Knock on wood: Tips to keep flooring surfaces in shape

NATIONAL REPORT—More and more hotels are turning to hardwood flooring in guestrooms, corridors and public spaces. But, like all other surfaces, it can deteriorate over time. Heavy foot traffic can leave a hardwood floor dirty, grimy and worse for wear. If not cared for properly, wood flooring in a hotel’s public space could start to look like it was the stage floor for a daily performance of Riverdance.

Dave Murphy, training specialist at Logan, UT-based N-Hance Wood Renewal, knows a thing or two about hardwood floors. He has more than 14 years of experience in the hardwood maintenance industry, and his company is made up of more than 500 franchisees serving residential and commercial accounts. N-Hance’s hotel clients include Marriott, La Quinta and Residence Inn properties.

Murphy noted that hotels are choosing hardwood flooring over other surfaces because “wood lends a more luxurious and expensive feel to a room but—unlike other hard surfaces such as tile or stone, which come off as cold—it also provides a warm and inviting look.” He further touted the benefits of wood flooring: “It is more flexible than tiles and stone, which allows for easy maintenance through touch ups, extending the life of the wood and keeping it in good condition for a longer period of time. Tile and stone, on the other hand, will often break and need to be replaced completely if and when that happens.”

For those hotel owners/operators who are facing a decision about using a wood surface, Murphy pointed out two important things for them to consider: lighting and finish.

“When selecting wood for a space, it is important to first consider the lighting,” he said. “The lighter the room, the darker the floor should be to help minimize the appearance of scratches. While a shiny wood finish is associated with a cleaner look, in rooms with higher foot traffic, this will make scuffs and scratches much more noticeable. In high-traffic areas, the best wood finish is satin or matte. Not only will it hide scratches, but it is one of the easiest to maintain.” 

Murphy noted there are four primary enemies to a hardwood floor, and provided tips on how best to tackle those issues.

• Dirt and grime: “Hotel guests bring with them dirt and grime on the bottom of their shoes. The more foot traffic, the more of this debris is left around the facility, creating scratches when additional traffic drags it around the room. To minimize damage, hotel floors should be consistently swept to eliminate this debris, which will help maintain the wood’s finish. When cleaning the floors, it is important to avoid using anything with bleach or other oxidizers, which will break up the floor’s finish. Similar to a car’s need to get its oil changed, so does a wood surface need periodic refinishing. Residential spaces should be refinished every three to five years, depending on the foot traffic.”

• Sunlight: “The ultraviolet rays from sunlight break down a wood’s finish over time, and essentially bleach out the color. While there are some floor finishes that are resistant to UV rays and should certainly be considered, the most efficient way to reduce the damage from sun exposure is to address the areas of the room letting in the light. Curtains are a great way to both dress up a room and filter out the sun’s rays. In addition, low-E windows contain coatings designed to minimize the amount of ultraviolet and infrared light that can pass through glass. Tinted windows will also help stop the rays from coming through.”

• High foot traffic: “In areas with high foot traffic, wear and tear over time is inevitable. Putting together a maintenance program for professional touch ups is key to extending the life of wood floors. In between scheduled cleanings, waxes and acrylics should be avoided, and instead, use general cleaners that will not cause a buildup. In addition, as previously mentioned, the shinier the floor’s finish, the more obvious any scratches or scuffs will be. A satin or matte finish will greatly help minimize the scratches created by high foot traffic.

• Winter wear and tear: “The biggest concern for wood floors in winter months is salt. In addition to leaving behind white residue, salt on the bottom of guests’ shoes create scratches in the wood, especially in high-traffic areas. A simple fix is adding walk-off mats in doorways and other high-traffic routes throughout the season and having the floors repolished at the beginning of spring.

Durability is something every hotelier wants out of his or her flooring. In the case of wood, if these best practices are followed, according to Murphy, the surface will last.

“Wood is a great alternative to other floor surfaces, and it should be treated like a live entity to ensure proper care and a long life, he said. “If a hotel manager implements simple and proper care periodically, wood floors can be beautifully maintained and enjoyed by countless guests for years to come.”