cherry and oak, tend to darken.
To clean hardwood floors, the most effective way to rinse the hardwoods is to use a mixture of vinegar and water. A gentle soap mixed with water is more effective at cleaning tough grease and dirt. However, using a soap based cleaner will dull the floor over time. It is recommended that after damp mopping your floor, you follow behind with a dry mop to absorb any water, as to not damage your floor.
For a vinegar wash use 1/2 cup of white vinegar to 1 gallon of warm water. White vinegar is great for cutting grease, removing odors, mildew, most stains and wax buildup. As always, be careful when using anything that gives out strong vapors. Be sure to have adequate ventilation and if you are feeling any effects of dizziness take a break and get some fresh air.
Start with your friends and family. You can always rely on them to have your best interest in mind. Your architect or designer will also have great recommendations of contractors they have worked with before or contractors that are most likely qualified to properly execute your design. These days, there are several online options that can give you insight as well as examples of the work, such as Houzz.com
Once you’ve assembled a list, make a quick call to each of your prospects and ask them the following questions:
- Do they take on projects of your size?
- Are they willing to provide financial references, from suppliers or banks?
- Can they give you a list of previous clients and addresses of completed projects?
- How long have they worked with their subcontractors?
The answers to these questions will reveal the company’s availability, reliability, how much attention they will be able to give your project and how smoothly the work will go.
Meet Face to Face
Based on the phone interviews, pick three or four contractors to meet for further discussion. A contractor should be able to answer your questions satisfactorily and in a manner that puts you at ease. It is crucial that the two of you communicate well because this person will be in your home for hours at a time.
Now that you’ve narrowed your list, put your research to use. Call up former clients to find out how their project went and ask about the contractors ability to problem solve without impeding on design. The thing that sets a good contractor apart is how they deal with things when they don’t go according to plan. From here, select two or three to continue forward with.
You have your short list of contractors whose track records seem clean and whose work ethic looks responsible. Now it’s time to stop looking back at past work and start looking forward to your project. A conscientious contractor will not only want a complete set of blueprints, but also a sense of what homeowners want out of a project and what they plan to spend. To compare bids, ask everyone to break down the cost of materials, labor, profit margins and other expenses. Be sure to investigate allowances and quality of materials to ensure that you are comparing apples to apples.
Don’t Let the Price Rule the Process
All prices should be within 5% of each other for total cost of labor and materials. If you find a larger variation there is likely a discrepancy in something. Beyond technical competence, comfort should play an equal or greater role in your decision. The most important factor in choosing a contractor is how well you and he/she communicates as well as the comfort level you have with them. All things being equal, it’s best to get someone you are comfortable with.