Common Hardwood Flooring Mistakes

by Briana L. Barbee
Owner, Elite Hardwood Floors
May 9, 2016

Hardwood flooring is a big investment in your home.

According to a 2015 informal survey of Realtors, hardwood flooring ranked 3rd in overall requests made by potential homeowners when purchasing a new home. Hardwoods add beauty and depth to a space that is unrivaled by carpet, tile or synthetic flooring. Take good care of them, or you may be stuck with making repairs.

Here’s the most common mistakes homeowners make with their hardwood floors, and how to avoid a costly error:


Traditional mopping methods are a no-no for hardwoods. The excess moisture makes tiny pools on the surface and seeps into cracks and crevices. Since hardwoods are a natural material & porous, the moisture is absorbed and causes gaps, warping and cupping of boards. To avoid: Use a barely damp cotton rag (and warm water only) to spot-clean areas. Do not use steam mops. The cotton will absorb excess water, and give you just enough moisture to clean a small area.


Do not use household cleaners, like those containing ammonia, bleach or surfactants. These cleaners are fine for counter tops and bathrooms, but they will quickly strip the wax finish off of floors, leaving them vulnerable to staining. To avoid: Use warm water only, and a damp rag to spot treat.

Improper Waxing

Applying wax to hardwood floors should be left to the professionals. Using wax over modern polyurethane, for example, covers blemishes temporarily, but accumulates and causes smudges, gaps, and traps minute dirt and dust particles in the floor, resulting in stains. In order to repair this, a professional must first strip the wax from the boards, then reapply. There is no easy way to remove wax and the process is very time-consuming; result: the repair bill adds up quickly. To avoid: Leave this one to the pro’s.

Setting Portable Heaters on Flooring

Portable heaters are a cozy addition to a cold room in the winter, but can wreak havoc on hardwood flooring. The intense, concentrated heat may escape from the unit, causing warping in the boards, permanent scarring, and in worse case scenarios, fire damage. To avoid: Exercise caution when using a portable heater in a room with hardwoods. Make sure the unit is on a base that is not directly touching the floors, and do not leave the unit on & unattended for any length of time.

heater burn
Heater burn. Penetrated several layers of wood & required patching to repair.



Dogs are a man’s best friend. Their nails, however, can be a insult to beautiful hardwoods. Using their nails and the pads of their paws for traction, your pet may inadvertently scratch tiny marks in flooring. Over time and in frequently used areas, the scratches may become crevices that require professional repair. To avoid: Keep Fido’s nails trimmed and filed when he’s walking around on the hardwoods.

Another issue found frequently in homes with hardwoods is pet stains. Dogs and cats in particular like to mark their territory and may do so without you ever knowing. Urine contains ammonia, which is an enemy to the finish on hardwoods. It breaks down the waxy coating, allowing the urine stain to penetrate the floors. While this damage can sometimes be repaired, a home that has significant staining may require patchwork if the sander cannot reasonably etch the surface of the affected boards. To avoid: There’s not much you can do on this one. Pets are still animals, and may be sneaky in their attempts to show their turf. If you notice a suspected stain, blot it quickly with a cotton rag repeatedly until the spot diminishes in size, then gently blot with warm water.

stain removal close up - Copy
Pet stains removal, first pass with sander. Required significant additional sanding to diminish.


You’ve finally refinished your old hardwoods or installed new ones, and want to complete the decor with your furniture. As heavy as some furniture is – particularly solid wood armoiers or older sofas – can quickly gouge hardwoods with even the slightest movement. To avoid: Use small mover’s pads (available at large box stores for a few dollars) or a double-folded bath towel placed under the feet of the piece. This will not only save your floors, but will save your back.

Hardwood flooring correctly installed and finished will last many years when properly cared for. If and when you find yourself needing a repair, or if your floors start to look a little dull, give Elite Hardwood Floors a call. Our master craftsmen will advise and guide you effortlessly through the process.


Elite Hardwood Floors
Concord, NC